It doesn’t matter how far back through the decades you go, each Christmas season has had it’s “must-have” hot toy that all the kids wanted. Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were hot in 1983, but Davy Crockett coonskin caps were just as hot in 1954. We’re going to be taking a look back at the hottest toys for Christmas’s through time, and this time we’re looking at the 1950’s. You can also check out the decade of the 1940’s.
Fisher-Price introduced the Buzzy Bee, a wooden pull-toy shaped like a bee whose yellow plastic wings not only rotated when pulled but made a delightful clacking sound. Further delight was added by red wooden balls that waved at the end of coiled-spring antennae.
Hopalong Cassidy Lunch Boxes
Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes, inspired by the new TV hit, flew off the shelves. Before December is out, over 600,000 had been sold.
The first Colorforms sets appear, and while the first set is simple colored shapes, sets based on licensed characters like Popeye, Bugs Bunny, and Sleeping Beauty soon follow.
Mr. Potato Head
Hasbro’s Mr. Potato Head is the first toy advertised on television, and sales totaled $4 million in just the first year.
The Austrian candy, Pez, came to America, just in time to stuff millions of stockings.
The first Matchbox car, a miniature die-cast metal vehicle, is made. The first four models are a Road Roller, Massey Harris Tractor, Muir Hill Site Dumper, and Cement Mixer. More models of the wildly popular toys are added every year thereafter, and parents everywhere learn not to go into their kid’s rooms barefoot.
More Matchbox: Five Fun Matchbox Toys From Back in the Day
Everybody’s favorite toy boy, Gumby, hits the market. For Gumby, it was always easy being green – he and his horse, Pokey had their own TV show from 1957 to 1964 and to this day the pair remain popular to entire generations.
Winky Dink Magic Television Screen
The WInky Dink Magic Television Screen, essential if you were to have any shot at enjoying the Winky Dink Show, was a popular Christmas item. By placing a bluish plastic screen over the TV and using magic crayons to trace briefly appearing lines, children ended up with a picture that became part of the story.
Robert the Robot
Ideal made a lot of money out of gray plastic with Robert the Robot, a 14 inch nuts and bolts kind of a guy who walks (on cleverly concealed rollers) when buttons on a ray gun-shaped remote control are pressed.
The first lady in dolls, Madame Alexander, designs and markets Cissy, America’s first full-figured, high-heeled doll.
Davy Crockett Coon Skin Caps
Fess Parker played Davy Crockett on TV, and American children acquired $100,000 worth of coon skin caps instantly. The demand was so high that the raccoon population actually became endangered.
More Davy Crockett: Check out our post, “Coonskin Cap Mania” on our Patreon page.
Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm
Uncle Milton’s Ant Farms are marketed, much to the horror of mothers everywhere.
Play-Doh hits the market. Originally available only in off-white, a three-pack containing red, blue, and yellow is sold the next year. In 1957, white is brought back to make the classic four pack.
Once upon a time, a wealthy couple from Canada invented a game to play on their boat. Whenever friends came aboard, they begged to play the “yacht” game. The couple sold the rights, and the game, Yahtzee, made it’s debut in 1956. It wasn’t a hit, however, until the manufacturer started throwing Yahtzee parties so that people could discover just how much fun the game was to play.
Wham-O’s Frisbee whirled onto the scene, and hippies weren’t far behind.
Prehistoric Times Play Set
Prehistoric Times play sets, by Marx, offers kids a chance to enter a world in which cavemen fought dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and all manner of extinct predators for conquest of the Earth. At just $5 for a 47-piece set, it was the buy of the season.
Wham-O scored big again, this time with the Hula Hoop. Over 25 million of the colored plastic loops are sold in the first two months.
Although do-it-yourself kids had been nailing boards to roller skates since the 1930’s, the skateboard finally became a manufactured item. Thousands of dads, trying to prove they’re still hip, ended up with sprains and bruises.
Safety School Bus
Fisher-Price marketed the Safety School Bus, and introduced their Little People to the world.
Kenner’s Give-a-Show Projector is a Christmas season sell-out. Instead of being embarrassed by Dad’s slides of last summer’s vacation, kids could give their own shows. The projector came with slide strips featuring popular figures from TV like Popeye, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, the Three Stooges, and Wild Bill Hickock.
Mattel’s Barbie strutted her way onto the shelves and millions of young girls started learning how to accessorize. For years, toy-makers and sociologists insisted that little girls like “child” dolls that allowed them to play Mom. Barbie creator Ruth Handler had a different idea. Why not make a doll that let girls pretend they were grown-up teenagers? Handler was right and Barbie, the teenage fashion model, has been a best-seller since her debut at the New York Toy Fair.
The original Barbie was a pony-tailed blonde who came in a black-and-white striped strapless swimsuit and sold for $3. A dazzling variety of separately sold outfits – each with meticulously detailed accessories – allowed her to be ready for everything from slumber parties to singing in a nightclub. Since being blonde and beautiful means you never have to be alone for long, Barbie was joined by boyfriend Ken in 1961, best friend Midge in 1963, and little sister Skipper in 1964.
More from the 50’s: The Golden Age of Department Stores at Christmas
Keep an eye out for The Hottest Toys of the 60’s!