With the “Toy Industry Association” hosting the 2013 Toy Fair in New York City in just a few days, we thought it might be fun to take a look at the toys that were big hits some 25 years ago, back in 1988.
Toys and games like almost everything have gone through dramatic and sometimes surprising changes over the years. So, if you are old enough to remember back to 1988, here are some of the best selling and favorite toys of that year. We have attached photos of each one as well.
What was far and away the most anticipated toy from 1988? This item flew off shelves and was in high demand far beyond the Christmas season. Of course, it was the “Nintendo Entertainment System.” The complete set including the base unit, 2 controllers, a Zapper light gun and two games (“Super Mario Brothers” plus “Duck Hunt”) could be purchased for just $99.99.
There was also a game introduced that year that is still popular today, that being “Win, Lose or Draw.” It was based on the hugely popular TV game show of the same name that premiered in 1987. Players basically draw pictures while others guess what they have drawn, kind of a paper version of charades.
On the girl side of the equation, there were two doll introductions that took the toy industry by storm. It wasn’t the “Cabbage Patch Doll,” which had been introduced several years earlier, but rather “Little Miss Makeup” and “Dolly Surprise.” “Little Miss Makeup” was produced by Mattel and featured an applicator that magically made blush and lipstick appear on the doll’s face, using only water. “Dolly Surprise” was distributed by Playskool and the doll’s hair actually grew and even changed color.
As is the case today, movies can greatly impact the toy industry. There were a couple of toys in 1988 that stood out, both based on hit movies. The first toy was in high demand but did not sell in high volumes because of the sky-high price. This was the full size walking piano from the hit film “Big.” Who can forget Tom Hanks dancing on that keyboard. Remo Sarceni was the original inventor and he actually created two different gigantic keyboards for sale to the public after the movie’s release. The smaller 6.5-foot version originally sold for an astonishing $3,500. Replicas can be bought today for less than $100.
The second toy based on a hit movie was connected to the movie “Ghostbusters.” Although the film was released several years earlier in 1984, the“Ghostbusters Proton Pack” from Kenner was still on the wish list for lots of youngsters in 1988. The toy included everything a kid needed to find and destroy those pesky ghosts. It had first been introduced in 1986, but was still going strong in 1988 because of the success of the hit “Ghostbusters” cartoon series.
Next up was another very popular doll, but this time it had mass appeal to adults as well as kids. This was, of course, the 18” “Pee Wee Herman Talking Doll”from Matchbox. It was based on the character made famous by Paul Reubens, who had starred in two Pee Wee movies and the hit TV series, “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.” The Doll was operated by a pull string and featured some of Pee Wee’s favorite phrases, including, “I know you are, but what am I?”
For sports fans the “Starting Lineup” figures from Kenner were highly collectible in their first year of release in 1988. Eager boys would wait outside the Toys R Us stores when new shipments were scheduled to arrive, so they could get the new releases first. In most cases, the dads were standing right next to their sons. The original “Starting Lineup” figures stood 4” tall and included approximately 132 Major League baseball players.This is actually just a few of the many toy hits from 1988. For example, we just did not have the space to include some of our other favorites, including “Island Fun Barbie,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” action figures and several great looking “G.I. Joe” playsets. Many of the items talked about today can still be found on EBay at premium prices or maybe up in grandma’s attic stuffed in that old box in the corner. Regardless, it is still lots of fun to reminisce about those special toys from days long past.
— RJ Cullen