Popular Toys in the 50s/60s

A look at the popular toys of the 50s/60s... long before the internet...
July 02, 2018
Retro Junk is a great and fun site, but I feel articles about the 1950s/1960s are a bit lacking. This article tries to fill that omission. However, I'd like to remark that I'm from the 80s, so I have no hands-on experience with the toys mentioned in this article. I just did a little bit of research on them - and I was suprised how many of these toys are still around. I'd like to hear memories from people that actually are from the 50s/60s and remember these toys!

Mr. Potato Head

First released in 1952 and still available today, Mr. Potato Head is a toy with a surprisingly long lifespan. The original toy offered just plastic parts (ears, nose, eyes and so on) with pushpins you could stick in a potato. But since 1964 the actually 'potato' is included as a plastic body (since they figured out real potatoes tend to rot after some time...). Nowadays the toy is still well-known, mainly due to its appearances in Pixar's popular Toy Story movies.


Another toy that's still available and that also appeared in the Toy Story movies (part 2 and 3) is Barbie. Mattel released the first Barbie doll in 1959. Barbie has adopted her style and fashion to all the trends in all those years since she is around, but nowadays she has hard time competing with digital and electronic toys.


The original View-Master was released in 1939 and (modern) versions are still available today! This 'stereo slide viewer' offered a new, though a little cumbersome, way to look at slides. I actually think the iconic red design of the 1962 model was more important to its success than the actual functionality. Ask your grandmother or grandfather if you can have a look at their attic - maybe there's still one lying around! Or instead, show your grandparents the modern Hasbro version with Google Cardboard VR Viewer that's on the market nowadays.
Electric Football

Tudor's Electric Football let you play football at home! Well, in your imagination at least. This first tabletop football game actually featured players that moved thanks to an electro-magnet motor under the field that caused vibrations. The player could also let the tabletop figures kick and pass. The 1950s/1960s proved a very strong era for toys, because this is another toy that's still in production (more modern versions, of course).

Pogo Stick, Hula Hoop, Frisbee
Ah... once upon a time kids could be happy with just simple things. Like a Hula Hoop (since 1958), a frisbee (since 1948) or a pogo stick (of which the two-handle version was invented in 1957). And nowadays kids still have fun with those products, that seem so simple at first glance! (I especially enjoy commercials and advertisements of the 1950s/1960s in which people are using those toys. It seems so, well, I would almost say innocent.)

Musical Jolly Chimp Monkey Toy (Wind-up Monkey Playing Cymbals)

Musical Jolly Chimp Monkey Toy aka Wind-up Monkey Playing Cymbals aka Charly Chimp is another toy that lives on thanks to a great (sinister) appearance in Pixar's Toy Story 3. The original was developed by a Japanse company somewhere around the 1950s. I really like what Pixar did with the Cymbal Monkey in Toy Story 3 - I mean, it really looks like a psychedelic monkey to me! (Just look a those eyes!)


The non-toxic and colorful modelling clay Play-Doh was first released in 1956. In 1991 Hasbro acquired the rights - and the colorful clay is still released today! I never really liked the smell of clay, but I find it kind of funny how in the early advertisements for Play-Doh the emphasis is on non-toxic! I guess toxic toy clay was a real problem in the 50s/60s.

Nintendo Playing Cards
I don't think Nintendo's playing card actually were very popular in the 1950s/1960s outside of Japan, but I like to mention this product anyway because Retro Junk has so many retro gaming fans! Nintendo actually released its first playing cards since its foundation in 1889 in Japan. However, somewhere around the 1950s Nintendo also released playing cards in the United States. In that period Nintendo also made playing cards for other companies, such as Coca Cola playing cards and Disney playing cards. It wasn't until the 1970s that Nintendo released its first electronic device!
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