The 90’s gave birth to hundreds of iconic toys! But which ones made it to the top of the bestseller charts at Christmas? Well, I’m glad you asked…
1990 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The first outing of everybody’s favourite crime-fighting overgrown turtles was released in the form of a comic book in 1984! The comic quickly grew a following, and in 1987, an animated series was released. It’s with this series that Playmates released a line of action figures, play sets and vehicles. But Turtles toys didn’t top the Christmas besteller list until 1990, with the release of the live action movie!
1991 – Game Boy
Nintendo struck gold in April 1989 when they released one of the first handheld gaming systems; the Game Boy! It still topped the bestseller lists come Christmas in the US, and was Argos’s number one seller in the UK in Christmas 1991. The first games released with the system? Super Mario Land, Tetris, Baseball, Alleyway and Tennis!
Although the device wasn’t backlit (so you had to buy a clip-on light if you wanted to play after lights-out) and the display was only monochrome (it took 9 years for the system’s coloured counterpart to be released), the system was still a mega hit – going on to sell 200 million units!
1992 – Tracy Island
Throughout 1992, BBC2 showed re-runs of Gerry Anderson’s 1960’s puppet spectacular Thunderbirds. This entranced a whole new generation of children, and top of those festive lists in 1992 sat the Tracy Island toy! It was the perfect place to nestle those cast metal rocket models; with a cave and ramp for Thunderbird 2 (including palm trees that swoop down out of the way), a sliding swimming pool for concealing Thunderbird 1, and even a hole for Thunderbird 3.
There was a huge shortage of Tracy Islands to go around. So much so, that the BBC children’s show Blue Peter aired a crafts segment showing you how to make your own Tracy Island out of toilet roll tubes, yogurt posts and tin foil!
1993 – Talkboy
Featured heavily in 1992’s Home Alone 2, where Kevin McCallister uses it to wreak havoc on his family and hotel employees, the Talkboy was the bestselling Christmas toy in 1993. It’s a chunky silver-coloured handheld voice recorder. It records onto regular tape cassettes. It’s best-loved features are that it can play back the voice recordings in a slow setting (resulting in a very deep adult voice) and a fast setting (resulting in a Chipmunk-sounding voice).
1994 – Power Rangers Toys
Inspired by Japan’s Super Sentai, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first premiered on Fox Kids in August 93, and it soon became a global phenomenon! Bandai released a range of action figures, featuring the rangers, their vehicles, and all the monsters they come up against in the series. By Christmas 1994, this toy line was on the Christmas bestseller list, with the red ranger sitting as the most popular figure.
1995 – POGs
POGs are small flat plastic discs that became quite collectable in the mid 90s; featuring brands such as Star Wars and Loony Toons! You’d stack up your POGs, and throw a heavier plastic ‘slammer’ at the stack. Any POGs that land face-up, you keep. Any POGs that lay face down, you re-stack for the next player, who will then take his turn to throw the slammer at the stack. The player with the most POGs at the end wins.
The game derives from ‘milk caps,’ which was played in Maui as early as 1927. The name POG was actually a brand of juice – the name stood for ‘Passionfruit, Orange and Guava.’ Drinkers used to collect the bottle caps and play the game of milk caps with it.
1996 – Tickle Me Elmo
Ask anybody who their favourite Sesame Steet character is, and they’ll probably say Elmo. First introduced as a background character called ‘Baby Monster’ in 1972, it took 13 years for the character to be given the name Elmo, and a more forefront role in the show. But as cuddly and innocent as he may be, this Sesame Street character caused riots in the stores in the festive period of 1996! Why? Every child wanted a Tickle Me Elmo doll, but there was limited stock. Some people that had been lucky enough to get their hands on one were offering to sell the $29 toy online for $1,500.
The toy could sense when it was being touch, and it flailed around laughing hysterically.
1997 – Tamagotchi
Most kids beg their parents for a pet, but are often told no. That’s why Tamagotchis were such a big hit when they hit the stores in 1997! For the first time, lots of children could enjoy the responsibility of caring for a pet – even if it was digital, and came attached to a key-chain. The device was usually egg shaped, with a small digital screen in the middle, and three buttons for carrying out various actions. Throughout the day, you had to keep the pet fed and exercised, otherwise you’d be heartbroken to find it had died between sessions. The Tamagotchi was the Christmas bestseller in 97, and since its release has sold 82 million units worldwide.
1998 – Furby
From one fake pet to another, the Furby, From Tiger Electronics, took over toy shop shelves in the Christmas of 1998. If I was asked to describe a Furby to someone that had never seen one, I’d say it was a fur-covered alien bird-like creature. It definitely had a beak. You could prize it open and touch its tongue and it would think it was being fed. It also reacted to motion – if you swooshed it around in the air, it would either get excited or nauseated. It even had its own language, and it came with a mini book to help you translate what it was saying. The sensor above its freaky little eyes allowed it to communicate with other Furbies.
1999 – Pokemon Game Boy Games
9 years after the release of the original Nintendo Game Boy came its greatest selling series: Pokemon! The Japanese franchise was already taking the world by storm with its animated series, Trading Card Game and toy line, but the ability for children – and adults – to start their own quest to become the greatest trainer and to ‘catch ’em all,’ was just too tempting. And that’s exactly what Pokemon versions Yellow and Blue on the Game Boy offered! These games topped the bestseller lists in Christmas 1999.
There’s your list of festive favourites for the 90’s! Want to leap forwards in time faster than a Delorean? Click here: Every Bestselling Christmas Toy Since 2000.