When you think of the Christmas season, many people think of cozy treats, beautifully decorated trees, elaborate light displays, and feel-good films that always wrap up with a happy and heartwarming ending. And then, of course, there’s the presents – it’s a big joy for many to thoughtfully purchase something for a loved one, and seeing someone unwrap a present can be a wonderful treat. However, there’s another element to the commercial side of Christmas, one that was even the center of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s holiday film Jingle All The Way. We’re talking about the hot, must have toys.
Every kid has a few items they may want when Christmas rolls around, but without fail, there’s usually one item a year that becomes an absolutely massive best seller. Sometimes, it’s some type of product tied to a popular movie or television series. Other times, it’s just a toy that kids go crazy over for whatever reason. Either way, many shoppers can find themselves lining up and duking it out in the toy aisle for the high demand items – or, in the case of certain savvy shoppers, selling the item on the black market for double or triple its retail price.
What type of toys can cause shoppers to lose their minds and start battling in the aisles of the toy store? Everything from dolls to gaming consoles to stuffed animals – the hottest toys of all time are a varied bunch. Here are 12 toys that have caused holiday mayhem over the years.
12 Tickle Me Elmo
Sesame Street has been a children’s television staple since the 1960s, and kids continue to tune in year after year. However, in 1996 a certain toy featuring a red-furred, giggling character had parents rushing to toy stores, madly trying to find their child the hot toy of the season. That’s right – we’re talking about the iconic Tickle Me Elmo. The electric stuffed toy quickly sold out in store, and people got a little bit crazy. We’re not just talking about those in possession of the high demand item trying to scalp it and sell it for crazy prices online – we’re talking about stampedes and violence in stores as shoppers tried to get their hands on the giggling toy worth its weight in gold.
11 Beanie Babies
Who could forget Beanie Babies? For many children, it was an introduction to the concept of investments. After all, at some point, every 90s’ child was convinced that their carefully curated collection would someday be worth huge amounts of money. This toy wasn’t always one to be played with – many wanted to make sure to protect their investment by keeping the tags intact, and keeping the toy in good condition. The clever, clever Ty company definitely added fuel to the fire by strategically producing a limited quantity of every beanie baby and allowing stores to only keep a certain number in stock, meaning that everyone wanted to get their hands on each toy to build their collection ASAP.
When we think of Transformers nowadays, many of us think of the action-packed film franchise by Michael Bay, as it’s the freshest in our cultural memory. However, the Transformers craze actually started in the 1980s. Back in 1984, the franchise’s catchy commercials and beloved cartoon series had consumers running to toy stores, and ten million of the figurines were sold in 1984 alone, netting Hasbro about $80 million. Unlike many toys that caused holiday mayhem in their day, Transformers haven’t become a thing of the past – thanks to the movies renewing interest in the franchise, Toys “R” Us mentioned they were one of the best-selling toys in the past quarter century. Well, I mean – they were robots in disguise. Who doesn’t love that?
Many adults look back at the blinking, animatronic toy known as the Furby and think they’re a little bit strange, and honestly, a bit like something out of a horror movie. However, back when they first hit the market, kids were obsessed with the furry toy. Every kid wanted to listen to the Furbish babble, and the different fur colors meant there was a perfect match for everyone. Who knows what creature it was actually supposed to be – in 1998, if you didn’t have a Furby, you needed one ASAP. In the holiday season, the demand increased so much that retailers actually bumped the price from a moderate $35 to a big ticket price of $100.
8 Frozen Elsa dolls
This one is perhaps the latest toy craze, and it’s one that shows no signs of slowing down. When Disney’s latest film, Frozen, hit screens around the world, it started an international craze. Everyone loved Elsa and Anna, everyone loved the silly snowman Olaf, the songs were incredible, and the scenery was a magical change of pace. However, all that popularity meant that any parent looking to take home an Elsa doll for their child in the months before Christmas 2014 were left scrambling. Disney stores actually had to put a limit on Frozen items for customers, there were fights breaking out in toy stores, and some dolls were fetching hundreds, if not thousands, on eBay. Luckily, the manufacturers eventually smartened up and began pumping out more dolls, but for awhile, getting your hands on an Elsa doll was akin to getting a golden ticket.
7 Teddy Ruxspin
Before there was Tickle Me Elmo, there was another animatronic stuffed animal that was captivating children around the world – we’re talking about Teddy Ruxpin. Disney Imagineer Ken Forsse brought the toy to life, and it was a little less high tech than its 1990s counterpart – it moved its mouth and eyes in sync with stories that played courtesy of cassettes located in its back. The Ruxpin empire included a few books and an animated television series, but let’s be real – it was all about the toy. At a certain point, it was in such high demand that sellers were able to double and triple the retail price during the holiday season when toy stores were selling out left and right.
6 Nintendo Wii
Okay, whenever an edition of a big gaming console is released, it pretty much immediately becomes one of the most wanted toys on any kid’s list (or, in the case of gaming consoles, many adults’ lists). However, the Nintendo Wii took things to another level – it was released just before Christmas in 2006, and a year later, it was still selling like crazy. In fact, Wired even called the gaming system “perpetually sold-out” – the demand was just way more than what Nintendo had anticipated. Part of the reason that the Wii became so popular was the innovate remote – while gamers generally want to give any new console a test run, even those who had never played a video game in their lives were interested in the Wii.
5 Cabbage Patch Kids
To modern kids, Cabbage Patch Kids may seem a little unremarkable. After all, they don’t light up, they don’t talk, they don’t really do anything crazy. However, back in the early 1980s when they were released, these humble toys sparked a frenzy. I mean, they came with adoption certificates – for a lot of kids, it was almost like getting a mini sibling in a toy box. Whatever the appeal behind these tots was, they definitely caused their fair share of mayhem – there are reports from shoppers and store managers that detail violent crowds. All over a toy!
4 G.I. Joe
Super hot, in-demand toys aren’t just a product of the past decade or two – there have been certain toys that started crazes all the way back in the 60s. G.I. Joe was born when the powers to be at Hasbro saw the popularity of Barbie and realized there was an opportunity in the market for a male action figure. They quickly became a must have item, and in 1964 alone, eager shoppers scooped up enough Joes to yield $16.9 million in sales. While military-centric toys may not be the most popular type nowadays, back in the 1960s, you absolutely had to have a G.I. Joe under the tree.
3 Game Boy
A kid can’t exactly take a large console around with him anywhere – after all, they’re bulky, and they need to be hooked up to a television screen. So, when the Game Boy was released, you better believe that children around the world went absolutely nuts for the handheld entertainment system. It’s tough to imagine nowadays, since many individuals have smart phones capable of entertaining them with games, but back in the day, it was all about the Game Boy. Released in 1989, the game quickly sold millions of units and became a must have item for every kid.
2 Mr. Potato Head
Most people will remember the version of Mr. Potato head popularized in the Toy Story film franchise – a plastic, potato-shaped shell with small holes where you could plug the interchangeable features in to create your potato creature. However, when it was first released in the 1950s, Mr. Potato Head was literally a kit of parts that you used with an actual potato. It instantly became a hit, selling over a million units in its first year on the market, and they quickly came out with a Mrs. Potato Head kit to join their best seller.
1 Shirley Temple Doll
With this one, we’re going back to one of the original toys to spark holiday mayhem – the Shirley Temple doll. Back in the 1930s, a young Shirley Temple with those iconic ringlets became a huge celebrity in Hollywood, and businesses quickly realized they could capitalize on the young starlet’s fame. So, when Temple was 6 years old, The Ideal Toy and Novelty Company came out with a doll modeled after the young icon. When one of Temple’s films was released shortly before Christmas, the doll instantly became a must have item, and the company allegedly sold about $45 million worth of dolls in seven years.