Popular 70s and 80s Toys
On this page I'm going to take a look back at some of the best and worst toys from my childhood, and I'm sure that many of you will remember at least a few of these and shout out "I had one of those in the 80s!".

 

 

Waddington's Mastermind Game from 1984
Mastermind Board Game

The picture above features the 1984 version of the original Waddington's Mastermind. However, the game first became available in the 70s and on the version I had, the box featured a Japanese or Chinese woman with an intelligent-looking guy with a beard. As a child, I always wondered why Magnus Magnusson didn't appear on the box, but the game really has little to do with the TV series apart from the use of your memory.

The game was designed for two players and the first player had to set-up a row of four coloured pegs behind a screen. The second player then had nine attempts to try and guess the combination using their own coloured pegs. Player one would use a smaller black or white peg to signify whether player two had guessed the colours correctly or incorrectly.

I really like this game and it is still available to buy, although it comes in more than a dozen different guises!

Jaws The game
Jaws: The Game
There is always a fair bit of merchandise made available with the release of a film (much of it rubbish!) but I remember playing with this particular toy at a friends house back in the late 70s. It's pretty similiar to Buckaroo, but with a shark, of course!

The idea was to remove items such as an anchor, pieces of boats, fish bones etc. from the shark's huge mouth without making him snap! It was very simple, but full of suspense - we had fun with it, at least. Not a classic game, but decent enough.

baby rainribbon
Photo credit: Aimee Ray
My Little Pony

Launched in 1983 by Hasbro, this range of colourful pony toys became highly popular with little girls during the eighties. To cream as much money from lthe franchise as possible, a feature film and cartoon series were also made.
See more 80s toys

Paul Daniels Magic Set

Paul Daniels Magic Set

The Paul Daniels Magic Show was a popular TV series throughout the 1980's, and almost every child wanted one of his toy magic sets so they could learn to become a magician, too!  

On 1st January 2012, Paul Daniels lost his left index finger & tip of his ring finger in an accident with a circular saw whilst building props for his act - now that's magic!

Spinning Top

The spinning top isn't really a 70s or 80s toy, of course. They've been around for donkey's years, but they were still popular when I was a toddler back in the early 70s. To make it work you would simply pump the handle to make the toy spin faster and faster which would then makes it hum louder and louder. I'm sure I remember flashing coloured lights on the one I had, too. As with many toys back in the day, they were made of metal and pretty sturdy. 

Visit our Traditional Toys page

Smurfs

During the 70s and 80s, National Benzole petrol stations in the UK were the only place to get hold of a Smurf figurine, and for a while were the No.1 toy.

If I remember correctly, these were either given away in promotions or could be bought in the forecourt shop. I remember collecting about a dozen of them and distinctly remember Papa Smurf, Drummer Smurf and Brainy Smurf, but there were dozens available, as well as a smurf house and village for those kids with wealthy parents! These figures have now become collectable items - now what did I do with them?


Smurfette

Drummer Smurf

National Benzole logo

Papa Smurf

 

 

The Smurf Song by Father Abraham

Released in 1978, believe it or not this was #1 in 16 countries! My parents didn't buy me this song, but I did have the follow-up single Dippety Day, which I remember was on the Decca record label.


Video: 80s Fever Toys

Toys and Games from the 80s

 

Bigtrak

Created in 1979, Bigtrak was a six-wheeled tank (kind of) with a front-mounted blue photon beam headlamp, and a keypad on top. The toy could remember up to 16 commands which it then executed in sequence. I never owned a Bigtrak but envied those kids who did!


Visit the Bigtrak page


Now That's What I Call Music Albums

Now That's What I Call Music 3

Okay, this isn't a toy, but they are a great childhood memory for many. I used to get these on cassette for my birthday and at Christmas, although I had moved on to vinyl by the time we had reached number 7.

So who bought the very first cassette/LP from the series way back in 1983? It's still the best one ever and featured no fewer than 11 number ones.

A pig was used as the mascot for a short while during the 80s (as seen on the Now 3 vinyl above), but was dropped for No.6 which had a more "sophisticated" appearance - just plain boring if you ask me!

It's hard to believe that they're still going strong. What number are we up to now? 84 or something?

I don't recognise any of the tunes on the latest ones, but the charts don't really mean very much any more do they? Now back in the 80s you knew just about every tune on a Now album. Those were the days!

Smash Hits Magazine

 

Again, not a 70s or 80s toy, but Smash Hits was a hugely successful pop music mag aimed at young teenagers and children. It ran from 1978 to 2006 and was issued fortnightly for most of that time. 

The magazine was never aimed at the older, more serious music fan, and was seen as "a bit of a joke" by other music magazines and their readers.

Smash Hits helped to launch the career of Neil Tennant, who was an assistant editor before he left to launch Pet Shop Boys with Chris Lowe - what a wise move that turned out to be!

The name survives today as a brand for a related spin-off digital TV channel, radio station and website which have survived the demise of the printed magazine.

Raleigh Chopper

 

Ask any young boy growing up in the 70s what they wanted for Christmas and it was the Chopper. The iconic kid's bicycle was manufactured and marketed in the 1970s by Raleigh. Of course, many of us still used (or stored) the bike well into the 80's.

Its unique design is fondly remembered by many who grew up in the 1970's, and you were not considered "cool" unless you owned one! For me, orange was probably the coolest colour.

chopper1
Photo by Gerry Lausden

Airfix


Who remembers glueing their fingers together trying to construct an Airfix model?

I don't think I ever completed one of these as I just wasn't patient enough, although I had a friend who had several aeroplanes that he had completed, and he even painted them - geek!

Founded in 1939, Airfix was owned by Humbrol from 1986 until Humbrol's financial collapse on 31 August 2006. As of 2007, Airfix is currently owned by Hornby.

Airfix models still seem to be very popular if the Amazon website is anything to go by, but I can't help but imagine there are many old men with beards and sandals buying them!

Space Hopper

70s Space Hopper

Ah! The ultimate 70s toy, although many kids were still using them in the 80s, of course. As with many of the 70s and 80s toys, they're really back in fashion and still available to buy. I bought one for my friend's young boy (Sam) and he adores it!

I actually had a yellow kangaroo hopper for some reason, but I've never seen them in any toy shops since the 70s, not in the UK, at least.

Hand-Held Space Invaders Game

There were no Nintendo DS's around in the eighties. The first hand-held games to appear played just one game! That game was Space Invaders. I had a very early model that had only green invaders, although the flying saucer that flew across the top of the screen was red, I think.

Some bright-spark at school decided that you could add colour by sticking different coloured sweet-wrappers over the screen - those were the days!

Grandstand also released a version called Astro Wars.

Cabbage Patch Dolls

Today we have the more beautiful Pussycat Dolls, but Cabbage Patch Dolls - what ugly things they were! A bit like Marmite, you either loved or hated 'em. So what were they exactly?

They were incredibly ugly dolls (that looked like they had trapped wind) for kids to play with and each one was unique, with it's own hairstyle, clothes and facial features. They even came with an adoption certificate. Over 50 million were sold World-wide.

Action Man

Action Man Toy Dolls

Action Man was a toy doll for boys, although no young lad was going to admit that it was a doll, of course! Many a happy hour was spent in the 70's playing with my Action Man and all of his accessories.

He was actually launched in Britain in 1966 by Palitoy as a licensed copy of Hasbro's American "moveable fighting man" G.I. Joe. Action Man was originally produced and sold in the UK from 1966 until 1984 (Palitoy also offered sub-licenses to various toy manufacturers in various markets).

I remember having one of the first models that came with "gripping hands", "eagle eyes" and fuzzy blonde hair. The 1960's and early 70's models had plastic hair and non-moveable eyes and hands.

You could also purchase many vehicles and accessories including a tank, jeep, personnel carrier, along with various outfits. I had a diver's outfit with mine!

Action Man was re-launched between 1993 and 2006, but without a military theme.

Viewmaster

ViewMaster
Photo credit: ~deiby

I actually had one of these in the 70's, but they were still going strong in the 80's, too. The pictures came on a card disc and were rather like the negatives you used to get with your photos using a 35mm camera. The Viewmaster magnified each image and when you looked through the viewer you could see TV-sized images. You would just push the lever on the left to flick through to the next image. The only theme I remember viewing was African wildlife, but I'm pretty sure I had more than just one card disc to view!

Cor!! Comic Annual 1984

The Cor!! Comic Annual

 The Cor Annual ran from 1972 to 1986. Forget all the other presents, this was what I really wanted! Remember these characters; Gus Gorilla, The Gasworks Gang, Tomboy, Tricky Dicky, Football Madd, Ivor Lott and Tony Broke. To see all of the covers click this link; linkhttp://www.tonystrading.co.uk/galleries/annuals/cor.htm

Etch-A-Sketch






This toy was pretty fascinating to me as a child in the 70s. The idea was that you could draw what you wanted on the "magic" screen using the two white knobs and then erase it by shaking it up and down.


The main drawback was that it was virtually impossible to draw a circle or a curve - they always had a jagged look, although this hasn't stopped people from creating some amazing artwork. The other problem was that your nastly little brother would shake the darn thing before you had finished your masterpiece!

Visit the Etch A Sketch page to see some great artwork and further info about this classic toy.