by Mark Nobes, chief editor

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".

The video features 50 toys from the 1980s, although not all of them were available here in the UK. However, there are plenty of memories in there and quite a few products that still need to be written about for this website!

Included below are links to pages about popular old toys and games, and also magazines for kids and teenagers such as Look-In, Number One and Shoot! - remember them?

Cyborg, Muton and Android Toys by Deny's Fisher

Cyborg, Muton and Android by Deny's Fisher
So who was fortunate enough to receive all three of these? I had Android and Cyborg, but just had to drool over the picture of Muton. I had actually totally forgotten that I ever had these toys until I saw them on Pinterest - then all the memories came flooding back! I believe these came out around the mid 1970s and just looked so awesome and futuristic at the time. I remember that there was a leaflet advertising lots of accessories, although we never did send for any of them.

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 accompanied by 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!

Grand Master Mind (1974) by Invicta Games

Grand Master Mind (1974) by Invicta Games

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.

Jaws game by Ideal (1975)

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 the franchise as possible, a feature film and cartoon series were also made.
baby rainribbon

Photo credit: Aimee Ray

My Little Pony - Seashell (1983)

This is a 1983 My Little Pony called Seashell who was  a sitting-down earth pony from Year 2.

Escape From Colditz Game

This is Gibsons version of the game. The first edition of the game had a swastika, and this was replaced by a phoenix as shown above. The Parker Brothers version below also had a swastika which has been covered up to avoid causing offence.
I have vague memories of playing this card and dice board game at a friend's house. I believe the game was first launched in 1973. Sadly, it's no longer being published, but you can still find originals being sold on Amazon and Ebay. A computer game based on the board game was released for the Commodore Amiga by Digital Magic in 1991.
Escape From Colditz - 1970s card and dice board game by Gibsons
Escape From Colditz by Parker Brothers - 70s Board Game
A 1970s version of the game by Parker Brothers

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! 

Quite why a toupe-wearing, middle-aged man performing card tricks and telling lollipop stick jokes was so popular is a mystery, but he went down a storm. Okay, occasionally he would pretend to saw Debbie McGee in half, but he was no David Copperfield.

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!

Paul Daniels Magic Set (1986) by Peter Pan

Spinning Tops

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 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. 

Smurfs Toys

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?

Original Astronaut Space Smurf from 1970s

Original 1970s Astronaut Smurf 

National Benzole logo

Original 1970s Drummer Smurf figure
70s Drummer Smurf figure

Late 1970s Papa Smurf figure

1970s Papa Smurf figure

Original Super Sports Smurf - Fencer

Original Super Sport Smurf - Fencer 

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.


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

Okay, this isn't a toy, but they are a great childhood memory for many. I used to receive 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!

Now That's What I Call Music 3
The Hits Album 1 (1984) Double LP
The main rival to the Now series was The Hits Album, with the first compilation being released around a year later than the original Now LP and cassette.

Raleigh Chopper

Ask any young boy growing up in the 70s what they wanted for Christmas, and chances are it was the Raleigh 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 or purple were probably the coolest colour choices.
1969 Raleigh Chopper
By Raleigh-Chopper [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Airfix Models

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 imagining there are many anorak-wearing men with beards and sandals buying them!

Airfix Concorde
Airfix Moonraker Spaceship James Bond Roger Moore

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.

70s Space Hopper

Hand-Held Space Invaders Games

Portable electronic games were pretty basic in the early 1980s and there were certainly no Nintendo DS's around. The first hand-held games to appear played just one game that was built-in to the unit. I remember there were several Space Invaders themed units around that were produced by companies such as Grandstand and 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 table top game called Astro Wars.
Grandstand Invader From Space electronic game (1980s)

Cabbage Patch Dolls

Today, we have the more beautiful Pussycat Dolls, but Cabbage Patch Dolls, well, 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. They were designed for kids to play with and each one was unique, with it's own hairstyle, clothes and facial features. They even . Over 50 million were sold World-wide.

Action Man

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.
Action Man Toy Dolls
Action Man Annual 1985


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!

Photo credit: ~deiby

Cor!! Comic Annual

Cor!! Comic Annual 1984

 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

Cor!! Annual 1975


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 annoying 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.

1960s Etch-a-Sketch toy by Denys Fisher

1960s "New Improved" etch-a-sketch by Denys Fisher 

1970s Etch-A-Sketch boxed

1970s Etch-A-Sketch in its box 

Shoot! magazine 9th Nov 1985 ft. Bryan Robson - Man United