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100 years of toys

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Toy Industry Association by looking back at some of the most iconic toys of past decades.

 / Updated 48 PHOTOS
1910- Erector Set

1910- Erector Set

In 1911, A.C. Gilbert invented the Erector Set -- a motorized toy made of steel parts. The Erector Set was the first toy to run a national advertising campaign, which was geared specifically towards boys. The line was discontinued in 1960, but the concept of toys that introduce engineering and structural principles still exists. In fact, kids can now even build and program their own robots, using a similar building concept as the original toy.

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1910- Lincoln Logs

1910- Lincoln Logs

Despite the name, Lincoln Logs were not used or invented by President Abraham Lincoln. They were, in fact, invented by John Lloyd Wright, the son of internationally famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1918. The idea struck John as he watched one of his father's designs, an earthquake-proof building in Japan, being built.

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1920- Disney's Mickey Mouse

1920- Disney's Mickey Mouse

Shortly after the release of "Steamboat Willie" in 1928, Walt Disney released Mickey Mouse dolls. The simple, stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls marked the start of Disney's international merchandising and licensing empire.

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1920- Duncan's Yo-Yo

1920- Duncan's Yo-Yo

The first yo-yo appeared in California in 1928. A Filipino man named Pedro Flores often played outside with a homemade yo-yo, which means "come-come" in a native Philippine language. His small yo-yo business caught the attention of Donald F. Duncan (father of the Good Humor ice cream bar), who later bought the business and staged yo-yo contests, generating millions of customers.

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1920 - Play Doctor's Bag

1920 - Play Doctor's Bag

Jack Pressman created the play doctor's bag when his children were afraid to go to the doctor.

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1930- Monopoly

1930- Monopoly

Monopoly is the most popular board game in history, but it wasn't always named Monopoly. The game was first called "The Landlord's Game," and introduced in 1904. According to The Strong National Museum of Play, the game was originally designed to point out the social pitfalls of unequal wealth among people. The game instead saw players greedily collect huge piles of money and property, delighting in opponents' financial troubles. The game gained popularity when Charles Darrow produced the first commercial version, named Monopoly, in 1934.

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1930 - Scrabble

1930 - Scrabble

In the 1930s, architect Alfred M. Butts invented a game of 100 lettered tiles used to form words on a square grid that looked like a crossword puzzle. The game, first called Lexiko and then Criss Cross Words, was the first version of what today is known as Scrabble.

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1930 - Sorry!

1930 - Sorry!

The 1930s saw the appearance of Sorry!, a fun and easy way to bring friends and family together.

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1930 - Stacking Rings

1930 - Stacking Rings

The 1930s brought stacking rings to market. To this day, stacking rings remain a popular infant toy.

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1930- View-Master

1930- View-Master

The first View-Master debuted at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and was invented by Harold Groves and William Gruber. The first reels offered views of scenic attractions around the U.S. Fast-forward to 2016, and the View-Master is compatible with a smartphone and designed to blend augmented reality and virtual reality.

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1940 - Model Airplanes

1940 - Model Airplanes

In the 1940s, affordable model airplanes began to be mass-produced.

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1940 - Candy Land

1940 - Candy Land

Eleanor Abbott designed the game Candy Land in 1949 while recovering from polio in California. The game has been produced for more than 50 years and is currently available in multiple versions, including an electronic hand-held game.

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1940 - Chutes and Ladders

1940 - Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders launched in the 1940s, and was developed based on a game that European settlers brought with them to America.

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1940- Silly Putty

1940- Silly Putty

Originally invented as a wartime synthetic rubber substitute, Silly Putty hit the market in the 1940s. After its introduction, a toy marketer named Peter Hodgson decided to list the putty, dubbed "Silly Putty," as a novelty in his catalog. By 1950, Silly Putty's popularity (and sales) were picking up, and it has since sold millions of units every year.

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1940- Slinky

1940- Slinky

The Slinky, which was invented in 1943, was not at first intended to be a toy. Richard James, a mechanical engineer, was working to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea, when he knocked into his shelf of samples, causing his invention to gracefully "walk down." Slinky saw sales soar through the next few decades, thanks to a catchy advertising jingle.

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1950- Matchbox Car

1950- Matchbox Car

In the 1950s, Jack Odell created the original Matchbox Car. He made a small brass model car and put it into a matchbox so his daughter could bring it to school.

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1950 - Mattel's Barbie

1950 - Barbie

The first Barbie doll debuted in 1959 at Toy Fair. Barbie was designed by Ruth Handler to be a three-dimensional fashion doll that inspired little girls to be anything they wanted to be. Over the years, Barbie has held more than just a fashion model career; in fact, she has had over 150 careers including dentist, World Cup soccer competitor and even presidential candidate. See more photos of Barbie through the ages. 

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1950- Colorforms

1950- Colorforms

In the 1950s, two art students discovered that vinyl sticks to semi-gloss paint. This revelation led to the popular toy Colorforms.

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1950- Play-Doh

1950- Play-Doh

Initially used as a wallpaper cleaner, Play-Doh began being used by schools as a substitute for modeling clay in the mid 1950s.

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1950 - Little People Line

1950 - Little People

The beloved Little People Line was born in the 1950s with the introduction of its iconic safety school bus.

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1950 - Wham-O Hula Hoops

1950 - Hula Hoop

According to The Strong (Museum of Play), in 1957, Wham-O toy company founders Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin learned that kids in Australia twirled bamboo hoops around their waists in gym class. Within a year, Wham-O had created a hollow hoop out of Phillips Petroleum's newly developed plastic Marlex. They named their creation "Hula Hoop" after the swivel-hipped Hawaiian dance its users seemed to imitate. Wham-O sold 25 million hoops in just two months, and sales reached $45 million in the first year.

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1950 - Yahtzee

1950 - Yahtzee

Yahtzee was first introduced in the 1950s by a Canadian couple that called it the "Yacht Game," because they played it with friends on their yacht.

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1950 - Mr. Potato Head

1950 - Mr. Potato Head

Originally designed as silly face parts for inclusion in cereal box promotions, the idea for Mr. Potato Head came about around 1952. The first Mr. Potato Head included eyes, nose, mouth, ears and 28 facial features along with a Styrofoam head. Mr. Potato Head was the first toy to have a television commercial -- and was later joined by his counterpart Mrs. Potato Head in 1953. Together, the pair has appeared in commercials, movies and playrooms across America for generations.

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1950 - Tonka Truck

1950 - Tonka Truck

The Tonka Truck was invented in the 1950s by a group of teachers from Minnesota, and is named after Lake Minnetonka. To date, the Tonka line is comprised of more than 30 trucks.

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1960 - Easy Bake Oven

1960 - Easy Bake Oven

In the 1960s, Hasbro introduced the Easy Bake Oven. Though re-designed to appear sleeker, the Easy Bake Oven still remains a classic children's toy.

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1960 - Hot Wheels

1960 - Hot Wheels

In the 1960s, Elliot Handler co-founded the die-cast toy cars brand Hot Wheels.

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1960 - Game of Life

1960 - Game of Life

Inspired by one of Milton Bradley's old games, game inventor Reuben Klamer designed the now-classic Game of Life in the 1960s.

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1960 - Twister

1960 - Twister

Twister, the first game in which people used bodies as playing pieces, was conceptualized in 1964. The popular party game has since gone on to offer numerous new play patterns -- including electronic versions and sprinkler sets.

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1960 - G.I. Joe

1960 - G.I. Joe

In 1964, Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe -- coined an "action figure" -- with 21 moving parts. G.I. Joe was a fast success, selling millions of figures in its first year.

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1960 - NERF

1960 - NERF

Parker Brothers originally developed NERF, beginning with a 4-inch polyurethane foam ball, in 1969. The NERF ball was introduced as the "world's first official indoor ball." It was marketed as a ball that one can "throw it indoors; you can't damage lamps or break windows. You can't hurt babies or old people."

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1960 - Operation

1960 - Operation

Operation is one of the skill-based games of the 1960s that is credited for revitalizing the board game category.

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1970 - Dungeons & Dragons

1970 - Dungeons & Dragons

In the 1970s, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax invented the popular Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

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1970 - Star Wars Figures

1970 - Star Wars Figures

It wasn't long after "Star Wars" debuted in 1977 that the line of 3.75-inch "Star Wars" figures followed, igniting generations of figure and "Star Wars" collections. Originally released from 1978-1985, and again from the mid-1990s until present day, the figures have generated millions of sales. With the release of "The Force Awakens" last year, the industry saw nearly 4,000 tie-in toys, including an app-controlled droid. It's safe to say that "Star Wars" products have come a long way over the past four decades -- but despite the rise of technology, figures continue to remain among the most popular "Star Wars" products on the market.

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1970 - UNO

1970 - UNO

The popular card game UNO launched in the 1970s. The game continued to be popular, and has offered players numerous new versions, licenses, and play patterns over the years.

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1970 - Playmobil

1970 - Playmobil

Hans Beck created Playmobil in 1974. Since then, approximately 2.7 billion Playmobil figures have been produced, and distributed in more than 100 countries worldwide.

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1970 - Magnavox's Odyssey

1970 - Odyssey

In the 1970s, Magnavox introduced Odyssey, the first video game machine.

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1980 - Gameboy

1980 - Gameboy

In the 1980s, Nintendo released a battery-powered, hand-held video game system, named Gameboy. The handheld gaming industry has blossomed ever since.

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1980 - Nintendo NES

1980 - Nintendo NES

Since Nintendo Entertainment Systems' (NES) launched in 1983, Nintendo has sold more than 4.4 billion video games and more than 693 million hardware units globally. Nintendo originally began as a result of the coin-operated video game Donkey Kong, released in 1981. The company then turned its focus to providing in-home video games. When Nintendo's first home video game system, named NES, launched in the U.S. in the mid-1980s, its titles -- including Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda -- became instant hits.

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1980 - Pictionary

1980 - Pictionary

Pictionary was invented by Robert Angel, a waiter at the time, and designed by Gary Everson. A video game based on Pictionary was released in 1990.

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1980 - Transformers

1980 - Transformers

In the 1980s, Hasbro secured the rights to several Japanese robot brands, and introduced the Transformers to the United States.

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1990 - Furby

1990 - Furby

Another toy to fly off store shelves, the Furby, was an electronic robotic toy released in 1998 by Tiger Electronics. The toy resembles a hamster or owl-like creature that has a language all its own but can learn English over time.

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1990 - Beanie Babies

1990 - Beanie Babies

In 1993, a Beanie Baby craze struck the world. The small, partially-stuffed bean bag animals were the perfect marriage of cute, affordable, and collectible. Each style had a name and included a catchy rhyme. What started as a collection of nine animals quickly grew into hundreds, and suddenly Beanie Babies were making their way into everything -- including McDonald's Happy Meals.

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1990 - Leapfrog's LeapPad

1990 - LeapPad

The new Leapfrog LeapPad reading system catapulted to the top of every retailer toy list after its launch in the 1990s. The LeadPad marked the first time that an educational toy had achieved such success.

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1990 - Tickle Me Elmo

1990 - Tickle Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo hit stores in 1996 and caused a media, and consumer, frenzy. The popular talking toy flew off store shelves during the holiday season.

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2000- Razor

2000- Razor

When the original A model Razor scooter launched in 2000, it sold 5 million units in its first six months. By 2003, the brand began introducing electric scooters, ride-ons, and more. By its 10th anniversary, over 35 million scooters had been sold.

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2000 - Ganz Webkinz

2000 - Webkinz

With the rise of the digital age, it is no surprise that toys and technology were bound to eventually merge. The popular Webkinz toys, which launched in 2005, were among the first to offer children online/offline play patterns. This revolutionary play pattern has been adopted by many larger toy companies (such as Mattel, Hasbro, and many more), and continues to shape the toy industry today.

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2010 - LEGO Friends

2010 - LEGO Friends

In 2012, LEGO announced a new line targeted to girls aged 5-8. LEGO Friends quickly redefined the construction play category for girls.

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2010 - Rainbow Loom

2010 - Rainbow Loom

Rainbow Loom was created by inventor Choon Ng as a family project for his two daughters. Since its launch, millions of kits have been sold-- a real feat in the arts-and-crafts industry. Rainbow Loom fever swept the globe when royalty was spotted with the trendy accessories on their wrist.

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