Top 20 Oddball Toys From the 70’s and 80’s Part 1
I don’t know how most of you felt about your toys growing up, but for this only child, they were prize possessions, and provided endless hours of entertainment.
There is a clear demarcation with toy lovers born in the late 60’s or early 70’s, and that was ‘Star Wars’. In ever facet of young life, ‘Star Wars’ was life changing. First glance of the Destroyer ship in EP IV and you weren’t the same kid. It blew a hole in our psyches and gave us a mythos to build upon, with Lucas’s shrewd idea to launch a toy line letting us make our own storylines to tide us over until the next film release.
The toy lines success propelled action figures into a billion dollar industry. After that you had G.I. Joe, He-Man and Transformers, all of which took up space in kids closets and attention spans, alongside board games, toy weapons and primitive video games.
But there were many other toys from the 70’s and 80’s, that gave many kids a lot of enjoyment, confusion, and for others, nightmares. Here are 20 examples of some quirky, out there and sometimes inappropriate playthings from years past. I’ll have images as well as some vintage commercials sprinkled throughout.
*FYI, these are all toys either I or my friends owned. If you have any you remember from your childhood that I didn’t cover, feel free to comment below.
20.Playskool’s McDonald’s play set
I do believe in conjunction with the Happy Meal, this toy was the beginning of the end for the American diet. Once you get that junk food in your system as a kid, it proves hard to shake. Nonetheless, I loved my Playskool McDonald’s set. I got it for Chrstmas when I was a small child in 1974, but kept it later on so that no matter what action figures I was playing with, they all ended up going to the McDonald’s. What better way for Mego superheroes (more on them in Part 2) and Star Wars figures to keep in fighting shape?
19. Star Team
Star Team was as you can see, a total Star Wars rip off. Check out the bad guy who’s a cross between Darth Vadar and Milhouse from the Simpsons. I also loved the figure clearly modeled off the robot from ‘Lost In Space’. They had a Marvel Comic to their credit, but they never totally crossed over. But the flying saucer with the automated door was the shit! I loved it. Check out the box image below.
You can also get more details on the full toyline at PlaidStallion.
18. Mork From Ork
What could be more exciting than playing with a Robin WIlliam’s figure from a sitcom that had no action scenes to speak of? Lots of things. His eggship was pretty cool though.
17. Battlestar Galactica
Based on the original series, these ships shot out little pellet missiles, about the size of a tick tack. They were recalled due to safety concerns, but I lucked out and got the real deal. I enjoyed the action figures too, esp the robot dog, Daggit.
16.Diener Rubber Toys
You wouldn’t think a bunch of toys made from rubber erasers would be very compelling playthings, but the toys from Diener were pretty awesome. You had monsters taken from Outer limits episodes, 50’s horror films like ‘The Fly’ and “I Married A Monster From Outer Space”. They had a quirky charm that made up for their simplicity and lack of accessories. These were included in Happy Meals (again!) in the early 80’s for a very short time, which helped spawn their cult following.
Check out Mr. Potter’s Funtime blog which gives more background on the toy line and characters.
15. Six Million Dollar Man
Before Kenner hit it big with the Star Wars line, their 1970’s line of 6 Million Dollar Man figures were pretty stellar. The title character could have parts of his skin removed to show his cyborg insides, and you could look through the back of his head and see through his telescopic eye.
Equally cool was his Bionic Transport & Repair Center, which could also be used as a rocket. It had a cool glow in the dark X-Ray machine, and lots of tubes and repair devices to fix Steve Austin in a pinch.
And don’t forget the villains. Maskatron was one of the coolest, a robot with interchangeable faces, and Bigfoot, who was a cyborg version of the urban legend. There’s a ton more info that you can discover (as well as some cool vintage catalogue ads ) on PlaidStallion.
Check out this commercial for the Repair center:
And for those toy collectors, I found an Amazon link for Maskatron!
RARE VINTAGE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN GENERAL MILLS MASKATRON FIGURE
14. Big Jim Wolfpack
The Wolfpack series was one of the first to have a figure make movements (i.e. a karate chop) by pressing a button on its back. This toy line was perhaps one of the first efforts to make a toy series that was multicultural. Combine that with their skimpy outfits and you have the toy equivalent of the Village People. I always loved the little Wolf insignia on their clothes (perhaps this was stolen for the Thundercats logo?)
I’m not quite sure what point there was in making Stretch Armstong, except for perhaps giving an outlet for childhood cruelty? All you could do with was stretch him to the breaking point, at which time he’d bleed what looked like grape jelly. Small band aids would patch him up just fine though.
12. Jaws Board Game
Jaws made everyone afraid to go to the beach, and you wouldn’t think it would naturally lend itself to a game. But Ideal Toys thought otherwise and graced us with ‘Jaws The Game’, which worked much like ‘Operation’. But instead of that game where you couldn’t touch the rims of the body orifices you were trying to extract from, Jaws involved using a long hook to remove various items from the body of the shark (a skull, a spare tire, etc). If you made the wrong move, the rubber banded jaw would snap shut and you’d lose the game. After a while I couldn’t find any of the pieces and Jaws became an action figure. I’d use him to play with my Adventure People (coming up next). You could stuff a ton of action figures in the belly of the beast.
11. Adventure People
Fisher Prices Adventure People line were a bunch of really cool toys and vehicles. This boat pictured here I’d use to play Jaws with as it very much resembled the one from the movie (I’d pretend the small shark was a baby of the board game figure). They made lots of other cool figure such as aliens, motorcycle and race car drivers, and one figure who flew a biplane. My friend and I always called him Hank. One time we threw the plane into my Death Star set. It was our Michael Bay moment. Luckily both toys survived.
Here’s some more detailed info on the full Adventures People toy line.
10. Ventriloquist Dolls
Yes, someone had an idea in the late 70’s to market a line of famous dummies to children, complete with a vinyl record with tips on throwing your voice. They weren’t creepy to me at the time, but it was the onslaught of killer dolls in horror movies and TV shows that made them the stuff of nightmares. Once I saw the Twilight Zone episode about the killer Dummy, I began to get unnerved, and made sure they were out of eyeshot at bedtime. I later made good use of this fear when I used them in haunted houses in my garage or made horror movies with my friends.