From Cabbage Patch Kids To The NES Classic, The Most Popular Christmas Toys Since 1983

Things sure have improved since the Koosh Ball.

From Cabbage Patch Kids To The NES Classic, The Most Popular Christmas Toys Since 1983

At least since the introduction of the Cabbage Patch Doll in 1983, there’ve been red-hot Christmas toys that have had kids desperate for a limited-supply item and parents elbowing each other in the ribs at toy stores and Walmarts (or virtually elbowing each other as they snipe eBay auctions and constantly refresh Amazon pages) in the hope of making their kids fleeting, consumer-driven dreams come true. It’s such a truism about Christmas consumption that personalities as diverse as Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger embodied in the 1996 holiday classic Jingle All The Way–and it’s continued in the years hence.

Most Popular Holiday Toy of 2016

The relative hotness of these various toys waxes and wanes through the years–and as this infographic from online bargain-hunting site Ebates highlights, for every Cabbage Patch Doll, Tickle Me Elmo, or Razor Scooter, there’s also, like, a Koosh Ball. But the graphic, which picks out the toy of the year for every Christmas from 1983 to 2016, does a fine job of tweaking our nostalgia and/or our confusion about the stuff that past generations were desperate for. In 1996, the Tickle Me Elmo sold a million units before Christmas–including many sold by scalpers at tremendous markup in the pre-online shopping days–which is significant when you consider that it’s just a vibrating stuffed monster doll. By 2012, meanwhile, consumers waited in hours-long lines for the Wii U, a console that would crash with a thud not long after the holiday.

Reliving the heyday of Teddy Ruxpin and the Home Alone 2-inspired Talkboy is a fun throwback for kids of the ’80s and ’90s, but these days, if former Gov. Schwarzenegger and Sinbad were to fight in the aisles for a toy, they’d be looking for the NES Classic (but probably for themselves)–and maybe something called “Hatchimals,” which Ebates says are a popular gift for actual children, and not just stunted adults. All of which makes for a fun trip down memory lane as the holiday frenzy begins.

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About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.