The 10 biggest toys of the 1950s year by year
One decade gave us Barbie, Matchbox, Mr. Potato Head and so much more!
Images: AP Photo / Tom Reed / Scott Heppell / John F. Urwiller / Chris Pizzello
Who says you need batteries to have fun? Kids in the Fifties could play away the weekend hours with vegetables, magnets, clay and water. That will all make more sense when you see the top toys of the decade.
Let's travel back to the era of Eisenhower and Elvis to see what classic toys were introduced. Many of them remain favorites today!
1. 1950: GIlbert Atomic Energy Lab
There were a few ways we could have done here, frankly. Howdy Doody, first introduced in 1947, was expanding his empire with comic strips and toy puppets. Elsewhere, the space age was kicking off on kids' floors with Tom Corbett playsets. But nothing says "Atomic Age" quite like the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab. Gilbert made many chemistry sets, yet this dubious one with "real uranium ore" and "radioactive screen" seems particularly of its time.
Image: Sears / Wishbook Web
2. 1951: Colorforms
Reusable stickers — what a brilliant idea! These simple vinyl sheets could be applied to smooth backgrounds to create your own cartoon scene, of sorts. Here you can see an early Popeye Cartoon Kit from the 1950s.
Image: Click Americana
3. 1952: Mr. Potato Head
Most kids will remember the plastic Mr. Potato Head, the one seen in the Toy Story series. However, the original utilized an actual potato — or any piece of produce sitting around the kitchen! On the original box here you can see a beet and orange sporting the funny noses, ears and eyes!
4. 1953: Matchbox Cars
Matchbox cars originated in England, seen here. Lesney Products introduced the die-cast miniatures in 1953. Mattel, who owns the brand now, would not buy out the toy until 1997.
Image: AP Photo / Scott Heppell
5. 1954: Transistor Radio
Far more than a mere "toy," few introductions had a bigger impact than the transistor radio in 1954. At last, children could take the radio into their rooms, their forts, their beds. As rock 'n' roll was introduced shortly thereafter, the pocket-sized transistor radios helped influence a generation of budding Boomers.
6. 1955: Wooly Willy
From the radio to something far more simple — iron shavings with a magnet stencil. For generations, kids have been snatching up these simply, silly toys in drugstores and as stocking stuffers.
7. 1956: Play-Doh
This iconic modeling clay was originally invented in Cincinnati as a coal soot remover. In 1956, thankfully, they found more creative uses — or, well, let children find their creativity through the colorful "Doh." In the 1980s, the original carboard can was replaced with plastic.
Image: Rainbow Crafts / Retrohound
8. 1957: Sea Monkeys
Brine shrimp, technically. Raise your hand if you ordered a packet from the pages of a comic book.
9. 1958: Hula Hoop
Humans invented the wheel thousands of years ago. It took until 1958 to realize you could whip a circle around your hips for hours (well, let's be honest, minutes) of fun.
Image: AP Photo / John F. Urwiller
10. 1959: Barbie
Where else to end but with the icon herself? Barbie was inspired by the German Lilli doll, a somewhat adult commercial tie-in to a risque newspaper comic in the tabloid Bild. Want to see a million-dollar Barbie collection? We featured it in season two of Collector's Call.
Image: AP Photo / Chris Pizzello