Who is the Oldest Character in the Toy Aisle?

1993
Power Rangers

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Represented by: Power Rangers Dino Supercharge: Dino Steel Pink Ranger

Aaah, Power Rangers. The last toy line I can remember being caught up in before the ravages of puberty kicked in. Yes, yes, I’m aware Power Rangers are based on a Japanese show that dates back even further, but this is a Power Rangers toy, not a Super Sentai toy, smartass. More important to us, Power Rangers is THE ONLY toy line introduced in the entire 1990s I saw represented in the Target toy isle today. (Give or take a Chewbacca-themed Furby.)  I think I can pinpoint a specific reason for that below the help of an entry at the bottom of this page. HINT: The one thing they have in common? Japan!

1984 (1987)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Represented by: TMNT Talking Leo

Yes, the Ninja Turtles spawned from the pages of a 1984 comic book, and while those Eastman and Laird pages are tons of fun, I don’t think anyone would argue with me if we dated the TMNT phenomenon a little more accurately in 1987. Either way, for what started as a black and white parody about violent superheroes and consumer culture, the Turtles have shown an almost outrageous level of longevity. And as I explained in our accompanying Oldest Toy podcast, TMNT has become a far bigger brand than just action figures alone. Since purchased by Nickelodeon in 2009, only Star Wars can rival the Ninja Turtles in its plastic omnipresence. They even have their own brand of guns, which literally makes no sense (but undoubtedly plenty of cents).

1984
Transformers

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Represented by: Transformers: Robots in Disguise Bumblebee

Every time I try and talk about the history of the Transformers, dozens of beautiful nerds jump in the comments and correct me on every single detail. I recommend you head on down there and just start now. I will say with some conviction that Transformers began in 1984 as a US-specific brand from Hasbro, originally based on preexisting Japanese toy lines and molds, and this particular toy is based on a currently airing TV show called Robots in Disguise… where the Autobots are now lead by Bumblebee? Optimus FTW or GTFO, I say!

1983
My Little Pony

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Represented by: Poseable Sightseeing Rainbow Dash

It’s objectively amazing to see My Little Pony resurrect itself from a 1980s B-brand into a truly modern marvel. Not only has My Little Pony come back stronger than it ever was before, including a line of highly-disturbing “human pony” dolls, the Friendship is Magic brand has even crossed over to an audience of adult male Redditors. This offshoot phenomenon even has its own documentary, Bronies, and yes, you can masturbate to it.

1982
Cabbage Patch Kids

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Represented by: Cabbage Patch Kids: Sittin’ Pretty

The Cabbage Patch Kids is the first truly huge toy phenomenon I can remember in my lifetime. I’m more of a Garbage Pail Kid man myself, but the Cabbage Patch Kids line is pretty fascinating in that it seems to be somewhat independent of a singular toy master. The Kids have been partnered with/released under Mattel, Hasbro, and even Toys R Us, but were originally born into the world by former console manufacturer, Coleco when the company decided to diversify itself against the failing video game market of the early 80s. Hindsight is $29.99!

Oh, and just to show you how out of touch you’ve fallen with the Cabbage Patch Kids, there’s a doll in this relatively new Sittin’ Pretty line that’s already worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

1982
Grave Digger

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Represented by: Monster Jam Grave Digger RC Truck

A while back we did a Laser Time episode about famous vehicles, and I’m ashamed that we probably forgot to mention Grave Digger! Oh, we brought up the Delorean, General Lee, Knight Rider, Ecto 1, etc., but none of those had any representation in today’s toy isle. Not even Optimus Prime (thanks to the weirdly popular Bumblebee)! With nary a cartoon series, movie, or video game to his name, Grave Digger was the only “vehicular character” I saw and I’m as shocked as you are, Bigfoot fans!

1981
Care Bears

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Represented by: Good Luck Bear with Bonus DVD!

The only thing stronger than my current hatred for Care Bears was my love for them as a child. Born as characters for the American Greetings card company, the Care Bears embody the mass merchandising toy crazes of the 1980s because they basically invented it. Furthermore, we’ve discussed on Thirty Twenty Ten that Care Bears, for better of for worse, literally paved the way for independent/ non-Disney theatrical animation during our lifetime. And unlike a lot of 80s toys that launched to coincide with a TV show (or vice versa), the Care Bears were mega-popular toys first and foremost. Apparently, they still are.

1981
Mario

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Represented by: Mario Party Amiibo

Since Mario wasn’t technically in the toy isle, and the audience for amiibos is pretty clearly men hovering around their 30s who should probably know better, this is technically a cheat. It’s one I’ll make again later down the line, but I really wanted Mario here (date listed as his “Jumpman” Donkey Kong debut) to emphasize why if you look at the toy phenomenons above and why there’s a pretty sizable gap in immensely popular toy lines after 1984. Well, the Nintendo Entertainment System launched in America in 1985, and dominated the hearts and minds of kids my age so thoroughly that no other toy line could compete. I’m sure you can think of a popular toy trend launched during the heyday of the NES, but nothing (other than Ninja Turtles) came close to Mario in the late 80s, nor are they represented in the toy isle to this day.

Ready for some superheroes, Disney stuff, and to the answer to the question “What is the Oldest Toy?” Click to the next page!

11 thoughts on “Who is the Oldest Character in the Toy Aisle?

  1. Great article Chris!
    Made for a great read while listening to Podcast, also that brilliant Ric Flair Woo! made me laugh at my desk

    More!

  2. Technically, I think the humble Teddy Bear or as it was originally, “Teddy’s Bear” is the probably the longest running character in the toy aisle. (It’s like Cliff’s Notes in that everybody says “Cliff Notes” not “Cliff’s Notes” and the Teddy Bear was originally “Teddy’s Bear”. Though who really cares whether people say things like Demon’s Souls or Demon Souls.

    It was 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot that bear cub, so I’m guessing that bear cub was born 1902. But it could have been a second year cub and pushing Teddy’s actual bear back to 1901.

    1. Edit – Oops, forgot to close the parentheses brackets over my Cliff’s Notes/Demon’s Souls/ Teddy’s Bear aside.

  3. I don’t know why seeing the Ric Flair toy made me laugh, It’s just the most random wrestler to have in the section.
    I sometimes visit Smyths which is a big enough toy store over here and I get quite jealous when I see some of the new stuff kids got now, Man, if I was 6 again I would totally get those TMNT Shell and weapon’s kit!

  4. OMG DID YOU GUYS HEAR THAT LASERTIME DIDN’T LIKE BVS? I HOPE THEY MENTION IT IN EVERY ARTICLE, PODCAST, AND VIDEO!

    1. Now that that’s out of my system, good article/podcast. I like hearing about this old stuff.

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