Popular Toys from the 1960s
Action Man, Spirographs, Sindy dolls and Hot Wheels cars – why these toys were such popular toys from the 1960s
The kids of today might be longing to get a LeapPad Explorer or a Star Wars lightsaber for Christmas but what were the children of the 1960s hoping to find when they tore the Christmas wrapping paper off their presents?
The answer to this can be found by looking at the Toy Retailers’ Association (TRA) Toys of the Year list. The list was first started in 1965 when a James Bond Aston Martin car was the toy most likely to get present-loving kids shaken and stirred.
Today, you can find lots of great ideas for Christmas stocking fillers at the website of toy companies such as arts and crafts company Yellow Moon.
There were no toy websites for shoppers to look at in the 1960s but there were still lots of good toys around…
1966: Action Man
In 1966 Action Man took his beret off to be crowned Toy of the Year – no one had ever marketed a doll for boys before and so the product’s success took the toy world by storm.
The facial features on the early versions of Action Man were hand-painted. This meant that no two Action Men were ever quite the same; unfortunately some individuals had different-coloured eyes!
In the late 60s, Action Man began to talk; issuing commands such as “Hold your fire until I give the order”, “What’s the password?” and “Give me some cover”.
Innovations such as the introduction of Eagle Eyes, a deep sea diver and space-pirate action figures have ensured that Action Man is still a force to be reckoned with today.
This geometric drawing toy ran rings (and many other shapes) around the opposition in 1967 – a year when psychedelic patterns were very much in fashion.
The innovation was invented by a British engineer named Denys Fisher and used plastic gears which children could adjust to produce different shapes on card or paper.
Drawing toys based on gears had actually been around since the turn of the 20th century but none captured the public imagination as much as the Spirograph did.
It was so popular that in 1968 a version for pre-school children, the ‘Spirotot’, was released.
A lot of designers, architects and engineers found their vocation in life on the Christmas morning when they unwrapped a Spirograph!
It is amazing to think that Sindy will be 50 in 2013 – she still looks as youthful as she appeared in 1968 and 1970 when she was Toy of the Year.
Sindy’s life has been dominated by her rivalry with Barbie – the American doll she was modelled on. When Sindy hit the streets in 1963, her manufacturers emphasised just how modern she was; stressing that she had “a dog, skates and a gramophone”.
The slogan “the doll you love to dress” explains her appeal with fashion-conscious young girls. Accessories such as clothes, ironing boards, kitchenware and boyfriend Paul (who appeared in 1965 after Sindy had been single for two years) accounted for most of Sindy’s sales success in the 1960s.
More recent times have been tougher for Sindy. When she packed her little suitcase and went off to try and crack the American market in the late 1970s she found Barbie blocking her way.
Several re-launches followed – she learned to swim and her appearance was altered to try and make her look the same age as Barbie – but her rival’s success grew as hers diminished.
But now Sindy has gone back to doing what she does best. Once again she looks younger than Barbie and is being marketed towards her original audience of pre-school-age girls (rather than Barbie’s older fans).
As she prepares to enter her sixth decade, the future is again looking bright for the “doll you love to dress”.
1969: Hot Wheels
It was a boy’s toy’s turn to win Toy of the Year in 1969. Hot Wheels were made in America – die-cast model vehicles designed to run on plastic Hot Wheels race tracks.
Evidence of how popular these cars have become can be found in the fact that collectors now refer to the first 16 Hot Wheels cars as the ‘sweet 16’. Taking scale into account, these cars could motor around their plastic tracks at speeds of 200mph – hot wheels indeed!
Which toy is on track to become the Toy of the Year this year? Children drawing up their Christmas wish-list, as has always been the case, will decide!I wonder will they include andy of these popular toys from the 1960s