The Most Amazing Toys of the Past 50 Years

By Spencer Hart on at

Every year after Christmas the Toy Retailers Association picks the most successful toy and gives it the majestic title, 'Toy of the Year'. Let's take a look at some of the most successful entries and our favourite past winners.

James Bond Aston Martin Die-cast Car (1965)

In 1965 the Toy Retailers Association announced the first ever Toy of the Year, a detailed die-cast model of James Bond's Aston Martin.

The model was first released along with the 1964 film Goldfinger, it featured a functioning ejector seat and was painted in gold. Now these models regularly sell for around £300, with six unopened models going for £8,000 in 2013. [Image Credit: Museum of Childhood]

Action Man (1966)

Causing a sensation as the first doll for boys, Action Man claimed the second ever Toy of the Year.

Action Man originated in 1964 when Hal Belton brought a G.I. Joe back from America and witnessed how popular it was with his grandson.

Action Soldier, Action Sailor and Action Pilot were the first models released, and all were available in four hair colours: Blonde, Auburn, Brown and Black. [Image Credit: The Guardian]

Mastermind The Board Game (1973)

In 1973 Toy of the Year was in fact a board game based on centuries old pencil and paper game: Bulls and Cows.

The game requires two people, a code maker and code breaker. The maker creates a code out of four coloured pegs and the breaker is given twelve turns to guess the combination.

With four pegs and six repeatable colours, there are 1,296 different patterns, good luck working that one out! [Image Credit: tnelson]

Lego Family Set (1974/75)

In 1974 Lego makes it's first appearance on the list. Before minifigures ruled the world, people actually had to make their own Lego characters, that's where the Lego Family set came in.

The 200 piece set gave children (and adults) everything they needed to make five characters, and connecting sets provided domestic settings for these maxi figures to relax in. [Image Credit: Brickset]

Combine Harvester (1978)

This one certainly stands out from the other entries, for being, dare I say it... slightly boring.

The mystery is that no-one knows why it was such a success, but some have suggested it's linked to The Wurzels' hit two years earlier. [Image Credit: V&A Museum]

Rubik's Cube (1980/81)

The Rubik's Cube was so popular it won Toy of the Year twice. The puzzle was invented in the mid-'70s by Ernő Rubik.

It's the best-selling toy of all time, with over 350 million units sold since 1980. [Image Credit: Statesman]

Star Wars Figures (1982/83)

Very few things scream Gizmodo more than Star Wars toys – another two-time Toy of the Year winner. The Kenner produced action figures spawned over 100 unique variations from 1978 to 1985, and sold more than 300 million units worldwide.

The first Star Wars film was released in May 1977, but despite this Kenner were unable to meet the demand later during the Christmas period. Instead they sold 'Early Bird Certificate Packages', which included a certificate, diorama display stand, some stickers and a Star Wars fanclub membership card.

I wonder if any Giz UK readers own the entire set? [Image Credit: Star Wars]

Sylvanian Families (1987/88/89)

Sylvanian Families don't really fit in with Gizmodo's 'usual subject matter', but they won Toy of the Year for three years running, so they seem like a big deal.

The anthropomorphic animals were created by the Japanese company Epoch. Jacc Batch, a 26-year-old dance teacher has spent £40,000 on Sylvanian Family toys, he owns almost 5,000 figurines which have their own room in his house. [Image Credit: The Toy Box]

Nintendo Game Boy (1991)

Despite competitors with superior technology, Nintendo's Game Boy was a clear success, selling over one million units in the first week on sale in the US.

The Game Boy is still one of the best selling consoles of all time, with classics like Tetris and Super Mario Land helping it become a hit. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]

Barbie (1996)

Barbie won her first Toy of the Year in 1965, beating Action Man for toy supremacy.

Barbie also faced stiff competition as British children became more mature, and started asking for presents like football strips, fashion, CDs and computers. [Image Credit: Fanpop]

Go Go Hamsters (2009)

Go Go Hamsters won Toy of the Year in 2009, probably because they're good pets for capricious children.

They'd be significantly less affected than a real hamster if they were stepped on, so don't require expensive vet bills – they're pretty much the perfect pet. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]

LeapPad Explorer (2011)

The first piece of technology in the list is LeapPad's Explorer tablet. It's a great device which makes learning fun for children (apparently).

The tablet features a built in camera and the ability to download over 100 games and apps.

Maybe one day the iPad will make it onto the list... there's some food for thought. [Image Credit: Engadget]

Toy of the Century

The Toy Retailers Association has also designated a 'Toy of the Century': it's Lego, and we wholeheartedly agree!

The 2014 Toy of the Year will be announced in January, with loom bands and Frozen dolls looking to take the crown .