10 Totally Rad '80s Toys… And Where They Are Now

The toys of the 1980s helped define a generation. They're still with us today.
D. Fagan/HowStuffWorks

By the 1980s, kids had plenty of things other than toys competing for their attention -- from the widespread installation of cable television to an ever-increasing availability of home video games like the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. Despite the technological breakthroughs of the decade, '80s kids still went for the same basic types of toys as earlier generations, from stuffed animals and dolls to the coolest action figure heroes.

We'll also take a look at where these radical classics are today. Most are still around in some form or another – some completely unchanged, some updated for a new generation – but there are a few classics that remain locked in the decades gone by.


So if you're ready to dive into this neon-hued blast from the past, put on some MTV, break out the leg warmers and bomber jackets, and read on to learn more about some of the gnarliest, most righteous toys of the '80s.

10: Cabbage Patch Kids

Cabbage Patch Doll creator Xavier Roberts sits amongst a group of Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983.
Bryn Colton/Getty Images

If you had a Cabbage Patch Doll in the early '80s, there's a good chance mom or dad had to dodge a few elbows at the toy store to get it; these soft-bodied dolls with the hard vinyl heads were the hottest ticket in town during 1983's holiday shopping season, and have the dubious honor of being one of the first toys in history to spur toy store fisticuffs. Of course, all that effort was like, totally worth it if it meant you got to adopt your very own baby, complete with mail-away birth certificate that listed your name as the proud parent. By New Year's Day 1984, 3 million of the Kids had flown off the shelves and into hands of real eager real kids [source: Townsend].

Where They Are Now: Babyland General Hospital remains in operation – it's a tourist attraction in North Georgia, a "hospital" the Cabbage Patch creator Xavier Roberts opened. The dolls are still in production, and remain in the popular culture thanks to timely celebrity lookalike dolls. A new line of dolls is planned to debut in late 2015.


9: Care Bears

The Care Bears got their start as characters on a line of greeting cards.
American Greetings

Care Bears Countdown! You could tell a lot about an '80s kid by his choice of Care Bear -- a series of stuffed bears with cheerful designs splashed across their bellies. While the majority of the toys had peppy names like Love-a-Lot, Tenderheart or Friend Bear, there was always that one kid who chose the down-in-the-dumps Grumpy Bear as his Care Bear of choice. Thanks to countless TV specials, an animated series, and a 1985 theatrical film, more than 40 million Care Bears were sold between 1983 and 1987 [source: Care-Bears.com]. Kids who loved the bears could also choose from a line of Care Bears Cousins -- other species with names like Swift Heart Rabbit or Gentle Heart Lamb. And remember -- while there were plenty of imitators and knock-offs, only real Care Bears had the signature heart emblazoned on their backside.

Where They Are Now: Though nowhere near as popular as they once were, the Bears remain both nostalgic touchstones and currently produced toys. A 2012 CGI series aired on The Hub network, and a Netflix-produced series may arrive in 2016.


8: My Little Pony

The contemporary line of My Little Pony updates the classic toy with more exaggerated features.
Courtesy Funrise

My Little Ponies took a cue from the Care Bears, using decorative symbols on their haunches to describe their name and personality. (If only such a visible clue were available in humans.) The very first line of ponies came with simple matching combs so you could keep their luxurious synthetic manes and tails free of tangles. Later versions included winged and unicorn varieties, as well as the ever-popular first-tooth baby ponies, who sported a single chomper smack on the front of their muzzles. True Pony fans not only owned the ponies themselves, but also a variety of accessories, such as the impressive Pony Paradise Estate -- complete with hot tub -- and the Sweet Shoppe, which for some inexplicable reason, was molded to look like a giant shoe.

Where They Are Now: Few pop culture phenomena have received as much attention as the subculture of the Brony – "bros" who love Ponies, specifically centered around the 2010's television show "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic."


7: Rubik's Cube

The iconic Rubik's Cube provides hours of entertainment – or frustration, depending on your outlook.
Alexandra Jursova/Getty Images

Launched in 1980, the seemingly impossible-to-solve Rubik's Cube went on to sell more than 350 million units, ensuring that virtually every '80s kid tried -- and failed -- to solve the puzzle at some point [source: Rubiks.com]. If your Rubik's Cube languished in the corner of your room, a tangled mess of colors tossed aside in frustration, take heart; it took creator Enro Rubik more than a month to solve his own puzzle, and he's the guy who actually invented it. Of course, savvy kids came up with their own ways to finlly ensure each side of the cube contained a single color -- either by removing and replacing the stickers, or popping the pieces apart with a screwdriver and reassembling them in secret before bragging to friends how they'd "solved" the puzzle.

Where It Is Now: The timeless toy is about as ubiquitous a piece of Americana as there is, and though it may not populate as many office desks and dorm rooms as it once did, it has inspired legions of "cubers" who compete in tournaments, and numerous YouTube tutorials offer competing solution theories.


6: Snoopy Sno-cone Machine

The character of Snoopy has shown up in many forms, from Sno-cone purveyor to giant parade balloon.
© Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Corbis

The classic Snoopy Sno-cone Machine was more than a cool toy -- it was also an awesome way for business-savvy kids to make money by selling sno cones to friends! Simply drop ice cubes from the freezer into the top of the machine and use the Snoopy plunger to push the ice down into the heart of the machine. A bit of powdered juice mix or syrup and you had your very own sno-cone or sno-ball, made at home for free anytime the craving hit. Of course, the iconic toy made kids work hard to transform solid ice cubes into bits of shaved ice; the machine featured a manual crank, so producing even a single cone was no easy task. Today's refrigerators with built-in crushed ice dispensers can pop out the same amount of slush at the push of a button -- talk about progress! If you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way or you're hit with a wave of '80s nostalgia you can still find this toy in stores to help frustrate an entire new generation.

Where It Is Now: Though the Sno-cone Machine is an '80s classic, it's available again after a break in production. The retro vibe remains and the toy hasn't undergone a stylistic update like many of its peers, though there was a 2013 recall of the toy due to a potential choking hazard.


5: Teddy Ruxpin

The Teddy Ruxpin toy spoke and appeared to interact with children thanks to cassette tapes and animatronic motors.
Josh Isaacson

Developed by a Disney animation engineer, the loveable Teddy Ruxpin not only talked, but also blinked and turned his head -- way cool technology for the mid-'80s. Teddy came with a series of cassettes, which you could pop into a player in his back in order to interact with the toy. Introduced in 1985, more than a million of these talking teddies flew off shelves by early 1986, which meant that many '80s kids either knew someone with the toy or had one themselves [source: Time]. If you had one of the first line of Teddy Ruxpin toys, you may also remember Teddy's pal Grubby. By stringing a cable between the two creatures, you could get them to interact with one another, swapping turns as they told a story. Grubby could also be seen in the classic Teddy Ruxpin TV series, which ran from 1987 to 1988. Sorry, younger kids -- after the first generation of toys sold out, later versions were no longer compatible with Grubby, and he was largely forgotten.

Where It Is Now: Teddy Ruxpin is one of the few toys on this list no longer a part of the current popular culture. No company produces the bear, and its creator Ken Forsse died in early 2014. A small online community of Ruxpinthusiasts exists, swapping repair tips on message boards.


4: Transformers

Classic Transformers toys have become museum display pieces, like these at the 2014 Transformers Expo in Japan.
© Rodrigo Reyes Marin/AFLO/Nippon News/Corbis

Like almost every major '80s toy, Transformers had its own animated series, which meant that kids could wage war between Optimus Prime and Megatron while attempting to follow the most complicated storylines ever on TV; somewhere along the line, the Transformers' home planet of Cybertron was thrown out of orbit, and the robots in disguise ended up on Earth [source: Bellomo]. Even if you couldn't quite figure out the backstory, the toy robots that tranformed into vehicles and other objects were totally fun to play with, and provided the perfect antidote to the cuteness of Care Bears, My Little Pony and other popular toys of the decade.

Where They Are Now: If you've been part of the popular culture, you know that Transformers are still around – particularly thanks to the mega-moneymaking blockbuster film series directed by Michael Bay. Though the movie 'bots are intricately detailed and complex, a simplified line of toys exists as well.


3: Pound Puppies

Sad-eyed plush dogs sold millions in the '80s, and inspired cartoon series and other pop-culture ephemera.
Courtesy Funrise

Pound Puppies pulled on kids' heartstrings, with their big, sad puppy eyes begging you to take them home. Picking up a Pound Puppy or two was the perfect way to feel like you were helping stray animals -- without all the mess and work involved in actually adopting a real dog, of course. The toys even came in boxes designed to look like the carrier boxes provided to adopters by local pounds. Tonka introduced the dogs in 1984, the company sold more than 47 million of the non-breed specific pups by early 1988 [source: The New York Times]. In addition to the standard line of puppies, '80s kids could choose from oversized "Super" puppies, smaller "Newborn" puppies and a feline version, known as "Pound Purries" (of course).

Where They Are Now: Over the years Pound Puppies have been featured in cartoons and feature films, and though they've gone in and out of production (as well as the public consciousness), are currently available again in two sizes.


2: He-Man and She-Ra

Actors in 1987 portray the characters of He-Man and She-Ra.
© Neal Preston/Corbis

"By the Power of Grayskull!" Fans of the early '80s "Masters of the Universe" cartoon will remember He-Man as he transformed from the mild-mannered Prince Adam into a muscular hero, and the toy came complete with a snap waist for realistic punching action. The release in '85 of a line of accompanying "Princess of Power" She-Ra toys gave girls their own gender-specific way to join in the fun and help protect Castle Grayskull from the evil Skeletor and his henchmen. Bonus points if you had your very own He-Man or She-Ra dress up kit, complete with Power Sword or Sword of Protection, which you proudly held overhead as you proclaimed, "I have the power!" -- just like your animated heroes.

Where They Are Now: The toys resurfaced in updated versions in the early 2000s, and a line of Masters of the Universe Classics toys plays homage to the originals. DC Comics currently publishes a comic book based on the characters, and as of late 2014 a new feature film was in production.


1: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Classic TMNT toys have become highly collectible pop-culture items.
© Peter Power/ZUMA Press/Corbis

Fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got a bonus lesson in Renaissance art thanks to the heroes in a halfshell, inexplicably named after some of history's most revered artists. The pizza-loving, crime-fighting quartet of turtles came in hundreds of different variations, from the classic ninja varieties to farmer, military, Wild West and classic movie monster varieties. The turtles also came with some truly awesome playsets, including a party wagon, blimp, and the totally tubular Technodrome, home of villans Krang and Shredder. You could also purchase the turtles' sewer playset -- because what kid doesn't want to play in the sewer?

Where They Are Now: The Turtles seem to have never gone out of style, and a series of video games, comic books, toys and CGI and live-action movies have been released over the years. A third animated series and its accompanying toy line debuted on Nickelodeon in 2012.

Lots More Information

Author's Note: 10 Totally Rad '80s Toys ... and Where They Are Now

Being a child of the '80s myself, I feel it's only fair to admit that yes, I did own the infamous She-Ra dress up set, complete with mask, wrist guards and sturdy plastic sword. I also have some incredibly frustrating memories of trying to coax enough shaved ice out of my Snoopy Sno-cone Machine to make a decent-sized sno-cone. It usually ended up as an exercise in futility, followed by a trip to the snowball stand on the corner. I also have vivid memories of carefully assembling my My Little Pony Sweet Shoppe playset, never stopping to wonder at the time why in the world it was shaped like a shoe.

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  • American Greetings. "History and Facts." (Nov. 24, 2014) http://web.archive.org/web/20050303062052/www.care-bears.com/CareBears/html/history/index.html
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