50 popular Argos Christmas toys since 1973 including Thunderbirds Tracy Island, POGs, the Tamagotchi and Furby
Some of the most popular Christmas toys of the last 50 years have been revealed.
The toys and games, which proved to be best sellers each December between 1973 and 2022 at Argos, have been uncovered by the retailer.
From the original Stretch Armstrong in 1976, to the first version of Hungry Hippos in 1980 – the top 50 is likely to be a huge trip down memory lane for people now buying toys and games for their own young relatives. Scroll down for the full list.
Last week Argos picked-out 18 toys it thinks will be top of children’s wish lists this Christmas – with a £170 Barbie house among the predicted best sellers.
And this year’s list does have a distinctive retro feel to it - with a number of the toys predicted to be popular this year having also struck a chord with previous generations over the course of the last half a century.
Standing the test of time
Alongside Barbie - Lego, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars and the Furby have all topped the charts in previous decades, says Argos, which believes all will make another comeback this year.
While sales of Barbie are expected to be up this December thanks to the summer’s hit film starring Margot Robbie, the doll has been a regular under the Christmas tree for decades and a big hit among Argos shoppers in 1992, 2015 and 2021 thanks to the release of new dolls or styles.
Lego too has made a regular appearance on the list of most popular toys, with its train set being a 1982 best seller for the high street store and the Harry Potter Night Bus the most popular purchase of 2019.
And it’s third time lucky for the Furby too, which has already taken the top spot in 2000 and 2013 Argos Christmas toy lists.
Children of the eighties will no doubt be pleased to see the Rubix Cube, Cabbage Patch Kids and Transformers in the list.
Cabbage Patch Kids broke all records when they arrived in toy shops around the world in 1983.
With their plastic heads, soft cuddly bodies and adoption certificates, stores could not keep up with demand when the dolls were first released and they went on to be Argos’ best seller of 1984.
While Sylvanian Families – first created in 1985 – also became an iconic toy of the eighties picking up the UK Toy of the Year award for three consecutive years.
The play sets became the biggest Christmas toy purchase at Argos in 1987 when the furry animal families flew from shelves in the run up to the festive season.
Also taking its place as one of the best selling toys of the eighties was the Ghostbusters Proton Pack. Coming complete with backpack, yellow hose and Ghostbusters ID card, the toy was inspired by the release of the hit films in 1984 and 1989.
Sets, often in excellent condition, are still available to buy via auction sites like ebay today where prices can be in excess of £200.
The influence of film and television
Craft activities and board games feature most heavily in the top toy lists of the 1970s.
Shrinky Dinks, which allowed you to colour and decorate flexible sheets of polystyrene that then shrunk when heated, became a best seller in 1973.
While board game Risk followed in 1974 and a version of Othello in ‘75 with Dungeons & Dragons sparking interest in 1979.
But fast forward 15 years and come the early nineties many more hit toys are being inspired by film and television, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures, Power Rangers, Buzz Lightear and Bob the Builder all cropping up as we move along the decade.
Also among them – and rocketing to the top of wishlists in 1993 across the country- was the Thunderbirds Tracy Island playset.
First released by Matchbox in 1992 to celebrate the return of Thunderbirds to television screens for the first time since the 1960s – this electronic Tracy Island rapidly became a must-have Christmas toy.
With its underground hangers and secret launch pads the headquarters of International Rescue was an instant hit and stock shortages were reported around the UK as families battled to get their hands on it.
Children’s TV show Blue Peter also attempted to respond to the shortages and children's desire for a Thunderbirds toy by showing families how to make their own Tracy Island – which triggered more than 100,000 requests for the instruction sheet for the craft, which became one of its biggest of all time.
The rise of technology
As toys have gone high-tech so have Christmas lists – with some of the most popular requests in the last 20 years heavily driven by advances in technology.
Gamers will notice the arrival of the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii between 2006 and 2007 while Leapfrog’s LeapPad Explore Tablet attracted younger children in 2011 with an appetite for educational electronic games.
Interactive toys too have continued to grow in popularity with Fingerlings, Little Live Pets, Hatchimals and the Furby all providing families with a family pet for Christmas that didn’t require the same care as a real kitten or a puppy.
Fay Williams, head of toy buying at Argos, said she expects the trend to continue this year as technology and innovation continues to bring some very clever games to shop shelves alongside the firm favourites.
She explained: “It’s clear that innovation in the toy world is having a big impact on what’s hitting the shelves this Christmas.
“We’re seeing some exciting changes when it comes to interactive and educational toys especially, as well as continued evolution of toys that inspire creativity through role play. I’m particularly excited to see how science-inspired toys like Beast Lab and new challenge toys like My Puppy’s Home become future Christmas classics.
“We sell a toy every two seconds at Argos and alongside the incredible innovation in the industry, it’s wonderful to see nostalgic brands like Furby, Barbie and Lego loved by a new generation of kids.