Toys. If you were born in the 20th century, they were a big part of your childhood. You had at least a few toys lying around at home, whether they’re store-bought, hand-me-downs, or handmade by your parents.
Before the turn of the century, playtime was synonymous with tinkering with toys and going outdoors to play with the other neighborhood kids until your parents called you home for dinner or when it gets dark, whichever comes first.
Nowadays, while toys are still very much around, most kids would rather spend time on their video games and mobile devices. It seems like the actual physical toys never had that same effect on this generation compared to Boomers and Gen X-ers.
If you look closely at toy stores, other than Nerfs and FunkoPops, most toylines are just collecting dust on the shelves. Except for certain toylines that seem out of place in this era.
We’re talking about vintage toylines such as Transformers, Barbies, G.I. Joes, Hot Wheels, The Real Ghostbusters, Nintendo Entertainment System, and several other lines from the ‘80s and the ‘90s that are making very strong comebacks. These toylines were either immediately sold out upon their retail release or during pre-orders.
Why are these toylines gaining much traction in the market today even if they are toys out of their time?
Why Retro is All That
While it’s normal to picture big boys tinkering with big-boys-toys, such as installing LED light bars for their trucks or working on a new project in their workshop using a brand-new jigsaw, these grown-ups also have a certain attachment to their childhood because of the fond memories they had growing up. After all, back when they were little, they aren’t allowed to handle real tools or even go near actual trucks. Now, they can just go to their favorite parts store and walk out happy.
People are willing to pay for nostalgia. Perhaps that’s the only reason why vintage toylines are flying off the shelves in physical and virtual shops. Most of the memories that make us feel good are often hinged on our childhood playtime.
Notice how your grandpa’s eyes twinkle whenever he sees a Lionel standard gauge train set. Or look at the way your mom smiles whenever she sees a Play-Doh Make-A-Meal set that she played with when she was young. Or how your dad would reminisce about staging backyard battles with G.I. Joes and making all the funny sound effects.
These are priceless memories that take them back to a time when all they knew was fun and laughter, not the stress and anxiety they’re faced with today.
To further elaborate this point, check out the following toys that are selling like crazy in different parts of the country:
- Rubik’s Cube is hot in Hawaii and Nebraska and ranked 3rd in Georgia.
- Jenga is huge in Delaware.
- Magic: The Gathering cards are back in style in states like Maryland and South Dakota
- Reissues of the first waves of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made them the second top toyline in New Jersey.
- eBay toy sellers are seeing a spike in a renewed interest in Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joes, M.A.S.K., and Transformers not from kids today but from the kids who played with them in the ‘80s.
Clearly, a huge piece of the retro toy sales pie chart belongs to Boomers and Gen-X-ers. These are the folks who either lost their childhood toys somewhere along the way and thought it would be cool to have them back, or they grew up broke with no means to buy the said toys and are now making up for the lost time. Either way, these generations are the ones who are buying these toys like crazy.
According to eBay seller, Wayne Levante, their business is driven purely by nostalgia. Their customers are mostly middle-aged folks who already have good jobs and disposable income, and perhaps even kids to share bits and pieces of their childhood with. A lot of kids whose parents grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s have a greater appreciation for vintage toylines because of their parents’ influence. In a way, these children have somehow experienced what it was like to grow up knowing how to really play.
Will retro toys last? It will depend on today’s generation if they stay glued to their mobile phones and tablets. The challenge now is how to get kids today away from their digital devices and let them have a great and physically-interactive childhood in backyards, front lawns, parks, and neighborhood streets.