There were hundreds of toys that were released in the 1970s, but only a few of them have become classics in recent years. Many of the popular and classic toys in the 70s have ads that became memorable for many people who were kids during that decade, and some of these toys have even appeared in movies or TV shows, which made them even more popular. To know more, here is the list of the best and most nostalgic “as seen on TV” 70s toys.
Simon is an electronic game that was invented by game developers Ralph H. Baer and Howard J. Morrison, who were working for a toy design firm called Marvin Glass and Associates when they created the game in the late 1970s. To play the electronic game, a device would create a sequence of lights and tones that players can recreate or repeat by pushing specific buttons on the device. The longer the game goes on, the faster and more complex the sequences will be.
Milton Bradley originally manufactured and distributed the Simon electronic game starting in 1978, but it was later manufactured by Hasbro after they acquired Milton Bradley. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, Simon was considered one of the most popular toys, and it even became a pop culture icon during those decades.
The game has been referenced in various books, TV shows, and movies, and these include Stephen King’s 1987 novel “The Tommyknockers,” a hit TV show titled “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and the 2009 computer-animated film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
Pet Rock is a collectible toy that was invented by an advertising executive named Gary Dahl and was first released in 1975. As its name already implies, the Pet Rock is simply a rock that is packaged inside a custom cardboard box with ventilation holes and filled with straw bedding, which then makes the box appear like a pet carrier commonly used for chickens.
Gary Dahl came up with the Pet Rock while drinking at a bar with friends, who were complaining about their pets and their constant need to be walked, bathed, fed, and groomed. So, Dahl thought about a pet that doesn’t need a bath, a walk, and food, and he decided that a “rock” is the perfect pet. Besides not requiring to be fed, walked, or bathed, a pet rock also wouldn’t become sick or die. While his friends thought of Dahl’s idea as a joke, Dahl decided to create an actual pet rock with an “instruction manual” that is supposed to be read as a joke book.
The Pet Rock was officially released in 1975, and it instantly became one of the best-selling toys during that year. However, by January 1976, Pet Rock experienced a decrease in sales, which led to its being discontinued in February of the same year. Despite its short availability, Gary Dahl was able to earn more than $1 million from the Pet Rock. Fortunately, the Pet Rock toy was rereleased and is still available as of 2023 in online shops and select toy stores.
The Pet Rock has been referenced and mentioned in different films and TV shows, including the animated TV series “Arthur,” where there was one particular episode when the titular character was playing with his father’s old Pet Rock named “Rocky.” An officially licensed Pet Rock was also produced as a tie-in for the 2022 film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” where Pet Rocks were depicted to have googly eyes attached to them.
Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle
The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle is a toy figure that can ride a wind-up motorcycle. What’s interesting about the toy figure is that the motorcycle is winded up using a small device that looks like a ramp, which would then make it appear as though the toy has just finished a motorcycle jumping stunt.
The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle toy was released by the Ideal Toy Company in 1973 and was based on the real-life Evel Knievel, who was an American stunt performer and entertainer who rose to prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s. After gaining popularity, Knievel wanted to profit from his image by accepting endorsements and marketing deals. One of these deals was with the Ideal Toy Company, which also made other products based on Evel Knievel, including a pinball machine and a female counterpart to the toy figure called Derry Daring.
Evel Knievel has been portrayed in various films, and these include biographical films like the 1971 and the 2004 movies that were named after him. The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle toy appeared in various ads, and it also served as the inspiration for the popular character Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves) in Toy Story 4, a Disney/Pixar film released in 2019.
The Big Wheel is a low-riding tricycle that has two small wheels at the bottom and one larger wheel at the front. The original Big Wheel tricycles were specifically made for children, as it is relatively smaller compared to bicycles, and they are also cheaper and lighter. The Big Wheel was introduced by toy manufacturer Louis Marx and Company in 1969 and was first manufactured in Girard, Pennsylvania.
Big Wheel tricycles became quite popular in the 1970s, and because of their popularity, imitations were already rampant in the said decade. Although the “Big Wheel” trademark is registered, the name was blatantly used by imitators along with the tricycle’s design.
The Big Wheel tricycle’s popularity made its ads in the 70s memorable for children during that era. One of the most iconic appearances of the Big Wheel is in the 1980 film “The Shining,” which was directed by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. The Big Wheel was prominently featured in one famous scene where a boy in the movie named Danny Torrance was riding his Big Wheel in the fictional Overlook Hotel.
Here are three current models of Big Wheel tricycles that you can check out online:
- The Original Big Wheel – Batman
- The Original Big Wheel – Limited Army Edition
- The Original Big Wheel – Scooby Doo
Kenner Star Wars Action Figures
The Kenner Star Wars action figures were a collection of toys that was produced by Kenner Products and is based on the popular Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas. The original line of action figures by Kenner was produced between 1978 and 1985, and these included the years when the first three Star Wars movies were released, particularly in 1977, 1980, and 1983.
Interestingly, the Star Wars action figures weren’t originally given to Kenner Products, as the license to make the toys was initially offered to Mego Corporation, which was known in the 1970s as one of the leading manufacturers of action figures. Unfortunately, Mego declined the offer, so Kenner had the chance to get the license for the Star Wars toys. Kenner’s choice to get the license would be one of their wisest decisions, as the Star Wars action figure line would become their best-selling toy line, and the company would earn more than $100 million through the sales of the line alone.
The popularity of the Star Wars action figures by Kenner can also be attributed to how well the company has marketed the toy line through print ads and TV ads. The action figures also appeared in various forms of entertainment, including two movies by Steven Spielberg, who coincidentally is also a close friend of George Lucas. These two movies are “Poltergeist” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” which were both released in 1982 and featured scenes that show Star Wars action figures.
Read the list below to see three popular Kenner Star Wars action figures that you can still buy today:
- Kenner Star Wars The Vintage Collection Dark Vader (Death Star II)
- Kenner Star Wars The Vintage Collection Han Solo (Stormtrooper)
- Kenner Star Wars The Vintage Collection Boba Fett
Clackers, also known as Ker-Bangers, Clankers, and Lato-Lato, are toys that are composed of two heavy plastic spheres that are connected to a string. To play with clackers, the player would have to loop the string on one or two of his or her fingers and then perform a swift and strong up-and-down motion on the hand where the string is looped. The motion would force the spheres to hit each other on the bottom and the top of the hand, which would then produce a loud clacking sound.
These clackers were very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first clackers have spheres that are made of tempered glass, which can shatter and cause injuries. To avoid accidents, manufacturers started making clackers using plastic instead of tempered glass. In the 2020s, clackers experienced a revival in popularity, as it became a trend in Indonesia and the Philippines.
In pop culture, clackers have appeared in numerous films and movies, with the earliest appearance being in “Beware! The Blob,” a 1972 independent sci-fi comedy horror movie. Clackers have also appeared in television shows aired on Nickelodeon, particularly “Drake & Josh” and “Zoey 101.”
The Magna Doodle is a magnetic drawing toy that features a magnetic stylus that pulls dark magnetic particles to the tops of the drawing board. These dark particles act like the ink of the magnetic stylus, and to remove the dark particles, the user of the toy would have to slide the magnet pieces on the bottom section of the drawing board, as this piece pulls the particles downward.
This complexly designed yet simple to use toy was invented in 1974 by Pilot Corporation, a pen manufacturing company that is based in Tokyo, Japan. The Magna Doodle is a great toy that sold more than forty million units worldwide, and it still remains popular even today because of how it can help improve a child’s imagination and drawing skills.
Much like the other toys mentioned above, the Magna Doodle has become a popular toy thanks to the many TV ads and print ads created about it in the 1970s and 1980s. The popularity of the Magna Doodle has been consistent over the years, and it even appeared in a popular TV show called “Friends,” where it was displayed in the apartment of two of the characters and is used to display different messages throughout the series.
These are some of the best “as seen on TV” toys of the 1970s. Fortunately, you can still buy the toys we mentioned above, although their features and the materials used for them are improved so that they are more durable than their 70s version. If you are a ’70s kid and you are feeling nostalgic about the toys that you enjoyed playing with during your childhood, then you can buy the toys we mentioned above.