10 toys every kid wanted in 1976

Stretch Armstrong, Cher and Muhammad Ali were the hot dolls forty years ago.

Toys come and go, and the brands and names may change, but one thing is certain: Kids love dolls, action figures and outer space. Forty years ago, Snoopy and Star Trek were household names, just as they remain today. You could say the same for Cher and Ken. However, there were also passing fads filling the toy store shelves in 1976, action figures for trendy television characters.

Here are 10 of the hottest toys that hit stores in the Bicentennial year.

1. The Cher Doll


Who had the power to outsell Barbie in '76? Super diva Cher, of course. Mego's posable, long-haired Cher was the best-selling doll of that year. Fashion designer Bob Mackie created the toy's wardrobe. Sunburn Sonny sold separately.

Image: megomuseum.com

2. Stretch Armstrong


The hottest figure of '76 was undoubtedly Kenner's Stretch Armstrong, the rubbery blond muscle man in the black Speedo. Pumped full of corn syrup, the latex-skinned stud hit toy stores in the Bicentennial. The craze had died by the end of the decade, though his counterpart, Stretch Monster, came out in 1978.

Image: Kenner / YouTube

3. Bionic Woman Wrist Radio


The Bionic Woman made her television debut at the start of the year, and soon toy stores were filled with Bionic Woman everything. There was a doll, complete with outfits like demin pantsuit and tennis apparel; a Dome House; a Bionic Beauty and Repair Station; and this nifty wrist radio. What better way to listen to one-hit wonders like Starland Vocal Band? Take that, Apple!

Image: corporalsteiner.tumblr.com

4. Muhammad Ali Boxing Ring Set


Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots met rope-a-dope when the Greatest launched his Boxing Ring playset. As the fine print stated: Figures not included. Those awesome little Alis and Joe Fraziers would cost you more than the $17.99 retail price for the ring.

Image: lelands.com

5. The Green Machine


Big Wheels and Hot Cycles were ubiquitous, but the Green Machine was a rare and cherished beast. Originally sold by Marx (and now manufactured by Huffy) this sweet, "low-slung" tyke trike swerved with stick steering on the rear wheels. Riding one felt like operating a futuristic cycle.

Image: 1976 JC Penney Christmas Catalog / wishbookweb

6. Now-Look Ken


Ken's stiff blond locks got a very of-the-era upgrade with this brunette "dry look." That blow-out perfectly matched his camel-colored leisure suit.

Image: 1976 JC Penney Christmas Catalog / wishbookweb

7. Star Trek Phaser Battle Game


Though the series was a decade old, and though a big-screen return was still a few years off, Star Trek continued to sell. And for quite a cost. The asking price of $49.88 (about $200 in today's cash) was rather steep for zapping red silhouettes of Klingon ships. The game play was not unlike the field vision tests at your optomistrist.

Image: 1976 JC Penney Christmas Catalog / wishbookweb

8. Snoopy Scooter Shooter


Evel Knievel was cool, and his stunt bike was the hot toy of the early '70s, but did that daredevil have a cute bird as his co-pilot? Nope. After launching a few Snoopys off the ramp, you were probably hungry for a Snoopy Sno-Cone from the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. Though that toy was not introduced until 1979.

Image: 1976 JC Penney Christmas Catalog / wishbookweb

9. J. J. Arms


Now here is a hard one to explain to younger generations. J. J. Arms was (and still is) a real-life private detective with metal hooks for hands. The amputee appeared on television and earned his own toy line. The '70s were wonderfully eclectic.

Image: 1976 JC Penney Christmas Catalog / wishbookweb

10. Fairchild Channel F


Before Nintendo, before Atari, before them all, there was Fairchild's Channel F "Video Entertainment System." This home gaming console was the first cartridge-based system offered to the American public. When Atari launched the following year, Fairchild renamed its machine. In 1976, this TV arcade would set you back $149.95, with the "video-carts" running an extra $19.95 each. Dropping nearly a grand for some virtual backgammon seems rather insane today.

Image: thevintagemachine.blogspot.com

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MelissaMaxwell 33 months ago
I had that polka dot elephant toy box!
KathyDovalesRodriguez 51 months ago
Lol I was 16 yr. Old in 1976.I didn't care,I STILL wanted that Green Machine! The Sonny Bobo doll looks like the old Calfornia bandit Joaquin Murrieta! Lol!
DavidHanes 51 months ago
I had the JJ Arms figure as a kid. I had so many adventures with him. The face always reminded me of Robin Williams though.
Russ 51 months ago
10. Is incorrect the Magnavox Odyssey with cartridge games came out in 1971.
RobChapman Russ 41 months ago
Actually, #10 is correct. Fairchild Channel F was the first home console to use a programmable ROM cartridge and the first to have a microprocessor.

From a 2016 article: The Odyssey games do not use ROM cartridges like later consoles, but instead use "game cards" composed of printed circuit boards that plug into the console. These cards modify the internal circuitry like a set of switches or jumpers, causing the Odyssey to display different components and react to inputs differently. Multiple games use the same cards, with different instructions given to the player to change the style of game.
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