The 13 most desired toys of the 1970s, year by year

Kids were wishing for Star Wars, Stretch, Nerf and Micronauts under the Christmas tree.

Images: wishbookweb / listal

The digital age arrived in the Seventies. In the prior decade, children played with simpler toys. The hot presents of the 1960s included dolls, balls, kitchen appliances and soldiers. But as electronic pop music began to creep its way on the radio, and as androids populated television shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, kids turned to the future with their video games, robots and space men.

Still, the simple pleasure of a ball — or a single rock — retained its allure.

These popular toys made their debut between 1970 and 1979. We added some extra products to 1975, 1977 and 1978, landmark years for youthful fun.

Nerf ball


Launched in 1970, the foam ball was billed as the "world's first official indoor ball." How safe was it? Well, marketing promised, "You can't damage lamps or break windows. You can't hurt babies or old people." No wonder it sold around 4 million in its first year.

Image source: Nerf Wikia



Habro's Playskool line had already given the world Mr. Potato Head two decades earlier, and in 1971 it turned to another kitchen staple for its next sensation: eggs. The Weebles, thankfully, were not so fragile. If anything, Weebles' success was due to how simple, safe and durable they were in the hands of little ones.

Image Source: Tracey's Toys

The skateboard


Skateboarding had seemingly come and gone, cresting and washing out with the surfing trend in the early 1960s. Then, in 1972, Frank Nasworthy invented his Cadillac Wheels, durable urethane wheels for modern boards. It opened up possibilities with riding. By 1975, the year this pictured "Black Knight" popped up in a catalog, the sport was hot as ever and a permanent part of American culture.

Image source: Wishbookweb

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle


Ideal Toys debuted its popular line of tiny toy bikes in 1973, the year the celebrity stuntman made a lucky 13 jumps on his Harley, including an epic leap over 13 vans to start the year. Well, he crashed once, not that that stopped him or slowed the sales of his merchandising.

Magna Doodle


Tyco sold millions of these art pads, first released in 1974, a decade and a half after the introduction of The Ohio Art Company's Etch A Sketch. Which did you prefer?

Image source: Gizmodo

Pet Rock


The ultimate fad, this novelty blew up in the middle of 1975. By Christmas, despite solid sales, the trend was essentially dying. Not that inventor Gary Dahl was likely upset. He had sold over a million stones for four bucks a pop by that point.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons



It's hard to believe that home video game consoles are as old as the Pet Rock. Yet we remember video games before they had cartridges. You bought a home console and it played one game, and that was enough of a marvel. In 1974, an Atari engineer suggested a home version of its popular arcade cabinet Pong that could connect to a television set. A year later, Atari presented Home Pong to Sears in its Chicago skyscraper, and the retail giant ordered 150,000 units for the upcoming holiday season. The consoles were first branded with Sears' Tele-Games name.

Image: wishbookweb

Stretch Armstrong


Kenner launched Strech in 1976 and stopped manufacturing the ultra-elastic hero in 1980. Fun fact: He was filled with corn syrup. Hopefully, none of you found that out the hard way.

Image Source: Captive Wild Woman



Before Transformers, there were Micronauts. Mego premiered its articulated action figures in 1976, but they had their moment in 1977, perhaps thanks to the sci-fi mania sweeping the globe post–Star Wars. Mego famously passed on the license to sell Star Wars toys, but perhaps the company found some relief when Marvel Comics launched a Micronauts title. All this hype would not prevent Mego for going under in the early-'80s.

Image source: Wishbookweb

Mattel Electronic Football


The Atari 2600 was the revolution of 1977, launched in September of that year. As brilliant as that home gaming system was, the price was steep to play — $199, about $800 in today's cash. Mattel's 9-volt-powered handheld device was a rudimentary representation of football, merely red rectangles on a black field, but far cheaper at $29.95. That put it in more hands. In many ways, it paved the way for the Game Boy and iPhone apps.

Image source: Wishbookweb

Simon and Speak & Spell


Simon, Milton Bradley's memorization game, was an improved design of an idea that had been around for years. Texas Instruments's Speak & Spell, on the other hand, planted the seeds of computing in the brains of small ones. The robotic voices was so cool. Collector's note: You know you have an original if it has the raised buttons. Both hit the shelves in 1978.

Image source: Wikimediacommons / Flashbak

Star Wars Toys


Though the film changed pop culture in 1977, the tie-in toys were surprisingly slow to hit shelves (especially by today's standards). Demand was so high in 1977 that Kenner — who won the license after Mego passed, as mentioned above — instead sold certificates redeemable for four figures. The line was expanded in 1978, and raked in cash, but rabid demand made Luke and his gang hard-to-get. By 1979, as you can see from this ad, the options had increased, ready for the hands of children who were awaiting Empire Strikes Back. Oh, how some things never change.



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DarioWiter 44 months ago
Mattel Electronic Auto Race game came out in 1976(the Bicentennial year) and it sold quite well, but Electronic Football came out the following year and that changed everything for Mattel Electronics. ☺️
x60hz11 52 months ago
Remember Steve Austin's roll up skin with his little bionic modules!! I blew more time on my Mattel games. I had football, baseball, basketball. What a great time to be a kid!!!
MHRDeadhead 55 months ago
Nah, my '70s favorites were...
RobCertSDSCascap 55 months ago
Definitely preferred Magna Doodle. Couldn't even make squares on an
Etch A Sketch.
RobCertSDSCascap 55 months ago
Only had one Evel toy, but loved it!
CelticTwilight 55 months ago
"as androids populated television shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman"

Sorry but Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers were cyborgs NOT androids!

They must not know the book they were based on; Martin Caidin's Cyborg.
Cool show and fun toys!
OldTVfanatic 55 months ago
Does anyone remember the Micronauts comic book?
Ya. It was ok.
It was somewhat reminiscent of Kirby's New Gods.

Not as good of course.
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