Remember a Christmas or birthday when you wanted that one special toy, but no one got it for you? Now you understand…it was ridiculously expensive, or impossible to locate. You were disappointed then, because there was no such thing as ebay or Amazon, and instead you got a sweater.
Well, now I’m going to take a long look back at the items that even made Santa say, “I…um…YOU WANT WHAT?!” Any kid with one of these babies was instantly cool in my eyes, no matter how much he smelled. I bet every one of them is easy to find nowadays, too.
Keep in mind, this is my personal list, in chronological order of their production. These were impossible to find, and expensive as heck for me and my parents.
10.) The U.S.S. Flagg playset (G.I. JOE)
Okay, yes, this one was a few years before my time. It was released in 1985, and is to this day the biggest action figure playset known-to-geek. It was well over seven feet long, and could store GI Joe vehicles and figures. A friend of mine had one when I was very young, and let me tell you something: there is nothing quite so epic as an all-out, vehicle-on-vehicle battle between whole armies of figures on your own personal aircraft carrier. Unfortunately for me, my parents didn’t have $90-110 lying around, and they certainly didn’t have space for the Flagg to lie around. It was bigger than my bed, after all. If you had this as a kid…I kind of hate the kid version of you. The adult you is still okay, though.
9.) The Super Soaker 50
This was the only toy that I wanted, my brother wanted, and my dad bought…for himself. Apparently, computer companies in the early 90’s employed some screwballs who enjoyed water-gun fights in the office. So, I didn’t get the original Super Soaker, first named the Power Drencher (good call on that change, eh?) that came out in 1990. Instead, I was given the consolation prize: the smaller, orange-colored version of the same gun, dubbed the Super Soaker 30. Water fights were all the rage back then, and they haven’t really come back since that golden age of pressurized warfare.
8.) The Talkboy (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York)
The movie was a total rehash of the first, but as a kid I thought it was amazing cinema. Apparently, Macaulay Culkin’s crazy piece of technology that let him pose as an adult was never meant for mass-production. It was a non-working prop. But after many letters and phone calls, a working version was created by Tiger Electronics in 1993. Keep in mind that this “toy” was just a tape recorder, with a few dodgy features like an extendable microphone that extended about half an inch. This is why my dad put his foot down and said, “Kyle, if you want a tape recorder, you’ll get a tape recorder. If you want a toy, you’ll get a real toy.” Thank you dad, for being wiser than me at that age. Luckily, I did end up getting the weak little ballpoint pen version for a quarter of the price.
7.) Talking 12” Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story)
Thanksgiving of 1995 meant the best toy shopping for Christmas. That was when I told my dear, unsuspecting parents that I wanted the most movie-faithful Buzz Lightyear that their money could buy. Predictably, we drove all over Oregon’s Willamete Valley looking for that goofy space ranger because retail stores didn’t order enough. Imagine sifting through fifty Woody dolls, and finding a Mr. Potato Head at the bottom of the bin, as a cruel joke. Pixar even took a shot at those retailers in the sequel when Tour Guide Barbie explained, “Back in 1995, short-sighted retailers did not order enough dolls to meet demand.” My demands were met, however, and I’m proud to say that I owned the first-run Talking Buzz, which in mint condition in the box can go for over $500 today. Something touching here: I recently donated my Buzz to a young child, who hopefully treats my rare little friend with care. *sniff*
6.) Batman Forever Triple Action Vehicle Set
This was a pretty cool one. Sure, Batman Forever was goofy, and a little heavy on the Jim Carrey (I didn’t even order that side of Tommy Lee Jones’s face), but the toys were pretty awesome. I distinctly remember my Bruce-to-Batman figure from the movie, and I wanted so badly to sit him in this beautiful vehicle. Batwing, Bat Boat, and Batmobile all in one, this was available around Christmas 1996 if I remember right. Again, too big and too expensive for my parents, but easy to find in any Target. I found one online for about $120 yesterday, and I still kind of want it. I mean, come on! It’s all three in one!
5.) Spider-Man Web Blaster
Did anyone else write a three-page argument to their mother about the benefits of shooting Silly String from your wrist? No? You guys weren’t trying hard enough. No written diatribe could convince my parents to arm me with Peter Parker’s ingenious device. This was right around the time I got into comics, around 1996 or so, and I decided that this toy was the closest I would ever come to being Spidey. The great part is that they keep remaking this little gem. Eventually, Hasbro wisely toned down the messy, aerosol-based ammo and created suitable replacements for worried parents. These days, child Spider-men shoot water, rubber webs, and foam disks out of their wrists, just to name a few. None come close to the original, though.
4.) Dr. Judy Robinson (Cryo-Suit) Action Figure (Lost in Space)
Please don’t make fun of me, but I was a huge fan of this movie when it came out in 1998. It released two weeks before my birthday, and is the film credited with knocking Titanic out of the #1 slot. It was also a terrible film, and all involved wished it didn’t exist. In late 1997, the toy line came out and I devoured it, buying every bit I could. The Judy Robinson figure, modeled after Heather Graham, was the unicorn. I didn’t even want to play with it; I just wanted to find it. By the time my grandmother found it at a swap meet, it was a year later. I eventually had two of them, because I naïvely thought that one would be an expensive collector’s item in the box. I still have it, as a mark of my toy-collector’s shame. It can easily be found online for less than four dollars.
3.) “Power of the Force” Electronic AT-AT Vehicle (Star Wars)
This behemoth turned mere battles into all-out wars. When Star Wars toys made a huge comeback in 1997, my parents warned me against putting gigantic hulks of plastic on my wish-lists (especially if they made loud, disturbing laser sounds). An interesting thing about this vehicle: it comes with two figures, that of the AT-AT driver and General Veers, the leader of Vader’s ground forces. Star Wars vehicles usually didn’t come with appropriate driver figures at the time, so I thought it was a nice touch. Find this giant robot camel online, and you’ll probably spend $80-$100 on it, mint in the box.
2.) The All-Powerful Nintendo 64
Ah, yes. There are Youtube videos dedicated to the rapture of owning an N64. First available in 1996, the 64-bit video game shrine brought Nintendo back to the top, after the strange days of Sega Saturn failed to properly impress gamers in North America. This was the first major purchase for me that wasn’t entirely made of molded plastic. It was also the first that I was forced to pay for myself. I saved up for 18 months to buy my used 64, with one controller and one game (Goldeneye) in 1998. Many summer days blew by as my brother and I became pros at Super Smash Bros., and eventually I became the podracing champion of the galaxy in 2000 (I’ve since retired). Pick one of these up if you missed out on it back in the day, they are durable as heck and have more fantastic games than any other system out there, in my opinion.
1.) Lego Millennium Falcon
Okay, here’s the thing. They have been improving this set for years, and every time they came out with a new version, it was more expensive and more impressive. The latest version, the Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon, became available back in 2007, and is currently waiting for me at the nearest Lego store for $500. For that, you get the 5,000 pieces to build the three-foot-long ship and populate it with five minifigures. Did I mention that this is the biggest (as well as the coolest) Lego set ever? It will be mine…after I pay back my student loans…
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