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COMMENTARY

From Slinky to Star Wars: What your favorite toys cost then and now

Samantha Christmann

People love to complain about how much more expensive things are now than they were in the good old days. But offshore manufacturing has made many things much cheaper than they were in their heyday, even adjusting for inflation.

Especially toys.

So how have the most popular toys held up over the years? And which ones were your favorites? Have a look.

1928, The yo-yo. They’ve been around for centuries, but the first commercial manufacturer in 1928 sold handmade ones for 15 cents. That’s $2.21 in today’s money, which won’t buy one of nearly the same quality. You can, however, get a rickety plastic version that will frustrate the heck out of your kids and break on the first twirl.

1934, Shirley Temple doll. Back then, it could be had for $3 to $5. You can find them on eBay with bids starting at $10, but some have sold for as much as $5,000.

Santa Claus also got a lot of requests for Monopoly and the Red Ryder BB Gun in the 1930s.

1945, Slinky. It sold for $1, which would be $13.85 today. You can still get knockoffs for that price or less, or pay $7.49 for the real, metal thing.

Legos and Silly Putty were also big in the 40s. Legos are still a huge wish list item, with some of the bigger sets costing hundreds of dollars. A Star Wars Millennium Falcon Kit retails for about $800.

1952, Mr. Potato Head. Sold for 98 cents when it debuted, it actually costs half as much today adjusting for inflation. And, in the '50s, you had to supply your own potato!

1964, G.I. Joe. Launched in time for Christmas that year at $4 a figure (or doll, if you want to get into a fight about it), special ones have sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Manufacturing has petered out as kids opt instead for superheroes, wrestlers and fantasy creatures, but special collectors’ lines are still produced.

1978, Star Wars. Kenner came up with 100 different action figures based on the original movie trilogy and sold more than 300 million of them from 1978 to 1985. A special “Early Bird” set with R2-D2, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca sold for $9.99 ($37.19 today) but a rare Obi-Wan Kenobi figure fetched $65,000 earlier this year.

1983, Cabbage Patch Kids. Grandmas rioted over these hot $25 dolls ($62.20 today). They cost about $39 now, but the 9-inch Cuties are much more popular with today’s kids and sell for about $10.

1996, Tickle Me Elmo. Despite more than doubling its production in a rush, Tyco could not keep up with the unexpected demand for this animatronic teddy bear. People swarmed delivery trucks, beat each other up and paid scalpers thousands of dollars in order to score one for Christmas. These days, you can get it on sale for $14, sometimes less.

Furbys and Beanie Babies were another big '90s fad, largely ignored today.

2000, Razor Scooter. All the rage, prices started at $99 when they first came out ($143.40 today). Razor Scooters are still popular, but can be had for about 30 bucks. Motorized ones have since hit the market and run about $137.

Also big in the 2000s: Bratz dolls, Webkinz and Zhu Zhu Pets.

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