A Timeline of the Top-Selling Holiday Gifts... Ever

Esquire

As we approach the holiday shopping season, take a year-by-year look back over the last three decades at popular holiday gifts that sent parents a-tramplin.

2010: Apple iPad

2010: Apple iPad

$499 - $699, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Really, were there any other contenders? It's the first of its kind — a slim tablet that lets you seamlessly glide between movies, music, browsing the web, and Street Fighter beat-downs. With Wi-Fi and 3G, everything from racing simulators to magazines are just a touch away. And don't get us started on that gorgeous LED display.

The Weird Part: You can use the iPad to do just about anything, but you're probably going to waste all your time on Angry Birds, which has been purchased over 10 million times on Apple's App Store.

 

2009: Nook eReader

2009: Nook eReader (Barnes & Noble)

Starting at $149, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: B&N's e-book has a second screen while Amazon's Kindle has just one; throw in its Wi-Fi and the Nook seems set for a Christmas KO. That said, Beta had a much nicer picture than VHS.

 

 





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iPod Touch

2007: iTouch (Apple)

iPod Touch 4th Generation, Starting at $275, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: The first touchscreen and Web-enabled iPod went from annual fanboy fantasy to national must-have, largely because it came at a fraction of the iPhone's price tag. Christmas? There's an app for that.

The Weird Part: Apple's profits took a slight hit when they had to deal with a lawsuit filed by an irate mother claiming her child's iTouch burst into flames while in his pocket, igniting his pants and "nylon/spandex underwear."

 

2006: Playstation 3

2006: Playstation 3 (Sony)

PlayStation 3 Slim 160GB, Starting at $300, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Sony's response to Microsoft's Xbox 360 had a North American launch inspiring such anticipation that pre-sale units hit $3,000 on eBay (retail topped out at $599), while mothers and mouth-breathers alike camped out for days to buy one in person.

The Weird Part: Legend has it one man on an advance line at a Walmart discovered there would not be any PS3s left by the time it was his chance to make a purchase. So he did the only logical thing: he treated people ahead of him in line to coffee spiked with laxatives. He got one.

2005: Xbox 360

 

2005: Xbox 360 (Microsoft)

Xbox 360 250GB Starting at $200, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Beating Sony to the punch? Check. Internet connectivity for Halo tournaments stretching from nerds in Taiwan to schoolchildren in Toledo? You got it. Enough supply to meet holiday demand? Not so much. Frenzy ensued.

The Weird Part: Xbox 360 started production a mere sixty-nine days before its launch. Customers lucky or savvy enough to recognize the potential profits of Microsoft's dilemma cashed in, as forty thousand units (or 10 percent of total supply) ended up on eBay within a week.

2004: RoboSapiens

2004: RoboSapiens (WowWee)

Starting at $24, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: What's a RoboSapien, you ask? Why a remote-control, fourteen-inch-tall humanoid capable of performing sixty-seven preprogrammed actions and movements, including (but by no means limited to) break dancing, farting, and belching, of course!

The Weird Part: Prior to the resurgence of human movement with the success of Dancing with the Stars, humanity faced a sedentary period consisting entirely of RoboSapiens shaking their mechanical groove thangs on YouTube.

2002-2003: Beyblades

 

2002-2003: Beyblades (Hasbro)

Starting at $13, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: In a classic demonstration of the power of synergy, Hasbro released these customizable "fighting" spin-tops in Japan simultaneously with a hit cartoon. World domination followed soon thereafter.

The Weird Part: Beyblade competitions quickly became a sensation, with the first one drawing eighteen thousand people. One need only YouTube the highlights of such an event to discover why this attracted more folk than the average heavyweight title fight.

 

2001: Bratz Dolls

2001: Bratz Dolls (MGA Entertainment)

Starting at $10, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Ah, Cloe, Jade, Sasha, and Yasmin. They're the original quartet of ten-inch "teenagers distinguished by large heads and skinny bodies." While their June 2001 launch proved disappointing, by Christmas they were well on their way to generating billions.

The Weird Part: If the Bratz remind you of Barbie dolls, you're not the only one. Mattel won a $100 million copyright suit against MGA in 2008 (though it should be noted that Mattel requested $1.8 billion).

 

2000: Razor Scooters

2000: Razor Scooters (Razor USA)

Starting at $40, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: This was the year we decided we didn't want to drive... or walk. What to do? Dodge children in the streets! The original Razor also won Toy of the Year for establishing itself as a "classic mode of transportation, like bikes and skateboards."

The Weird Part: Only downside? Any grown man on a scooter looks like a total zero. John Mayer celebrated this in a short film about his songwriting process.



1999: Pokémon

1999: Pokémon (Nintendo)

Starting at $10, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: With the Japanese cartoon a sensation, kids demanded more, and the video-game series came to rival even the Mario titles in popularity, inspiring South Park to parody the whole phenomenon (you know, the one where Japan wants to brainwash America's children into launching a second attack on Pearl Harbor).

The Weird Part: An eight-second-or-so segment of a TV episode duplicated a strobe-light effect so effectively that it triggered seizures in hundreds of fans, proving right mothers the world over: Cartoons are bad for you.

 

1998: Furbies

1998: Furbies (Tiger Electronics)

Starting at $10, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Who wouldn't want a furry robot that can talk and blink its eyes? Indeed, who wouldn't want one so badly that they'd be willing to pay a huge markup? After retailing for $35, Furbies skyrocketed to $100 a pop, not to mention "collector's items" like "tuxedo Furby" and "biker Furby."

The Weird Part: Owners discovered Furbies were strikingly affected by magnets, inspiring a demonic-looking video craze.

 

1997: Tamagotchi

1997: Tamagotchi (Bandai)

Starting at $6, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Housed in an egg-shaped computer, these digital pets required feeding and poo-cleaning, but the hard work paid off with the occasionally redeeming happiness monitor. Deeply creepy stuff, but apparently very popular: seventy million Tamagotchis have been sold to date.

The Weird Part: When a Tamagotchi "dies," you can reset it and start again, but owners who truly cared for their pets found that heartless and instead had proper burials at (real) pet cemeteries, complete with gravesites and coffins.

 

1996: Tickle Me Elmo

1996: Tickle Me Elmo (Tyco)

Starting at $25, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: "When squeezed, Elmo would chortle. When squeezed three times in a row, Elmo would begin to shake and laugh hysterically." Needless to say, this was something Sesame Street watchers everywhere needed to have. And they needed to have it now.

The Weird Part: Beloved puppeteer Jim Henson may be gone, but surely he'd be moved to know he inspired a toy that would be resold for up to eighty times its $30 list value and trigger at least one stampede of parents so crazed they left a store employee in the hospital.

 

1995: Beanie Babies

1995: Beanie Babies (Ty Inc.)

Starting at $7, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: First conquering Chicago and then spreading all over this plush nation, Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Spot the Dog, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Chocolate the Moose, Patti the Platypus, and dozens of other $5 bean-bag creatures with pun-tastic names devoured our hearts.

The Weird Part: Recognizing the willingness of Americans to abandon any shred of dignity to get what their children want, an Atlanta radio station dumped eggs and beans on people in exchange for free Beanie Babies.

1993-1994: Mighty
Morphin Power Rangers

 

1993-1994: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Bandai)

Starting at $6, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: Five racially diverse teenagers with superpowers fought evil aliens for a TV smash, and so came a line of toys featuring the Rangers and their "Zords" — you know, giant robotic dinosaurs they used to combat aforementioned evil aliens. Duh.

The Weird Part: The Power Rangers's catchphrase, "It's Morphin Time!" reportedly outraged authorities in Malaysia, who feared it encouraged children to become morphine addicts.

 

1992: Barney Talking Doll

1992: Barney Talking Doll (Playskool)

Starting at $10, ebay.com

The Big Deal: Barney & Friends was aimed at a younger crowd that somehow found it irresistible to watch a man in a dinosaur suit sing some of the most mawkish songs ever. This talking doll brought the tunes all day long. Needless to say, parents were thrilled.

The Weird Part: Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers this show was not. From TV Guide's "Worst 50 Shows of All Time": "...his shows do not assist children... [T]he real danger from Barney is denial: the refusal to recognize the existence of unpleasant realities."

1991: POG

1991: POG (World POG Federation, Others)

Starting at $1, ebay.com

The Big Deal: It may have the least likely origin of any Christmas-season smash: a milk-cap game played during breaks by Hawaiian dairy workers. A two-person contest involving a flimsy discs and a slammer, POGs gave kids the chance to, well, take their friend's Christmas present supply away in minutes.

The Weird Part: It goes without saying that a game played by Hawaiian dairy workers would threaten educators. They quickly deemed POGs a form of gambling and banned them from schools across the nation.

1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles

1990: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Bandai)

Starting at $8, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: The action figures were so popular they got kids to learn about Renaissance painters — or learn their names, at least. Adolescent abnormal reptiles Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo discovered the ancient art of Ninjutsu from a giant talking rat to fight ninjas while eating pizza. Cowabunga, dude.

The Weird Part: The toys made a bundle, but the turtles also cleaned up with 1990s live-action film earning over $200 million — at the time, the highest-grossing indie movie to date.

1989: GameBoy

1989: GameBoy (Nintendo)

Starting at $6, ebay.com

The Big Deal: The first eight-bit handheld videogame system to utilize cartridges, GameBoy went anywhere and didn't force you to play the same damn game over and over again. Goodbye, couch! Hellooooo... other couch.

The Weird Part: Goodbye, Cold War! And thank you, USSR. A Soviet R&D center employed Alexey Pajitnov when he designed the puzzle game Tetris, which came bundled with the original GameBoy and to this day fills people of a certain age with an overwhelming desire to stack rectangles.

1985: Care Bears

1985: Care Bears (American Greetings/Kenner)

Starting at $10, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal: The rare successful line of toys inspired by greeting cards — really — these plush teddy bears didn't become a smash until their TV show offered children a glimpse of life in the Kingdom of Caring.

The Weird Part: There are few things weirder than the intro to the Care Bears cartoon. (Note: All viewers should know that the theme song may lodge itself deep in your brain and make you hate yourself for being so darned insufficiently caring. You've been warned.)

1984: The Transformers

1984: The Transformers (Hasbro)

Starting at $14, Yahoo! Shopping

The Big Deal:Without them, we might never have discovered Megan Fox. Or how to turn plastic robots into cars, planes, tape recorders, insects, and dinosaurs. Transformative, indeed.

The Weird Part: Before this decade's Michael Bay calamities, there was the 1986 animated movie featuring the vocal talents of Orson Welles, who shrewdly died eight months before the movie premiered.

 

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