Why Retro Toys From the ‘80s and ‘90s Are Flying Off the Shelves
Life + Money

Why Retro Toys From the ‘80s and ‘90s Are Flying Off the Shelves


From Rubik’s Cube to Super Mario, sellers on eBay are seeing renewed interest in toys and games from decades ago, while one company, Wham-O, is hoping to capitalize on the trend with a comeback for its nostalgic plastic playthings.

Last month, Nintendo sold 196,000 of its retro NES Classic Edition consoles, a miniaturized version of the original console released in the 1980s. EBay seller Wayne Levante is seeing so much interest in the classic console and games that he’s having a hard time keeping up inventory.

Related: 10 Toys From the ‘80s and ‘90s That Are Worth Thousands Now

“I’m 37 years old, my generation, we’re at the point where we have a job, disposable income and maybe kids,” he says. “We want to reminisce about the good ol’ days and bring back memories with our families. My 7-year-old loves to play with the old Nintendo as much as I do.”

What’s hot?

Aside from Nintendo, other toys and games from yesteryear are hot sellers in many states, according to eBay’s holiday heat map. In Washington and Wisconsin, it’s the Japanese handheld digital pet Tamagotchi, first introduced in the late 1990s, that’s getting attention. Oklahomans are seeking out die-cast Hot Wheels cars, specifically the 1999 1st Edition Porsche 911.

Rubik’s Cube, which debuted in the ‘70s, is a hot item in Nebraska and Hawaii (and ranks No. 3 in Georgia), while Jenga is popular in Delaware. The block-stacking game was introduced in 1986. In South Dakota and Maryland, the trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, is back in style after debuting in 1993. And figurines from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon are the No. 2 toy in New Jersey; the classic has gotten a boost from a recent movie reboot.

Randy Garcia, an eBay seller and the owner of Man of Action Figures store in Miami, said newer movies based on old cartoons, like Transformers and G.I. Joe, are adding to the renewed interest for figurines -- not from children, but from their parents.

Related: 8 Retro Toys Your Kids Will Love

“Our business is really driven by nostalgia. They’re not really being purchased by kids,” he says. “It’s people in their mid-to-late thirties whose mom threw [their toys] away, and they think it would be cool to have them again.”

Will retro last?

Todd Richards, the new president of Wham-O, is hoping that nostalgia helps to fuel the company’s comeback. Richards, who was CEO of Wham-O a decade ago, was brought back to “set the pace and direction and get the company to be what it was,” he says.

Part of the strategy is reclaiming its iconic brands, such as Frisbee, Hula Hoop, Hacky Sack and Slip ‘N Slide. “We do recognize that some of these brands are old, but there’s positive value to that,” he says. “Retro is big now what is old is new.”

Still, the company plans to bring some of those vintage toys into the new millennium, such as adding LED lights to the Frisbee and create a water game with Slip ‘N Slide. But Richards says the biggest challenge for the company is getting kids off their screens and outside again.

Related: The 20 Hottest Holiday Toys

“How do we get people outside again?” he says. “That’s the real passion. Kids don’t know how to play outside until dark anymore.”