When I look back at my childhood, I have many fond memories of the toys I had. There were thousands of toys to be gotten from hundreds of different brands and manufactures. I had no where near the “perfect” collection but I had enough to keep me entertained. The 80’s were a wild time for the toy world and us growing up then were “spoiled” on the sheer amount of imagination and oddities the toy industry created. I really feel sorry for the kids today. Everything is a cookie cutter offering and the safest bets for toy companies. Back in the 80’s there were many “blink-and-ya-miss-it” cartoon series that spawn short lived toy lines that still make your heart ache with nostalgia. Companies were always searching for the next big thing and we the kids of the 70’s and 80’s reaped the benefits.
Here is a list of 5 toys I lusted after but never had the privilege of owning. There are a hell of a lot more than 5, but what poor kid didn’t want an AT-AT, or U.S.S. Flagg. Here are 5 toys that could’ve been mine…cue Guns and Roses.
5. Centurions (Kenner, 1986) – Any (Except Hacker, he sucked)
In the future of the 21st-centery, The Centurions were created to combat the evil schemes of the cyborg scientist and terrorist Doc Terror. The heroes Ace McCloud, Max Ray, and Jake Rockwell each patrolled the land, sea, and sky (can you guess by there names which did what?)with their modular exo-suits, which could be equipped with any weapon or technology they needed at a moments notice. The team and their gear were teleported across the globe by Crystal Kane and her orangutan side kick Lucy (not Clyde by a longshot)
The aspect of having modular heroes and villains was a great approach to giving a “boy’s” toy the freedom to be different things, albeit with weapons and transportation. This was very cool and also a good way for the company to eek out some extra money outta parents for the latest add-on packs. Also a bonus, these figures were very sturdy and stood 8″ tall. There was a tie-in cartoon that ran for 2 seasons (65 episodes) and a DC comic series that ran for 4 issues.
Created by Ruby-Spears and designed by comic book legends Jack Kirby and Gil Kane, Centurions should have bad a bigger splash than it did. The figures were priced a little too much outta my parents budget and I would assume a lot of other people too. Plus the add-on packs were where the coolest accessories from the show were found which added more money to an already higher priced toy. I only knew one kid at the time who had a couple of these and they were very nice toys at the time. I still think they are pretty cool and would love to add these to my collection.
4. Clash of the Titans (Mattel, 1981) – The Kraken
‘Clash of the Titans’ is a movie that I vividly remembering seeing in the theater. It is in the vein of the ‘Sinbad’ movies with a healthy dose of Ray Harryhausen effects but with more “T and A”, but in a classy way (maybe, right?). I had a few figures from this line when they were released and I was super stoked to get Pegasus for Christmas. But the Kraken with it’s larger price was always out of my grasp. I remembering seeing it on the shelves at Montgomery Ward’s and I got the cold sweats because I wanted it so bad.
They had a second wave of toys planned with a full-sized Bubo the Owl, but it was shelved after the life span of the movie shrunk when it left the theaters. If it would have been made, Bubo would be on this list for sure. I’ve seen that new versions of the monsters and cool stuff from the movie have been made recently and even some nice stuff from the recent reboot. They all look really nice, but my heart is firmly in 1981 on this one.
3. Shogun Warriors (Mattel, 1979) – Godzilla
Here is one that still stings 36 years later. When I was 4 I was out shopping with my mother and grandmother at a goodwill store (like I said we were poor). I was left to my own devices in the toy area of the large store located in a warehouse. While in that room my eyes (and heart) set there sights on this awesome piece of 70’s toy technology, the ‘Shogun Warriors’ Godzilla toy. This 2 foot tall titan had a flaming tongue, wheels under it’s feet, and a clawed had that could shoot out at it’s enemies (?!?, just like the real Godzilla lol). This was in my hands and even though I don’t remember a price, (I’m sure it was super dirt cheap, being a goodwill and all in 1980) I wasn’t allowed to get it. I feel like this was one of those times parents pulled the power trip card and my mom didn’t get it for me because that would mean spoiling me or some shit.The whole ordeal is burned in my brain at the age of 40, so thanks mom.
‘Shogun Warriors’ arrived on American soil in 1979. Licensed by Mattel Toys for the Japanese company Popy Toys. With the ‘Godzilla’ cartoon ending it’s run on NBC and Marvel losing the rights in 1979, this toy came at the tail of a child’s normal exposer to the license. The movies were something you had to seek or catch in horrible doses on the weekend monster theaters on TV. Ever since I was a child I loved Godzilla and it was in part to these more child-like interpretations made by Marvel and Hanna-Barbera.
2. Table Top Arcade Games (Coleco, 1981) – Any
There once was a time when the idea of portable arcade games meant just shrinking down the arcade cabinet, oh how wacky the 80’s were. This was a time before the Gameboy and after the Mattel Electronics Football Game. These little beauties were the latest and greatest in technology and they had a price tag to match at $60 bucks a pop. They were made by my personal favorite Coleco between the years of 1981 and 1983 and made bank on 7 titles. They made Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaxian, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong Junior, and Zaxxon.
My jaw hit the ground when I first saw on of these when a kid from school brought one in. Ever since than I’ve always wanted one. Then when I saw the evil Mogwai Stripe playing one in ‘Gremlins’ I fell even harder in love. These little buggers now sell for $200 or more so it’s still a pipe dream to have a little mini arcade in my basement.
1. Robotech (Gakken, 1985) – Cyclone
Picture this, as a young child you have become enamored with an after school cartoon. The show is totally alien to you and has zero presence on toy shelves in your little town, but you love it all the same. One day you go to a bigger toy store because you were $10 for your birthday. While at this bigger toy store you find a toy from not just the show but your favorite thing from the show. The item is $20 but you only have $10. In order to teach you the cold hard facts of life, your parents say they will not give you the money (even though you’re only 9 and get zero allowance) because you need to learn to save. It crushed you to the point where you write a blog post about it 31 years later.
The show was ‘Robotech’ and it became a show I rushed home from school to watch every day. When it rolled around to it’s “third chapter” (yes I know the story of 3 different shows turned into 1), ‘New Generation’ the show really handled some things that are surprising for today. One being the transgener character of Yellow Dancer and it was handled so well and earnest for a cartoon . I have no idea how a toy store like Kiddie City ( turn your frown upside down) had a toy from Japan (rebranded) this awesome but it was the one and only time I saw it “in the wild”.
Like a couple items on the list I still think about the day this toy slipped through my fingers. I have vowed to myself that I will get it one day, either the original or the reissued one. It’s amazing how this little blips in your life ripple out to who you are today. I’m sure these minor set backs in my childhood are what me a collector as an adult. These set backs may be the reason I get a feeling of anxiety mixed with happiness when I think about the past, either it be music from the 80’s, a show, or toy. And I definitely know it’s the reason I go out of my way to provide for my children. At the end of the day these items are just plastic wrapped in memories, placed in a box labeled childhood. I know I’m blessed with an amazing wife and two perfect children, these are what matter most in life. The toys I want may come one day, but getting my kids the toys that make them happy now (within reason) is the real lesson learned.
But with that being said, I plan on continuing this list in the near future because toys are cool =)