By Dan Collacott
If you were a child of the 80s and 90s then you would have seen not quite the birth but definitely the household take over of big franchise toys. Each toy line spearheaded by its own cartoon series or film. Your box shaped television promised you play sets, vehicles and figures in loud, colourful and repetitive advert form. Your Argos catalogue (or similar) told you the value of the toys and where to buy them so you could pester your parents into submission. We did a survey of our manly friends and listeners who were children of the 80s or 90s to pick out the most sought after toys that we either never owned or treasured when we did.
The criteria for our choices were that these toys could not include lego, puzzles, board games, bikes or video/lcd games. Further disclaimer some of these toys made their debuts in America and other countries years before they came to the UK and the retail prices vary. Listen to our top toys podcast here
10. Thundercats: Thundertank: Released 1985 (Reissued in 2012)
Value then: £14 - Value now: £100+ loose complete, £200-300+ boxed complete
Features: It’s claws would rise up and the mouth ramp would open when in pop out mode. Two figures could sit in it one behind the other. The Thundertank was a mighty hunk of tank shaped plastic that kids in the 80s loved.
9. Real Ghostbusters: Ecto 1 - Released: 1984
Value then: £16 - Value now: £50+ loose complete, £80-£150+ boxed
Features: Grappling arm and claw to catch ghosts. Weird pull out chair with guns on it that could clip onto the roof. It looked good but was a bit clunky and naff to play with, not that it mattered!
On a random note Ecto 1 from the far less successful Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon and toy line (featuring cool flashing lights and a siren) was definitely an upgrade on the first toy. Extreme Ghostbusters was released in 1996 meant as a sequel to Real Ghostbusters and was the next generation of ghostbusters semi-led and taught by the original team. Although in reality this only seemed to be Egon, Janine and Slimer (although the rest did cameo at the end).
8. Star Wars: Ewok Village - Play set - Released 1983
Value then: £32, Value now: £120+ loose complete £200-300 boxed complete
Features: Net Trap and cage on pully, hollow plastic tree stumps you could put Ewoks in. It’s a big chunk of plastic that didn’t really do much, but the fact you could recreate scenes from Return of the Jedi made it something that made most kids most wanted lists.
The play set like most Star Wars play sets had a lot of moving and individual parts, it wasn’t that rare to get hold of in the 80s and it isn’t rare now. But to get hold of a complete set with all the Ewoks and accompanying figures is clearly a lot harder nowadays as some of the last Ewoks made cost over £100 each loose.
7. Thundercats: Cats Lair - Play set - Released 1986
Value then: £30-40+ Value now: £80+ loose complete £150-200 boxed complete
Features: Giant laser shooting head, trap door and dungeon, plus electronic FX.
It looks awesome but in reality like most play sets it was pretty limited in what it did, but hey it had a giant cat head that swivels... so who cares!
6. Real Ghostbusters: Firehouse Set - Released 1986 (probably closer to 1988 in the UK)
Value then: £40 or less - Value now: £70+ loose complete £200-300 boxed complete
Features: A swivelling fire pole, doors that you can wheel Ecto 1 through, goop grates and a ghost containment unit and a single ghost trap.
This big ass chunk of plastic was a must have for Real Ghostbusters fans (and fans of the films), it had some nice features without setting the world on fire (no pun intended).
5. Mask: Rhino - Released: 1985
Original cost around: £30. Value now: £60+ loose complete £120+ boxed complete.
Features: Mini buggy that forms the back axel, hidden bomb and launcher, front bumper ram.
After Optimus Prime any big rig lorries were cool and Rhino didn’t disappoint in terms of size feel and hidden features. Rhino wasn’t that rare at the time of release but as Mask arguably wasn’t quite as popular as the other cartoon franchises at the time it wasn’t as common for you or the kid next door to own one.
4. Scaletrix - Knightrider Pursuit Mode - Released 1986
Cost then: £30-40 - Estimated value now: £30 loose £70 boxed
Featured a silver Datsun 260Z (which in my set was actually faster than K.I.T.T which ruined any chases). Even though many consider Scaletrix as the king of trigger press slot car racing brands, it was rivals Tyco that bought the more interesting franchises licenses and featured anything from Transformers to A-Team and Thundercats themed sets. Tyco were bigger in the US so us Brits didn’t have as much choice.
3. Transformers: Optimus Prime Released 1984:
Cost then: £14 Estimated value now for an original standard release: £50-70 loose and complete £150-250+ boxed complete. Reissues and KOs can be cheaper.
Like most transformers, 80s Prime has so many parts that he is difficult to get hold of with his fuel hose and pipe, missiles, separate fists that pop off easily plus roller and big gun! But the fact his trailer opened up into a mini base with operating table/crane made him a popular toy.
Prime has possibly more toy variations than any other toy in existence (not just Transformers) from a French red feet version, to the original Diaclone big convoy version that predated the Hasbro release. Then there are countless reissues and KO versions, not to mention thousands of versions of him that came in the toy lines that followed the 80s version (and then the terrible toys from movies). Even today he is being retooled in new toy lines as well as Masterpiece versions that retail at nearly £400.
2. Star Wars: Millennium Falcon - Released 1979
Cost then: £32 - Estimated cost now: Loose £100-200+ if complete and in good condition
£500+ if boxed and mint
Features: Chair you could sit a figure in that was attached to the main gun that turned round.
The Falcon was tricky to keep complete as a kid (or later to find complete) as it had so many random removable parts, like the radar dish, main gun, trapdoor legs, chess board table and worst of all a small ball and training arm.
There have been over hundreds of different versions of the Falcon since the original including new versions for the final trilogies, and many all new moulds and sizes including Lego (although the 95 version may use the same mould as the original or close). The king of the Falcons is considered to be the giant 30 inch (2 feet long) 2010 Legacy Millennium Falcon which has a raft of parts and sound fx, only downside is because it’s so huge it’s hard to find space for it.
AND THE WINNER!
1. Masters of the Universe - Castle Grayskull - Play set - Released in 1983
Cost then: around £35 - Estimated value now: £150-300 loose depending on condition and if it’s complete. £500+ if boxed and mint.
Features: Gun tower, weird pulley lift, chair that when turned triggers a cool trapdoor.
Castle Grayskull was made as a play set for both the 1980s and 2002 Masters of the Universe toy lines (before being released again in 2013 when the toys were rebooted again). It is considered by many as king of the 80s play sets, because who doesn’t want a giant green plastic skull on their bedroom floor!
Other nominated 80s toy favourites:
Mask: Boulder Hill, Star Wars: AT AT
Ominibot 5402, Speak and Spell, Transformers: Metroplex
WWF: Ring Playset Blue, Big Trak, Thunderbirds: Tracey Island play set
GI Joe: HQ play set, GI Joe: Cobra play set, TMNT: Turtle Blimp
My Pet Monster, Marvel Secret Wars: Tower of Doom play set
Real Ghostbusters: Ghost Zapper, TMNT: Sewer play set
TMNT: Technodome Playset, Photon/Lazer Tag set
Masters of the Universe: Snake Mountain - Play set
Thundercats: Tomb Fortress, Star Trek The Next Generation: Enterprise D Bridge
Transformers: Fortress Maximus, Micro Machines: Lunch Box play set
Micro Machines: Gas Can Play set, Eliminator TS-7, Mr. Potato Head
Teddy Ruxpin, Star Wars: Jabba's Palace, Scalextric: Le Mans 24hr
Power Wheels, Masters of the Universe: Eternia, Zoids: Zoidzilla
G.I. Joe: U.S.S. Flagg, G.I. Joe: Space Shuttle, Stretch Armstrong
Thundercats: Hovercat, Thundercats: Sword of Omens
Emanating from London, UK, and hosted by Dan Collacott, Tee-J Sutherland and Imran Mirza, our 4ever in Electric Dreams website and accompanying podcasts are designed to help us celebrate the things we loved growing up and the things that continue to excite and inspire us today.