Toys of the ’80s highlight latest edition of Toys & Prices

By the time this issue reaches newsstands, “Toys & Prices 2010, 17th Edition” will have been gobbled up by toy enthusiasts either at bookstores or online for nearly a month.

(But plenty of copies are still available!) In addition to new toys and updated prices, one of the features that has people talking is the 16-page color section that focuses on toys from the 1980s.

When compared to other decades, ’80s toys are considered by many to be the best-made, most popular toys of all time, mainly the action figures, due to their exposure (or overexposure) in the collective consciousness.

The seeds for this phenomenon were planted in 1977 when toymaker Kenner obtained the rights to produce 3-3/4" “Star Wars” action figures. Not long after, the 3-3/4" action figure format became the standard in the toy field, later adopted by competing toymaker Hasbro with the reintroduction of the G.I. Joe line in 1982. Smaller and character driven, the new-size action figures replaced the bulky, generic 12" action figures of the ’60s.

By 1984, the FCC headed toward a near-complete deregulation of children’s television. As a result, licensed properties filled children’s toy rooms in record numbers.

With syndication and cable channels showing hours of toy cartoons every day of the week, major toy companies were now producing what could arguably be considered full-program commercials for toys such as G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, Barbie and M.A.S.K, just to name a few.

Despite recent economic struggles, ’80s toys in general have remained quite robust in today’s toy-collecting market, thanks in part to kids of that generation who, now adults with growing income, are buying up and collecting these toys they once played with as children. With the recent movie releases of Transformers and G.I. Joe, toys from these two franchises have seen a widespread increase in value during the past year.

Toys from the Star Wars, Thundercats, Masters of the Universe and M.A.S.K. lines have also seen a steady increase in value. But there are toys from other decades that have seen a spike in price recently.

Space guns from the ’50s have realized a growing trend. For example, a mint-in-package 1954 Atomic Jet Gun made by Stevens would have sold for as much as $350 a couple years ago. Today this 8-1/2" long, goldchromed, die-cast shooter can sell for up to $2,000 in the same condition.

Agricultural sets made by Corgi in the ’60s and early ’70s have gained popularity in recent years.

Some of these sets have seen more than a 30 percent increase in value, like the Corgi Model No. 5-B set made from 1967-1972 featuring: the No. 69 Massey-Ferguson tractor, No. 62 trailer, No. 438 Land Rover, No. 484 Livestock Truck with pigs, No. 71 harrow, No. 1490 skip and churns with four calves, farmland, dog and six sacks. Two years ago this set would sell for $450 in mint-in-package condition.

Today it can sell for $600.

This is just a sample of the more than 32,000 toys and 95,000 values you’ll find in Toys & Prices 2010, 17th Edition, the most comprehensive identification and price guide on postwar toys. In next year’s edition, we will focus on toys inspired by movies and television.

Justin Moen is a collector of 1:18-scale die-cast cars, 1:16-scale die-cast farm tractors, and Hot Wheels. He has edited more than 25 titles for Krause Publications.