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Embrace Nostalgia: Collect the Vintage Toys of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember playing with your favorite toys? From G.I. Joe and the daring missions you created for him to Strawberry Shortcake with you begging your older sister to play, everyone has a vintage toy that hits them with nostalgia. Many of us have our ‘70s toys stored away in basement boxes or attic toy chests, but did you know that those retro toys we know and love may be valuable now?

Want to see if any of your precious ‘80s toys are worth something? Read our beginner's guide to vintage toys to learn about the different toy eras, what a retro toy is, and how to determine the toy's value to potentially peddle a profit.

What is Considered a Vintage Toy?

Toys are considered vintage if they are older than 20 years old. If you come across one made 100 years ago or older, that's an antique toy. But chances are, most of the toys from our childhoods have aged into the vintage category. Vintage toys are one of the most

popular things for collectors and antique malls to sell, from the neon ‘90s toys to the groovy ‘70s toys and more.

What Are Retro Toys?

Trying to figure out if a toy is vintage gets a little tricky when you're introduced to the concept of retro toys. Retro toys are stylistically old, made to mimic the playthings of our childhood, but are made in modern times. Vintage is one of today’s biggest trends in fashion, holiday vintage blow molds, and even toys—probably thanks to all that nostalgia.

Pro tip: when hunting for 1960-1990s pop culture toys, check the date it was made to avoid the confusion of retro toys.

*This Vintage Barbie is wearing the black-and-white striped strapless one-piece bathing suit that was featured in the recent Barbie Movie with Margo Robbie. Making the interest in these vintage dolls even more relevant.

Why Do People Collect Vintage Toys?

Collecting vintage toys has been a popular hobby in recent years—not only for financial gain. The main draw for collecting vintage toys is letting yourself enjoy childhood nostalgia. Hunting down rare 1980s toys like My Little Pony horses or Fisher Price pieces is one of the best ways to reconnect with your inner child.

As for value, getting antique toys appraised can be a financial investment. The further away we get from the toy's popularity, the more valuable it tends to be. If you're looking for an enjoyable and valuable side hustle, buying and selling ‘70s toys, ‘80s toys, and ‘90s toys is a fun option.

Not to mention that retro toys are trendy for today’s kids! Some people appreciate collecting the toys of their youth so their kids can play with them, too. Sharing your love of Lionel Trains or wind-up tin toys with your family is part of the fun of vintage and retro toys.

Common Vintage Toy Eras

The most popular toy areas come from the millennials and Gen X age range.

From buying retro toy presents for their nieces and nephews to growing a collection for themselves, people adore toys from these three eras:

  1. ’70s toys

  2. ‘80s toys

  3. ‘90s toys

Popular ‘70s Toys

1970s toys were game-changing. Following the popularity of Fisher Price's Little People and the classic "mommy" style dolls and playsets little girls were given, electronics were added to ‘70s toys. From blinking lights on car sets to the first home video game console, every ‘70s toy had to have some sort of electronic element by the end of the decade. Superhero action figures, electronic footballs, and more were just some of the many inspired ‘70s toys and vintage collectibles kids grew up using.

Vintage ‘70s Toys to Look Out For:

  • Star Wars collectibles

  • Old video games

  • Hot Wheels

  • 1970s Barbies

  • Easy Bake Oven

  • G.I. Joe

  • Raggedy Ann and Andy

Best ‘80s Toys

‘80s toys covered all sorts of interests, from new video games to timeless stuffed animals like the Care Bears. Many ‘80s toys were upgrades from the ‘70s, with modern advancements and trendy accessories. The era of vibrant neon, dance music, and big hair inspired toymakers to create colorful ‘80s toys for all ages, from handheld video games to iconic dolls.

Timeless ‘80s Toys to Search For:

  • Glo Worm

  • Strawberry Shortcake

  • My Little Pony

  • Rubik's Cube

  • Lite-Brite

  • He-Man action figures

  • Moon Shoes

Beloved ‘90s Toys

The ‘90s toy world boomed with impressive video game technology and electronic advancements. Home video gaming was all the rage with the Super Nintendo, and many ‘90s toys could interact with TV or radio signals. At this point, almost all ‘90s toys were licensed, depicting characters from a TV show, movie, or famous sports team.

‘90s Toys Collectors Love:

  • Furby

  • Polly Pocket

  • Tamagotchi

  • Sky Dancers

  • Beanie Babies

  • Nintendo 64

  • Pogs

How to Tell the Value of a Vintage or Antique Toy

As you search boxes at your parent's house for ‘70s toys or visit antique malls near you, consider these three points when trying to determine the value of a vintage toy:

  1. Condition

  2. Age

  3. Rarity

Does Condition Matter for Vintage Toys?

If you get your vintage toy appraised, generally, the first thing they'll check is the condition of the antique toy. Most often, toys still in the box or without damage are worth more. But if you find one that's seen better days, don't discount it yet. Sometimes, even if the condition is poor, a collector may still buy purely on their nostalgia and love for that type of ‘90s toy.

Are Older Antique Toys More Valuable?

Age alone will not determine the value of your antique toy, but it can be used to determine the starting value. Often, antique toys made with materials or technology that are no longer used are valuable to collectors, especially if it's in good condition. Whether it’s a 1980s toy or a 1780s toy, search for a maker's mark, patent number, or origin to see when the toy is made before you put a price on it.

Are Rare Antique Toys Worth More?

As in all antique collections, the rarer an antique toy is, the more expensive it will likely be. While there's always a market for more commonly produced vintage toys or retro toys, rare toys are often made with high-quality craftsmanship and materials, so sellers value them at a higher price.

If you've hit the vintage toys jackpot at home or want to start collecting, head down to your local antique mall. Learn how to set up a booth and sell your wares while meeting like-minded antique toy collectors. Visit our Melbourne, Highland, or Algonquin antique mall locations to search for your favorite eras of vintage toys and relive your nostalgia.

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