What were the most popular toys in the early ’80s? See toys, games & fun for kids in the 1981 Sears Catalog Wishbook

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Toys and games for kids in the 1981 Sears Catalog Wishbook

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

It’s the year of the Shortcake, according to toy stores (1981)

This Christmas, many little girls are asking Santa to fill their stockings with Strawberry Shortcake.

Now, don’t cancel out on that Christmas fruitcake and start collecting shortcake recipes. It’s only a doll.

But Pensacola toy merchants and salespersons said Saturday the 3-1/2-inch doll, along with the Rubik’s Cube, the “Dukes of Hazzard” race car, and the Atari video games, are about the most popular toys for Christmas — so far.

“We’re selling them as fast as they come in,” said Paula Goonian, a sales clerk at Playland in Cordova Mall.

Ruth Griffin, a salesperson at Woolco’s on Davis Highway, said the Strawberry Shortcake doll was the store’s bestseller Saturday. And Howard Bean, a group manager at Zayre’s toy department on Ninth Avenue, said the Strawberry Shortcake doll and the Atari video games were popular there.

“Last year, it was Star Wars and the hand computer games. But this year, it’s changed some,” he said.

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Toys and games for kids in the 1981 Sears Catalog Wishbook

Hundreds of toys, games & fun for kids for sale in the 1981 Sears Catalog Wishbook

Click on any image below to see larger Sears Wishbook catalog pages, and to start the slideshow!

(Article continued from above)

Christmas toy sales are up

Al Shemaria, owner of Cordova Toy and Hobby, said his store had only four Strawberry Shortcake dolls left out of 60. The strawberry-scented rubber doll, which looks like a cross between the Ju-Ju dolls and Mattel’s Liddie Kiddies of the late 1960s and early 1970s, was popularized this spring in a special cartoon series.

Shemaria, who has sold toys for 32 years, said he believes the popularity of the doll reflects parents’ memories of their childhood, which they’re trying to share with their children by giving them toys similar to those they received as children.

A Santa Claus at Cordova Mall said children often are requesting traditional toys. “Girls are still going strong for the Barbie dolls, Strawberry Shortcake, and believe it or not, roller skates,” he said.

Rubik’s Cubes — plastic puzzle cubes where the trick is to get, all of the sides to match colors is a best-all-around seller. Shemaria said he sold between 100 and 150 this month — mainly to persons aged nine and older. Mildred Sanderson, a merchandising assistant at University Mall’s J.C. Penney, said the store’s supply of 1,000 Rubik’s Cubes had dwindled Saturday to 200.

MORE: See all kinds of vintage toys here!

Most of the merchants said “Star Wars” dolls were the most popular toys last Christmas. This year, children aren’t requesting them as often. The Miss Piggy Doll also is losing ground this year.

“I only had one request for Miss Piggy this year. I had lots of requests for it last year,” the Cordova Mall Santa said.

Most of the merchants say television popularity and advertising play a big role in which toys are popular each Christmas.

“Whatever is advertised on a Saturday morning cartoon, they’ll be in here to buy it,” Darlene Aldridge, Playland’s manager, said. She said the Dukes of Hazzard race car, General Lee, also seems to sell fastest on Saturday mornings — the day after the “Dukes of Hazzard” television series airs.

Gary King, assistant manager at Cordova Toy and Hobby, said he believes the country’s political climate also has a lot to do with the toys children choose.

He said war toys, such as the G I Joe and toy guns, were popular at the beginning of the 1960s, and lost popularity at the end of the decade and during the early 1970s because of the anti-war mood. But dolls, western toys and technical toys have become popular again with the conservative mood of the Reagan administration.

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