The original Mr Potato Head & Mrs Potato Head toys in the 1950s were pretty creepy, so see how they changed over the years

Vintage Mr and Mrs Potato Head toys - Click Americana

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For generations, kids have been playing with Mr Potato Head — but how many of us remember how different he and his family used to look?

Here, see a collection of vintage Mr Potato Head toys that used to be available from the 1950s through the 1990s — and some you can still get today! (Gotta say, we highly approve of the 70s era makeover.)

In addition to this collection of photos of these vintage playsets, you can also meet the man who invented the iconic toy many decades ago.

How the original Mr Potato Head was invented (1956)

Adapted from an article in the Lancaster New Era (Pennsylvania) September 5, 1956

One day, bad weather kept George Lerner’s children inside, and, bored, they asked him if he could think up something they could play. They were tired of their old toys.

Remembering a game he had played in rainy days during his own childhood, Lerner, a commercial artist from Freeport, Long Island, got out some potatoes and carrots. Then, using collar buttons, toothpicks and other odds and ends, he began to turn the vegetables into lifelike people. The children were delighted.

Vintage 1950s Mr Potato Head kit from the National Museum of American History (1952)
Vintage 1950s Mr Potato Head kit from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (1952)

“If my kids get a kick out of a simple thing like this, why wouldn’t other kids?” Lerner asked himself.

The result was “Mr. Potato-Head,” a collection of plastic ears, noses, mouths and eyes that children could press into vegetables and make amusing caricatures of human faces. The game became a surprise big-seller.

“They told me that nobody would buy a game that merely called for making faces out of vegetables and fruit,” recalled Lerner, whose royalties now would enable him to buy several vegetable or fruit farms if he chose.

Lerner, who now works full time in his basement laboratory developing new toys, has this to say about his success. “Unfortunately, many people, when they do get a good profitable idea, don’t have enough faith in it. They’re afraid it’s too simple.”

The original Mr Potato Head: Funny-face kit box front (package from 1952)

Any fruit or vegetable makes a funny face man

Mr “Potato Head” is fun for ALL the family — Mr Potato Head kit can be assembled into innumerable characters. A few suggestions are shown. Variations can also be made with clay.

Mr Potato Head Funny-Face vintage original toy set (1952)

Remember these Etch-A-Sketch and these other vintage toys from Ohio Arts?

Original Mr Potato Head box back (1952)

Anyone can follow the enclosed simple, step-by-step construction – Hasbro – Made in USA

Vintage 1950s Mr Potato Head toy box (1952)

The Original Mr Potato Head & Mrs Potato Head – King & Queen of Laughs (1950s)

New funny face kit transforms ordinary fruits and vegetables into comical characters.

Children have hours of fun giving personalities and names to the characters they create. Contest novelty at parties. Includes 2 plastic bodies, plus noses, eyes, mustache, pipe, eyeglasses, etc.

Mr & Mrs Potato Head - King and Queen of Laughs (1955)

Original Mr Potato Head & Mrs Potato Head: The joyful toy of 1001 faces! (1953)

Mr Potato Head and other retro Hasbro Toys (1953)

Old Mrs Potato Head toy set (c1950s)

Old Mrs Potato Head toy set (c1950s)

Vintage Mr & Mrs Potato Head toy box (1960s)

Mr and Mrs Potato Head are a happy family with their NEW baby — for more exciting play

Vintage 50s Mr and Mrs Potato Head toy set

Popular vintage board games from the '50s

Original Mr Potato Head: Toy faces for fruit & vegetables (early 1960s)

Change fruits and vegetables into funny lovable friends!

Hasbro's Mr Potato Head toys for fruit and vegetables

DON’T MISS: People as vegetables: Weird old trade cards from the 1800s showing men & women literally made from veggies

Jumpin Mr Potato Head vintage wind-up toy (1966)

Jumpin Mr Potato Head vintage wine-up toy (1966)

Original Mr Potato Head On the Farm toy set (1960s)

Mr Potato Head On the Farm toy set (1960s)

ALSO SEE: Silly Putty: The story of the stretchy, bouncy wonder toy of the 20th century

Original Mr Potato Head Play Sets (1969)

Mr Potato Head Play Sets (1969)

Vintage 1970s Mr Potato Head toy: Your funny lovable friend (1972)

Vintage 1970s Mr Potato Head toy (1972)

An invention that made it: George Lerner’s original Mr Potato Head (1976)

Newsday (Suffolk Edition – Melville, New York) September 12, 1976

George Lerner invented Mr Potato Head. A commercial artist, he was thumbing through a magazine one day in 1950, when he spied an ad that featured a closeup of an orange with a crude little body and map pins for eyes, nose and mouth.

An invention that made it George Lerner's Mr Potato Head (1976)

Something clicked, and he went to work on a kit children could use to make a doll from a potato: an assortment of small plastic features, felt eyebrows and mustaches, a little hat.

In two weeks, he was ready. It took two and a half unemployed years, however, to find a toy company willing to produce the thing and pay him a royalty.

It was worth the wait: Mr Potato Head became an instant best seller and has remained a top staple in the industry.

Today, nearly a quarter-century later, into its second generation of purchasers, the item still sells a million or two a year. (The newest version comes complete with a plastic potato and is available with a variety of outfits.)

Mr Potato Head toys and accessory pack (1976)

George Lerner could live very comfortably on his income from that one idea that popped up 26 years ago. He’s still designing toys, though, and now is in partnership with Brooklynite Julie Elman. Their newest is Good Girl, billed as the world’s first toilet-trained doll (packaged complete with a mini-potty).

Lerner tinkers at his home in Freeport, Long Island, in a basement workshop and an upstairs studio. “Like most inventors,” Lerner says quietly, “I thought I had a million-dollar idea. I was right.”

Retro Romper Room Mr Potato Head toy box (1976)

ALSO SEE: Romper Room: Real children doing real things

Retro Romper Room Mr Potato Head toy box

Hasbro Preschool Mr Potato Head (1982)

The world’s most famous potato — It’s your friendly, funny, fascinating face-making pal…

Hasbro Preschool Mr Potato Head (1982)

“Mr Potato Head’s New Tool Set” book (1985)

Mr Potato Head's New Tool Set book (1985)

MR POTATO HEAD MEMORIES: See new versions of these old toys here!

Mr & Mrs Potato Head manual for Random House Software (1985)

Mr and Mrs Potato Head manual for Random House Software (1985)

Playskool Toy Mr Potato Head (1986)

Mr Potato Head. When little hands get hold of his big easy parts, no one can keep a straight face.

Remember him? For 35 years, he’s helped millions of kids develop a sense of humor — and coordination! And isn’t it a good feeling to discover that the same toy you loved and laughed with is still part of the Playskool Years?

MORE: Remember playing with these classic Fisher-Price preschool toys?

Playskool Toy Mr Potato Head (1986)

Vintage Mrs Potato Head toy box (1996)

Since 1954, Mrs Potato Head has only had “eyes” for Mr Potato Head. With her positive attitude and unique personal style, Mrs Potato Head is one hot potato! Use her funny face pieces and your imagination to create all sorts of wacky looks.

Mix and match the pieces to create funny looks! — Includes 16 pieces! — Pieces store inside!

Retro 90s Mrs Potato Head toy box (1996)

NOW SEE THIS: Vintage Colorforms: The vinyl stick-on toy playsets that let kids stage scenes, create comics & dress dolls

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. I acquired a mr. potato head funny-face kit and was trying to determine what age it is. There is no copyright on any of the box parts, booklet or potato parts. A total of 24 parts including the body + the styrofoam head. missing glasses and i believe a mustache eyebrows and not sure what else. There is no printing on the box bottom and the box is numbered NO. 2000. Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated.

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