Mattel is revamping tiny ’90s toy favorite Polly Pocket and bringing her to a brand-new audience next month. I was excited to hear about this after dropping a nice chunk of change on eBay procuring “vintage” early-’90s Polly compacts for my 5-year-old daughter’s birthday. There’s something so satisfying about gifting my kids toys from my own youth. Toys are something that I can share with them, a way for us to connect. Aside from the nostalgia factor, vintage toys look so much cooler. And their low-tech ways are refreshing. Now that Toys R Us is gone (too soon — R.I.P.), I’m turning to eBay more than ever.
There have been quite a few rereleases in the past few years (just take a look at these 19 throwback toys), and I was excited about all of them. Storytelling bear Teddy Ruxpin is back (albeit with weird LED eyes). Classic My Little Pony toys are available — just the simple pastel horses we knew and loved. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are alive and kicking; the animated series DuckTales has been rebooted for today’s kids. The ’90s are in — even Kanye West agrees. And those smart folks who saved their old stuff (or who find it at garage sales and thrift stores) list the original goods online.
Some collections I’ve started “for my kids” include Madame Alexander dolls, classic Playmobil and Calico Critters (remember when they were called Sylvanian Families? OK maybe not, but I do). Calico Critters are little fuzzy animal figurines that come in family groups. They have adorable play sets — ice cream shop, tree house, hot-air balloon. A new Town series will be out in August. Am I excited? Yes. I remember picking these little guys out on special trips to the toy store. That added layer of emotion is imbued in throwback toys. Why would I opt to purchase something new, like Shopkins, for my kids when I could go for a classic toy and get that little spark of nostalgia? As they get older, I’m sure the pull of advertising and peer pressure will weigh more heavily, but for now, my preschoolers are delighted by older toys. (Plus, they have a healthy mix of modern and vintage — did I mention I’m into toys?)
There’s just something so alluring about those itty-bitty Polly Pockets. I’m curious to see how the rereleases hold up. I have one small compact left over from my own childhood. It’s a lavender case, and inside are Polly and her pet rabbit, complete with hutch. My daughter loved it so much, I decided to check eBay for more Polly and spent $42 on a large light-up fairy set. (A great deal — early ’90s complete sets often go for $60 or more.) But I must confess, Polly Pocket isn’t the only toy I scour the internet for. My kids have vintage Care Bears, old Barbies, original My Little Pony and even a Magic Nursery doll. They have Strawberry Shortcake, Star Wars figurines, original Troll dolls and all sorts of goodies I pick up at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Flea Market. (I don’t just check eBay and flea markets. I buy old toys from Etsy, thrift stores and buy/sell/trade Facebook groups too.) We have a Care Bears suitcase and character sleeping bags from the ’80s. I could go on. I’m certainly more into toys than most — I review and write about them, and I like to share my finds on Instagram. But there’s an actual demand for ’80s and ’90s playthings right now. I’m not alone in my eBay searches.
In one of my mom groups, parents are forgoing high-tech tablets, iPods and other new devices for cassette players and books on tape. Remember those? They were popular in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Well, we’re buying them on eBay and giving them to our own kids. Books on tape are easy for little ones to use, and they’re safe entertainment. No need to worry about what creepy video might pop up on YouTube next. Plus, there’s no screen involved, so no screen time to monitor. Kids love to sit and listen to stories, turning the pages of the accompanying books. A set of six Disney tapes and books currently goes for around $100 on eBay, but there are great deals to be had. Many of the book and tape sets go for just $1.99 plus shipping. A small price to pay, if you ask me.