The act of playing refers to a fundamental aspect of emotional growth in addition to being just plain fun.
Toys provide a safe and neutral platform for one’s social learning, communication skills expansion, emotional expression/growth, as well as the development of problem-solving skills that last a lifetime. Spending hours playing with a best selling toy of all time fosters a healthy imagination in children and adults.
To understand the significance of the global toy market, consider that in 2021 and 2022, the global annual revenue of the toy market exceeded $100 billion.
However, in the modern world, it is noted that some of the most popular toys of all time – like digital or video-based games have become quite costly – with some rising to the level that many families around the world would categorize as a luxury.
How Did We Curate a List of the Top Selling Toys of All Time?
To compile the following list of the 10 most popular toys of all time, we consulted and reviewed statistics and archived data from the following -
- The toy company’s or manufacturer’s website.
- Encyclopedia sources – i.e., Britannica, etc.
- Media outlets.
- Trade magazines and outlets that include –
The Top 10 Best Selling Toys of All Time
If you were once a kid, there's a good chance that one or more of the following toys are, were, or have made an appearance in your toy box.
10. Monopoly - 275 Million Games Sold
Does the phrases "Park Place" or "Pass Go and Collect $200" sound familiar? Then you've played the king of all board games: Monopoly. Designed by Lizzie Magie in 1903, Monopoly is a game of real estate transactions. Some games can last a long time, depending on the combined savviness of the players and the luck of the dice. This best selling toy of all time is so popular that it is available in several hundred versions, from digital options to editions honoring –
9. Silly Putty - Over 300 Million Eggs Sold
Silly Putty was invented in 1950 and is considered the “OG way” to "copy and paste newsprint." In fact, this unique feature was one of the most appealing things for kids. Kids would spend hours with the Sunday comics smashing Silly Putty over the images, peeling it off, and stretching/distorting the image in all manner of ways. Marketed initially towards adults as a novelty item, kids soon picked up on the fun they could have with this stretchy, bouncy mass of goo. Today, this humble toy can be found in the National Museum of American History, as it's a "case study of invention, business and entrepreneurship and longevity."
8. G.I. Joe Action Figures - 375 million units sold
Hasbro took a calculated risk with this next toy on our list of best-selling toys, G.I. Joe. After all, back in the day, not many folks thought that boys would be caught dead playing with dolls. However, once released in 1964, its appeal was enormous. Like Barbie, G.I. Joe captured the imagination of kids who enjoyed playing with action figures, inventing scenarios, battles, and other such creative gameplay. Whereas Barbie was a fashion doll, G.I. Joe was an action figure--one with bendable parts. In fact, it was G.I. Joe that introduced kids to the world of action figures.
7. Cabbage Patch Kids - Over $6 Billion in Sales
Believe it or not, these odd-looking cloth dolls caused riot-shopping events in 1983 and even graced the cover of Newsweek before Christmas that year. Shoppers clawed, fought, and harassed other buyers in order to get one of these dolls for their kids. Manufactured by Coleco, these unique little dolls came with adoption papers designed to give kids a sense of nurturing and responsibility. Each doll’s uniqueness added to its appeal and collectability. In fact, the dolls were never considered to be purchased but adopted from Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. Cabbage Patch Dolls are still available. While the initial frenzy has subsided, interest hasn't, and these dolls can still be found for adoption/purchase primarily online.
6. Rubik's Cube - Over 450 Million Units Sold (2021)
Did you know that the World Cube Association (WCA) holds speed-solving events for the Rubik's Cube? The first speed-solving event was in 1982 (eight years after it was invented) when Minh Thai solved this mind-teaser in 22.95 seconds. The fact that people found this a fun and challenging puzzle to solve on a rainy afternoon eventually made this colorful puzzle one of the top selling toys of all time. In 2014, this innovative creation was inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame.
5. Hot Wheels. - Over 4 Billion Units Sold
Here's one of those unexpected success stories, you know, the kind where people believed the plan would fail, but it ended up being wildly successful. Such is the tale of Hot Wheels, which was Mattel’s direct attempt to compete with Britain's famed Matchbox cars. While many failed to see his vision, history tells us that it was an incredible business decision. So much so that in 1997, Mattel purchased Matchbox Cars’ owner - Tyco. Many fail to recognize that many Hot Wheels have become collectibles. For example, Larry Wood worked for Ford before he began to design cars for Hot Wheels, while Jack Ryan worked for Raytheon designing missiles before he applied his skills at Mattel.
4. Lego - Over 400 Billion Blocks Made/600,000 Sets Sold Everyday
If we were to stack them all together, they would reach a height of 2,386,065 miles—that’s 10 times more than the distance to the Moon! - Source
Named "Toy of the Century" twice, this themed construction toy was invented by Denmark-based Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932. In the nine decades that have passed, Lego has touched the creative nerve in children and adults alike – unleashing an easy outlet for one’s imagination. Unlike standard blocks, these plastic Lego bricks interlock and allow for the creation of a sturdy structure that won't topple. Lego isn't all about construction, as they have a set for building amusement parks and even a TV show called Lego Masters. Lego has such a long and diverse history that it's only natural that it has some interesting facts. For instance, according to National Geographic, during Christmas, there are around 28 Lego sets purchased every second, and there are about 80 LEGO bricks for every person on the planet.
3. Pokemon - Over 480 Million Units Sold
Created by Satoshi Taijiri in 1996, the universe of Pokemon – which is a combination of two English words -pocket and monster, revolves around creatures called Pokemon who are trained by humans to be fighters.
According to Statista.com, the total number of Pokemon units sold worldwide was over 480 million (2023).
Pokemon is known as being the highest selling multi-media franchise in history, even outperforming Star Wars, Mario, and Mickey Mouse.
2. Barbie - Over 3 Billion in Sales and Counting
Moving up a notch in the rankings is Barbie, who came into the world on March 9, 1959, at the hand of Ruth Handler. When Mattel, Inc. began manufacturing the Barbie doll, it resulted in tremendous financial success for the company. Throughout the years, the Barbie doll has served as a role model for little girls but has since morphed from a simple fashion doll to a multi-media enterprise. According to The NPD Group’s Twelfth Annual Toy Industry Performance Awards, Mattel’s Barbie Dreamhouse was the number one seller in the 2022 super-category of Dolls.
Barbie hit new heights in 2023 with a movie that has broken nearly two box-office records already. This musical fantasy film, touched by Greta Gerwig’s genius direction, has become the highest-grossing film of 2023 and Warner Bros.’s highest highest-grossing movie since its humble beginnings in 1923 – and that is just the beginning for this iconic and beloved best selling toy of all time. Barbie has even surpassed Toy Story, as the highest-grossing film based on a toy!
1. Video Games/Gaming - Over $165 Billion in Sales (Estimated 2020)
Video games remain King of Toyland now and in the foreseeable future. When you consider the numbers, it's easy to comprehend. Consider these estimated console sales from the last fifty years -
According to Game Industry.Biz, the yearly/annual value of the gaming market hit $183 billion in 2022, with market analysts predicting the market to surpass $200 billion in 2025. The US and China consumer market spending exceeded $90 billion alone, accounting for about 50% of the total marketplace.
When you consider the units sold within the entire industry, there's no question that video gaming is history's best-selling toy. Research has shown that video games have a bevy of benefits to offer those who play.
Toys ignite a child's and an adult’s creativity – which is the only explanation as to why toys continue to appeal to kids of all ages – with the most expensive toys created for adults. Playing keeps each of us connected to the more carefree and innocent memories of our past, where wonder and awe were an everyday part of life.
In terms of leading brand value and highest yearly revenue (2023), Lego is far ahead of some of the most iconic toys, including Hot Wheels, Barbie, Nerf, and more.
Source - Statista
With the renewed popularity of Barbie, Mattel’s iconic brand is hands-down the most popular girl toy.
“Barbie reigns supreme as the most distinctively popular doll in 75 countries, selling an average of 100 dolls per minute.” – Enterprise Apps Today February 2023
From an educational perspective, what began as a geometric teaching solution and later morphed into the Rubik’s Cube – is among the most innovative, simple, educational, and challenging toys to have made it to market.
The Astolat Dollhouse Castle is considered the most expensive toy/dollhouse in the world. It is named after the castle in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shallot.” Its price tag rises to $8.5 million, which calculates to approximately $25,000/square foot. The creator took more than a dozen years to complete this incredibly detailed work.
The term ‘best’ is relative, but if brand value and sheer volume define what is best, then the Lego toy brand is hands-down the best toy brand. For the past nine years, Denmark’s Lego has been the world’s most valuable toy brand, according to Brand Finance – with an incredible 24% year-on-year brand value increase to US $7.4 billion.
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Written by Dana Hanson
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