Some print ads are worth spending whole days obsessing over.
…like this one, from 1985!
As part of a special co-promotion between Toys “R” Us and Post Cereal, kids had a chance to win a $1000 shopping spree. If you plucked the winning game piece from a box of Super Golden Crisp, you’d get to zip around your nearest TRU and fill multiple shopping carts with as much as you could grab.
Similar contests ran throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, and I know I’m not the only one who used to daydream about winning them. In the mind of a child, that $1000 maximum sounded more like a million. The idea of getting everything you ever wanted all at once was totally intoxicating.
This Post Cereal contest ran in 1985, so naturally, the print ad basically mashed the entirely of that year’s Sears Wish Book onto one overstuffed page. (Especially incredible is the fact that even that much stuff couldn’t have retailed for $1000, so the winner presumably went home with even more!)
If you’re having trouble identifying all of the goodies in that shopping cart, no worries, I took care of it for you. Read on, and imagine getting all of this treasure on one exciting afternoon!
Confession: I’d sometimes play Monopoly alone, assembling an army of green houses and red hotels around Boardwalk as a plastic stronghold. It doesn’t sound very fun, but considering how often I did this, it must’ve been.
3) Rainbow Brite “Sprite” Doll!
Rainbow Brite used to hang around with adorable creatures that looked a bit like anthropomorphized Koosh balls. This one was named Champ.
4) Crayon Bank!
Giant faux crayons usually double as banks, so I’m assuming that this one did, too. Ralphco famously sold crayon banks in the ‘80s, though maybe not as early as 1985.
5) Casio PT-1 Keyboard!
A small, simple electronic keyboard aimed predominantly at kids, the Casio PT-1 came in a sleek crimson color, and had enough presets to make you sound okay even if all you did was apathetically bang your head against the keys.
6) Nerf Football!
Nerf footballs still exist, of course, and they’ve barely changed at all in over three decades. Some kids used them to play football; others simply utilized them as “safe” missiles to destroy their friends’ noses. Especially crafty kids used them for both purposes simultaneously!
7) Mattel Tuff Stuff Shoppin’ Basket!
These shopping cart toys debuted in the early ‘70s, and proved popular enough to remain in stores for well over 15 years. They originally came with an assortment of crude “play food,” running the gamut from fish to cupcakes.
8) Not A Cabbage Patch Kid!
Reader Lisa has correctly identified this doll as one of the Flower Kids — an incredibly transparent attempt to capitalize on Coleco’s success with Cabbage Patch Kids.
9) Gremlins “Poseable Stripe” Figure!
Still the very best Stripe figure ever made, the photo doesn’t do this one justice. Stripe had haunting plastic demon eyes, red as blood and looking like expensive jewels. Years later, and I still regret not buying him from that horror convention.
10) Castle Grayskull!
Admit it: Out of everything in that pile, Castle Grayskull caught your attention first. He-Man’s not-so-humble abode may very well be the quintessential action figure playset, pairing its impressive size with all sorts of neat touches.
11) Robo-Force Figure!
Haaa, well, here’s proof that the various toymakers had no say in the structure of this advertisement. It’s a great visual, but there’s no way that Mattel would’ve signed off on a Coleco Robo-Force figure hiding inside Castle Grayskull!
12) Board Games!
Parker Brothers never met a property that they couldn’t turn into a board game. I’ve never played their spin on Jungle Hunt, but I’m very familiar with that E.T. game… mainly because it came with an adorably tiny plastic alien. After all, the best board games came with action figures!
13) Atari Games!
The Nintendo Entertainment System hadn’t debuted in North America by this point, so Atari still ruled the roost. The plain graphics were merely a product of their time, but this ad reminded me of how Atari smartly sparked our imaginations with absolutely killer promo art. The box for Yars’ Revenge, depicting a robot bug spewing fiery cannonballs, remains awesome even by 2016 standards.
14) A-Team Helicopter!
Seems like few people remember it, but there actually was a 3¾” action figure line based on The A-Team. Though those figures were made by Galoob, they were still appropriately sized for use with Ertl’s part-metal helicopter. Sneaky synergy!
15) Another Robo-Force Figure!
That would be Coptor, one of the few action figures that I’ve managed to hold onto since childhood. Coptor is now chipped as hell and missing an arm, but he’s still here, dammit.
16) He-Man Toys!
I’ve already expressed my eternal love for Clawful, but Battle Armor Skeletor was another big one. The figure came with a “spinning chest” to denote various degrees of battle damage. Finally, that blue vehicle would be the Battle Ram, which had no business being driven by one of the bad guys.
17) Rainbow Brite Doll!
Hey, did you know that Hallmark has actually brought back the old school Rainbow Brite doll? Best as I can tell, it’s an exact replica of the early ‘80s original, and affordable enough to boot!
18) Fisher-Price Camera!
Fundamentally no different than a “regular” camera, Fisher-Price’s version was nonetheless better at surviving surprise falls.
19) Barbie Dream Cottage!
With a week’s worth of customizing, I bet I could make Barbie’s Dream Cottage look a lot like Disney’s Polynesian Resort. And now that I’ve drawn this conclusion, I won’t be able to stop thinking about it until I’ve done it.
20) Boxing Glove!
I’m only mentioning this so no one can say “OH HEY you forgot the boxing glove.” Now you’ll have to settle on that corn-colored soccer ball, or — as reader Josh pointed out — the Commodore 64, which I mistook as a normal old television set meant to complement the Atari games. OOPS! We’ll save the C64 gushing for another article.
21) Combattra Super Robot!
It took me FOREVER to identify this robot. I’m pretty sure that I’ve done so correctly, but there’s like a dozen others that look almost identical. Such robot toys were most often introduced in Japan before being rebranded for their North American releases. (In fact, that’s even true for massive brands like Transformers!)
How many of these toys and games did you have? Which did you only dream about getting? Share memories in the comments, assuming you’re old enough to remember Coptor and Rainbow Brite.