It’s almost Christmas Eve, and I have so much left to do. None of the presents are wrapped. Half of them haven’t even been purchased. There are mushrooms to stuff, clothes to wash, cookies to bake and hair to cut.
So, like a big dumb idiot, I made one more Wish Book review the first priority.
Hot off the heels of yesterday’s post, today we’re going back even further. Below are eight highlights from the 1982 Sears Wish Book, and oh my God are they good ones. I know “1982” sounds too long ago for some of you, but a lot of this stuff is downright timeless.
Get ready for He-Man, Glo Worm and Frankenstein’s Monster. I wish I could introduce all of my posts that way.
Star Wars AT-AT!
If you’re not big on Star Wars, AT-ATs were skyscraper-sized robot “dogs” used by Imperial forces to attack the Rebel Alliance’s base on the ice planet of Hoth. Granted, saying so has just made you more confused.
I have firsthand knowledge of how incredible it was to get one for Christmas. I believe it would’ve been 1983. Our family celebrates on Christmas Eve and opens presents at midnight. Even at that late hour, nothing could stop me from immediately opening the box, and immediately dragging all of my Star Wars figures out of the bedroom. I was up until dawn with that thing!
Towering over the line’s 3¾” figures, the AT-AT had battery-operated lights and sounds, and a neat little compartment where several Snowtroopers could gather to make “nyah nyah” faces at the poor suckers down below.
It was the largest toy I’d ever had up to that point, and believe me, size mattered. AT-ATs are big, but in the cradling arms of tiny kids, they seemed enormous.
G.I. Joe Cobra Command Headquarters!
The Sears Wish Book used to offer exclusive toys, available nowhere else. The bulk of them batched “normal” action figures with strange cardboard playsets that you’d only find in Wish Books. These playsets were lightweight, using cardboard backdrops with printed adventure scenes to make mighty use out of what was essentially “just paper.”
Their exclusive Star Wars playsets are the most famous today, but plenty of other lines got in on the action. This G.I. Joe “Cobra Command Headquarters” seems pretty badass, but if you look close, you’ll notice that it’s just cardboard. Well, guess what? It was still badass.
I’d rather have a cardboard playset covered in things to look at than a bare plastic one, and if you were the type of kid who liked to display your action figures dramatically, these weird Sears playsets felt like showroom accoutrements.
He-Man & Battle Cat!
If you’re old enough, you had ‘em! He-Man and Battle Cat were as ubiquitous as goofy toys got. If you were going to pick a few action figures that defined the ‘80s, I’m not sure you could do any better than these.
I’m so used to seeing vintage Masters of the Universe figures darkened by grime and missing everything, it’s almost strange to see He-Man in such pristine shape, with all of his weapons and a not-yet-broken chest plate. Were “fresh” He-Man figures really that pale? I guess it’s hard to tan when you’re riding a tiger over a bed of fish food in outer space.
While sold separately, it’s likely that Sears was offering the specially boxed two-pack. Those boxed sets are now worth literal small fortunes, with sellers demanding prices as high as three thousand dollars. (300 times the original retail value! People who played stocks in the ‘80s had it all wrong.)
Coleco Tabletop Arcade Games!
It pains me to admit that I’ve never owned a Coleco tabletop arcade game. While only a little more sophisticated than the common handheld versions of the same games, the cabinet-like shells made them impossibly enduring. (You may remember the scene from Gremlins where a bunch of evil Mogwais went to town on one. That’s what kicked off my interest, and I doubt I’m alone.)
The collection included many famous games, from Pac-Man to Frogger to Donkey Kong. With their colorful, sticker-drenched shells, owning even 2 or 3 of them was enough to make your bedroom look like a super deformed arcade.
To this day, those games on the short list of things I’d frivolously blow any lottery winnings on. No expensive cars, no high-rise apartments. I just want Donkey Kong.
Good God, I loved Glo Worm. Everyone loved Glo Worm! Whereas ‘80s toys usually came with target ages and genders, Glo Worm transcended all of that bullshit. Glo Worm was for everybody.
With a sausage link body and arms that could best be described as vestigial, Glo Worm’s fame really came from his face — cherubic, drowsy, and capable of lighting up when you squeezed his stomach.
Glo Worm’s glow was just magnificent. It was an almost eerie, supernatural glow. Like radioactive material that was only just starting to pass its peak. The light was sedative, healing and somehow seductive. Seriously, if you’re stressed out, go find an old Glo Worm. I bet their magic powers are just as on-point in 2014.
The 1982 Sears Wish Book was absolutely full of Pac-Man memorabilia. Everything from dolls to glassware to pajamas. I could’ve gotten ten articles out of the Pac-Man junk alone. Remind me of that when I’m struggling for content in April.
Aren’t these slippers delightful? Wearing them would make you look like the kid version of Simon Adebisi. I love how they appear less like official merchandise and more like something my friend’s mom would’ve made to sell at our grade school Christmas fair.
Remco Mini Monster Play Case!
Heh, as sprawling as this seems, it was in reality a simple fold-out collector’s case, with just enough modifications to make it work as a playset. (Not a complaint, mind you. What Remco made out of repurposed crayon cases was something Mattel needed two feet of hard plastic to do.)
As the name suggests, the playset was meant for Remco’s awesome line of Mini Monster figures, which offered the single most organic way to introduce Dracula to Darth Vader and Destro.
“Not only are you three the same scale, but all of your names start with the letter D!”
Then I’d step back and let them handle the rest. By morning they’d have plans to conquer the universe as a triumvirate. Vader’s cape would be on Dracula. They’d have their own secret handshake.
Despite growing up with the Monopoly Playmaster, I’ve never been completely sure about what it was supposed to do. I think it was partially there to speed up a regular Monopoly game’s more boring aspects, but it also allowed for actions not part of the traditional rules.
It was one of those things that just ended up in our house and floated aimlessly from room to room, belonging to nobody in particular and attracting no attention. The ‘80s were a hot time for impractical gadgets, and the Playmaster was just a soldier in our army of unloved battery-operated gizmos that were too expensive to toss.
Thanks for reading about more old junk! Since it’s hours from Christmas Eve, it’s safe to say that this will be the last post before the big day. I’m gonna go pound Campari until a night spent wrapping presents and messing with mushrooms sounds like less of a chore. Merry Christmas!