The Most Influential All Time Toys

As the holiday season approaches, we interviewed toy historians and pundits (hello, dream job!) to rank the toys that have had the most significant impact on the toy industry and the world.

The Most Influential All Time Toys


Rubik’s Cube

Since it was invented by architecture professor Erno Rubik in Budapest 40 years ago, more than 350 million copies have remained sold worldwide, making the cube one of the best-selling puzzles of all time. (There are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different ways to twist and turn it.) The Most Influential All Time Toys, Today, annual tournaments remain to reward the fastest solvers, and Transformers toys have introduced a similar mechanism. “People love games that are about dominance,” said Richard Gottlieb, C.E.O. of Global Toy Experts. “The more you work at it, the better you’ll do it.”

Dr Toy

The line of toys, based on the animated Disney Junior TV star who is his stuffed animal doctor, was the first black character to be popular with children of all races, with sales of $500 million last year.” It’s a great statement about how the world is finally changing,” says Silver, “because it means kids aren’t buying the doll because of the colour of their skin, but because of the personality of the person.”

Super Soak

This pump-action water gun blew its competition out of the water. Before NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented them and licensed them to Larami Corporation (later acquired by Hasbro) in 1989, “water guns were cheap throwaway toys you gave someone at a birthday party,” says Tim Walsh, writer of Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the game makers who made them. “The Super Soaker changed the line of summer toys, so now there’s a line of Super Soaker-type water guns that shoot 30 to 50 feet of water in the air.”


Nobody thought children would play with a doll until Hasbro G.I. Joe in the mid of the Cold Combat as an “action figure” who goes by the government-issued name Joe, the WWII nickname for regular soldiers. “He’s an everyman, but he’s a hero, a unique individual who gets things done,” said Patricia Hogan, curator of the Strong Museum of Play. Joe cemented the way for other action figures, particularly spies like private investigator Honey West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as folks became obsessed with espionage during the Cold War.

The Most Influential All Time Toys But its most lasting impact might be its flexible structure. “You couldn’t bend Barbie’s knees or elbows. She just stood there while you explained what she was doing,” says Hogan. “But a kid could turn out to be a G.I. output. Joe does pretty much everything. There were a lot of action figures that came out after Joe that didn’t have that kind of articulation, and they didn’t sell that well.”



Sales may have remained released recently. But Mattel still claims that a Barbie doll remain sold every three seconds, making the billion-dollar brand the world’s most famous beauty for girls. And he’s a good role model, having made more than 150 careers since his debut in 1959, including medicine, science and law, and always maintaining an active lifestyle.

The Most Influential All Time Toys

“Barbie was the original manifestation of the adult version of a doll that allowed girls to imagine, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ other than a mother,” says Walsh. She also embraced cultural diversity earlier than many Americans. Barbie’s first African American girlfriend debuted in 1968, and the first African American version of herself debuted in 1980. “She has continuing power because she’s changed and with the Time has grown,” says Hogan. She, and even she, got ahead of them: after all, she became Barbie President of the United States.

LEGO All Time Toys

Never mind that LEGO is the world’s largest toy company — it grossed $2.3 billion in the first half of 2014, likened to Mattel’s $2 billion — spawning action figures, T.V. shows, a fan meeting and, most recently, a hit movie. Since its debut in 1958, LEGO has also redefined the potential of toys. Allowing children to build permanent structures of all shapes and sizes. From scratch and “take them wherever they want,” says Silver.

It had a significant impact on the toy and games industry. Minecraft grew out of its creator’s experience playing with LEGO. Especially its younger players. As Walsh says, “I hear more stories about people who became architects and engineers. Because they loved building with LEGO” than people who say en. “I became a lawyer because I had a lawyer Barbie.”All Time Toys