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Top-Selling Christmas Gifts of the Past 80 Years

Shirley Temple doll from the 1930s

There seems to be at least one toy that will surely fly off store shelves every holiday season. These toys are nearly impossible to find if you’re not willing to camp outside your local Target or Wal-Mart, and every year they’re the cause of retail store stampedes.

This phenomenon does not signal the end of civility nor is it anything new. That’s why MSNBC decided to count down the top 12 must-have toys from the past 80 years.

It all started in 1934, the year The Ideal Toy and Novelty Company released a Shirley Temple doll. It was the first celebrity doll of its kind and made $45 million in just seven years.

Another popular girls’ doll came along 26 years later, Chatty Cathy, who had a built-in phonograph that activated through a pull-string. Chatty Cathy could say 11 phrases and underwent several incarnations through the 1970s and 1980s.

Popular toys weren’t just for girls, though. America was introduced to the incredibly popular G.I. Joe action figure in 1964. These one-foot tall figures made an astonishing $16.4 million in they’re first year of sales alone and have remained consistently popular today.

Seniors that remember these toys when they were kids may also remember waiting in long lines to get their own kids and grandkids the most popular gifts of the past 30 or so years.

Star Wars action figures, Transformers, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tickle Me Elmo were nearly impossible to find during the holidays. Some of these toys even received a 600 percent mark-up on price due to scarcity.

The history of the mega-popular holiday gift teaches us to plan ahead. Don’t go to the store at the last minute and expect to leave with toy-in-hand, unscathed. Buy as early as possible and don’t be too disappointed. There’s always next year to buy your grandchild a popular toy he or she won’t care about in three months.

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