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1983 Toys “R” Us Christmas Sale Circular
Growing up, I would get really excited when any sort of sale circular would show up at our house. My family was aware of this and would put them aside for me after they had finished reading the newspaper. I would accumulate dozens of them over the course of a year and as Christmas approached, they became my research files when trying to decide what to put on my Christmas list.
Sadly, these sorts of circulars are a lot less common than they used to be. Which is sad for younger generations who might not know the joy of leafing through and marking them up.
Fortunately for an old timer such as myself, I can dig around and find old circulars and relive my childhood. Which is something I do with increasing frequency as Christmas approaches.
So, I would like to share with you a Toys “R” Us circular from 1983. It was published right after Thanksgiving that year, and they promised that their “prices will be no higher through Dec. 25th.” So this is effectively their Christmas offering for the year. Very exciting!
What a cover! Let’s start by looking at the Toy “R” Us themed art in the center. Here we see Geoffrey the Giraffe’s kids, Baby Gee and Junior, playing on a computer. Behind them is everything they will be able to access on the computer. Among them is a great-looking UFO, Pac-Man (of course), and an amazing dragon. Take a moment to look at the detail on that thing. All those scales, it is just remarkable.
It’s a solid offering. I wonder if they were emphasizing the computers over the video game consoles because of what would come to be called the Video Game Crash of 1983? Still some high prices on these consoles, so no deep crash-like discounts happening yet.
More computers! No pricing on the Coleco Adam. I hated that practice back then, and I hate it now.
I want everything on this page, but probably the most infamous thing here is the Intellivision Keyboard. They kept promising this thing, but had all sorts of issues and only about 4000 were ever made. Oh, what could have been.
Computers and Consoles
While that last page had some nice computers, this page has the computer I would eventually get, the Commodore Vic 20. I would eventually also get the datasette and the disc drive.
Right below it is the system that everyone should get to play at least once in their life, the Vectrex. Vector graphics, a solid controller and a great selection of games have made this system legendary amongst retro gamers. Also, I think it is the only gaming console that had a light pen accessory.
Rounding out the page you have the overlooked Gemini, a Pointmaster joystick and surprisingly some computer desks. I had no idea that Toys “R” Us sold desks.
Take a look at this page. You would be hard-pressed to pick just one thing from it that you would want.
Back in 1983, I wanted Dark Tower. It is all I wanted. Today, it is still my top choice for this page. The commercial was wonderfully moody, and it went hand-in-hand with my interest in fantasy gaming.
A close second would be the Coleco Pac-Man Tabletop Arcade Game. My next door neighbor had one, and I would play it anytime she would let me. They also had the Speak & Spell, which I don’t think ate batteries at the same rate as Pac-Man, so she would let me play with that more often.
The stealth VIP of this page is the Vanity Fair Smurf Phonograph. I might like something serious-seeming like Dark Tower, but my heart will always beat true smurf blue.
Board and Roleplaying Games
Okay, hold the phone. Just give me everything on this page s well.
Let’s start with the role-playing stuff. For many kids, Toys “R” Us was the place to buy their RPG books. They have the Dungeons & Dragons basic set pictured here, which appears to be the 1981 revision of the game, although in 1983 they had another revision. So were they moving old stock, or is this just an old photo?
Below that are a bunch of great modules at great prices. I do not remember those cardboard hangers that allowed them to be pegged in the store. If I got one, I certainly never held into it. Although I wish I had now.
The overlooked gem on this page is Star Frontiers. The sci-fi RPG that gave a few kids out there whose families were under the spell of the Satanic Panic, a non-fantasy role-playing alternative.
Again, please take a moment to appreciate the art on the page.
Slot Cars and Train sets
Tyco was heavily advertising their slot car sets in the 80s. They really seemed to be innovating. The Cliff Hangers were particularly dramatic. You had to practice when to speed it to up to get it over the wall climb and then properly slow down as you got back to the flat. I found it much more challenging than loops and maybe a bit more dramatic.
I think, looking back now, most people are going to be excited about the Knight Rider race set and GI Joe Train. My friend had the GI Joe Train. We played with it a few times, and it was fun, but he didn’t have a good setup to keep it out all the time. It went into a closet, and we never got to play with it again.
The whole Giraffe family made it into the art on this page. It’s a pretty cute image of a cow blocking what I assumed is Geoffrey’s Toy Express. Move it cow! We have some remote controlled cars we got to get on shelves.
Remote Controlled Cars, Science, and Sports
Remote-controlled cars seemed so far out of reach when I was a kid. I can see why now. The one I would have wanted was the Sandmaster and at $59.97 that would not have been something my Mom would have bought me.
Three Kitt from Knight Rider appearances on this page, a Rough Rider, a model, and the talking Kitt voice car. I wonder how many kids asked for the talking car and found themselves with the non-talking model kit?
Coolest named toy on this page? The Clutch Popper Wheelie Blaster from Tonka.
I was the type of kid who would have ignored the sports section, but check out those Plastic Smurf Roller Skates. I am sure they would have destroyed your feet, but sometimes you need to suffer for your fandom.
I wonder what chemicals came with the Chemlab? Probably nothing cool and dangerous by 1983. If this was 1963, all bets would have been off. They would have included a bunch of radioactive stuff, cyanide, some sort of metal-eating acid. You could really do some science back then.
Star Wars and GI-Joe
We have reached the centerfold, and they are bringing out the big guns for the time. You have Return of the Jedi figures and GI-Joe on the same page. I was still collecting both at the point, but GI-Joe was starting to takeover. That was mostly because of my friends’ shifting interests.
If I had to pick just one toy from the Star Wars section, it would be the Millennium Falcon. They made some other great vehicles and play sets, but if you had the Falcon, you were ready for action.
Looking back, though, I wish I had gotten the Y-Wing. I always liked the chunky look of that star fighter.
For GI-Joe, it has to be the Army HQ. My friend got it for Christmas that year, and it was the center point for all of our playing. That same year, I got the “Attack Vehicle.” it was not so center to our play, although I loved it.
I like the variation of terrain in the GI Joe scene. They have hills, sand, beach, and snow all in one shot.
Another well-named toy hanging out at the bottom, the Clutch Popper Power Punchers.
Before I move onto the next page, you can look at half of the clip art at the center of this centerfold and guess what is coming next.
He-Man, Dungeons & Dragons & Crystar
That is right, we have some great fantasy toys with Junior dressed as an intrepid adventurer flying an X-Wing away from the Dark Tower and the dragon from the front page.
So many wonderful details in this circular.
We have six pretty great toy lines here. Three that didn’t do great and one that is still going strong today. I bet on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toys at the time. Thinking, “I love D&D, everyone else is going to love D&D toys.” They did not at the time, although they have since become very collectible.
The other four that didn’t make it were the Manglor, Blackstar, Powerlords, and Crystar. I was really into Manglor at the time, but in retrospect I wish I had picked up the Crystar stuff.
Obviously, the big winner here is the Masters of the Universe toy line. But they sneak another great toy in here with the Crossbows & Catapults Battleset.
What a page!
A great selection of bikes here. This is special for me because the Team Murray bike in the upper box on the far left was the bike I owned. It was a tank of a bike, and used it my entire childhood.
I can still remember the day I got it. When I finally hit the sidewalks of my neighborhood, I rode it until well after dark that first day. The world seemed both smaller and bigger all at once, and I was on top of the world.
Random Kid Vehicles
We have the usual suspects on this page like the Big Wheel, Little Red Wagon and a tricycle. But they also have some fun themed variants like the various Power Cycles that include, Strawberry Shortcake, the Dukes of Hazzard and GI Joe.
While I really like the look of the Smurf Mobile and the very popular Little Tike Cozy Coupe (which was a big tipping hazard), my favorite on this page is the Inchworm Ride-On from Hasbro. I am surprised at the price, but it was worth every penny.
Underoos! I didn’t know that Underoos only came in small and medium. I wonder if that was what they had in stock, or if that was just a feature of Underoos?
The Pajamas seem to be the standard themed fleece type. I would have been interested in just about any of them, but the kid with Knight Rider ones is pretty cool with his plush Smurf Slippers.
A couple of child and crib toys are here as well. The Busy Poppin’ Pals were everywhere in the 80s. While I do like a good Disney-themed toy, I think my favorite is the Balls in a Bowl. Maybe not the flashiest toy, I am sure for a 6-month-old, they are pretty mind-blowing.
Again, I want everything here. The Capsella, the Bristle Buddies, the Mickey Mouse Talking Phone, the Legoland Space Station, the E.T. Bop Bag, Everything!
All my friends had the Mickey Talking Phone. I can still hear it in my head when I think about it.
In the lower left of the page, they have a Geoffrey Jack-in-the-Box. I had an earlier model of this very toy and cherished it until my sisters sold it at a garage sale for a dime.
The Shirt Tales make an appearance in TV tray form on this page, but they are about to make another appearance on the next page.
Art, Music, and Cooking
Could you imagine all the noise you could make with your Shirt Tales Drum Set! I think all drum sets are bought for kids with the best of intentions, but like with all sound-making things you give a kid, you quickly come to regret it.
They have some records and cassettes for those kids lucky enough to get a Vanity Fair Smurf Phonograph.
A nice hidden treasure in the middle of the page is the D&D Clay modeling kit from DAS. I had this set and the Smurfs set. I could never paint them very well, but it was fun to use the molds. When the clay that it came with dried up, I switched to Play-Doh.
The art on this page is okay. Baby Gee in some very short shorts and Junior are coloring on each other. Mediocre parenting on the part of Geoffrey and Gigi if you ask me.
Something on this page is about to make history. 1983 would be the year that Cabbage Patch Doll mania would hit big. I wonder if they had any idea when they were putting this circular together?
My Little Pony Pretty Parlor looks fun, but I am really digging the Fashion Doll Fitness Center.
You have workout cloths, a treadmill, exercise bike, a trampoline, and even a scale to make sure your doll doesn’t gain weight. The background has great 80s style, like a collaboration between Barbie and Patrick Nagel.
The Back Cover
Our journey comes to a close with the Smurfs, E.T., Garfield, and the Care Bears. I am onboard with all four of these toy lines, but we should really take a moment to appreciate E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
If you didn’t live through the film’s release or just forgot what a big deal it was, just look at this page. It is over a year after the film was released, and they are still selling merchandise at a major toy store and it doesn’t appear to be clearance items. While this might be the last hurrah for E.T. toys, their presence is a testament to the power of the film at the time.
What toys did you have?
The 1983 Toys “R” Us Christmas Sales Circular was filled with all sorts of great toys. It is a special circular for me because these toys were some of the ones I owned or desired most during my childhood.
You have major powerhouse toy lines right next to less well-remembered one, but each of them contributed to someone’s childhood.
How about you? Do you recognize anything in this circular? Something you had or wanted to have? Let me know, I would love to hear from you.