Toys of the 1979 JCPenney Christmas Catalog
Toy catalogs from the Seventies and Eighties are filled with treasures. I really enjoy browsing them and looking at the toys I received and just dreamed about as a kid.
The 1979 JC Penney Christmas Catalog came out at an interesting time. The video game market was just starting to find itself, electronic toys were maturing, and Star Wars was revolutionizing everything. So many types of toys were so brand new that almost every toy page had something that wasn’t in the 1978 catalog.
So let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
Han Solo’s Milennium Falcon
I almost decided to not include any Star Wars toys in this post, but it would have been a huge oversight. The Millennium Falcon is the greatest Star Wars vehicle that was ever released.
I received mine for Christmas and nearly fell over when I did. It was everything I wanted in a toy. Large, but could still be held in my hands. Detailed, but not too complicated that a little kid could put it together.
That night, I am pretty sure I fell asleep with it in my bed and I spent months playing exclusively with it.
Daggit – the Canine Companion from Battlestar Galactica
They had a bunch of Battlestar Galactica figures and vehicles available in 1979, but the real gem was this stuffed intergalactic robot dog. He not only captured the franken-dog look of the original Daggit in miniature form but also had a pull string that could trigger three Daggit Sounds. As you can see in the catalog, one of those was the heartwarming “Clink Clink.”
I loved getting stuffed animals for Christmas, but because we owned multiple dogs, arriving at our house was a death sentence for all plush no matter how adorable. Sorry, Daggit.
Giant Shogun Warriors
Did you ever have a friend or family member who when they visited your home would play with your favorite toy the entire time they were there?
Hi, that was me.
My cousin had the Godzilla Giant Shogun Warrior and anytime I visited his house I would snag Godzilla and just play with him all day. When he would try and take him back, I am pretty sure I threw a tantrum until my Aunt just said for him to let me keep playing with it.
I feel bad about it now, but at the time, I felt no shame. I fell completely under Godzilla’s radiation fire breathing spell.
Other kids got Stretch Armstrong, I got the see-thru Stretch X-Ray, The See-Thru Invader. While not completely see-thru, Stretch X-Ray gave you a hint of his insides. I remember really liking his head which was molded like brains. It was the closest I ever came to an “invader from mars” type toy as a kid.
As you might guess from my discussion of Daggit, Stretch met a gooey grisly end at the jaws of a 16 lbs dog with an appetite for destruction.
How many of us asked for a case for or Star Wars figures, hoping to get the Darth Vader headed one, only to get a Space Case. While disappointed at first, I would come to love my 24-pc Space Case. The art on the cover was so evocative and the trays were roomy enough and didn’t require moving around pieces of plastic to get figures in and out.
Notice the case in the catalog had a mix of figures including some “Starroid Raiders.” I love the description of the Starroids in the catalog.
Set of six fully jointed 4-in. figures are definitely from outer space!
I don’t know about you, but when they write the words “definitely from outer space,” it makes me think they definately aren’t from outer space.
ROM, The Electronic Space Knight
I have to confess, like so many people, I didn’t really get just how amazing ROM was until his moment has passed. I have regretted not owning one my whole life. ROM had synth sounds and LED eyes that still impress me today.
On the very page that ROM appears was the toy I asked for and got instead.
Around this time I just discovered vampires and they scared the heck out of me. So naturally, I wanted one perched on my shelf watching me sleep every night.
The details on Dracula were great and he had a cape and a coffin from which he would “sit up.” I would value this one a lot more the older I got. Especially after I started watching the original Dracula films and not just Drak Pack.
Stop Thief is an electronic board game hybrid in the same vein as Dark Tower. Our neighbors had this game and I being the youngest of the gang, was terrible at it. Still, I loved the sounds it’s Electronic Crime Scanner made.
Stop Thief has a great commercial that ran constantly for a solid year. Who wouldn’t want to own this game after seeing this commercial?
Patches the Performing Bean Bag
Did you ever want a bean bag chair that would grab on tight and never let go? If so, Patches the Performing Bean Bag chair was on your Christmas list.
I had no interest in Patches at the time, but over the years I have become fixated on him because of the imagery they use in the catalog.
I know the kid here is supposed to be getting a gentle hug, but it looks more like he is being grabbed and is screaming out for help. I have never met anyone who owned the Patches Bean Bag, I assume that is because he suffocated anyone who owned him while they slept.
Coleco Quiz Wiz
Handheld games were still in their infancy in 1979. You had great sports games, but other genres still had a lot of catching up to do. Coleco Quiz Wiz was an early attempt at a cartridge-based handheld. If you liked trivia, it was a lot of fun.
The problem was that while 1001 trivia questions sound like a lot, when you put them in the hands of a hungry gamer, you can burn through that in an afternoon. In a week, you will have almost half of the answers memorized.
I got my Quiz Wiz secondhand just for this very reason from someone who was bored of it. I picked up new question cartridges over time and played with them well into the mid-eighties.
Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker II
The original Creepy Crawlers premiered in 1964. They consisted of a series of molds that you would pour liquid plastic into and then bake. When you were done, you had these plastic toys that you made.
Aimed at young children, Creepy Crawlers were very cool, but with its nearly 400 degree hotplate, they were also extremely dangerous.
Mattel thought they had figured out how to make them safer with Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker II. Instead of a hot plate, you heated the mixture and then poured it into molds to cool. The problem was that it was still messy, a little dangerous and now took a lot longer. While not perfect, the concept was just too great to pass up for fans of gross toys.
When someone asked me about doing something like this on Twitter, I thought it would be super easy to do. As it turns out, it was not. I didn’t include so many toys that could have been on this list. Things like the Atari 2600, 2XL, Tobor, and Big Trak. I guess I just might need to revisit this catalog again soon.
Do you have toys you remember from the late Seventies? I would love to hear about them and why you liked them.