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Classic Retro Toys of the 60's

Viewmaster Viewer and Reels

Vintage toys of the 1960s

The 1960s was a great time to be a kid. The vintage toys were fun and entertaining. The era you grew up in typically takes a golden glow once you reach adulthood. The problems you faced tend to fade and the good memories last and become fonder. Many of these people are now looking back at the things they left behind so long ago, and trying to re-collect these items on auction sites. Some of the prices for old toys in good shape are rather surprising.

It was an exciting era of robots and monsters, aliens and astronauts. The space race and the Apollo program were in the news and led to a large number of space themed toys. The toys that came out in the 1960s reflected the changes going on around them. As the decade progressed the growing influence of television could be a major factor in determining which items would become popular. Western and cowboy themed toys were still in demand as well although their popularity would wane by the time the 60's were over. Television also brought us "Batmanmania" which resulted in numerous toys tied to the popular television show.

Of course there were pogo sticks and hula hoops and other "relics" from earlier decades which were still enjoyed by children. But most of the toys here were the new and exciting ones that were at the top of many kids wish list. Most of the items we will look at are still available. They have passed the test of time. However there at least one or two that like flies in amber are stuck in one era. But even they were once quite popular.


The View-master was invented in 1939 and was made of Bakelite. The plastic model most of us are familiar with was introduced in 1962. Before the mid-sixties travelogues and tourist attractions were the main subject of the reels. After that however the line expanded to everything from Disney movies such as the Jungle Book to live action TV shows like Land of the Giants and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. At that point the popularity of view-masters exploded. It seemed as if every family owned at least one.

It was certainly easy enough to operate. The viewer looked into the view-master and saw a 2-D or 3-D image referred to as stereo pictures. Some of the reels were unique creations. A peanuts set from 1966 called 'The Wonderful World of Peanuts' is the perfect example. Three stories about Charlie Brown and gang using clay-sculpted figures. These were not not just the comic strip put on reels nor the animated TV specials. They were completely unique to viewmaster and had a different look about them than any other peanuts stories. All in all the viewmaster is a pretty neat little device which at last check is still going strong.

Current Versions of Classic Toys

Creepy Crawlers/ Thingmaker

Anyone who has ever heard the magic phrase 'plasti-goop', almost certainly owned a thingmaker as a kid (or knew someone who did). This toy introduced in 1964, included an little oven, tongs, the 'plasti-goop' itself and molds. Once you had one in your possession, you would pour the 'goop' into metal trays and put them into the oven and cook them.

Once taken out of the oven you needed to cool them off in water and if you timed it right you would end up with little rubber critters like spiders,toads, and other assorted creepy crawlies. You could place them around the house to see how your family reacted or just collect them.

It was messy and smelly and unsurprisingly a kid magnet. The smell of the 'goop' cooking would drive friends and family out of the room in a hurry. It also provided a life lesson for boys and girls who forgot to use the tongs when handling the hot molds.That was usually a one time thing. You didn't forget a second time. As the years have gone by new molds have been introduced for cars, and even figures, but the original creepy crawlies were the most popular and are still on the market today.

Major Matt Mason

Major Matt Mason

With the Apollo program going full steam, a space themed toy set featuring astronauts seemed a sure sell. So Mattel came out with a set of action figures modeled after the Apollo program. This particular line was completely U.S. centric. You could get a giant robot and a space alien, but cosmonauts need not apply.

The creators obviously put some thought into this toy set because the accessories to go with it were numerous. From supernaut power limbs and a space crawler vehicle to a three story space station base, the add-ons seemed to be endless. Once you added in the various astronauts, it could take a kid a few years to get the whole collection. They even had a space cannon.

This set was highly popular until the early seventies when the U.S. Space program slowed down. The figures had movable joints but the wires inside broke after a fair amount of use rendering the limbs useless. Still this had to rank near the top of the coolest toys of the era. There were a number of outer space themed toys in the 1960s, but this one may well have been the most popular.

Electric Football Today -

Electric Football

This game which was "played" on an electric vibrating field was a huge hit selling 40 million games. Which meant that 40 million kids over the years have been perplexed as to how to actually get it to play anything like a real football game. Anyone who has ever owned one knows that most of the players simply go in circles. Around the turn of the decade the manufacturers introduced NFL teams You received two teams with the game and could order a some or all of the other NFL teams.. It was great to see the pro teams in official colors on the field but they went in circles for the most part too.

Much to my surprise I've discovered that people still play electric football. The game has apparently had a small but strong following for years. Most of the current fans playing the game have custom fields made. They may well custom build and paint the players too. However it looks like these guys have finally found a way to make it work. Looks kinda fun too. A great vintage toy.


Captain Action

In 1966 Ideal introduced Captain Action which was an action figure with a gimmick. the gimmick was that the good captain could change in other popular figures. Not just a costume, but a mask resembling the hero he was imitating. For instance if you wanted him to become Aquaman, you would put on the Aquaman costume on and put the over the head mask on and presto-chango you had Aquaman. Or Captain America. Or the Green Hornet etc.

What kid could resist getting nine doll...ahem...action figures in one. It seemed like such a good idea that Marvel Comics even launched a Captain Action comic book. However neither the comic book or the figure lasted. Captain Action disappeared from toy shelves within two years.

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Strange Change Machine

The Lost World

Mattel's Strange Change Machine was a little time machine looking device placed upon a metal stand. You also got some plastic mountains, a map with a prehistoric world upon it, and some tiny squares which would become the dinosaurs and monsters. The way it worked is you would place the squares into the plastic see-thru chamber and turn on the heat. As the metal plate heated up, the small squares would expand into creatures of the lost world.

You then used the included tongs to take out the creatures and let them cool off. After that they could be played with as any plastic toy could. It was really a pretty neat little device. If for some reason the child didn't like the monster that they created, they could also condense it back down to a small cube. This toy only lasted a few years. Seems like kids were burning their fingers reaching for the figures before they cooled off.

New Guestbook Comments

Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on September 20, 2015:

What a nice walk down memory lane, Nathan! I had the Viewmaster when I was a little girl in the '60s. How it fascinated me!

MissRubyStars on November 04, 2013:

These toys still look like a lot of fun! I bet they are more durable than modern day toys!!

grrbtn on October 16, 2013:

I can remember having a viewmaster back in the late 60's, god I am really that old lol. Great lens, and thanks for bring back some childhood memories.

atomicgirl24 on August 20, 2013:

I used to have a Viewmaster back in the '70s. The discs I had for it were pretty weird-- film stills from the King Kong remake starring Jeff Bridges. I have no idea if my parent bought those or if it came with the box, lol.

Mommy-Bear on June 11, 2013:

It must be an age thing, I have recently found myself looking up some of favorite toys from my childhood on Ebay and almost caving to bid on them! Yikes!

anonymous on May 19, 2013:

Lots of nostalgia here of things we had or played with when we went visiting, that was fun to know what everyone had, so we enjoyed more toys that way. In the 60's it wasn't like today when kids seem to have everything on the market. Thanks for a sweet step back in time and you had a couple items I don't recall ever seeing, so now I'm caught up on the classics! :)

Arod17 on May 18, 2013:

Those were some great toys, this lens brings back great memories!

goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on May 04, 2013:

I always played electric football with a cousin, but the players never really went where they were supposed to!

anonymous on April 27, 2013:

We had some great toys then. One of my favorites was battle tops, We use to wind them by draging them on the concrete basement floor and let them fight each other inside a hula hoop.

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on April 24, 2013:

I still love the ViewMaster! Creepy Crawlers were also a favorite of mine from when I was young :)

stick-man lm on April 23, 2013:

What a great, fun lens. I was born in the 90's, but I remember ads for the creepy creatures.

Deborah Swain from Rome, Italy on April 23, 2013:

Viewmaster! What a great blast from the past!

Magda2012 on April 13, 2013:

Viewmaster was my favourite childhood toy :)

maryseena on April 11, 2013:

It's a nostalgic trip to our childhoods. I remember spending hours with the view master reels.

opatoday on April 10, 2013:

this is amazing work, great subject

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