Bestsellers bring back memories

I came across a list of the most popular Christmas gifts for the past three decades and found it very interesting.

In some regards, it was a walk down memory lane.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to see how dramatically technology and money have changed the Christmas landscape. It’s also interesting to see how some of the simplest items imaginable became massive sellers.

The Nintendo Game Boy (1989) and Sega Game Gear (1991) were the predecessors to today’s age of smartphones and incredibly advanced video games. I remember when the Game Boy came out and people could bring it to school and play video games on the bus. It was revolutionary. Looking back, its black and white graphics were pretty underwhelming, especially considering the $185 price tag.

Not surprisingly, tech gadgets have ruled the holidays for the past several years.

I couldn’t track down information for 2012 or 2013, but seven of the previous eight years were all led by video games, iPods and tablets. The one non-gadget that interrupted that streak? The Elmo Live doll in 2008 (apparently not to be confused with the also popular Tickle Me Elmo, which topped the charts in 2006).

The seven tech gadgets and video games that have recently been the Christmas bestsellers were the Nintendo DS (2004), Microsoft Xbox 360 (2005), Sony Playstation 3 (2006), Apple iPod Touch (2007), Nintendo Wii (2009), Apple iPad (2010) and Kindle Fire (2011).

With the explosion of technology has also come an explosion in the price tags. Some of those seven items are in the $300 to $500 range — closer to the price of my first car than any Christmas gift I can ever remember getting.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, pogs made a splash in 1995. They were by far the cheapest of the bestsellers listed.

Other popular Christmas gifts from the past three-plus decades have included the Rubik’s Cube (1980), Cabbage Patch Kids (1983), Care Bears (1985), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys (1990) and World Wrestling Federation action figures (1992).

Garrett Rudolph is the managing editor of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at


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