It’s nearly that time of year—the time where crazy parents, slightly crazy parents, and parents who really don’t want to be crazy but also really want their kids to be happy start scheming about how to get their hands on that must-have toy. (Apparently Furbys are back, and these VIP Pets things, with their oddly human characteristics, would have mesmerized me back in the day.)
But you know who basically invented the whole toy madness thing? Cabbage Patch Kids, who turn 30 this year. (The pic below is from a Manchester, England, toy store in 1983. Tensions were running high.) And since I was wholly obsessed with mine as a kid—my Aunt Peggy’s long hours in line getting one for me were rewarded when we cracked open the birth certificate and found that my doll was named Peggy—I thought I’d dig into the history of the thing. I had no idea that…
1. They were originally called Little People.
2. The Xavier Roberts guy who signed all the dolls (I never gave him much thought) was only 21 (and an art student) when he invented the dolls.
3. Um, the commercials are way creepier than I remember.
4. They’ve bounced around between basically every big toy company. After their original manufacturer, a company called Coleco, went bankrupt, CPKs were made by Hasbro, Mattel, Toys R Us, and Play Along (their current manufacturer) at different points in their history.
5. This is crazy: Before the dolls came along, Coleco was in the home-computer business and kind of sucking at it. Its $700 Adam home computer system was riddled with problems and became a total product disaster: The dolls pulled the company back from the brink of catastrophe. How’s that for diversifying?
6. There’s an actual Babyland General Hospital in Georgia, and it sounds weird and awesome. Apparently, the whole thing—which is still open to tourists today—is set up like a hospital nursery and adoption center, and the employees are in character as doctors and nurses.
7. In 1985, Cabbage Patch dolls did $600 million in business.
8. They made the cover of Newsweek on December 12, 1983.
9. Yeah, if people try to tell you nobody acted Walmart Black Friday levels of insane 30 years ago, just show them 1:03 in this video.
10. Erm, there is a couple in Maryland who have 5,000 dolls and call them their children.
11. Some of the most expensive Cabbage Patch Kids on eBay include a set of 2008 presidential/vice presidential candidates—President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John McCain, and Sarah Palin—for $59,999.99 and a Donald Trump Cabbage Patch doll for $6,750. Not to rain on this very expensive parade, but I think that Sarah Palin doll looks more like Kathy from the funnies.
12. The 12th and final thing you never knew about Cabbage Patch Kids: You never knew that Aaron Paul held two of them while staring soulfully into a camera at a publicity event in 2006. You’re welcome.