Silly Putty commercial (1953)
Furbies were one of the most popular holidays gifts of the late nineties. They were often re-sold for more than triple their sale value due to the difficulty parents had in finding these rare, Gizmo look-a-like talking dolls. What really set them apart from other toys at that time was that they at least seemed to be capable of learning English (not entirely true, as they were really programmed to begin displaying improved English skills regardless of what language was spoken around them), and had the cool feature of repeating words more often if you petted them right after they spoke that word. You know there are many twenty-somethings who secretly mourn the holiday season of 1998, the year they never got a furby. Do the right thing and give them a beloved Furby this holiday season!
If your dad is a baby boomer, he’s definitely sick of the golf books, dress shirts and subscriptions to Sports Illustrated he gets every year at the holidays. Let the poor man live a little with these perfect retro gifts from his past!
1. Electric Football
Prior to video games, Electric Football was as close as you could get to virtual sporting from the comfort of your own home. If you are new to it, you’ll probably be confused why spending an eternity setting up the miniature player pieces is worth it, considering that they all immediately fall down upon activating the motor. But for boomers, this game was their chance to show their friends who was the ultimate Monday morning QB. Chances are your dad still remembers how to make the Triple Threat Quarterback pass. Click here for availability.
2. Original G.I. Joe 12” Action Figures
In the early 60’s, as Barbie’s popularity exploded, toy companies asked themselves an important question: what about boys and dolls? Hasbro took the lead, altering the typical doll body shape to resemble a man, clothing it in camo, and equipping it with a bad-ass rifle. Thus was born the original G.I. Joe “Action Figure.” That’s right, as a wee lad, pops was playing with man-dolls and he didn’t even know it! Click here to check out the incredibly accurate reproductions Hasbro recently came out with. Dad will love this old-school gift from his childhood, but remember, it’s not a doll!
3. Erector Set
It speaks to the innocence of our parents’ childhoods that toy manufacturers could produce a toy with this name and no one would snicker, let alone complain. But once you stop giggling and get past the title, you have to recognize that Erector sets were pretty damn cool, allowing boys and their dads to spend hours constructing miniaturized factories, cars, amusement parks or robots, and how they did it was entirely up to them. Click here for the newest sets, or click here to see the original, still-in-the-box models dad would’ve played with as a kid.
4. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
Since 1964 boys have been grinding their thumbs into raw stumps trying to finally land that devastating right jab to the Blue Bomber. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots have come in and out of style for decades, but there still is no better way to let dad settle who gets that final piece of Christmas ham. Hit this link for fresh boxed sets.
For any serious baseball fan, the time between the World Series and spring training is a yawning chasm of anxiety and craving, in which every hot stove trade rumor is devoured like a starved dog laps up a morsel dropped under the dinner table. Strat-O-Matic is the cure for such desperate fans, especially those with a sweet tooth for statistics. You get to pick your perfect team and then battle it out in a sort of Dungeons and Dragons for sports nerds. This was the game that gave birth to fantasy baseball as we know it today, and makes for a perfect gift for any hardcore fan. Click here for details.
6. Boy Scout Handbook
What do Bill Gates, John Tesh and your Dad all have in common? All three were probably Boy Scouts of America in their youth, uniform and all, and this book was their bible. The Boy Scout Handbook didn’t just teach a boy how to tie knots, leave no trace and start a fire without a flint. It also instilled chivalry, leadership and the drive to be prepared and “do a good turn daily.” Male boomers will go crazy if you can find them the edition they would have had as a lad. Click here to figure out which edition they would have cherished, and here to buy it on eBay.
7. Slot Car Race Track
Slot car racing has been around for 100 years, but it didn’t really spike in popularity until the late 1950’s, when the design and mechanics were greatly improved with the introduction of plastics. Since then, toy makers have made leaps and strides in slot car speed and handling, so dad will probably be pretty impressed when he gets this NASCAR slot track up and running. Perfect for any car enthusiast who wants to show his family, once and for all, who’s the best driver around. Click here to get him this set (and take it easy on the turns!).
8. Mad Magazine Collection
If Dad sees another goddamned copy of Popular Mechanics sticking up out of his Christmas stocking he’s going to have a man-tantrum, OK people? Same goes for SI, Hunting and Fishing and any other magazine he can peruse at the dentist’s office. You’re not going to get him a stack of vintage Playboys from his youth (or are you?), so do the next best thing and hook him up with every single MAD Magazine issue ever released going back to the early 50’s, digitally compiled on this collection of discs. Boys have been reading along as MAD skewers everyone from politicians to Hollywood in recurring features such as Spy vs Spy and The Lighter Side Of for decades, and he’ll love taking a trip through time with this nearly endless collection. Click here for the set.
9. Baseball Cards
How many of us have heard Dad bemoan the day he learned Grandma had gone into his childhood room and thrown out his beloved baseball card collection? The sad truth these men don’t want to confront is that their card collection, while in all likelihood stacked with rarities and treasures, was probably in terrible condition: between “leaners,” flipping and the horrific practice of jamming cards in the spokes of their bike wheels, chances are most of his cards wouldn’t have done well on the market today. Stop his moaning and get him the the cards he remembers from his childhood. Depending on his age, here are three sets that you should look at: 1951 Bowman, 1960 Topps, and 1975 Topps.
10. The Ed Sullivan Show Collection
Ed Sullivan was an unattractive, awkward man who seemingly had no business being on TV. But somehow his genius as a star-maker overrode his lack of presence and catapulted his show to the top of the heap, functioning as an early MTV for the boomer generation. Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many more got their American start going on this iconic variety show, and if your dad is a boomer, I’m sure he remembers tuning in to see the newest hits of the week. Click here for the collection.
Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca— I don’t want to hear it! This is the best movie of all time and if you don’t believe me sit down and watch it again: Atreyu’s quest to save the Empress from The Nothing, the luck dragon Falkor, the sadness of the rock eater, the Sphinx’s gate… and all the while poor Bastian having to watch Fantasia slip away into a meaningless void!
Click here to check out the DVD.
I love GI Joe as much as the next guy, but let’s be honest. Outside of Snake Eyes, no one gave a damn about the goody-two-shoes Joe team. Cobra had Cobra Commander and his eerie “Fred” clone series. Then there was the mysterious Destro, using his shiny dome to distract and bewilder the alluring, leather-clad Baroness. And let us not forget the lethal Storm Shadow! I acknowledge that we could spend all day arguing as to which “side” he truly belongs on, but you have to admit he killed for Cobra, and that speaks volumes.
Live on the dark side for once, and wear your Cobra allegiance with pride!
I’m a pretty serious Joe fan, but I have to be straight with you: original, 80’s GI Joe action figures, in the box (especially the cool ones like Storm Shadow), are really, really expensive. That being said, I can also tell you that getting a mint original is off-the-hook exciting for some people out there, so get a second job, sell a kidney, whatever you have to do if your special someone is a Joe fanatic (this eBay button is for you).
Or, if you’re set on a boxed Joe but can’t swing the $$$ for an original superstar, hit this Amazon link and check out the more modestly-priced 25th anniversary reproductions, which are very convincing.