I love that cosy feeling of nostalgia, don’t you? There’s nothing better than seeing or hearing something that I haven’t thought about in years and suddenly having tons of great memories flooding back.
Lately, it seems like I’m not the only one loving these blasts from the past. Loads of people are getting retro these days! With vinyl record sales currently at a 25 year high, the Nokia 3310 getting a re-release and the Crystal Maze back on TV again, it’s clear that old-school is the new cool.
What if you want to share your love for retro gadgets and gizmos with a loved one? After having a look around, you’d be surprised at just how many familiar names are back in the spotlight again.
Here are some amazing retro gifts you might be surprised you can still buy today.
1: Super Nintendo
Ask one hundred people to name a video game character, and there’s a good chance most would answer “Super Mario.” While the likes of Xbox and PlayStation try to make games look as realistic as possible, I’d take the chance to play a classic like Super Mario Bros 3 on the SNES over a new console any day of the week.
In case you haven’t already heard, retro gamers like me will be excited to know that Nintendo is releasing a brand-new version of the Super Nintendo that will fit in your hand!
The Super Nintendo Classic Edition is exactly what I love about retro stuff getting an update. It’s a tiny console that comes with replica controls and (get this) 21 games! I’m talking all the classics like Donkey Kong Country, Zelda, StarFox and Street Fighter II. They won’t all be cartridges; they’re already built in to the handheld console.
After reading all I can about it, it’s gone straight to the top of my Christmas wish list this year.
2: 10p Mix Memories
There are two things I want to do if I ever win the lottery:
- Rent a penthouse in Las Vegas for a month
- Start making Roy of the Rovers bars again
If you walk in to a corner shop to get a pint of milk, you’ve probably, like me, been aghast at the price of Freddos. And for that matter, when was the last time you were able to buy an individual Drumstick lolly? Do you even remember what a pack of Parma Violets or a Double Dip tastes like?
You might be lucky enough to be out and about and suddenly come across some retro sweets in a specialised shop, but now that we have the internet as an amazing tool in helping us find things, you can get a sweet hamper delivered right to your front door!
I recently got one and it had, amongst other things:
- Candy Necklaces
- Rainbow Drops
- Black Jacks & Fruit Salads
Now, I didn’t eat the whole thing myself. I whipped the box out in the middle of a party and judging by everyone’s reactions you’d have thought I was about to give everyone in my kitchen a million pounds. Just make sure you stash away a Double Dip and a packet of candy sticks for yourself.
3: Rotary Phones
In this day and age, it is a little crazy when you think about how easy it is to contact another person – these days you can do it just by shouting their name at your phone.
Not so long ago, calling someone meant going to the corner of the kitchen or living room, manually inputting the number that you had taken the time to memorise, and fiddling with the wire as you stood awkwardly next to the phone unit.
There’s still a certain charm about making that little extra effort to get in touch with someone. Even my gran has a smartphone that we got her, but she still prefers to use her old house phone to make calls in the evening.
If you prefer the ‘old-fashioned’ way of telephoning someone, you can get a rotary phone for your home. You can buy old looking antique style telephones, but I also really like those that have trendy colours like ‘French Blue’ and ‘Neon Orange’ or patterned designs on them. These days, the hardest part of having one would be trying to memorise everyone’s phone numbers again.
4: Blue Peter Badge
In my eyes, when I saw someone on TV getting a Blue Peter badge, it was just as important as someone getting a gold medal at the Olympics. That tiny white badge with the little ship was a sign you had done something incredible and were bestowed with an honour some might say is on par with a knighthood.
With the recent rise in the trend of enamel pins, it’s surprising to me that everyone isn’t walking about with their own Blue Peter badges. The TV show is still on every week and you can still earn a badge by sending a letter to Blue Peter (they may be surprised if you’re over the age of 13, but there’s technically nothing stopping you).
I was quite shocked to see that people sell theirs on auction sites. There are even people out there who are crazy enough to even think about parting with the super-rare gold badges. I suppose it’s their loss and our gain – though you might have to come up with a good story about how you won it.
5: Echo Mics
When I was younger I used to think that these big plastic mics were nothing short of magic. You’d badly sing MMMBop or Jump Around into this little plastic thing and all of a sudden your “majestic” voice would boom around the room like you were holding your own stadium tour.
They were the perfect toy for kids as they allowed you to make as much noise as you wanted, could take a bit of damage when someone got fully into Freddy Mercury mode, and also made for a relatively cheap gift.
It’s not so common to see them nowadays, but you can still find them in toy shops if you have a look about. Reading up on it, I was quite happy to discover that they’re used by many speech therapists to help young kids with difficulties gain confidence in speaking. They certainly helped with my confidence growing up, though possibly to the detriment of my parents’ eardrums.
6: Stretch Armstrong
Saturday morning cartoons had two effects in my house when the ads came on in-between Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (yes, they were ‘heroes’ in the UK many years ago):
- Giving me my weekly inspiration of what I would nag my parents to buy me in town
- Giving my parents a headache knowing they’d soon be getting nagged
One of the ads I will always remember seeing was the first time Stretch Armstrong appeared on screen. It seemed impossible that a toy could be stretched, twisted, pulled, yanked or twirled around that much and to return to its original shape. (With that big cheesy smile on his face, you knew that he was enjoying it too.) It was the type of toy that could really tire a kid out, as it essentially made playing like a workout with a resistance band.
The popularity of this retro toy seems to come and go every few years. I grew up with the black vest version from the mid-90s, but the recent re-release looks much more like the original 70s figure. If you’re lucky enough to have yours lying about the house somewhere, they can fetch a pretty penny on auction sites, or might even make the perfect office desk stress reliever.
7: The Talkboy
I have a great trivia question to trip quiz loving friends up with:
“What film was The Talkboy in?”
Most people would quickly say Home Alone, but it was actually only used in the sequel. I remember watching Home Alone 2: Lost In New York and thinking The Talkboy was just the coolest thing ever. Thanks to the movie being on nearly every Christmas, I still think about it often. It’s one of the most memorable retro toys out there, although you might be surprised to hear it was almost not meant to be.
John Hughes, the director of the first film and producer of the second, had a last-minute idea to include The Talkboy in the movie, but only as a prop. However, the movie studio had already seen it and quickly wanted real versions to be made in time for Christmas that year. They managed to pull it off and it was a Christmas toy hit.
It has recently become a much desired collector’s item online, with some people selling near pristine condition Talkboys for up to £250. I can only imagine the Wet Bandits trying to get their hands on one…
I’d hedge my bets that out of all the toys you could have had growing up, none were as stressful an experience as the Tamagotchi. A tiny little egg, usually on a keyring, with only three buttons - and yet keeping one alive felt more like rocket science.
For those too young to remember what a Tamagotchi was, it was a little digital pet on a tiny LCD screen. You’d have to make sure your Tamagotchi pet grew up perfectly after hatching from an egg, making sure it was fed, was kept happy and slept enough. If you didn’t do a good enough job, your Tamagotchi would die and you’d have to start all over again.
In recent years you may have seen Tamagotchi come back as an app, but original style physical versions of the toy have just been re-released in Japan. If the popularity of apps and games like Pokemon Go and Fidget Spinners are anything to go by, we could be seeing them gracing our pockets again in the very near future.
Just from having a look about online, I think it’s amazing that so many of the toys and sweets I loved growing up are still going strong. We loved our gadgets and games of the past as much as kids these days love their fidget spinners and Snapchat filters, and while all this retro stuff might be ‘trending’ again, knowing you experienced it yourself is a great feeling.
After posting this, I’ll be heading over to my mum’s house to have a rummage through the boxes in the attic. Who knows? Maybe I’ll soon find myself in a pair of Moon Boots trying to pull a Stretch Armstrong across the garden, and if my Nintendo still works, then you’re invited over for a few games of Super Mario Kart too.