The ’90s really were a mysterious time, when bad fashion choices and boy bands ruled the day. One other weird but important trend in the ’90s was extensively collecting odd and completely pointless items. These are the 20 strangest things we couldn’t get enough of stockpiling.
20. Beanie Babies
Colorful stuffed animals filled with plastic beans – they make absolutely no sense now, but in the ’90s Beanie Babies were all the rage. There were loads of different ones to collect with fun names like Legs the Frog and Squealer the Pig… but that doesn’t really explain their wild popularity.
Pogs were little plastic caps covered in logos or brand names that kids traded and played with. The bizarre craze actually started in Hawaii in the 1930s as a milk cap game, but we reached peak Pog in the ’90s when kids literally couldn’t get enough of them.
18. Gelly Roll pens
School kids of every era have obsessively stockpiled stationery, but the ’90s were when a craze for pens took the trend to a weird new level. For reasons unknown, every sixth-grader simply had to have at least ten brightly-colored Gelly Roll pens for schoolwork, most likely for writing in diaries and scribbling love notes behind the teachers’ backs.
Historians of the future will no doubt struggle to understand why hoarding these strange little characters developed into such a frenzy in the ’90s. A pair of games developed for Game Boy quickly evolved into a merchandizing behemoth, comprising a TV show and must-have trading cards, with crazed kids being egged on to “catch ’em all.”
They were ugly, short and had furry colorful hair – not exactly the best recipe for a winning collectable, right? Wrong: accumulating Trolls was an unstoppable fad that swept the world, fueled in the ’90s by video games based on the dolls.
15. Lip Smackers
Excitable tweens of the ’90s didn’t want just one lip balm, they wanted all of the lip balms. Which is why collecting Lip Smackers, with their variety of addictive flavors, took precedence over most other things in life.
Nickelodeon and Mattel teamed up to bring ’90s kids the perfect obsession: a vibrantly colored, stretchy, slimy goo material that made rather rude noises. Gak served absolutely no purpose, which made it all the more appealing (except to parents).
13. Polly Pocket
Perfect, pastel miniature worlds that opened up to reveal a deluxe beach house or an eye-wateringly tiny under-the-sea display, Polly Pockets were little girls’ dreams come true. Add to that the fact that some lit up, could be worn around the neck or were Disney tie-ins and you have obsession personified.
12. Fun-shaped erasers
Boring, plain-colored erasers? They were never going to appeal to ’90s kids. Which is why gathering erasers in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes, from clouds to ladybirds, was de rigueur.
All ‘90s kids will have fond memories of yo-yos that haven’t really crossed the generational divide (blame the iPad). The decade saw a big resurgence in the popularity of the classic toy, with kids in schoolyards everywhere competing and practicing their techniques.
10. Hot Wheels
Hot Wheels debuted in the late 1960s and was still going strong in the ’90s, when kids would collect small replicas of NASCAR racing cars as well as classic models. Most probably they would leave them scattered across the carpet, inciting rage from weary moms and dads. Ah, the joys of childhood!
9. Happy Meal toys
Whichever McDonald’s exec came up with toys inside Happy Meals was basically a genius, prompting kids around the world to incessantly nag their parents to head to the burger chain just to get their hands on the latest surprise gift. In the ’90s these were often in the shape of McDino Changeables or Batman Car figures and were as vital to kids as oxygen.
8. Nerf guns
Naïve ’90s kids once again fell prey to blunt marketing slogans with the rise of Nerf, with ads everywhere insisting that “It’s Nerf of Nothin’!” Yes, these weird toy guns fired a missile of bubbly gunk and were sought-after by young boys everywhere.
7. Goosebumps books
Every ’90s bookworm had a collection of Goosebumps paperbacks that they now remember with an unsettling mix of fondness and terror. This is probably because these kitschy tales of mild suburban horror captivated teenage readers and made author R.L. Stine a U.S. bestselling writer for three years running.
Furbies were one of the most baffling fads of the ’90s. These robotic cuddly toys initially communicated using “Furbish” (go figure) and then gradually learned to speak English. And kids loved them. In fact, when they first came out in the late ’90s an insane 40 million Furbies were sold, with some parents even getting in to physical confrontations to secure the last Furby on the shop shelves.
5. Lisa Frank
The strange florescent designs of artist Lisa Frank created a peculiar sort of mania for ’90s kids. Because her neon drawings brought to life an imaginative world occupied by vivid unicorns, kittens, rainbows and dolphins, and they covered everything from stickers to schoolbags.
4. Sky Dancers
Why have a boring normal doll when you can have a doll with wings that flies? Obviously ’90s kids wouldn’t settle for anything less, hence the perplexing popularity of Sky Dancers.
3. Disney electronic games
A ’90s kid will always claim their decade was when Disney really hit its stride – after all, it was the era that gave us big hitters like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Toy Story and countless other animated classics. But this only goes some way, however, in explaining the popularity of hand-held Disney electric consoles, which only let kids play one Disney-themed game.
2. American Girl dolls
These vaguely creepy dolls were the must-have item for any self-respecting ’90s girl. Their odd vacant expressions and perfectly coiffured hair brought delight to many a pre-teen — and the more you owned, the better.
1. Magic Scent Crayons
Last but not least, it sounds like a weird kind of madness to collect crayons that have different smells and which release their distinct scent while you color. But hey, this was the ’90s, and so anything goes.