5 retro toys that had to be taken off the shelves for being too dangerous
Absentee parents and stupid kids spoil the fun for the rest of us. Case-in-point: Rad toys that met their demise because they were deemed too dangerous to our precious youth.
Here, we’re breaking down some of the most infamous toys that met the banhammer in epic ways.
There’s a mid-80s home video of my extended family having a Fourth of July cookout. Some folks are dancing, others are playing Badminton, a group are laughing and chatting — everyone is drinking alcohol. And then you see us kids in the background, tossing lawn darts with wild abandon.
This tableau perfectly explains why Lawn Darts, from HASBRO, had a litigious history. In the span of eight years in the '80s, 6,100 people were sent to the emergency room due to injury — 81% of those people were 15 or younger.
But, boy, were they fun.
I suppose when you give people — who are either drunk on alcohol or drunk on being an idiot kid — an incredibly sharp, oversized dart to toss around the lawn, someone’s going to get stabbed.
The actual point of the game is to toss your dart into a plastic ring from a distance, but people being people, the darts found themselves stuck in arms, legs, and other body parts far too often.
They were officially banned from The United States and Canada in 1989, and are currently on the U.S. Customs list of banned items for entry into the United States.
A simple brushing-up on Newton’s Laws of Motion would explain where this one is going.
Clackers! Or, to some, Klackers.
According to Wikipedia, the toy was “two plastic spheres suspended on string which, when swung up and down, [would] bang against each other, making a clacking sound.” Hey, that doesn’t sound so harmful. “Clackers are similar in appearance to bolas, the Argentine weapon,” continues Wikipedia.
Oh, well, yeah, that could be an issue.
While I’m sure a number of skulls were knocked and eyes were bruised in the wake of Clackers’ popularity in the '60s and '70s, the true hidden danger proved a bit more sinister. The charmingly simple toy had a knack for exploding upon contact, firing shards of acrylic plastic into the innocent faces of America’s youth.
Every kid will be emotionally scarred at some point, but the literal scarring of the face was a step too far. Clackers were classified a “mechanical hazard” in 1976.
Fun fact No. 1: The demise of Clackers created one of the most wonderfully-named lawsuits of all-time: United States v. Article Consisting of 50,000 Cardboard Boxes More or Less, Each Containing One Pair of Clacker Balls.
Fun fact No. 2: The toy found brief popularity in Egypt in 2017. However, after earning a name that equated it with a certain body part of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the toy was banned and deemed offensive by the government.
Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids
The concept for the Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids doll from the '90s is as simple as it is bizarre: Kids feed their little cabbages pieces of plastic food.
Through the wonders of a motorized mechanism in the mouth, the lips pull in the plastic, and then it’s expelled into the doll’s backpack, because why not?
But plastic wasn’t the only thing this doll was consuming. The ever-hungry little devil toy also had a taste for little girls’ hair, fingers, and who knows what else.
After a hugely successful holiday shopping season in 1996, the product was taken off shelves the following month when Mattel and the Consumer Product Safety Commission came to an agreement — or more accurately, after a lot of pissed-off parents picked up the phone to file a complaint.
“Battlestar Galactica” Space Toys
Despite a passionate cult fan base, the original run of “Battlestar Galactica” (1978) wasn’t exactly a runaway hit. After 17 original episodes, it was put out to pasture. But its legacy was revitalized — and improved upon — by giving us the 2000s reboot, which despite its controversial ending, is one of the greatest shows of all time.
The original run also gave us a nice artifact from the past in “Battlestar Galactica” licensed toys from Mattel.
Like the wildly successful Star Wars toys, the Battlestar figures brought the sci-fi series to life in the form of Colonial Viper and Cylon Raider vehicles. But like the show, the toys were short-lived.
In 1979, Mattel came to an agreement with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the vehicles. The issue? Like in the show, the vehicle’s lasers proved quite effective — i.e., kids were choking on them.
In a press release, the toy company announced a “Missile Mail-In” program, after reports of multiple chokings and one death related to the plastic projectiles. In return, kids received a free Hot Wheels toy car.
Just another example of jocks imposing their will upon nerds.
Although never outright banned nationwide, Slap Bracelets skyrocketed to the top of every concerned principal’s list of potential hazards in the late ’80s, and for good reason.
While millennials may know these as totally safe, neon-colored, snappy bracelets, the original version was a different beast. What would be considered contraband in any prison, the original Slap Bracelet featured TOTALLY REASONABLE flexible stainless-steel bistable spring bands wrapped in fabric.
After lots of slapping on and peeling off, the fabric had a tendency to wear away, exposing a sharp steel edge, which just so happened to rub up against the veins of a wearer’s wrist. Later versions would feature a plastic band, instead of steel.
Before the '80s were out, multiple schools across the country banned the accessory.
About the author: Chris Staten is a freelance writer focusing on pop culture and the craft beer industry, and loves basking in that awkward moment of silence between movie previews. See his work at www.cmstaten.com.