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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Apr 15, 2015
Headline for Little Worlds: 10 Tiny Vintage Toys
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Little Worlds: 10 Tiny Vintage Toys

"Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognized before it can speak." -John Berger in Ways of Seeing Toys introduce us to the world.

It's hard to believe that these toys are considered vintage when many of us played with them in the 80s and 90s. Some of them, like toy soldiers, still live on the shelves of toy stores. Some toys are still around in different form, and others are gone forever. Here are 10 tiny vintage toys.

1

Vintage Polly Pockets 1989-now (in different form)

Vintage Polly Pockets 1989-now (in different form)

In Mythologies, Roland Barthes states that "(a) toy always signifies something, and that something is always entirely socialized, constituted, by the myths and techniques of modern adult life..."

The vintage Polly Pocket play sets have a little world already built inside a tiny compact. Everything is already there, and most of the pieces cannot be moved around or manipulated (besides Polly herself). The colours, arrangement, scene, and characters are already chosen for the child. This is something Barthes saw as problematic in most toys. Its a kind of conditioning that doesn't let in any imagination or change. The world is already there to be explored but never altered. It's sort of a preparation.

2

Mighty Max 1992-

Mighty Max 1992-

Mighty Max was the "boy" version of Polly Pocket (these toys are obviously gendered, another socializing technique). Max was an explorer while Polly was a housekeeper/consumer/princess. Every Mighty Max compact was an unfamiliar and scary place for its main character, while Polly was completely comfortable in her surroundings and never in fear. The shape of the toy is similar, but the tiny space inside each of these compacts is full of the meaning and myth we generate in our society.

3

Vintage Littlest Pet Shop 1992-now (In different form)

Vintage Littlest Pet Shop 1992-now (In different form)

These Littlest Pet Shop toys were huge when I was little. Every one of my friends had at least one. Unlike the Littlest Pet Shop toys today, these toys resembled real animals. Cultural theorist John Berger talks about the history of our connection to animals. They started out as symbols in our caves, were moved into carts, then factories, and now are place in Zoos so we can look at them. Littlest Pet Shop toys are the animals that don't look back. Their landscape is constructed from plastic and the tiny smiles on their faces tell us they love their cages. They reduce our anxiety by solidifying in plastic, the difference between human animals and non-human animals (an unstable binary).

4

Micro Machines 1986-2006

Micro Machines 1986-2006

Micro Machines were easily my favourite toy growing up, so I never really understood why my brother would get them for Christmas and I wouldn't. With Micro Machines, you didn't need little people to create a world. The cars represented people. All you needed to construct a society were a bunch of tiny machines with wheels. The assumption of life was easy without a face.

5

Micro Machines Z bots 1992-1994

Micro Machines Z bots 1992-1994

I love how the Micro Machines world has no humans at all. The interesting thing is, we all played with these robots as if they were actually human. How else could we imagine them? Who knew that kids would be so involved in post-humanist experiments? (kidding).

6

Tiny Food

Tiny Food

The tiny pantry was a big deal for the doll house. These weren't just innocent apples and oranges. They were full on miniatures of actual household groceries we would buy in the store. They were mini advertisements, gearing kids up for the adult world of shopping and errands.

7

Tiny Tea Set

Tiny Tea Set

A tea cup represents many different things; relaxation, socializing, kitchen decoration, ect. The mini tea set is the ultimate symbol of girlhood.

8

Teeny Tiny Collection

Teeny Tiny Collection

The Teeny Tiny Collection were a bit like Polly Pockets except that the compacts weren't 3D worlds you could play in, they were just pictures. The backgrounds were kind of like the set of a crappy high school play. At least you could alter these worlds by cutting and pasting a different background, one from your own imagination, into the compact.

9

Old School 25 cent Machine Toys

Old School 25 cent Machine Toys

There were some pretty cute toys that would come out of these machines. The best thing about them is that they were toys that didn't come in some elaborate, constructed set that does all the imagining for you. With these toys, you could introduce them to other toys, create worlds for them, and build something from your own mind.

10

Toy Soldiers

Toy Soldiers

These are the obviously ideological classic children's toys. They have this way of imitating war but erasing all the blood, gore, chaos, and trauma that comes along with it.