Long queues of people push and shove at each other. Occasionally, their desperation even leads to violence. It reads like the script for a disaster movie, with people fighting for access to food or water. But this is the 1980s and the objects of their desire are not essentials but toy dolls. Dolls with a controversial and, until recently, mostly unknown history.
The 1980s were a big decade for toy fads. The Rubik’s Cube, My Little Pony and Transformers all sold in their millions. Every kid wanted the latest novelty under their Christmas tree. But if there was one toy that really captured the hearts of children – and some adults – during the ’80s it was the Cabbage Patch Kids.
In 1984 alone, the dolls, along with the clothes, cereals, lunchboxes and other merchandise licensed with the Cabbage Patch name, generated $2 billion in sales. The toys themselves created a desire that verged on hysteria. Disturbances broke out when some outlets couldn’t meet the demand.