A Nostalgic Look Back at the Sears Christmas Wish Book

For many children, the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wish Book heralded the official beginning of the holiday season. The catalogs were carefully studied, and toys longingly admired until the pages were dog-eared and tattered. The first Sears Christmas Book debuted in 1933 offering items like the “Miss Pigtails” doll, live singing canaries, fruitcake, and a Mickey Mouse watch.

Letter to Santa – 1933

Over the years, the pages of the Sears Wish Book were filled with toys and gifts that offered a historical snapshot of what was happening in middle-class America at the time.

In 1937, Sears advertised tractor sets and Shirley Temple dolls. Pedal cars were all the rage and sold for about $10. Just five years later, in 1942, the world was at war. The Sears Christmas Book urged Americans to send gifts to members of the Armed Forces. The Christmas Book also allowed families to do their Christmas shopping from home, filling a need when wartime rations on gasoline and tires prevented shopping excursions into town.

Roy Rogers Inspired Gifts 1949

In 1949, Western TV shows and movies exploded in popularity. Roy Rogers was known as the “King of the Cowboys” and that year, the Christmas Book offered a variety of Roy Rogers inspired Christmas gifts and even Roy Rogers school supplies

America entered the Space Race in the 1960s. Children everywhere dreamed of becoming an astronaut and in 1968 the Major Matt Mason astronaut action figure was a popular toy. That’s also the year that Sears embraced the nickname of its Christmas catalog and officially renamed it the Wish Book. Other popular toys during the 1968 holiday season included Hot Wheels cars and G.I. Joe.

In 1975 as Americans prepared to celebrate the Bicentennial, nostalgic American themed toys such as toy fife and drum sets, Colonial dolls and models of the USS Constitution were popular. In contrast, that was the same year that Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft. In a glimpse of the high-tech explosion soon to come, the Wish Book advertised the new electronic game Pong. It was described as a “fast-paced electronic ‘table tennis’ game you play on your own TV.”

Atari Pong Ad – 1975

Transformers exploded on the scene in 1984. The popular transforming robot toys proved wildly successful for kids. It was like getting two toys for the price of one. In 1984, a first-generation Optimus Prime sold for $22.99 in the Wish Book. That same toy is now highly collectible and according to some reports can sell for as much as $12,000

In 1993, as consumer shopping habits changed, Sears announced that it was dropping the Wish Book and getting out of the catalog business. Does the Wish Book bring back a flood of memories from your childhood? If you want to take a trip down memory lane, enjoy free access* to the Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co. on Ancestry through January 2, 2020; and search historic ads and news stories related to the Wish Book on Newspapers.com today!

*You can explore this amazing collection for free now through 11:59 pm MT on 02 Jan 2020.

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16 thoughts on “A Nostalgic Look Back at the Sears Christmas Wish Book

  1. I can’t find The Wish Book, only the Sears Spring and Fall catalogs. How do I access The Wish Book?

    • “ In 1993, as consumer shopping habits changed, Sears announced that it was dropping the Wish Book and getting out of the catalog business.“ — from the article.

      • Stopping the catalogs was the worst thing for me and other people who couldn’t drive and others with mobility issues and seniors. I miss the catalogs so much. My Dad worked two jobs so my mother ordered just about everything from the catalog and had it delivered to the house much like e-commerce today except ordering by mail.

    • I can’t access any of the Christmas Books either. The only options on the pull down menu are spring and fall! Does anyone at Newspapers.com know this?? How about fixing it?? Meanwhile this is a website that contains many (not all) of the Christmas Books for free!! http://www.wishbookweb.com/the-catalogs/

    • I can’t access any of the Christmas Books either. The only options on the pull down menu are spring and fall! Does anyone at Newspapers.com know this?? How about fixing it?? Meanwhile this is a website that contains many (not all) of the Christmas Books for free!! http://www.wishbookweb.com/the-catalogs/

    • Hi,

      I thought the same thing but if you go back and read the statement it talks about the Wish Books but only states that you can read articles about them. It does say you can look at Sears Merchandise catalogs for free until January 2, 2020. I think they should have worded the article better.

  2. The Sears Toy Catalog arrived at our house around the same time our “Christmas Club” checks arrived. I could write a shopping list, then go to Sears and order the items. I remember when I ordered the dinosaur! It took batteries. Batteries were a must have gift. It seems like yesterday:)

    • It seems like these days there’s hardly a toy, nor anything for that matter, that doesn’t need batteries of some form, an electrical outlet, or a usb port. When the eldest of my 2 grandsons was born I was astonished that every single toy, even some of the stuffed animals, all emitted many bright flashing lights, loud music and/or chattering,singing voices. I thought about a newborn’s wee fragile nerves inability to deal with so much stimuli. As he grew in the subsequent months I suggested to my daughter that she should arrange some “quiet play” a couple times a day to help with jangled nervous systems when my grandson would fuss terribly in the evenings & had trouble settling down at bedtime. She chose not to take my advice & is still struggling with these issues since another grandson has come along in the meantime. I just think a few more “old-fashioned” toys would be nice.

  3. The original “Amazon” in paper form; golden opportunity and following. Too bad so sad the leadership didn’t see the value. Pick from the catalog, order it and pick it up. What a concept!

  4. In the early days of the PC the computer columnists often said that there were limites to how far a founder could take a company and then he/she/they should step aside for professional management. I noticed that few such companies survived two more years. Either the professional managers ran he company into the ground, preferring discipline and rules to talent, or the sold the company for parts, mostly the patents. Sears was likewise a victim of the myth of the all wise Wall Street management team.

  5. Wow, nostalgia! As a kid, I always made my Christmas wish list by pouring over the Sears Christmas Catalog. I don’t think I ever actually got any gifts from Sears as a result of my making that list, but it was still fun to dream and wish …. and it kept me busy for hours. (That was probably more of a gift to my parents!)

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