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.
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.
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.”
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.