Yard Sale Finds: Massive Bin of Happy Meal Toys Edition

This past weekend, I bought about thirty pounds of Happy Meal Toys, which were filled to the brim of one of those industrial-sized plastic bins, all from the 1980s and 1990s. Ten bucks, the whole thing. It’s not even that I collect Happy Meal toys. But ten bucks is a cheap price of admission for a great nostalgia treasure hunt. Who knows what could have been in that box? I was game to find out.

This was somebody’s serious collection. It wasn’t just McDonald’s toys, but also Wendy’s, Burger King, and other fast food freebies, as well as cereal prizes and other food premiums, everything sealed in the original wrappers. It was indiscriminate collecting—sheer quantity over quality. While a lot of cool, classic toys were represented here, there was also a bunch of complete crap. If there’s anyone out there in the world who would like about twenty sealed Furby Happy Meal toys, please write me.

The people selling it didn’t seem to be the original owners. They were thrilled to get ten whole dollars for the bin and only lamented that their little granddaughter would be sad since she liked to take toys from the bin every time she came over to visit. I only feel slightly bad about that. I mean, imagine being five-years-old and Grandma’s house has a massive bin of free-for-all toys.

But what I’m taking from the kid, I’m giving to the world in blog form.

These are the kinds of toys I’m talking about when I say “cool” and “classic.” If you’re of a certain age, you’ll undoubtedly have a nostalgia for the Ducktales, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock Happy Meal toys. There was something about these toys that had an allure over us all—even our parents who took us to McDonald’s multiple visits just to get them. The other thing about them is that they were really well-made and wonderfully-designed. The colors were vivid. They were fun to play with. Today’s Happy Meal toys are drab and boring in comparison.

Still, there were no holy grails in the box. There were no complete runs of McDonald’s Changeables or McNugget Buddies. I couldn’t get excited about too many of the toys in there. Out of the three-hundred-plus items in the box, I kept about twenty for my own collection. The rest I divided up between eBay fodder and charity. If it had ended there, I would have been somewhat disappointed in my treasure hunt.

But it did not end there. Buried deep within the depths of the bin, there was a handful of really random, oddball treasures that really shouldn’t have survived the last quarter-century passage of time. This is the sort of stuff that should have been thrown in a trashcan back in 1988, never to see the light of day again.

This was more than a treasure hunt. This was an archaeological dig. Here are the fifteen most interesting finds.

15. These Burger King Ninja Turtle Stickers

Controversial Statement: The Burger King Kids were cooler than the McDonaldland characters. I mean, as much as anyone loved Ronald McDonald, he was always kind of creepy, right? And who would you rather hang out with? Kid Vid and friends, right? The Hamburglar was the coolest of the bunch but you know all he’d do is rob you.

And what the hell was Grimace, anyway? I’ve been searching for this answer for years. If anyone knows, please write me.

14. This Silly Sipper Straw

I’ve been stashing stuff like this away in a secret box of awesome. Then on some rainy day when our future kids are old enough, I’m going to pull out this box filled with secret dinosaur toys and secret silly straws and blow their minds.

(The wife wishes to interrupt this post and say she’s not going to let our kid play with some dirty plastic straw from Wendy’s from the 1980s. But I promise I’ll wash with warm water and mild detergent just like the instructions say.)

13. McDonaldland Rings

These are simple plastic rings, the kind you would desperately compete for at your crappy little McDonald’s birthday party right before having slice of the rock-solid frozen cake with Ronald McDonald plastered on it. They’ve just got an awesome old-school look and make for a neat little piece of McDonald’s nostalgia.

12. This Coupon for Corn Pops from 1989

It has no expiration date. I’m totally going to try using it. For sociology. I can’t decide if I should do it in the self-checkout line or if I should take it to the cashier just to see their face. Of course I risk two things: the zombie cashier showing no emotional response and not realizing the sheer thrill of scanning a twenty-three year old coupon—or the coupon not working and me looking like the asshole trying to redeem it. But really, this is the kind of thing that sociologists deal with all the time “in the field.”

Eh, I’ll probably chicken out and use the self-checkout. God help us all if that flashing help light comes on though.

11. These Alpha-Bits Cereal Prizes

This is another thing for my secret box of awesome. I’m not quite sure what they are, but anything with “riddle machine” and “word robot” is bound to be good. Also, Alpha-Bits! Does this cereal even still exist? According to the Internet, it does. I haven’t seen it in a grocery store in forever, but maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough.

10. Christmas Ornaments!

These are definitely going on the tree this year in prime locations. Especially the collectible glass Energizer Bunny Hallmark ornament from 1994. That qualifies as a “fancy” ornament, the kind that goes securely high-up in the tree so that the nosy dog can’t yank it down. The alligator was some sort of Wendy’s Christmas promotion. Then there’s Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid. Crabs wearing mittens always get me. Always.

9. These French’s Dinosaur stickers

Dinosaurs playing saxophone! Dinosaurs in football helmets! I can’t decide whether to stash these in my box of awesome or secretly hoard them all for myself for times of private worship alone with the stickers.

8. This Ghostbusters ruler

Yeah, this ruler is warped and bent from two decades of sitting in a damp basement, which sort of makes its existence pointless, but I had to throw it in this fifteen things list because, well, it still exists. You can’t tell from the picture, but it’s also holographic. Basically, holographic Ghostbusters rulers are going to be crack to me, warped smelliness and everything.

7. Speaking of things that are like crack to me….

Collecting little rubber and PVC figures is my favorite thing now, even moreso than the Ninja Turtles and video games. Completely generic rubber toys are even better, and I have a special love for the robot/alien/ninja eraser-like figures here. Then there’s the Tang Lips, those kwazy cousins of the California Raisins.

6. Fast Food Ashtrays

These were the most oddball and unexpected find in the box, as well as a neat piece of history. These little tin ashtrays would have been in the smoking sections of fast food restaurants, now about as extinct as the dinosaurs and the Arch Deluxe.

5. Darkwing Duck Fanny Pack

Over the years I’ve noticed that Darkwing Duck, Ducktales, and Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers have all conflated into one singular cartoon in my mind. And I probably would have told you Darkwing and Ducktales were one and the same until I saw this fanny pack and remembered its existence.

And speaking of remembering their existence: fanny packs. There was like one hot minute the summer of 1991 where fanny packs were a must-have item. They were Crocs of their day, where comfort and convenience irrationally blinded everyone to their hideous uncoolness. Even I had one, and I remember totally rocking it around the waist during one awkward goober trip to the beach. Whatever, it was convenient for quarters for the arcade. Thankfully, most of us regained our composure and promptly ditched the bags after that summer, but somehow a faithful contingent of frumpy moms and campers have kept the fanny pack going to this day.

4. This Crazed Tennis-Playing Madball

So clearly this isn’t an actual Madball, but I call any ball with a face a Madball and placed it in with my Madballs collection. Look at the crazed face! The lipstick! The earrings! THE LOVE.

3. Dinosaur Figures!

So we’ve got a McDonald’s dino, a Pebbles Cereal prize dino, a Land Before Time dino, and a TRICERATOPS COIN. That coin is easily as good to me as legal tender. In fact, I think they should change our national currency to dinosaur coins.

2. This Amazing Pencil Case

Two words. Totally hot. I’m pretty sure some fashion-forward elementary-schooler could still rock this pencil case in school today.

1. This Magnet

To me, this magnet was the crown jewel of the box, the complete worth of my ten-dollar investment. Just imagine the quaintness of having a service hotline magnet for your video game system on your refrigerator alongside the magnet for the Chinese food place down the street. And that is what basically sums up the 1990s, this treasure hunt, and everything I’ve ever lived for in my stupid life.

22 thoughts on “Yard Sale Finds: Massive Bin of Happy Meal Toys Edition

  1. Ever notice how they would always slap Raphael on most 3rd-party TMNT merchandise but give him dialog that is clearly within Michaelangelo’s vernacular? I think Turtlemania was so prolific marketers just didn’t care; as long as it had TMNT anything on it, it was successful.

    Also, re: that righteous pencil case–fast food is a respectable theme for school supplies and will never go out of style, as far as I’m concerned. Kids need something appetizing to stare out as they’re counting down those agonizing minutes until the lunch bell.

    1. good observation about raphael. yeah I totally remember “staring out” into my pencil case, but I never had one as cool as the french fries and cheeseburger pencil case.

  2. How does one buy 30 pounds? WOW! Take them down here to Mexico and one could EASILY sell them for a buck a piece. No lie.

  3. You may have only spent ten dollars, but the contents of that plastic bin is clearly priceless. Were there any comic book related toys in there that you might be selling on teh eBay?

  4. Those alien eraser-like toys are Deiner space aliens – some of the earlier toys McDonald’s featured in their kids meals. And I’m pretty sure Grimace is supposed to be a milkshake blob. He was originally a four armed villain and stole milkshakes.

  5. No, no, no! The Ghostbusters ruler isn’t holographic – it’s lenticular. I remember that McDonald’s Happy Meal. It was around 1987 and they were Ghostbusters school supplies. There was a logo pencil sharpener, a logo eraser and a pencil topper of Slimer flying around the firehouse. I never got that ruler, but wanted it most of all.

    I actually got McDonalds Corporate to confirm Grimace’s identity on Twitter. I saved that one for the ages. Basically, he represents milkshakes. Yeah, don’t ask why or how…

    You couldn’t pass up a deal like that. People not in the scene don’t be it. Hell, I bought a $10 vacuum at a yard sale last weekend. Why? TEN DOLLAR vacuum!

    I was reading along, hoping for some of those kids meal holy grails, like the Wendy’s Gobots stuff or the aforementioned McNuggets. Still, I envy your archeological dig!

    1. maybe it’s something spiritual with the milkshake representation. I really wish there was a Slimer Pencil topper in the box. Or yeah, GoBots. Or anything besides another effing Furby!

  6. OMG so many toys I used to have!! I almost bought some of the Muppet Babies toys with the vehicles on eBay, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the price they wanted. To find them at a garage sale would be supreme. I need to get out with you sometime.

  7. P.S. I think we still have some of the little mermaid ornaments. I am pretty sure Flounder with his little Santa hat is laying around somewhere.

  8. P.P.S. If you ever find the musical Oliver and Company stuffed toys and you get dupes, let me know! My childhood bully stole mine from me.

  9. The Real Gosthbusters was one of my favorite cartoons in late 80s. I watched the version for Latin America. Slimer was known as “Pegajoso” and the show as “Los Verdaderos Cazafantasmas” :D

  10. I think you have Gruffi bear from Disney’s Gummi Bears cartoon in #7. (I had no idea I was capable of recognizing and naming the Gummi Bears until reading this post…thank you?)

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