As a child, there was nothing I looked forward to more than the annual arrival of the Christmas catalog. You see kids, in the days before the internet and cell phones and such you had to rely on catalogs and brick and mortar stores to handle your Christmas shopping. In fact, the catalogs were essentially the internet, given unto us once a year sometime n November.
There were three players in the catalog game when I was a kid – J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears. They all offered basically the same thing but the layout was always different. Of course it was. They were different companies for crying out loud. regardless, each one was a whole new world to me.
I’d eagerly take the catalog and begin thumbing through it. The toys were towards the back half and I always flipped to the exact same page to start. This is that section from the 1980 J.C. Penney Christmas catalog:
Yes, the Star Wars toys, especially in 1980 when “Empire” had just been released and there was no “Return of the Jedi”. These toys, along with Superman, basically consumed my childhood. Later G.I. Joe would show up but it was always this section that was the first to get six year-old fingerprints on it. And look at those prices! As I look at these pages today I almost wish I had never opened any of this stuff, knowing what they would be worth today. Then again, my busted up collection of Star Wars toys that are missing most of the weapons are worth more to me as they are right now than they ever would be had I never played with them.
Once my Star Wars fix had been taken care of, I moved on to other sections of the catalog. I’m not kidding when I say you could get anything from these catalogs. For example, just look at this state of the art computer system!
The Atari 800 could be yours for the low price of $1,090.00! Add the printer and floppy disk drive and you could save a ton, getting that bundle for the phenomenally inexpensive price of $2,079.90! In fact, a few years later I would find an Atari 800XL beneath the Christmas tree. It was basically a keyboard with a cartridge slot on the top, but man did I play the hell out of Star Raiders.
Don’t forget about the awesome sports clothes you could get! Just look at these fly jerseys!
Remember these old handheld games?
And let’s not forget the firearms and lingerie!
There was absolutely nothing you couldn’t get from these three catalogs, and I leafed through those things religiously for weeks leading up to Christmas. Truth be told, I miss those old things. As time passed and I grew older, the catalogs began to get smaller and smaller. 1993 marked the end of the Sears catalog. J.C. Penney lasted until a few years ago, amazingly enough. As for Montgomery Ward, I can’t seem to find a date that their catalog died, but they probably fell out around the same time as Sears.
I miss these old catalogs, I really do. They always started the countdown to Christmas for me. It’s a shame we don’t get them anymore.
By the way, if you want to waste some time reminiscing, check out Wish Book Web. They have scanned a ton of these catalogs and you can leaf through them just like old times.