Although McDonald’s has been around since 1940, Happy Meals didn’t officially appear until the late 1970s, after one of their biggest competitors, the now-defunct Burger Chef, used toys to draw in families. “We were losing our endorsement of the kids,” Bob Bernstein, an advertising executive who helped create the Happy Meal, told CNN in a recent interview. “We wanted to reestablish ourselves with kids and the family and say we were kid friendly.”
When Bernstein saw his son mesmerized by cereal boxes every day while eating breakfast, he realized that was the ticket. (And that’s when he and his team invented the first Happy Meal kid’s meal box.) Their first attempt was in 1977, and included a burger, fries, cookies, a soda, and a small toy; the box was also decorated with comics, puzzles, and games because he’d realized in watching his son that “kids want something to do when they eat.”
Initially, Happy Meals were only offered in Kansas City, Denver, and Phoenix-based franchises, as other major markets were reluctant to embrace the concept. By 1979, after more than a year of success with it, the Happy Meal finally went national and the popularity of the toys began to rise.
Now, decades later, McDonald’s is known for its kid-friendly appeal, including those famous trinkets that most of us came to treasure at different moments in our childhood. If you still have those McDonald’s toys, it may surprise you that some are worth money—and down below are some of the most lucrative ones.
1. McDonaldland ’70s Plush Toys
Although McDonald’s nationally launched the Happy Meal in 1979, it wasn’t the first time they released toys based on characters they advertised to children. In the ’70s, they created a fictional universe where Ronald McDonald and his friends lived. They released commercials promoting characters such as Hamburgler, Officer Big Mac, Mayor McCheese, and more.
McDonald’s created toys from those characters; two, in particular, are valuable. A rubber Mayor McCheese toy recently sold on eBay for $330, although most tend to sell for between $50 to $70. Meanwhile, a dual set of plush Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac toys recently netted upwards of $225 on the site. These characters may be worth more money because they stopped being used in commercials in the 1980s.
2. Dukes of Hazzard Cars
The Dukes of Hazzard premiered in 1979 and was one of the most popular shows on television for years until its final airing in 1985. So, it should come as little surprise that McDonald’s found a way to incorporate the show into Happy Meals. The toys were modeled after the cars featured, like the General Lee, an orange 1969 Dodge Charger. You could make the toy look just like the cars from the show thanks to a sheet of stickers included with the meal—one of which was of the Confederate flag.
Now these Happy Meal relics are worth a bundle. A full collection recently sold on the site for upwards of $350, and a single General Lee was listed for $250. One possible reason for the greater value of the General Lee toys is because of the Confederate flag sticker that was included; the controversy surrounding the flag with that car is was why TV Land stopped airing the show in 2015.
3. McNugget Buddies Toys
In 1983, McDonald’s added chicken nuggets to their menu, calling them McNuggets. By the late ’80s, they had become so popular that a new line of toys appeared in Happy Meals based off the food. Known as McNugget Buddies, the trinkets sported removable costumes (each with their own theme) and appeared regularly in Happy Meals. Although they stopped being featured circa 1996, the toys were a hit with kids. (The fast food titan also recently brought them back in new, limited-edition adult Happy Meals.)
A complete set of McNugget Buddies is the ticket to some incredible eBay resale value. Opened and used, this lot of eight Halloween-themed toys from the early 1990s sold for about $112. However, other open sets usually sell for between $100 and $250. McNugget Buddies left in their original packaging, like this set, have sold for more than $200.
4. Changeables Toys
When Hasbro launched the Transformers line in 1984, it became one of the most seminal toys of the decade. It also had a big impact on pop culture, leading to an animated television show, a 1986 animated film, and more. Of course, McDonald’s joined the fun with their Happy Meal version of the popular toy—but theirs were referred to as Changeables, and the figures were originally modeled after classic menu items (and could turn into robots).
If you happen to have any Changeables still left over from the 1980s, you could be sitting on a small fortune. A complete, unopened set recently sold on eBay for over $400. However, most collections go for between $100 to $150.
5. McFurby Toys
If you had a Furby back in the late 1990s, you could officially count yourself as one of the cool kids on the playground. While the toy has gone through many iterations over the years, it’s still a popular pick for little ones to this day. In 1999, McDonald’s released a set of 80 McFurbys, all in different colors. Today those toys—much like the original Furby—are worth a nice chunk of change.
However, the caveat to remember is you need all 80 McFurby toys to really reap the rewards: A complete set recently sold for about $150. On the other hand, a lot of 44 recently went for about $55. Smaller collections generally sell for between $1 to $25.
6. Boo Buckets
McDonald’s beloved Boo Buckets made their debut in 1986, featuring the orange McPunk’n, the white McBoo (a ghost), and the green McGoblin (modeled after a witch). For Millennials, they became a holiday staple for Halloween, and a cute way for kids to collect candy.
Although the restaurant chain brought them back in 2022 after a long absence, there’s something special about the ones from the ’80s and ’90s. A complete collection of the three buckets from 1990 sold for about $150 on eBay, while this lot of 17 sold from 1986 sold for $200. Also, each face has three separate expressions; if you happen to have all three of one style, you could make at least $70 on the site, like this seller did with a spooky McGoblin set. Even having just a small collection of Boo Buckets could earn between $50 and $100.