It’s hard to imagine the holiday season without toy commercials flooding the airwaves. But in the mid-20th century, advertising products to children was still a relatively new concept. To get a better understanding of this era, check out the vintage ad for Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head above.
When Mr. Potato Head hit shelves in 1952, customers were expected to provide their own potato. Instead of animating a hollow plastic body, they stuck hands, feet, ears, mouths, eyes, noses, and accessories into whatever spare fruit or vegetables they had at home. The kit consisted of nearly 30 features and cost just 98 cents.
Unlike regular dolls, a Mr. Potato head kit wasn’t self-explanatory. Hasbro decided it was worth investing in TV ads for the product—a first for the toy industry. The historic marketing move helped sell more than 1 million Mr. Potato Heads the year of its debut and pushed other toy companies to market on television.
This vintage commercial came out in the early 1906s before Mr. Potato Head (and his newly introduced wife, Mrs. Potato Head) underwent a major change. In 1964, the toy started coming with a plastic, potato-shaped body with holes for limbs and facial features. The plastic accessories no longer needed to be sharp enough to pierce an actual potato—and parents would no longer find vegetables rotting in their children’s bedrooms. The update may have been better for everyone in the long run, but when watching the commercial above, it’s hard not to long for the days when random produce could provide hours of entertainment.