For Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, the name Fisher-Price is synonymous with childhood. In fact, many of us came out of the womb and almost immediately encountered its Activity Center, an interactive toy that let you push buttons, turn dials, and move a tortoise and hare along a track. Then, there were those rainbow-colored plastic donuts known as Rock A Stack, the colorful and loud Popper Push Toy, the Marching Band kit with a drum, tambourine, cymbals, and maracas, and a wide variety of charming wooden pull toys shaped like animals, choo-choo trains, or even a rainbow-keyed xylophone.

As we grew up, we delighted in the magnetic Alphabet Letters that stuck to the magnetized chalkboard School Days lap desk, the Chatter Phone pull toy with its old-fashioned dial and cheerful face, and all the music boxes that resembled radios, TVs, and clocks that could be dialed to certain songs. And that’s not to mention perhaps the most well-loved of the company’s music boxes, the Fisher Price Change-A-Record. Last but not least, Fisher-Price created the Little People, a.k.a. Play Family, and all their elaborate playsets, which are the most collected of the company’s toys today.

Herman Fisher—with financial backing from Irving Price, Elbert Hubbard, and Helen Schelle—established Fisher-Price in East Aurora, New York, in 1930. The company, which started out producing pull toys made out of wood and lithographed paper, put a lot of thought into its designs, which had to meet the firm’s “five-point creed.” A Fisher-Price toy had to have intrinsic play value, ingenuity, strong construction, good value, and action.

These principles are obvious in its early pull toys, like the cycling monkey Lookee Monk, the acrobatic push clown Tumbling Tom, and the flat-bed riding Popeyes that rang bells or pounded drums. Of these pull toys, the ones with Walt Disney branding, like 1938’s Dopey and Doc and 1941’s Disney Circus, are most coveted by collectors today.

Up until 1969, Fisher-Price was owned by the four founders and a handful of stockholders. From 1969 to 1991, the company was a subsidiary of Quaker Oats. Briefly, in the 1990s, the company became independent again, only to be swallowed in 1993 by Barbie-making toy behemoth Mattel, which still owns the brand today.

In 1959, Fisher-Price introduced a pull toy called Safety School Bus (#983) that came with four wooden-peg people that could be removed. These 3-inch-tall figures were decorated with lithographed paper. The success of this toy led to two more like it, #168 Snorky Fire Engine and #234 Nifty Station Wagon, but the peg figures this time lost their lithographed clothes—instead their bodies were painted in primary colors. These figures are now referred to as Pre-Little People.

The first so-called “Little People” appeared in 1963, with the #932 Amusement Park and #719 Choo-Choo Train sets. These smaller wooden figures consisted of “straight-sided” bodie...

In 1965, Fisher-Price revamped the Play Family bodies to give them their “mushroom” shape—a standard that lasted until 1990. These new figures, which also came with plastic hair or hats, were first sold with the new School Bus (#192). Some straight-sided figures were sold side-by-side with the mushroom-shaped figures until 1973.

Plastic heads on wood bodies were also introduced in 1973. Two years later, Fisher-Price began to make the transition to all-plastic Little People. So in the '70s, it was possible to purchase a Play Family playset with a combination of all-wood, wood-and-plastic, and all-plastic figures in the same set. In 1975, the first licensed-character Little People set was introduced, based on Sesame Street. These toys are coveted by collectors now. The only other official Little People character toys were made for a 1990 McDonald’s playset.

By the 1980s, Little People were made only of plastic, and sold with few accessories. Then, in 1990, the original or “classic” Little People were determined to be a choking hazard for toddlers. By 1991, the line was replaced with wider plastic “Chunky” Little People, which were far less popular, and these were followed by the latest incarnation of bigger Little People in 1996. From the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, Fisher-Price produced two other types of action figures, called Adventure People and Husky Helpers.

Part of the reason vintage Little People are so hot right now is simply that parents remember the originals from their childhood, and want to have their kids play with the same toys. Little People figures and playsets that were played with and stored in hot attics may not have survived so well, with bubbles on their lithographed faces and designs. In contrast, mint-in-box playsets with all their original accessories command high prices from serious toy collectors.

Because the Little People were so wildly popular, many toy companies produced knockoffs, including Playskool Play Friends, Tomy People, and Ideal Playpal. ILLCO made some Walt Disney character figures and vehicles that fit with Little People toys and accessories, but Fisher-Price did not. The figures in Mattel’s Putt-Putt sets had bodies that fit the Little People vehicles and sets, but big wood heads. These Mattel toys are also rare and collectible now.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Fisher Price Little People Large Lot - 68 PiecesLarge Lot Of Vintage Fisher Price Little People - 63 PiecesVintage Fisher Price Little People Room Play Set 909 All Pieces Except For BagVintage Fisher Price Little People 1974 Play Family Castle #993 - 100% Complete2504 Vintage Fisher Price Little People Parking Garage, C.1970Vintage 1970s Fisher Price Safari Adventure People #304 Set Collie Dog Lot Complete Vintage Fisher Price Little People #994 CamperFisher Price Play Family Castle 1974 Castle With Little People & Horses Fp #993Vintage Fisher Price Little People Farm, Silo, No. 915, 1967Vintage 1986 Fisher Price Little People Swimming Pool #2526 W/ Accessories & BoxVintage Fisher Price Little People Airport Set #996 With Extras 1972 Boys&girls Vintage Fisher Price Collection Vintage Little People Toys Etc Huge!! Look!!Vintage Fisher Price Little People #929 Play Family Nursery School - Complete!Lot Vintage Fisher Price Pop Up Camper Boat Motorcycle Playground Little PeopleVintage Fisher Price Little People Lot Over 80 PiecesComplete Vintage Fisher Price Little People #923 School + ExtrasVintage Fisher Price Little People Circus Train With Animals & PeopleVintage Fisher Price Little People #993 Castle Dragon Queen Prince King WoodsmanVintage Fisher Price Farm Animals, Horse, Little People, Tractor, Silo #915 LotVintage Fisher Price Little People Bath & Utility Room Set - New In PackageVintage Fisher-price Little People Lot Of 7 – Boat Captain, Fireman, Shopkeeper Vintage Fisher Price 7 Piece Tv Radio Music Box Lot More Wood Pull Toys ListedVintage Fisher Price Little People Sesame StreetVintage Fisher Price Precious Places Magic Key Mansion Very NiceFisher Price Vtg Little People Play Family House # 952 & School Bus #192 Vintage Fisher Price #993 Little People Play Family Castle,exc.lithos,figures!!!Vintage Fisher-price Little People Kids And Dog Lot – Free Ship – Some HtfVintage 1986 Fisher Price Little People Swimming Pool #2526 W/ Accessories!Vintage Fisher Price Little People Horse Saddle For Western Town Playset~~htfVintage Fisher-price Little People Kids & Black Wood Dog Vintage 1967 Fisher Price Little People Farm Barn Silo Animals 915 Play Set Vintage Fisher Price Movie Viewer With 7 MoviesVintage Fisher Price Pocket Rockers Player Stand And 9 Mini TapesVintage Fisher Price Play Family Little People Plane Fun Jet #183 Airplane W/boxVintage Fisher Price Little People Farm Lot 10 Cow Horse Pig Fence Trough HorseVintage Fisher Price #952 Little People Tudor House/furniture/figures/more!Vintage Fisher-price Little People Red Mom, Green Dad, Orange Girl & Yellow BoyComplete Vintage Fisher Price Little People #915 Farm + ExtrasVintage Fisher Price Little People - Play Family House In BoxVtg Fisher Price Little People Play House Tudor Brown Pool Furniture Jump RopeVintage Fisher Price 929 Play Family Little People Nursery School W/box Complete Lot Of 60 Vintage Fisher Price W/ Hard To Find / Rare Little People No ReserveVintage Fisher Price Sesame Street Little People LotVintage Fisher Price Movie Viewer 7 Cartridges Disney Sesame Street ActionfilmsVintage Fisher Price Little People School LotLot Of 5 Disney's Gummi Bears Posable Vinyl Figures 1985 Fisher PriceComplete Vintage Fisher Price Little People #997 Village W/original MailVintage Fisher Price Little People Airport Box 996 Complete Helicopter Lot PilotComplete Vintage Fisher Price Little People #985 Houseboat Set + Extras!Rare Vintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family Fire House Station 928 W/boxVintage Sesame Street Fisher Price People Figures Lot MuppetsVintage Fisher-price Little People 938 Sesame Street Muppet "herry Monster" 1973Vintage Fisher Price Little People Playset Accessories Lot W/ Cars 40 PiecesVintage Fisher Price Little People Green Blue Airplane Plane 70-72 Play FamilyVintage Fisher Price Toy Farm Animals,tractor & FencesVintage Fisher Price Little People Incomplete Circus Train 991 With RingmasterVintage Fisher Price Little People Castle KnightVintage Fisher Price Little People Lot-fire Truck Ambulance Police Car 5 FiremenVintage Fisher Price Little People Lot Of 3 Cars Blue Red And YellowVintage Fisher Price Little People Baby & Teacher's Chair