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 Vehicle LotVintage 5pc Lot New In Box Fisher Price Play Food Sets,soup,pizza,burger,n MoreVintage Fisher Price Fun With Food 681, 919, 918 Stove, Sink, Tea Set, DishesVintage Fisher Price Play Family Little People Lot Plastic Bodies Sesame StreetVintage Fisher Price Little People Lot Figures Vehicles Accessories Farm Animals5 Fisher Price Coins For #926 Vintage Cash Register 2 Blue 2 Yellow 1 Red1969 Vintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family House # 952Fisher Price Little People Vintage Silo And Farm PiecesFisher Price Vintage Little People Circus Train 991 String Pull ToyVintage Fisher Price Little People Barn #915 Play Family Farm Set W/ Accessories1975 Fisher Price Play Family Sesame Street Playhouse #938 + Little PeopleVintage Fisher Price Circus Train # 991 + Many ExtrasVintage 1971 Fisher Price Music Box Record Player With 5 Records Works! # 995Vintage Fisher Price Little People #991 Circus Train 100% Complete Box Rare SetVintage 1973 Fisher Price Circus Train #991 W/little People & Animals.Vintage Original 1976 Fisher Price Kermit The Frog Muppet DollVintage 1969 Fisher Price Little People Family Play House Complete With Org BoxVintage 1977 Fisher Price Little People Family Mini Bus Mib Sealed In BoxVintage Fisher-price Little People School Bus Pull Toy #192 Complete!Vintage Fisher Price Castle #993 LotVintage Fisher Price Little People TownVintage Fisher Price Little People Large Lot People, Chairs, Furniture EtcVintage Fisher Price Little People 16 Piece Lot They Have All Been Well LovedNice Large Lot Of Construx By Fisher Price, 1980s!105 Pieces Of Vintage Fisher Price Little People Cars Furniture PeopleVintage 1971 Fisher Price Record Player #995 W/ 5 Records. Works, Sounds Great. Huge Log Of Vintage Fisher Price Fun With Food 82 Pieces Mixed Lot Vintage Fisher Price School Bus Mini Bus Little People Grandparents1980's #915 Fisher Price Play Family Farm Playset Complete With Box-no Reserve75 Pc + Lot Vintage Fisher Price Little People Wood & Plastic Must See Lqqk NrVintage 1973 Fisher Price Little People Play Family Village #997 With Box (s41) Vintage Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse Dolls Mom Dad Baby Girl Bunny LotVintage Fisher-price Fun With Food Muffins Cupcakes With FrostingVintage Fisher Price Little People -- Lot Of 15 FiguresFisher Price Little People Hospital #931 1970s With BoxLarge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Construx Building Construction Toys & Yellow Case1967 Fisher Price Family Play Farm # 915 Little People Vintage Fisher-price 2118 Mcdonalds Soda Fountain -complete In Box-Vintage Fisher Price Little People 992 Pop Up Camper And Jeep Vintage Fisher-price Fun With Food Alphabet Soup And Pot Vintage Fisher-price Little People "sesame St," ,etc. 7 Wood /2 Plastic 9 Pcs. Vintage Fisher Price Little People Village #997 Mail Letters - 5 LettersLarge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Airport Bus House Houseboat Airplane People EtcVintage Fisher-price Fun With Food Mixer Baking Set Vintage Fisher Price Little People Lot Snow Mobile, Cars, Chairs, Tables, 70s+Vintage Fisher Price Large Lot Of Little People, Cars,furnitureLot Of Vintage Fisher Price Little People AccessoriesVintage No. 930 Fisher Price Toy Play Family Action Garage Set Cars & Figures Vintage Fisher Price Little People Neighborhood & Furniture Toy LotVintage Fisher Price Little People Playground LotVintage Fisher Price Little People #996 Airport Complete Plane Helicopter Toy 72Very Nice Vintage Fisher Price Play Family Farm Silo 915 Little People Animals1978 Fisher Price Muppet Animal Puppet Jim HensonFisher Price Vintage Little People Family School House #923 1971 Usa Boys GirlsVintage 1980s Precious Places Fisher Price Lot People Animals Buildings AccessorVintage Fisher-price Fun With Food Loaf Of Bread In BagVintage 15" (38cm)vintage Fisher Price Baby Doll - 30 Year Old - Tiny Tears TypeVintage Fisher Price Little People Sewing Machine And Chair Adorable Green Lqqk!Ground Shaker Fisher Price Sealed In Box 70s Funny Car Dragster Drag Racing Vtg Vintage Fisher-price Little People Black Horse For Castle