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    

Huge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Little People Figures, Family Camper, Mini Bus +++Fisher Price Little People Play Family Farm Complete Vintage 1967 #915 +more!Lovely Vintage Fisher Price Music Box Record Player With Playable Discs - Nh S54Huge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Little People - Camper, Plane, Bus, TrainVintage Fisher Price Sesame Street Little PeopleVintage Fisher Price Little People Lot Play Family Castle #993 Good ConditionVintage Fisher Price Wood Pull Toy #788 Rock-a-bye BunnyComplete 1970's 19 Pc Vintage Fisher Price Play Family Little People House #952Vintage Fisher Price Little People Parking Garage #930 Cars,wooden People,lift1971 Vintage Fisher Price 980 Atv Explorer Ride On Toy Made In Usa VhtfVintage Fisher Price Little People Fire House And Western Town LotVintage Fisher Price Wood Pull Toy #540 Granny Duck Circa 1939Vtg. Fisher Price Little People Castle ~ Just Accessories~ Complete 993 Dragon ~Vintage Fisher Price Hospital And Accessories Little PeopleVintage Fisher Price Fp Toys 10k White Gold Ruby Service Award Ring Rare WowsersFisher Price Record Player 995 4 Records 1971 Vintage WorksFisher Price Pxl2000 Pixelvision Camcorder Pxl2000 Video Camera 1987Vintage Fisher Price Little People Lot School Bus Model #192Vintage Fisher Price Little People 27 Pc House SetVintage Fisher Price Little People Kitchen Play Family Rooms #909 Complete W Box1970s Fisher Price 993 Play Family Castle Playset-wood Little People & FurnitureVintage Fisher Price Little People Pop Up Camper SetRare Vintage Fisher Price Wood Pull Toy #476 Mickey Mouse DrummerVintage Fisher Price Little People Parking Garage And CarsVintage Fisher Price Little People #985 Play Family Happy Houseboat 1972 W/boxVintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family Farm Barn Silo Fence #915 1986Fisher Price Loving Family Lot People & Furniture Dad Mom Brother Babies VintageVintage Fisher Price Cash Register Coins 9 Pieces2 Vintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family Campers Pop Up 992 & Truck 994Vintage Fisher Price Little People Tudor House #952 With 33 Super Extras!!Vintage Fisher Price Little People #915 Farm Silo #994 Family Camper Lot L@@kVintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family Circus Train Set #991- ExcellentHuge Lot 70 Vintage Fisher Price Little People, 30 Figures, Cars, FurnitureVintage Fisher Price Little People Western Town SetVintage Fisher Price Toys Wooden Bunny Pull Toy #472Vintage 1966 Fisher-price Little People Ferris Wheel- WorksVintage My Friend Mandy Outfit Fisher Price Sleighride Ensemble Coat & Hat MipVintage Fisher Price Musical Amusement Park Lot, Ferris Wheel, Swing, 969, 932Vintage Lot Of 11 Fisher Price Sesame Street Little People Figures - UsedVintage Lot Fisher Price Little People Play Family Farm Barn Animals & Fence ToyVintage 1976 Fisher-price Riding Horse, With Sound, Push/pull ** In Original BoxFisher-price Music Box Record Player #995 W/5 Records(1971) Works Perfectly!!Lot Of Vintage Fisher Price Little People Some Rare Wood FiguresVintage Fisher Price A Frame House And Accessories Little PeopleVtg Fisher Price Little People Circus Train 1973 #991 5-piece Set46 Piece Lot Of Vintage Doll House Furniture. Includes Fisher Price Mattel TomyVintage 1976 Fisher Price Little People Children's Hospital #931Vintage Fisher Price Little People #111 Musical Merry Go Round 4441962 Fisher Price #549 Little People Mini Barn Lunch Box & Silo Thermos #228Vintage Fisher Price Little People €Vintage Fisher Price Wood Pull Toy #477 Dr DoodleVintage 1970's Fisher Price Little People Farm Animal Lot With FarmerVintage Fisher Price Play Family House # 952Vtg 1997 Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse Plus People And FurnitureVintage Huge Lot Over 1300 Pcs 1986 Fisher-price Construx Action Building SystemVintage 1972 Fisher Price Little People Play Family Airport # 996Vintage Fisher Price Play Family Airport 996 Complete W/ Little People Jet 1972Vintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family School House #923 & #192 BusVintage Fisher Price Wood Pull Toy #798 Mickey Mouse Zilo Super Rare1955 Fisher Price Bucky Burro Vintage Pull Toy-no 166- All Org