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]

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Fisher Price Little People 990 A Frame House Family Ladder Lot With BoxVintage Fisher Price Little People Farm Animals Vehicles Wooden People 38 PcsVtg Fisher Price Little People 993 Play Family Castle Org Box 1973 Dragon KnightVintage Fisher Price Little People Farm Barn Box #915 Hex Animals Silo CompleteVintage Fisher-price Little People Play Family Airport Set 996 Vintage Never Opened 1963 Fisher Price Junior Circus Set Rare!! Still In PlasticVtg Fisher Price Little People 930 Play Family Service Garage Orig Box CompleteVintage Fisher-price Little People Play Family Farm Barn Set 915Vtg Fisher Price Little People Castle Lot- King Queen Furniture MoreVintage Fisher-price Little People Village Set 997 With Figures PlaygroundVintage Fisher Price Kitchen Fun With Food Cake Mixer With Extra'sRare Vintage Fisher Price 1926 Pat. Stoopy Storky Pop Up Kritter Pull String ToyVtg Fisher Price Little People 994 Play Family Camper 1972 With Boat MotorcycleA Huge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family Castle 993 AccessoriesFisher Price Little People Vintage Hospital Children's Hospital Vintage Fisher Price Play Family Farm 1967 Little People Classic 915 SiloVintage Fisher Price Play Family Garage Parking Ramp Service Center #930Vintage Fisher-price Movie Viewer W/ Thirteen Movies Works Great!!!Vintage Fisher Price Little People 15 Damaged Little PeopleFisher Price Little People Vintage Barn And Farm AnimalsVintage 1950's Fisher-price Campbell Soup Kids Farm Truck Pull Toy,no.845,look!!Vtg Fisher Price Little People 996 Play Family Airport1972 Airplane Extras LotVintage Fisher-price Little People Play Family School Set 923Vintage Fisher Price Katy Kackler The Red Hen #140 Wooden Wood Pull ToyVintage Fisher Price Little People Brown Tudor House + FurnitureVintage 1954 Fisher Price Gold Star Stagecoach Original Box Plus MailbagsVtg Fisher Price Mcdonalds Big Mac PlaysetHuge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Little People,animals People Accessories VehiclesVintage Fisher Price Little People Huge Lot Of Very Loved Toys Lot Of 103 PiecesVtg Fisher Price Little People Cars Blue Red Yellow Green Car Gas Lot 952 992 Vintage Fisher Price Little People School House #923 CompleteVintage Fisher-price Play Family Farm Barn Silo #915 Little People Horses SheepVintage Fisher Price Construx Lot Parts Figures 10 Lbs Building PiecesVintage Fisher Price Little People Play Family Sesame Street ClubhouseVtg Fisher Price Little People 915 Play Family Farm 1967 Barn Silo Animals LotVintage Fisher Price Little People 657 Crazy Fire Brigade Circus & Western ClownVintage Fisher Price Little People Plastic Figures Lot Of 23Vintage Fisher-price Little People 993 Castle Pink Dragon Fisher Price Vintage Castle Pink Dragon Little People Toy FigureVintage 1960s Fisher Price Pull Toy * Merry Mousewife * Vtg Fisher-price Little People Play Family House Tudor White Beds Lot Of 3Fisher Price Little People A Frame House 990 Play Family 100% Complete VintageVintage Fisher Price Little People *sesame Street House* Complete W/accessoriesVintage 1978 Fisher Price Lot 20 Pc Set # 945 Offshore Cargo Base Boats People Vintage Fisher Price Little People Farm Lot Plus Playground Equipment Immaculate Vintage Fisher Price Sesame Street Little People Lot Of 8Vtg Fisher Price Little People 997 Play Family Village 1973 Phone Booth Mail EtcVintage Little People Play Family Camper - 1972 Fisher PriceVintage Fisher-price Little People Happy Houseboat Set 985 Vintage Fisher Price Hospital Vintage Fisher Price Adventure People Daredevil Van And Moto Van LotParts For 1970's Fisher Price Little People Farm Play Set-silo Tractor Cow Dog +Vintage Fisher Price Little People Lot Of Play Ground Equipment Swingset SlideFisher Price Little People Vintage School House Vintage Fisher Price Castle #993 1974Huge Lot Vintage Fisher Price Little People, Vehicles, Nursery, Furniture+Vintage Fisher Price Play Family Camper 994 Boat 1974 Set Lot Little PeopleVintage Fisher-price Little People Play Family House Playset Set 952Fisher Price Little People Vintage A-frame HouseVintage Fisher Price Little People All Wood Nice Lot!!