This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon. We’ve already started it with a bang thanks to Post Malone and his Hootie & the Blowfish cover. I’m still not sure why that happened, but I’m grateful nonetheless. Fans will get a more traditional celebration later this year when Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl launch on Nintendo Switch. All of that comes with a wave of nostalgia that’s sure to take fans back to their glory days with the franchise. I’m talking about that sweet 90’s period where there was an endless wave of merch to collect.
Every kid in town had the games or some of the basic cards, but not everyone had a functioning Pokédex or a complete game guide. Products like that could instantly launch one kid to schoolyard fame. Whoever had the coolest stuff was the real Pokémon master and everyone else was a fledgling trainer. Getting the best piece of merch was almost as important as catching Mewtwo.
If this has you a little nostalgic, let’s really take a trip down memory lane. This year has got me thinking about all the old toys I used to own as a kid. I don’t know what’s been thrown out and what’s hiding in storage at my parents’ house today. So I went on a quest to track down some of the best Pokémon toys from the Red and Blue era. Let’s see if any of these teleport you back 25 years into the past.
My personal prized possession as a kid was a 23-karot Pokémon gold card. The first time Burger King had Pokémon toys, you could plunk down some extra cash to get a golden Pokémon card encased in a Pokéball. As someone who had no concept of how much money it was actually worth at the time, it felt like genuine treasure. I kept it hidden in my closet as if stowed away in a treasure chest. I’d pop my head in every day and check on it to make sure it was still there. To this day, this is one of the few Pokémon toys I still have in my possession. No one will ever pry it out of my hands. I will be buried with Jigglypuff.
There’s one specific Pokémon toy I always wanted but never could get: Tiger Electronics’ functioning Pokédex. This is, in my estimation, the absolute coolest thing you could own in 1998. It was a real-life Pokédex that let you scan through monsters like Ash himself. The fact that this eluded me my entire childhood still brings me great shame. Downloading an app just doesn’t have the feeling as holding a bright red device with calculator graphics.
There was no shortage of strategy guides for the original Pokémon games, but few were as cool as Nintendo Power’s official guide. Sure, you could get all of the information about the towns and Pokémon elsewhere, but this came with a full sticker sheet. Yep, 150 stickers for each original Kanto Pokémon. I was drunk with power when I had this. I would plaster random stickers on my bedroom wall.
Are bouncy balls still a thing? Do kids today just dribble little plastic balls around for fun? I have no idea, but it was still enough of a trend in the ‘90s to warrant Pokémon bouncy balls. These were transparent spheres that had a Pokémon like Mewtwo trapped inside. What was so alluring about these is that you always had that moment where you stopped and thought “What if I just cut this open and free this Pokémon?” The ball itself was less cool than the Pokémon within, making this the forbidden fruit of Pokémon toys.
There are plenty of Pokémon cards that are as good as gold. This promotional Ancient Mew card was undoubtedly one of the coolest things a fan could get in their collection. It was a promo card that fans could get when seeing the first Pokémon movie in theaters. While it’s not as valuable as a first-edition Charizard, it’s still one of the coolest looking cards in the game. Who cares if it’s unusable in battle? It’s Mew! And you didn’t even have to search under a truck to find it!