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Old-School Toys vs. Your Kids': Who Had It Best?

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As loyal readers may know, humans just can’t stop aging.

But we don’t often think about the other kind of aging, the aging of inanimate objects. Though the physical plastic itself doesn’t change much – give or take the occasional melting or dismemberment – the passage of time works its magic on beloved toys in different ways.

Some toys become brighter and flashier in their newer models. Others stay basically the same, while making a few concessions to modern trends. And more still change their entire image completely. Check out the iconic toys alongside their modern versions below. Which ones would you prefer to play with?

All photo illustrations by Tiffany Hagler-Geard for

Mr. Potato Head, 1950 (L) and 2011

An original Mr. Potato Head (left) and the Active Adventures Mr. Potato Head
Did you know that old Mr. Potato Head dolls used to be made with an actual potato? He was the healthiest toy around, if only by default.

Barbie, 1959 (L) and 2014

Original Barbie (left) and Entrepreneur Barbie
Barbara Millicent Roberts has always had an uneasy relationship with the feminist movement, but her modern versions are “leaning in” more and more.

G.I. Joe, 1964 (L) and 2013

A 1964 G.I. Joe doll (left) and a Joe Colton action figure produced for <em>G.I. Joe: Retaliation</em>
In some sort of weird semiotic loop, G.I. Joe action figures now resemble the actors (ahem, Bruce Willis) who star in the action-movie franchise based upon the toy line.

Strawberry Shortcake, 2014 (L) and 1980

Kenner Toys’s Strawberry Shortcake (right) and The Bridge Direct’s Strawberry Shortcake Singing Doll
Besides her redesign, Strawberry Shortcake has also made a major life change since she was introduced. While her original version lived in a strawberry, today’s version lives in a shortcake.

My Little Pony, 1982 (L) and 2013

My Little Ponies Cotton Candy (left) and Pinkie Pie
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has given these pint-sized neon thoroughbreds a whole new fan base, and correspondingly a brighter cartoon-inspired redesign.

Cabbage Patch Kids, 1983 (L) and 2010

An original Cabbage Patch Kid (left) and a Cabbage Patch Fashionality doll
The hair may be different, but those cherubic cheeks remain.

Optimus Prime, 2014 (L) and 1983

An original Optimus Prime (right) and the Generations Leader Optimus Prime
He’s still a robot in disguise; that disguise is now just a lot less truck-looking.

Care Bears, 2014 (L) and 1983

A classic Kenner Toys Cheer Bear (right) and a modern version from Just Play
Turning 30 hasn’t cost Cheer Bear any of her youthful charm.

American Girl Dolls, 1986 (L) and 2014

American Girl dolls Samantha (left) and Isabelle
American Girls still teach their owners about the past, but starting in 2001, the company has also produced a line of Girl of the Year dolls whose lives are set in modern times.

RELATED: See the cast of Mean Girls posing with their younger selves
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