Humans have been collecting things pretty much since the dawn of time, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that we collected a lot of weird things in the ‘90s. I’m not talking about Tamagotchis, or American Girl dolls, or action figures, or anything like that; most people didn’t have more than one Tamagotchi (why on earth would anyone want to put themself at the beck and call of multiple Tamagotchis?), I doubt anyone had enough American Girl dolls for it to qualify as a “collection,” and action figures were functional playthings. I’m talking about the sorts of things that we just… collected. The ones we collected purely for the sake of collecting them, regardless as to whether it actually made any sense to collect them.
I’ll be honest: I don’t totally understand collecting as a hobby overall. The point to me mostly just seems to be to acquire things, and… I don’t know. It just doesn’t do it for me. I mean, sure, you can make the argument that it’s about learning new stuff — and once upon a time, that may actually have been true, as in the case of stamps or coins. These days, though, we have so much knowledge available right at our fingertips (thanks, Internet!) that you can also learn plenty of new things without needing to collect a whole bunch of physical objects. Ergo, is there really a need to collect actual things anymore?
That said, though, if you’re super into collecting, awesome — you do you. I also think there’s something to be said for archiving history, so… there’s that.
Can we consider these odd ‘90s obsessions history? Maybe; I mean, Elvis memorabilia ended up being pretty important eventually, so maybe our strange fixation with brightly-colored stationary supplies might be one day, too. You never know, right?
The ultimate ‘90s collectible wasn’t really anything new, thematically speaking; kids (and adults, for that matter) have been collecting stuffed animals and dolls for ages. Exactly why we were all so taken with these particular stuffed animals, however, remains something of a mystery. Was it the beans? Maybe it was the beans.
Honestly, I think we were more into collecting Pogs than were into actually playing with them.
3. Milky Pens
They were really only good for writing on black paper, and really, how many people just had black paper lying around? Talk about an impractical writing implement… and yet, we couldn’t get enough of them.
But even milky pens paled in comparison to…
4. Gelly Roll Pens
ALL THE GELLY ROLLS. ALL OF THEM.
Not only that, but we had several equally bizarre ways to catch ‘em all: Virtually via the Game Boy games, IRL via trading cards, or just by watching the TV show obsessively (which I guess might count as collecting them in our brains). Wacky fun.
For reasons I still cannot explain, I was so into Troll dolls when I was a kid. And all they did was sit there, so it’s anyone’s guess why they were so popular. I had a habit of making up stories about them, so maybe we liked them for the blank canvas they provided onto which we could overlay our own made-up adventures… but I think I might be reaching a little bit here.
7. Lip Smackers
Why did we need so many of them? Was not one or two of them enough? How much lip balm does one person need?
Admittedly Garbage Pail Kids were more of an ‘80s thing; also, they scared the bejesus out of me when I was a small child. I understand why they were a thing — as popular as Cabbage Patch Kids were (and are), they clearly needed some kind of antidote so that we could keep things in perspective a little more — but that does not prevent Garbage Pail Kids from being really effing weird.
9. Lisa Frank Everything
So many dolphins. So. Many.
As is the case with Garbage Pail Kids, I’m stretching the definition of “the ‘90s” a little bit here — except that this time, I’m going in the opposite direction. Neopets launched in November of 1999, making them more of a 2000s thing… and even though I was in high school at the time, I still spent what little spare time I had taking care of a couple of brightly-colored, fantastical, digital creatures. It was addictive. Eventually I had to stop cold turkey, because it was getting ridiculous.
11. Magic Cards
I was more of a D&D girl myself, but the people I knew who were into Magic: The Gathering were really into Magic: The Gathering.
I mean, don’t get me wrong — I loved Gak. I’m just a little unclear on why I felt like I needed to own so many different colors of it.
13. X-Men Cards
Actually, really we’re just talking about cards in general: X-Men, Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, Garbage Pail kids, baseball, whatever. Trading cards obviously weren't new in the ‘90s — the very first baseball cards date back to 1868 — but the ‘90s saw an explosion of them, making it seem like every kid on the planet had a binder full of superheroes or athletes or what have you. Bonus points if you had some supposedly ultra-rare foiled or holographic ones in your collection.
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