A Survey of '80s Hobbies and Collectibles

During the 1980s, our lives were much simpler yet filling the voids of our day could be challenging.  Much like our present era, we could only endure toys and electronics for a period of time before our attention span waned.

Having a hobby and/or the collectible filled those voids while equally captivating our minds.  These were sometimes ushered in by intrigue, our parents or grandparents creative option, or perhaps influenced by the popular wish book catalogs or window displays that piqued our curiosity.

This article is a survey of a few of the vast hobby and collecting avenues that enthralled us.

Dollhouses and the inner furnishings provided young ladies with the vision of decorating and incorporating their figures into the abode.  Many of these dollhouses were basic while other's provided options such as lighting, giving the scaled home an illuminated life.  Did you have one?  How did you set yours up?

Stargazing is still quite an interesting and bewildered hobby, and career.  As young ones, we often looked up to see what our telescopes could reach.  Many of the common ones might feel like we gained several yards, perhaps a mile closer to our natural satellite.  While the more expensive models allowed us to gaze upon closer planets and perhaps further.  If you lived in the city, you might have been gazing but not skyward.  What skyward stars or planets did you look upon?

Photography is another impressive hobby from the typical, amateur user capturing moments to the budding professional carefully learning the symmetry and fundamental methods to capturing the perfect photo.  Back in the 1980s, we still needed to develop those photographs, unless you had the instant Polaroid, with some of us developing those reels of film in our makeshift darkrooms; changing out our 60 watters to the red 60 watters and stringing makeshift hanging lines either in a secluded section within the basement or the spare bathroom.  Were you part of the photographing hobbyists?

Arguably this could be a toy more than a hobby, however train sets were a way to create your own world.  Either by laying out an overlay on the floor or having some space to craft your own town or perhaps city-scape.  Most of the youngsters may have had minor accouterments such as a handful of farm animals, intermingled their Matchbox or Hot Wheel cars, and maybe Lincoln Log homes, while a select few had greater means to build up their to-scale havens.  Some were even quite complex with relays and working supplies and yards that moved cargo from one truck or train car, down a slope, and onto the receiving train car or truck.  How was your train set crafted?

Another hobby, or perhaps toy, that possibly held our interest was the slot cars.  Not too much different than the previously mentioned train set, however the extra plastic "pavement" provided we youngsters with a feeling that we were racing our cars around.  Many of us, arguably, had a simple oval or the figure eight (8) tracks with a few of us having the General Lee jump tracks or the elaborate tracks such as the Tyco track in the photo.  However, there were a few that took the slot car hobby to another extension.  Much like train sets, the slot tracks could be extended and crafted into longer tracks to provide far more entertainment than just a mere three second lap.  Did you have slot car tracks?  Did you put one or two more together?

Spoons are a collectible item that I've stumbled upon while visiting friends in the 1980s.  International and cruise ship traveling still seemed slightly out of reach for many, yet those that did would bring back souvenirs.  Often times those souvenirs were spoons with a decorative handle stating the country.  Many U.S. states had spoons as well with the same concept, usually the state's flag, on the handle.  Did you or one of your parents have a spoon collection?

Another quiet time collection were stamps.  Much like the souvenir spoons from other countries, foreign stamps as well as the collections in which the U.S. Post Office sold allow us to create unique books.  From the intriguing designs to the cartoon and noted people of yesteryear, these stamps gave some of us another memento to capture the places.  Did you collect stamps?

Electronics Kits were captivating for those of us who wanted to learn how gadgets worked.  These kits guided us to craft radios, dancing lights, door bells, and several other whatchamacallits while learning more about how the components, such as the resisters, transformers, transistors, and so on, worked together to create that gizmo.  What did you build: radio, power supplies, K.I.T.T.?

Which one of us crafted a solution that blew up utilizing our chemistry set?  Pouring in jiggers and measures of this and that into test tubes, using the bunsen burner, and the beakers to concoct a novel solution or chemically seer our nose hairs was just a part of the joy.  Anyone craft an exciting solution?

Artistry was another joyous hobby to fill the void.  Many enjoyed the simple pleasure of using crayons and coloring pre-drawn books or the free hand coloring of scenery while adding either family, friends, or perhaps an 80s vehicle (K.I.T.T., A-Team Van, General Lee, Street Hawk, Airwolf, no - just me?).  A few us ventured into deeper, artistic waters with paints, pastels, and higher quality markers or pens to draw our minds eye's picture or perhaps attempt to be our own television artist ("happy clouds").  Were you the crayon person or did you grab your brush and acrylics?

Who would think that making a small, patch of carpet could keep our attention with such creativity?  The Latchhook hobby provided us with a way to carefully craft a favorite cartoon, animal, or other object into a picture frame sized furry art piece. Did you have one of these kits?

Potholder loop-looms were a clever niche hobby that kept my attention.  My grandfather pulled this kit out for me when I visited and it seemed odd when it was introduced, then suddenly it was as if we could not produce enough of these colorful and useful items.  Did you create potholders?  Any unique patterns?

Finally, the woodcraft kits were equally another time passing hobby.  Cutting and assembling a variety of vehicles, letters, shapes, and anything in-between with a few wood burning options as well.  Before the artsy social media or large online marketing, this could arguably birthed many entrepreneurs at flea market and like venues.  Did you craft anything and perhaps make a few sales?

All catalog photos are sourced from wishbookweb.com

The Star Wars Latchhook loom is sourced from Collectorarchive.com

Loop Loom Potholder photo is uncited via google images

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