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3 Essential 80s Home Decor Items

Though we often categorize a decade based on its popular music or television shows, another way to help take us back to days long past is through the home decor items on display during that time. Just as future generations will look back on our Roomba cleaning robots and Wii motion sensor bars with a sense of wonder, here are a few novelty home decor items that were found in most homes during the 1980's.

Novelty Telephones


Growing up, novelty telephones were seemingly in every household but mine and I was eternally jealous. Before the advent of Smart phones that allowed personalization through a protective case featuring your favorite sports team or video game character, companies had to offer an actual phone unit in the shape of their mascot for people to feel the influence of the brand in their daily telecommunications.


The most common was the Mickey Mouse phone, which featured the Walt Disney icon's hand acting as a receiver that held a bright yellow handset. My elementary school buddy, Brandon had one and when I came over to play, I just couldn't stop messing with it. Mostly because it was a giant Mickey Mouse toy with an action feature, but Mickey's friendly head tilt also seemed to say, "Ha-Ha, come over here and make a call, pal!"


A close second in popularity was the Sports Illustrated football phone. Prominently featured in subscription commercials for the magazine during the late 80's (and memorably in Wayne's World 2) the phone itself looked like a miniature football sitting on a tee, just ready to be kicked for an extra point, but once you flipped it open, a touch tone key pad was revealed. Since the thing came for free with a 1 year subscription, even if it wasn't wanted a lot of people ended up with this thing in their homes, which explains why it was so commonly found.

Pin Art


Found on most coffee tables from 1988 to 1991, the pin art apparatus was seemingly just as essential to home decor as a bowl of potpourri or some plastic fruit. Composed of hundreds of tiny metal pins attached to a board with a frame around it, this odd item just looked strange and futuristic until it was in use. The idea was that you could push a hand, an object or often a face into the pins and it would keep the shape in place until it was reset by laying it flat. 


Of course no kid could resist sticking their tongue into the pins, with no concern as to how many other germy appendages had been inserted previously. There really was nothing like the feeling of those cold metal rods conforming to your nose or finger, it felt like you were being assimilated by The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation or becoming that freaky computer robot lady from Superman III. To me though, Pin Art was just a way to know that the house I was visiting was "fancy".

Gumball Machines


Every kid begged for a quarter to put into a grocery store vending machine, but how many had the luxury of owning one? In my experience, quite a few! It seemed like every time I made a new friend at school and went over to their house to play, I was being shown the gumball or candy dispenser that in my mind had to have been stolen from a local drug store. As it turns out, you could buy these things at most retail chains!


There were all kinds of styles, but the one that was most impressive to me was the classic red metal with glass candy holding dome. If it was on a stand it jumped to a whole new level, it just seemed so much more official. Sometimes they were filled with actual gumballs, but the majority of people I knew were using M&M's as their sweet of choice. Either way people who could turn the crank to get a treat without dropping in shiny coin were instantly the most privileged children in existence as far as I was concerned.

So tell me, what were some of those items you found in the homes of your youth that just screamed 80's and early 90's?


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DirtyD79 Posted on Dec 04, 2015 at 11:56 PM

I remember my parents having one of those gumball machines when I was a kid. In fact the one they got looks like the one in the first picture. Surprisingly though you did have to put coins in that one for it to dispense candy but it didn't matter what size they were. Usually they'd fill it with peanut M

pikachulover Posted on Nov 28, 2015 at 03:54 AM

Those gumball machines and novelty phones were usually a prize on those 80s and early 90s kids game shows like Double Dare. My family didn't have any of those things. My aunt had a clear phone and another cousin on my other side of the family had one.

When I was a kid I always wanted a gumball machine.

Poshy2005 Posted on Nov 24, 2015 at 06:37 PM

The pins the are still popular til this day. I still have one. Great stress reliever. I guess we never really grow up do we. How I miss some of the old phones. They had some neat ones back then.

Vaporman87 Posted on Nov 23, 2015 at 05:14 PM

Surprisingly, we never owned a single one of these items. That's right. I was totally deprived of these. In fact, I don't even know of any friends who owned any of these items. Man, how did I even survive? LOL

Nowadays you can even own a miniature "claw game" for your home. The kids get a kick out of that... until they get tired of always "winning" items that they already owned.

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