If your plans over the next few weeks involve heading to the shopping centre to battle deal-crazy shoppers, might we remind you there are best-selling toys that are already a pretty great bargain all year round? Most of these toys have been appearing under Christmas trees for decades now, that's why they're considered classics. And despite millions of them already being sold, the demand for them remains so high that millions are still being produced, perpetually keeping the prices low.
This iconic twisting puzzle cube hasn't changed in decades, yet the challenge remains absolutely the same for generation after generation. Newer versions use plastic coloured tiles to help prevent cheating, but the original version with its peel-able stickers is cheaper, and guarantees you've got a last resort method for 'solving' your cube.
One-part flying toy, one-part science experiment on the basics of aeronautics, and one-part emergency picnic plate, the Frisbee is the perfect toy for trips to the park or the beach. It's virtually indestructible too, no matter how many times it's sent crashing into a tree or sliding across the road. (Although sometimes man's best friend has been listed as the Frisbee's only known predator.)
Etch A Sketch
It doesn't need a stylus, there's never any firmware updates, and once you've ponied up for an Etch A Sketch you'll never need to drop a cent on apps or additional premium content. But it's just not a drawing toy, it can actually provide as much a challenge as a Rubik's Cube does. Just ask someone to draw a perfect circle and watch them struggle for hours.
Monopoly has been tearing families apart for decades while it teaches a balance of responsible spending versus unfair monopolistic business tactics. The game itself seems to have a solid monopoly on quality family time. And now there's a cat token too -- if you're into that kind of thing.
Honda has spent millions of dollars on its Asimo bi-pedal walking robot, but it still can't handle walking down a flight of stairs as effortlessly and elegantly as a Slinky can. With a little TLC your Slinky can last for years and years, but if it does get damaged, it's just five bucks to replace it. It's like the pet hamster of toys.
Four years of studying structural engineering can't provide as much practical insight into what makes a structure fall down as two or three games of Jenga will. It's also a great way to really boost your stress levels if you find yourself just too relaxed one lazy afternoon. And no tool on earth is better at telling you if a table is level than a tower of Jenga blocks precariously leaning one way or another.
Nothing represents raw potential like a freshly-opened tub of plasticine. It doesn't matter what colour it is, it can take the shape of any person, animal, object or entity in our universe. It's particularly great for making snakes, and is without a doubt the original stress toy if you need to squeeze out some frustrations.
It's hard getting kids to understand the value of money, and that's mostly because they can buy an entire car, all four wheels and all, for just a few dollars every time they visit the toy store. The cheap price tag has easily been Hot Wheels' most valuable marketing tool for kids, but they also give adults the chance to buy the Ferrari or Porsche they may otherwise never be able to afford.
Bicycle Playing Cards (Solitaire)
There will never be a greater multiplayer game than a simple deck of 52 cards. There is almost an infinite number of ways they can be played with, whether by yourself with a quiet game of Solitaire, or with a group of friends playing Texas Hold 'Em. They even double as a building toy if you've got a steady delicate touch, or a makeshift Frisbee if you can master that wrist flick.
It's been claimed that Silly Putty was cooked up in a lab somewhere, but it's hard to believe the magical ball of goo didn't fall from space decades ago. It bounces, it works like a photocopier on comic books, it stretches like Play-Doh, and it generally feels like you're holding on to alien technology. If you can think of a better way to spend a few bucks, you're lying to yourself.
Plastic Army Men
They don't have any points of articulation, they don't interact with a tablet, and their weapons certainly don't fire, but that hasn't stopped those simple green plastic moulded army men from remaining popular. It probably has something to do with them being nearly invincible, and that you can instantly build an army of 40 troopers for about $10.
Difficult to master but incredibly satisfying when you do, the humble yo-yo's ability to seemingly defy gravity and continuously return to your hand is a mesmerising trick. But not nearly as impressive as the first time you get it to momentarily 'sleep' before it climbs back up that string. It's certainly worth at least a few minutes of fame, even if it's only your dog who saw you pull the trick off. [Duncan]