In fact, although retro toys pop up in any given year, it's the age of the parents that's a big determination in which toys make a comeback. This season, it's older millennial parents (those who were kids in the late 80s and early 90s) who are likely to encounter that Ghost of Christmas Past. "I think Hasbro does a pretty nice job of connecting the cycles of what new parents recall from when they were kids," Katz said.
But make no mistake: These toys are retro in name only. Most have seen major upgrades from their initial versions.
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Littlest Pet Shop, for example, now lets kids unlock virtual games with their collectible pet figurines, and adopt more virtual pets in an app. Some of the new Transformers toys transform in one step, based on parents' feedback that multi-step changes were tricky for kids, Hasbro told CNBC earlier this year. Several, including the reinvented Tamagotchi (a handheld digital pet) and Simon Swipe, take advantage of technological improvements, Silver said. "Simon was just pressing buttons," he said. "Now it's a lot more sophisticated."
Better get your nostalgia fix now, though. Retros hold may be waning.
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Throwback brands tend to be more prominent in years when the economy isn't good, and toymakers are less willing to take risks, Johnson said.
"It's something that, in the past couple of years, has been a little less of an influence in toys," he told CNBC on Wednesday, from the floor of the Toy Industry Association's Fall Toy Preview in Dallas. Toymakers there are already previewing their hoped-for 2015 hits, featuring incorporated robotics and other bells and whistles.
"People are finally feeling more confident about dusting off new ideas,"Johnson said.