Then & Now: Gifts Gone By


Then & Now: 10 Gifts Gone By

Giving gifts is one of the best parts of celebrating the holidays. Some gifts have stood the test of time, whether it's the tie for dad, a sparkling set of earrings for mom or new toys for the kiddos. But other gifts? Well, some of them didn't last and, thankfully, fell into Christmas past. Let's delve into older Sears Wish Books, and look at some presents that never had staying power.

1. One Delicious Fruit Cake

Ah! The holiday dessert everyone loves to hate. Now you're not getting just any fruit cake, we're talking a cake that weighs in at a whopping 5 POUNDS. Who needs one pound, let alone 5 of a holiday dessert bought via mail order? That said, you're clearly getting a great deal. I can't imagine getting a cake for $2.98 that is "easily worth $5". I'm sold!

fruit cake from Sears Christmas catalog 1937

2. A State of the Art Correspondence Machine

Remember the time before laptops, texting or emojis? Sounds like a true nightmare, but people somehow found a way to get by. Sears used to supply gift-givers with "state-of-the-art" typewriters. These great machines came in cool chrome or black finishes to add to the decor of your desk. Good luck bringing this to a coffee shop to write your novel though, some these bad boys weighed up to 17 pounds (that's over 3 fruit cakes!).

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Typewriters in the 1948 Sears Christmas Book

3. The GIft That Kept on Giving

Nothing says holiday spirit like a great U.S. Government Bond, right? Back in 1945, you could surprise your loved one with a piece of paper that in a short 10 years could be worth just a bit more money! There's no better way to say "I care about you" like a very safe, long-term investment. 

Government bonds in the 1945 Sears Christmas Book

4. The Perfect Auto Accessory

Many cars today have Bluetooth connectivity, built-in GPS and a host of other high-tech features. Vehicles in 1958 weren't so feature laden, but that's where this great gift comes in. This armrest and cushion combo was there to make driving a bit more comfortable. The cushion plugged into the cigarette lighter and would help "ease cramped muscles on long drives."


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Vibrating car armrest in the 1958 Sears Christmas Book

5. Hair-tastic Style

The 80s were a bit rough on style as a whole, but hair was especially affected by that decade. Impressions style plates allowed you to print shapes like hearts, stars or even zig-zags into your hair to create a look that was so unique it thankfully died out quickly.


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Styling plates in the 1989 Sears Wish Book

6. Landline Love

Move over smartphone, Tennyphone is here. What do you mean you've never heard of it? When landlines were all the rage, Tennyphone was there to make the most of it. Instead of a typical receiver, this phone had a "genuine leather L.A. Gear high-top athletic shoe" receiver. You know how cool shoes are, well get ready to talk into one.


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Tennyphone in the 1991 Sears Wish Book

7. Lighters for Every Occassion

Back when smoking was still in fashion, classy lighters were all the rage. Sure Sears had plenty of standard model lighters, even one that was meant to be a mainstay on your desk when you could smoke indoors like a lunatic. But if you really wanted to up your game, you could gift your special smoker a lighter in the shape of an old timey pistol. Talk about being the life of the party!

Lighters in the 1962 Sears Christmas Book

8. Fish Heaven

Your favorite pets could even get a new home with a cool new aquarium. How about letting your aquatic friends swim around inside a giant crayon or even inside Garfield himself? Good thing Garfield was a strict lasagna-tarian.


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Crayon & Garfield aquariums in the 1991 Sears Wish Book

9. The Ultimate Hairbrush

If your man was looking a little scruffy back in the 70s, then you could've gifted him an amazing electric hairbrush. The brush would "vibrate vigorously" in order to "stimulate scalp circulation". I don't know what a well-circulated scalp does for your hair, but you can't deny that dude looks mighty dapper.


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Electric hairbrush in the 1970 Sears Christmas Book

10. Wake Up with E.T.

The morning alarm buzz is no one's favorite part of the day, so why not spice up a tired morning with a tiny alien beeping at you! Everyone's extra-terrestrial pal E.T. (wearing an adorable robe) could rouse you to start the day. His head would pop up and begin beeping, only to stop once you shove his head back into his cute, little body. Nothing says "Good Morning!" quite like having to cram an alien back together.


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E.T. alarm clock in the 1983 Sears Wish Book

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