Some of my favorite childhood memories of revolve around the excitement of pouring over the pages the annual Christmas Catalog. I spent more than a few hours imagining the possibilities of what might be. There was something so satisfying about the anticipation leading up to the big day. In the age of Amazon and being able to find almost anything on the internet, I feel like we have lost some of the magic of yesteryear. The wishbooks were just that. Books where you would make wishes. Further evidence that you can find almost anything on the internet, I present wishbookweb.com: The vintage Christmas catalog archive.
The site currently features over 25,000 pages of Christmas Catalogs ranging from the 1937 Sears Christmas Book to the 1996 JCPenny Christmas Catalog. While they do not have every year or department store as part of the collection, they do have my personal favorite, the 1980 JCPenney Christmas Catalog. I can remember the excitement that I felt when I first laid my hands on this. Seeing it again even online brings back a flood of memories.
While you could use this site just for pure nostalgia or share with your students about the "good old days". Let's consider how you might use this resource for educational purposes.
You might select one particular catalog or year to share. Have students create a wish list or investigate the most popular toys of that year.
Are there certain toys that stand the test of time? Meaning things that kids are still asking for?
Examine trends in toys or gifts over time? What remains consistent? What things change the most?
Consider how much toys cost in a given year versus how much they would cost when adjusting for inflation using on online inflation calculator.
Can you still buy this item today? If so, how much would it cost now? If not, can you buy it on eBay? How much is it selling for now?
What would happen if you did not buy that item back in the day and instead invested the same money instead in that company? How much money would you have now?
If you share this with your students, I would love to hear how it went. What did you discover in this wishbook treasure trove.