Vintage Christmas Catalog Countdown

As I do every year, over the last month I’ve used my personal Facebook feed to countdown the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I’m sharing the countdown more broadly through this blog post.

2017 Countdown: Vintage Christmas Advertising

2018 Countdown: Christmas Classic Toy Countdown

2019 Countdown: Illustrated Christmas Magazine Covers

This year’s countdown is a trip back in time through the 1970 JCPenney Christmas Catalog. My Dad worked his whole career as a JCP store manager and my brothers and I memorized almost every page.

I hope you see some favorite toys, mod outfits, entertaining gifts, and wonderful memories in these pages from 50 years ago. Note on the cover of the catalog it says that “toys and giftware orders need to be placed by August 28th” … already more than 90 days ago!

All scans are from the amazing archive

🎅🏻 27 Days to Christmas – Snoopy & his Peanuts Pals earned a 2-page spread in the 1970 JCP catalog. To adjust for inflation, multiply the prices 7x. No doubt all of these toys & watches would be vintage ‘collectibles’ worth more than that on eBay today.

🏈 26 Days To Christmas – Uniforms for the newly merged NFL + AFL were popular fifty years ago in the JCPenney Christmas Catalog. The Chiefs had beat the Vikings in the Super Bowl the previous season and the Cowboys were on their way to beat the Colts in the January 1971 championship. Did they photograph the same kid in all 26 team uniforms?

⭐️🥃 25 Days to Christmas – Drinking & smoking were a big part of the 1970 holiday season. Lots of sophisticated bar sets, decanters, and lighters – with a full length fencing foil (left) to add to the fun!

🎁 24 Days to Christmas – 1970 fashions from the JCPenney Christmas catalog put Mrs. Roper from ‘Three’s Company’ into context with ‘quilted culottes’ and ‘shimmering caftans’ …

☕️🍳 23 Days to Christmas – These practical kitchen appliances are sure to “please the homemaker or hostess” and “make complete, hearty breakfasts automatically”. Exclusively in mod avocado, gold, or flame for 1970 …

🚴 22 Days to Christmas – The bikes in the 1970 JCP Christmas catalog shared a lot of colors with the kitchen appliances. Adjusting for inflation (7x), the ‘Swinger’ bikes (knockoffs of the famous Schwinn Stingrays) on the left were selling between $350-$450 in today’s money.

🎅🏻 🛻 21 Days to Christmas – I remember getting the ‘Tiny Tonka’ trucks in the bottom left corner for Christmas in 1970 when I was 4 years old. I had my first fit of envy when Santa brought the neighbor boy nearly every ‘Mighty Tonka’ on the right side of the page. He even had the Tonka hard hat!

🎅🏻 🎶 20 Days to Christmas – The Electronics Age as we know it hadn’t arrived yet in 1970. These simple phonographs, tape players, and AM radio were very hi-tech for 50 years ago!

🎅🏻 🏈 19 Days to Christmas – Electric football was super fun until you actually turned it on. What looked impressive in the 1970 Christmas Catalog turned out to be players randomly spinning around in nonsensical directions. Slot hockey was the best choice on these pages.

👧 🎅🏻 18 Days to Christmas – All of Barbie’s friends are hanging at the ‘Livin’ Lively House’: Ken, Skipper, PJ, Stacy, Julia, and Brad. Really – there’s no Karen?

💡 🎅🏻 17 Days to Christmas- ‘Op Art’ Starburst Lamps, Poly-Optic Fibers, and “Psychedelic Light Boxes’ were among the groovy new ‘Lights / Shapes of the Future’ in the 1970 JCPenney Christmas Catalog.

🎅🏻🎼 16 Days to Christmas – The 1970 JCP Christmas Catalog probably gave a few musical prodigies their start. The instruments on these two pages range from cheap toys to beginner-level quality. Adjusted for inflation, the more expensive guitars, keyboards, and drum sets would sell for about $275-$425 today.

🎅🏻 🍪 15 Days to Christmas – The Betty Crocker ‘Easy Bake Oven’ phenomenon was huge in the 1970 JCP Christmas Catalog. Also, who knew that ‘Suzy Homemaker’ was once an actual brand name?’

🎅🏻 14 Days to Christmas – The history of matching “His & Hers” “Distinctive” fashions was quite short-lived in the 1970s. Did anyone you know actually wear coordinating couples’ outfits?

🎅🏻 13 Days to Christmas – 1970 was certainly a golden age for these ‘classic games’. We had so many of them in the pre-video game era. Which did your family enjoy most?

🎅🏻 12 Days to Christmas – Bean Bag ‘Snaggle’ and Inflatable ‘Aquarius’ chairs are “so comfortable you won’t want to get up”. That assumes you CAN get up from them, which is never easy!

🎅🏻 11 Days to Christmas – The kids that got these as gifts were called ‘bookworms’ or ‘geeks’. Later in life, many people call them the ‘The Boss’.

🎅🏻 🎁 10 Days to Christmas – Some of these stuffed animals – particularly Mickey Mouse and Popeye – are especially creepy!

🎅🏻 9 Days to Christmas – A basement ’rec room’ with a pool table was a suburban dream in 1970. Paneled walls and a game table complete the look in this JCPenney Catalog.

🎅🏻 ❄️ 8 Days to Christmas – This “Authentically Styled Skiwear” were lux winter gear in 1970, leveraging DuPont high-tech: Nylon outer shell, Orlon acrylic & Dacron Fiber Fill.

🎅🏻 🧱 7 Days to Christmas – LEGO bricks, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys were all favorites of mine from the 1970 JCPenney Christmas Catalog. I still have LEGO sets from when I was a kid. What are the oldest toys that you still have from your childhood?

♥️🎅🏻💋 6 Days to Christmas – It’s the last Saturday before Christmas. Tonight is the perfect sexy time to rock these 1970s ‘His & Hers Coordinated Loungewear’.

🎅🏻 🏎 5 Days to Christmas – With 4 boys in the house, many winter Sundays were spent setting up Tyco slot cars, Hot Wheels, and Sizzlers at our house in the early 1970s.

🎅🏻 💥 4 Days to Christmas – I’m not sure this would be allowed today, but ordering rifles and shotguns through the mail was pretty common 50 years ago.

🎅🏻 🚂 3 Days to Christmas – Electric trains and Christmas go together as well as anything ever invented. Our 1970 family Christmas Tree had a Santa Fe electric train and lighted snow village.

🎅🏻 🏁 2 Days to Christmas – I saved what I think are the coolest Christmas gifts a kid could imagine from the 1970 JCPenney Christmas Catalog for today: a real DUNE BUGGY or DIRT BIKE!

🎅🏻 ❄️ Christmas Eve – I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s countdown. As you celebrate this year, here is one final spread for holiday entertaining from the JCP Christmas Catalog from 50 years ago …

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