Mr. Potato Head was originally BYOP (Bring Your Own Potato)

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

We all know and love the goofy plastic potato known as Mr. Potato Head. But did you know that the toy originally involved sticking plastic facial features with spiky ends into a real potato?

"Any fruit or vegetable makes a funny face man," reads the package to the original Mr. Potato Head, first marketed nationally in 1952. That's right, you didn't even need to stick those facial features into a potato. Any fruit, vegetable, or sibling's arm would suffice!

The toy was invented by George Lerner in 1949 who first sold the rights to a cereal manufacturing company and then bought the rights back to sell to Hasbro after he discovered they were interested.


In its first year Mr. Potato Head reportedly made a whopping $4 million — roughly $35 million adjusted for inflation. It wasn't until 1964 that plastic potato bodies were introduced in some sets, replacing the styrofoam filler that shipped with the toy. But there were still a fair number of sets that had sharp spikes intended for real produce. The 1968 Mr. Potato Head On The Moon was one such toy, imploring kids to use a cucumber for a spaceship. It wasn't until the 1970s that child safety laws outlawed the old-fashioned spiky Potato Head pieces.

By the early 1980s another innovation was introduced: A nifty trapdoor at the bottom of Mr. Potato Head to store his facial features. Mr. Head originally came with a pipe, but had to give up the habit in 1987 when he became a spokespotato for the Cancer Society.

Bonus fun fact: Mr. Potato Head was probably the first toy advertised on television. We say "probably" because so much of early TV (often done live) is lost to history.


Images: 1952 Mr Potato Head via Wikipedia; Mr Potato head on the Moon via Pinterest; Mr Potato interior box via Tracy's Toys

Factually is Gizmodo's new blog of fun facts, interesting photos, and weird trivia. Join us on Twitter and Facebook.