McDonald's Toys That Are More Valuable Than You Think

Since 1979, McDonald's has included toys with its Happy Meals for kids. Kids and adults alike look forward to iconic Happy Meal toys as much as the meal itself, maybe more. From Nintendo to Barbie and Beanie Babies, McDonald's Happy Meal toys have run the pop culture gamut, usually including characters and products from the restaurant itself.  

Often, Happy Meal toy releases are highly anticipated, with collectors lining up to capture sought-after toys –- ideally the entire set in a collection. Many toy releases coincide with a special date for the toy collection, such as a movie or game release. Although the meals themselves cost just a few bucks, especially popular and beloved Happy Meal toys can command a high price on the resale market with collectors. 

The love for McDonald's toys toys runs deep with collectors, especially for vintage pieces that adults might remember from their childhoods. Read on to see which McDonald's Happy Meal toys are worth way more than you might think.

Pokemon 25th anniversary trading cards

In February 2021, McDonald's added to the Pokemon craze and released trading card packs to celebrate Pokemon's 25th anniversary. The release happened to coincide with a worldwide shortage of Pokemon trading cards due to high demand and shipping constraints. With the cards being difficult to find, scalpers were soon picking up as many packs as they could find and selling them at much higher than retail prices.

When McDonald's released the Pokemon anniversary card packs, Pokemon card traders flocked to McDonald's restaurants to catch 'em all in a Happy Meal. For some, it was the only way to get new Pokemon cards. For others, McDonald's Happy Meals offered access to a collectible item that was already very hard to find. 

The Pokemon 25th Anniversary Happy Meal toys from McDonald's had four cards per pack, out of the 25 different Pokemon in the full collection. The full set included a starter Pokemon from each generation, plus holographic versions for every card, so technically, there were 50 different cards to collect. Most card packs came with at least one holographic card –- a holographic Pikachu being most popular of all.

Pokemon cards can still be tough to find in stores, and if you want a McDonald's Pokemon card, be prepared to pay a pretty penny. A full set of all 50 McDonald's Pokemon cards sells for about $150. A single holographic Pikachu card sells for about $30.

Test Market Transformers

Not every Happy Meal toy is a clear winner, and McDonald's frequently performs market research to be sure a Happy Meal toy line will draw kids and collectors alike to restaurants. 

Sometimes in Happy Meal market research, McDonald's releases test market Happy Meal toys. These are small releases in a specific geographic area intended to gauge the interest of a toy before a nationwide release. And sometimes, there's a lot of interest for these extremely limited one-off toys. The toys might not be cleared for wider release, or they may be changed in some way before the full Happy Meal toy line goes nationwide. That makes some test market Happy Meal toys especially rare, valuable, and sought after. This can translate to mind-boggling prices on the resale market. 

One fabled test market batch is an early Happy Meal test: the 1985 St. Louis Transformers set. McDonald's has released Transformers several times over the years, and even created their own Transformers-like robots line that had its own wild popularity. But the first release of Transformers from the 80s is highly sought after. These pieces are extremely hard to find, even though they're non-transforming. Some have various shading and color variants, making some individual pieces even rarer.

Given the rarity of these test market Transformer Happy Meal toys, they can command a high price in the resale market. One set -– a total of 10 in varying levels of mint and near-mint condition –- sold for $735. 

Super Mario Bros. 3

Fast food and video games go hand in hand. So when Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. 3 game released in 1990, McDonald's released Happy Meal toys featuring characters from the game that performed actions similar to what they did in the game. It was Nintendo's first release with a fast-food restaurant, but not the last. 

The four Mario Happy Meal toys were game characters including a jumping Mario (based on Raccoon Mario), zooming Luigi holding a Starman, a flipping Little Goomba, and a hopping Koopa Paratroopa. Children under three could get a Racoon Mario designed for younger children. 

These toys were available in late July and August 1990, and are worth about $5 each. Surprisingly, the real money is in the Happy Meal boxes themselves, which sell for about $20 each. A full store display set of the original McDonald's Mario toys sold for $625. 

The Nintendo partnership has proved to be a good choice for both the game manufacturer and McDonald's, as McDonald's has since released several more Mario toy sets, including Mario Challenge in 2006, Mario Kart in 2014, and Super Mario in 2017 and 2018.

Minions 2 The Rise of Gru

The Minions from Despicable Me are a worldwide phenomenon. And when Minions toys were released in McDonald's Happy Meals worldwide, collectors flocked to pick up the many variations of Minion characters available in the kids' meals. 

In July 2015, the Minions took over McDonald's for the first time. The original Minions toy release coincided with the new Minions movie, and McDonald's went all-in on the promotion, transforming some restaurants and menus to reflect the Minions craze. One restaurant in Chicago had more than 400 Minions on the windows, at the drive-thru, and on tabletops and the front counter. Menus expanded worldwide to include the Minions' favorite food "BA-NA-NA," featuring strawberry-banana yogurt fresh bananas, banana-chocolate McFlurry, or banana shakes, depending on location.

Even though Minions 2 : The Rise of Gru was delayed until 2022, McDonald's released their promotional Minions for the movie in 2020 anyhow. The United States got 48 different basic toys, as well as 48 gold variants, while other countries got slightly smaller sets. A set of 48 basic Minions sells for about $150, and a set of all 96 goes for a whole lot more, if you can find them.

100 Years of Disney Magic

McDonald's Happy Meal toy releases are often so successful because of the partnerships with major brands. After all, when they release a new line of collectible toys featuring favorite characters from the past or present, fans flock to pick up the limited-edition toys. McDonald's has released many different Happy Meal toy lines with Disney for newly released movies, old favorites, and commemorative collections. 

One of the most notable commemorative collections of Disney Happy Meal toys is the 100 Years of Disney Magic set. In 2002, Disney turned 100 years old, and McDonald's released 100 characters to commemorate the occasion. The 100 Years of Disney Magic toy characters included classic Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, and friends, and characters from major Disney movies including Snow White, Dumbo, Mary Poppins, Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. Four special edition commemorative glasses were available for sale, too. This was a toy set made for collectors with more than 100 pieces in total, so there was a lot of interest in buying and trading to create a complete set of the toys. 

Given the extensive span of the collection at 104 pieces total, it's tough to find a complete set for sale. And if you do find one, expect to pay a lot for the privilege of owning it. But a lot of 100 new in bag 100 Years of Disney Magic Happy Meal toys sells for about $300.

Barbie Dolls

Barbies are some of the most popular toys of all time, and like Beanie Babies, Barbies have collection lore all on their own without the help of Happy Meals. So it's no surprise that when McDonald's features mini Barbie toys in Happy Meals, they're a big hit with kids and collectors alike. McDonald's Barbies are often teamed up with another classic Happy Meal toy by Mattel, Hot Wheels, so kids can choose between the doll or a classic car with their Happy Meals. Sometimes, you can find restaurant displays for sale with Barbies and Hot Wheels featured together.

The Barbie Happy Meal partnership has been a popular one, as McDonald's has sold Barbies in Happy Meal toys several times throughout the years. Most recently, in 2019, McDonalds brought back the Barbie and Hot Wheels toy combo, featuring the "You Can Be Anything" Barbie and "Challenge Accepted" Hot Wheels. The Barbies in this McDonald's toy series range from an astronaut to mermaid, encouraging young Barbie fans to consider their potential to do anything. The Hot Wheels challenge cars encouraged kids to create and show off tracks and courses for the new cars.

But the 1993 collection is especially popular because that was the first year that the mini-Barbies featured "real" synthetic hair that could be brushed and styled instead of the molded plastic the toys had featured before. While a full set of 8 only goes for about $12, that same year Mattel released a separate line of full-sized Happy Meal Barbies in regular toy stores. Janet, Stacie, Whitney and Todd can sell for up to $25 each, with a deluxe 'Birthday Fun at McDonalds' boxed set, complete with Ronald McDonald cake, goes for about $65.

Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway

Many American childhoods feature Happy Meals and Disney – especially Disney parks such as Disney World. In 2020, McDonald's brought the iconic Disney and Happy Meal brands together, featuring popular Disney parks attractions in the Disney Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway Happy Meal toys. 

The highly anticipated toys featured some of the most famous and beloved attractions from the Walt Disney World Resort including Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, Tower of Terror, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more, with classic Disney characters on the rides including Mickey, Minnie, and friends. 

But like much of 2020, the Happy Meal toy release did not go as planned. The toys included game tickets with a QR code, which ultimately led to the toy line's recall. The code was intended to be scanned within the McDonald's app for a contest and engaging content. But when the QR code was scanned outside of the app, users were led to an error message or unintended search results. McDonald's quickly recalled the toys. Although McDonald's intended to re-release them, the restaurant ultimately stopped selling the toys altogether. By this time, however, countless toys had already made it into Happy Meals. So, while the set may be a little harder to assemble than most due to the limited availability, a full set of 10 is still worth about $50 – more than most Happy Meal toys!

Hot Wheels

Happy Meal toys have been around for more than 40 years now, so McDonald's toys can be considered classics. And they're often paired with another classic toy that collectors love to seek out: Hot Wheels. 

Hot Wheels have been available in McDonald's Happy Meals many, many times in the last 40 years. In fact, there's been a Hot Wheels McDonald's Happy Meal toy release nearly every year since 1991. You might think their ubiquity would make Happy Meal Hot Wheels less valuable than other popular McDonald's toys. And you're right; most of these toy cars that are virtually worthless to all but the kids who love to play with them. 

But there are McDonald's Hot Wheels toys that are highly sought after, especially older or hard to find models. Some of the most popular are cars designed specifically for McDonald's, some with McDonald's branding, and special editions including the DC Super Heroes series. One McDonald's branded Hot Wheels, a '67 Camaro with Ronald McDonald House branding, wasn't a Happy meal toy at all. It was distributed only at the 1st Annual Hot Wheels Nationals in 2001, held in Oakbrook Illinois. They sell for an average of $125.

Inspector Gadget

The Inspector Gadget TV series was popular with many older millennials as kids of the mid-80s, who grew up watching the Nickelodeon animated series featuring a cyborg police inspector who's not very bright but always manages to save the day –- even inadvertently. 

When Disney released an Inspector Gadget movie in 1999 starring Matthew Broderick, McDonald's released a set of Happy Meal toys to go along with it. Although the movie was a disappointment at the box office, the Happy Meal toys had some interest, especially among long loyal Inspector Gadget fans intent on collecting every piece from the toy line.

This collection is one of the most unusual Happy Meal toy sets: you need eight different pieces including torso, legs, and arms to put together a full Inspector Gadget. A full, sealed set isn't too hard to find for $30, but hardcore collectors always go for the store display case. A single McDonald's may get thousands of toys, but they only get one display. That's why a fully-loaded display of the Inspector Gadget set sells for a little over $130.

The Muppets

The Muppets haven't just taken Manhattan –- they've taken over McDonald's at least four times, too. In 1987, McDonald's released Muppet Babies Happy Meal toys. In the main set, kids could get one of four-wheeled vehicles: Kermit on a skateboard, Piggy in a pink car, Gonzo on a tricycle, or Fozzie on a wheeled horse. Kids under three could get a Kermit or Piggy on skates. And in Canada, the main collection included an Animal in a red wagon. In 1990, a test market version was released featuring Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo on tricycles. After this test release, McDonald's released another set of Muppet Babies toys in 1990 to selected regions in the U.S., again with the Muppets riding wheeled vehicles like the original set. 

Although the Muppet Babies Happy Meal toys were incredibly popular in all of their releases, it's the grownup Muppet Happy Meal toys that command the highest resale prices. Released in 2003 in almost everywhere but the United States, the complete plush Jim Henson classic Muppet characters set features Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Animal, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, Rowlf, Swedish Chef, and Rizzo the Rat. Australia was the only country to get this full set of ten, and one set of these Muppet Happy Meal toys sold for about $116 American dollars.

Toy Story 2 : Al's Toy Barn

Some of the promotional products associated with a McDonald's Happy Meal toy release are just as popular as the toys themselves. Browse Happy Meal toy listings on eBay, and you're bound to find lots of restaurant displays with a full collection of toys for sale. 

The toy barn released for Toy Story 2's 1999 Happy Meal collection is one that's highly sought after, because it was only privately released to executives and friends of McDonald's and Pixar. It's a display and storage case in one, designed specifically for collectors. The cardboard box is filled with all 20 toys in the collection, and came complete with a letter from Al McWhiggin, ultimate toy collector and owner of Al's Toy Barn. A complete box in good condition is especially rare.

In addition to the toys and the toy barn, the Toy Story 2 promotion featured six refillable Toy Story 2 themed candy dispensers featuring Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Bullseye, Jessie, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Rex, and Hamm, which sold for $1.99 in 1999 with the purchase of a Happy Meal or large sandwich.

An Al's Toy barn sold for $115, and a set of unopened McDonald's Toy Story 2 candy dispensers can go as high as $20.

101 Dalmatians

Another highly notable partnership between Disney and McDonald's Happy Meals: the 101 Dalmatians collector's set. Disney's 1996 release of 101 Dalmatians featured collectible Dalmatian puppies and other movie character toys at McDonald's. One of the largest single collections of Happy Meal toys, collectors sought out all 101 different Dalmatians from the new movie. That's a lot of toys to pick up, not counting any potential duplicates, and you can only eat so many Happy Meals.

In addition to the sheer size of the collection, this set is unique, as many collectors got an official special edition collector's set: a Dalmatian spotted box to hold the complete set of available figures with a certificate of authenticity from McDonald's. For some, the boxed set might have been cheaper than trying to find all 101 unique Dalmatians one at a time in Happy Meals. 

One complete McDonald's 101 Dalmatians set sold for $105.

Fraggle Rock

Fraggle Rock, part of the Muppet fandom, was popular in the 80s (and has since been rebooted in 2020 by Apple TV+). The beloved Jim Henson creatures were released in a set of McDonald's Fraggle Rock Happy Meal toys in 1988. The official set was made up of four Fraggle vegetable cars, featuring Gobo, Red, Mokey, and Wembley. But there were additional toys, including two toys for kids under age three: Gobo and Red Fraggle, each holding a vegetable instead of riding in one. 

These toys are sought after, but even more rare are the test version of the Happy Meal toys sold the year before in West Virginia, featuring the Gobo and Red cars with two Doozer cars instead of Mokey and Wembley's vegetable cars. A complete set of these Fraggle Rock Happy Meal test market toys sold for $99.99.

McNugget Buddies

McNugget Buddies were Happy Meal toy adaptations featuring a popular food from the meal itself: chicken McNuggets. The nugget characters ranged from firefighters and police to farmers and scuba divers with names including First Class McNugget, Sparky McNugget, Corny McNugget, Rocker McNugget, and Cowpoke McNugget. The talking McNugget buddies were a regular feature in McDonald's ads in the 80s and 90s. 

The toys were released in 1988, 1993, and 1996, and some of the most sought-after McNugget Buddies are the Halloween McNugget Buddies, including Spider McNugget and Alien McNugget -– even a Ronald McNugget. While the individual toys may not be worth a ton, a full store display of the 1996 Halloween McNugget Buddies sold for $79.99, and the 1992 edition for nearly $100.

Star Wars : The Clone Wars

Star Wars toys are often highly collectible, especially early toys or ones that are particularly rare. McDonald's Happy Meals have featured Star Wars characters several times through the years, and most have been met with interest from collectors. 

The 2008 Clone Wars Happy Meal collection of 18 toys has been popular on the secondary market, with complete sets selling for around $15. 

Other popular Star Wars McDonald's Happy Meal toys include the 2012 Episode 1 spinner toys, and especially the 2019 release of Rise of Skywalker backpack charms -– which featured 16 basic toys to collect, a 'Dark Side' three-pack, 12 stickers, and 10 trading cards.

Lion King II : Simba's Pride

Released in 1998, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, didn't receive nearly the fanfare of the original and had a straight-to-video fate. But even without a theatrical release, The Lion King II commanded a Happy Meal toy release for the occasion –- and the beloved Lion King characters in plush form have been very collectible. The Happy Meal Lion King toy line featured character favorites including Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki. McDonald's brought back plastic Lion King Happy Meal toys in 2019 for the live-action Lion King movie release. A complete original Lion King II McDonald's display set sold for $39.95.