20 most worthless pieces of junk: #1 -- The happy meal toy

Happy meal toyI'm all for keeping my kid entertained while out at a restaurant. Without some crayons and paper, getting through a meal would be a lot more difficult.

But do we really need Happy Meal toys? McDonald's has sold these things since 1979, and after 10 minutes of play, they're long forgotten -- as many children's toys are.

Fast food is bad enough, but throw in a plastic toy that will end up in a landfill soon enough, and you've got one of the most useless pieces of junk on the planet.

Anyone who has had kids since 1979 can tell you how many Happy Meal toys they've stepped on as a parent, usually with a bare foot that needs an icepack afterward. My daughter is 4 and I've stepped on close to 100.Many of the Happy Meals are tied to family-oriented movies, increasing the chance that your kid will continuously bug you to take them to the movie until your ears bleed. The first promotion was the Star Trek Meal to promote "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in December 1979. Many trips to McDonald's were needed to complete the set of toys related to the film, which must have embarrassed teen-age Trekkies everywhere who had to return again and again and ask for a "kid's meal" so they could get a lousy toy.Probably one thing that keeps Happy Meal sales continuing is the hope that the toys will turn into collectibles and that you'll get rich someday. That's what happened to an 11-year-old boy in London who sold his 7,000-piece collection at auction for just more than $11,000.

The sad part is the boy never played with the toys. He left them unopened in their original packages in pristine condition.

If you have too many Happy Meal toys rolling around in your car or underfoot in the living room, do what my daughter's preschool does at its annual carnival: Collect them from parents and give them away as prizes at the carnival. Your useless junk is now someone else's problem.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net.

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