In 1981, Mattel released A Bad Case of Worms, a novelty toy that appealed to children who enjoyed disgusting the people around them.
The toy was packaged on a bright yellow card with the green plastic carrying case housing two worms visible through a transparent bubble. The front of the card promised “Two icky, yucky worms in a case! Toss ’em on a smooth wall and watch ’em crawl!”
The back of the card included worm jokes such as the classic, “What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Finding half a worm!” It also included a “Worms Fan Ownership Certificate” that allowed proud toy worm-owners to record their personal details such as name, eye colour, shoe size, and the names of their two worms. The card also warned that the worms may stain some surfaces.
Inside the green plastic case, two sticky rubber worms were coiled into designated pockets. The worms were moulded from coloured rubber. Two little eyes and a mouth gave them each a bit of personality. Kids were encouraged to toss the worms onto a wall and watch them crawl their way down. The fun was short-lived, however. The worms lost their stickiness with use.
Retailers had the option of displaying the toy on racks thanks to a perforated tab at the top of the card, or on a flat surface in the display box. The display box — which held 48 units — teased: “give someone a bad case of worms”.
Watch a classic commercial for A Bad Case of Worms on the Toy Tales YouTube channel.