1996 was the first year when I really started getting into LEGO. I have so many '96 product catalogs laying around along with the instructions for many of my first sets.That was probably the smartest thing my six-year-old brain ever did, since I've been able to reconstruct sets that I haven't had for years.
I've been able to build older 90's sets thanks to my older brother giving me lots of old bricks and sites like Peeron with tons of scanned instruction booklets. After some digging I found enough bricks to make a few Ice Planet sets, which is probably my favorite pre-1996 theme. My favorites in 1996-1997 were the various Race sets. I have 6517 (jet ski), 6546 (#4 Formula 1 car), and I was able to reconstruct most of 6335 (Formula 1 car carrier truck). I also had 2129 (red Bungee Blaster), 6331 (blue stunt plane), 6553 (TV crew), 6581 and 6565 (various construction vehicles), 6625 (police car and motorcycle), 6407 (tiny fire truck), 6550 (outback race truck), 6556 and 6442 (some Divers sets), 2160 (small Aquaraiders sub), 6145 and 6125 (some Aquanauts vehicles), 2151 (small orange Roboforce walker), along with a bunch of U.F.O. and Exploriens sets. I never had any Time Twisters, Castle, Fright Knights or Pirate sets, but my older brother did.
That's quite a lot. I never realized how much I had in that year alone. The last set I remember buying was some ambulance in... 2010, I think. I still have it but I converted it to a sort of A-Team van. I have Power Miners sets too but those were gifts. I don't have much of an interest in current LEGO sets and maybe it's because of what some of you are saying. There is something about the 90's sets that makes them cooler, more attractive, more valuable. Maybe some of it is nostalgia but it seems to apply to old sets that I haven't seen until recently.
There are some boxes for 80's LEGO sets in my attic, or at least I think they're from the 80's. There's some space shuttle and the legendary monorail. The monorail is cool but the space shuttle looks rather lame. Sets earlier than that are even more bleh and I don't know why.