The Emperor wasn't much of toy kid yet at that age. Most of the stuff he actually played with were non-toy items he just took a shine to. (He used to love the silicone pastry brush, for example.) (Actually, he still loves that thing.)
His grandparents gave him a set of large soft blocks for that birthday which were a huge hit-- and which he still plays with 2 years later. He got a red wagon from the same grandparents for Christmas the same year (few months after his birthday) and it's also been a really enduring gift. He loves it more the older he gets.
Oh, and the damn baby cellphone. There are a million variants out there, but this one seems to be popular with people we know: http://www.amazon.com/Fisher-Price-Bril ... 000LSZVLO/
Actually someone gave E that very one for his third birthday and not only is he STILL excited by the thing, but his 10 month old brother thinks it's the very bestest toy ever too. For a toy that makes noise, I find it minimally irritating.