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Published: Saturday, 12/13/2008

Must-have toys: The hottest items eventually cool down, although Elmo still rules

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

You could ve sold the $15 Furby on eBay before Christmas and made 10 times that money or more. Ever try looking on eBay to see what it s worth now?

On second thought, don t bother why make yourself cry?

Such is the trend for most must-have holiday items whose popularity is like an aging sun it builds and builds, growing hotter and hotter, until it goes super nova in a hellish explosion and then ... well, nothing but a cold void.

Just two years ago some lucky entrepreneur sold his 10 $250 Nintendo Wii investments on eBay for nearly $3,000. At that time, the game system was new, revolutionary, and nearly impossible to find. This holiday season, while the Wii remains the best-selling game console, supply has caught up with demand, and the system can be found for retail price at most electronic stores.

A Furby A Furby
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

And remember the virtual pet craze created by Bandai and its Tamagotchi in 1996? The electronic toys retailed for about $15, and sold for as much as $326.99 for two of the devices on eBay a year later. Now they can be had for as little as $14.99.

It was a tremendous success. It was a great gift for young children and it seemed that all children had one, said Cat Schwartz, eBay s toy director. However, the trend disappeared rather quickly.

As the Tamagotchi proves, speculating on toy collectibles is an iffy proposition especially as a long-term investment.

But the shot at a potential windfall is worth the risks, Ms. Schwartz said.

More often than not it s going to end up panning out it if it s something people predicted, like Tickle Me Elmo, she said. Three months ahead of Christmas people were talking about it; those who were on it were very successful.

In fact, a new-in-the-box Tickle Me Elmo still fetches $60 or more, about double the original price of the toy. The key to being that kind of successful seller, Ms. Schwartz advises, is to watch eBay and similar auction-house Web sites to see how well a toy is selling.

You can tell by what s happening if things are going or not going. If something s selling, it s hot, she said. Put it up there and you will be able to sell. All you have to be is a savvy user. Do your research.

This year, however, looks to be a rough one for those looking to take advantage of a toy s demand to fund a semester or two of their children s college education. While there are several hot-ticket items for the holidays, including another Elmo Elmo Live as well as a Japanese import, Bakugun Battle Brawlers, the toys are found easily enough.

A recent glance at Amazon.com shows that Elmo Live is marked down $6 from its retail price of $65.99, and that there are multiple sets of the Bakugun Battle Brawlers available as well. Another popular toy as a holiday gift is a classic board game, as families look to save cash by spending more leisure time at home and less money out. Good luck pimping the price of a Monopoly or Sorry set an extra $100 on eBay this holiday season.

And what is it that makes a toy such as whatever-Elmo-does-this-year a must-have gift? Supply and demand? The media? A godless society run amok? Try something less capitalist and considerably more innocent: children.

It s how [the toys] resonate with children, said Adrienne Citrin, spokesman for the Toy Industry Association Inc.

Sometimes you have the children [respond to] a toy that people didn t expect to be huge and it is.

Every year there are different must-have toys. What you see from the industry every year is a breadth of different products, but it s a toss up. You never know what s going to be a must-have item.

But just because a toy is popular during the holidays, she cautions, doesn t mean a child should receive it as a gift.

We always tell parents not to listen to hype about must-have toys, Ms. Citrin said, and to really step back and look at, is this something my child will play with and want, and it s not something that their parents are getting caught up in.

Contact Kirk Baird atkbaird@theblade.comor 419-724-6734.



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