Every Black Friday, there’s that one item, that one special thing that everyone wants but no one can get their hands on. It could be a toy or a game or a gadget, but whatever it is, the quest to find it can send shoppers to the edge of madness. It’s the thing that people wait in line for. It’s the thing parents get in fights over. It’s the thing that (in some cases) can inspire a really awful Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. But is the item ever really worth all of the insanity? We’ve decided to take a look back at some of the hottest and hardest-to-get Black Friday items of all time. How difficult were they to score? How many actually sold? And did they really live up to all the hype? Let’s find out as we jump back in time with our Black Friday Toy Throwback.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
YEAR: 1993 ITEM: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers action figures WHAT WAS IT? Team of teenagers with attitude in action figure form NUMBER SOLD: 600,000 THE INSANITY: 600,000 may seem like a small number compared to the other items on this list, but that was literally every Power Ranger figure available in the U.S. that holiday. No one expected a low-budget kids superhero show that recycled old Japanese monster movie footage to become a ratings powerhouse, but that’s exactly what happened. Toy stores grossly underestimated the demand for Power Rangers, and by the holidays of 1993, parents were literally fighting each other in the aisles of Toys R Us to bring one of them home. A Power Rangers black market even popped up, fueled by shady toy store clerks willing to put a few pink and white Rangers aside for parents willing to pay hundreds of dollars for them.
LEGACY: The very next year, an additional 11 toy factories opened to meet the demand for Power Ranger toys, turning them into a billion-dollar industry … for a little while, at least. Dozens of new Power Rangers series have been released over the last two decades, but none of them have reached the initial popularity of the very first one. The toys, however, continue to sell, and the insanity of that first Christmas will live on forever thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 1996 film “Jingle All the Way” starred Schwarzenegger as a beguiled father desperately searching for a toy on Christmas Eve, based heavily on the Power Rangers craze from three years earlier.
Tickle Me Elmo
YEAR: 1996 ITEM: Tickle Me Elmo doll WHAT WAS IT? Highly sensitive Sesame Street Muppet NUMBER SOLD: 1 million THE INSANITY: The granddaddy of all hard-to-get holiday gift items, the Tickle Me Elmo doll spurred a Black Friday the likes of which America had never seen before and may never see again. Released in July of 1996, the toys were relatively easy to find until October, when Rosie O’Donnell unexpectedly plugged them on her daytime talk show. All of a sudden, demand skyrocketed and the country’s entire stock of 400,000 was sold out by the Friday after Thanksgiving. The manufacturer shipped an additional 600,000 that December, but even that was not enough to satiate the public. Parents chased down delivery trucks, got sent to jail and even paid upwards of $7,000 in order to obtain one of the giggling red Muppets.
LEGACY: Tickle Me Elmo’s popularity was intense but short-lived. While new versions of the doll have been released every few years, none of them have been big sellers. The originals haven’t exactly skyrocketed in value either. These days, you can get them, mint in box, for under $20 on eBay.
Cabbage Patch Kids
YEAR: 1983 ITEM: Cabbage Patch Kids dolls WHAT WAS IT? Adoptable race of children (dolls) grown in a magical cabbage patch NUMBER SOLD: 3 million THE INSANITY: There were some hot holiday items before 1983, but the Cabbage Patch Kids were the first to inspire the insanity we all associate with your typical Black Friday. Children of the early ‘80s went crazy for them, and their parents went crazy trying to get them under the Christmas tree. These weird melon-headed dolls became toy aisle celebrities, popping up on the cover of Newsweek and getting profiled on The Today Show. Stores had to have them shipped in armored cars to keep their stock boys safe, and the manufacturer even stopped running television commercials in hopes of calming the crowds down. (Good luck getting any company to be so kind-hearted these days!)
LEGACY: Although Cabbage Patch Kids mania never hit the same fever it did in 1983, the toy line is still going strong three decades later. You can buy brand new Cabbage Patch Kids today, and the original toys, still in their box, can go for about $150 on eBay. Of course, the Cabbage Patch Kids’ true legacy may be in the nostalgia-clouded minds of the kids who originally owned them. They’ve become staples of any self-respecting magazine story, television or documentary that looks back at the hottest fads of the ‘80s. They’ve also become one of the few toys immortalized in the form of a U.S. postage stamp.
YEAR: 1998 ITEM: Furbys WHAT WAS IT? Weird electronic owl creature NUMBER SOLD: 1.8 million THE INSANITY: The Furby was first announced in February of 1998 at the Toy Industry Association’s annual Toy Fair, seven months before they were actually supposed to be released. The strange little owl-eyed creatures (that you could supposedly teach new words and behaviors) quickly captured the imagination of the public. Manufacturer Tiger Electronics ended up selling out of them before the factory even started producing them. By Black Friday of that year, they were almost impossible to get in stores, and for the first time, parents started turning to eBay and other online sellers to try and score one for their kids. One eBay seller made close to $3,000 on a bunch of Furbys he didn’t even have. The buyers got nothing for their money, making them victims of one of the very first eBay scams.
LEGACY: Very few people seem to have fond memories of their Furbys; in fact, most people were straight up freaked out by the nonsense, jabbering goblins they let into their house that holiday. Online toy forums are full of former Furby owners reminiscing about how scary the toys were. It seems the public liked Furbys in theory but not sitting on their bedside nightstand, staring at them in the dark.
YEAR: 2006 ITEM: Playstation 3 WHAT WAS IT? The third-generation Playstation NUMBER SOLD: N/A THE INSANITY: All of Sony’s Playstation video game consoles were big hits the years they were released, but the Playstation 3 hit the market at the exact time Black Friday was hitting its fever pitch in America. 2006 was the same year the first person was trampled in a Black Friday stampede. Buyers went nuts over the new console like never before, waiting in line all night and even reverting to subterfuge. Supposedly, one person served his fellow line waiters laxative-laced coffee so he could steal their place in the queue.
LEGACY: Like every video game console before it, the Playstation 3’s time in the sun has passed, making way for more of its more advanced siblings.
What’s your prediction for the hottest toy for 2015?
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