Top toy trends: Are they worth the mania and the MSRP?

Cabbage Patch Kids: my first memory of parents lining up and forsaking all sense of civility for a toy that was plentiful before the holiday and forgotten a year later. Maybe I’m bitter – I didn’t get a real signature-on-the-rear, papered kid from the garden – but was it worth it?

As the mother of two kids under five, I’m still gleefully unaware of the pressures presented by fiercely competitive toy mongers and their minions disguised as Kindergarten classmates. So I may be proven a liar. But I shall not cave to this pressure to forsake common sense and frugality.

Two top toys for gifts from the last two years, Fisher Price’s Elmo Live and Zhu Zhu Pets, look at their price at their peak versus their lowest price and the position they’ve assumed on The Island of Misfit Toys (eBay and the bottom of the toy box).

When it first entered the market, Fisher Price’s Elmo Live retailed for $59.99. According to, this price had dipped to $39.99 by the following January. For in-the-box Elmo, Ebayers are still holding on to that price; and current gen of this toy that does all the playing for you is moving into the mid-seventies. But without his cellophane tour bus, poor Elmo’s only getting $20 per eBay gig. $20 and a torso full of dead batteries doesn’t balance plunking down $60 or $75 while getting on a first-name basis with the stock boy at Walmart. But my daughters Elmo plush doll: Battery free and still accompanying her to bed after two years.

Oh Zhu Zhu pets. It’s a cheap piece of … but at least it’s not a real hamster, right? Right. Until you pay $40 bucks a piece and lurk in multiple forums waiting for word that the rodents have arrived in-store. After seeing a Zhu Zhu 3-pack for $13.49 (expired best deal), a devoted parent and unnamed coworker responded, “…I spent $25 a piece on two of them last year and thought I got a hell of a deal. And now…they’re under a bed.” I’d be disgusted if my kid had rodents under her bed too.

The 2010 top toy mania has yet to clearly define itself. Unless we learned our lesson with the Zhu Zhu rodents, nests, and exercise equipment, I’d keep a safe distance between my child and the Mattel Singa Ma Jigs. Aside from finding their unidentifiable species slightly disturbing, I’m avoiding any initial investment whose selling feature is add-on aliens for the promise of – increased volume and – harmony.

It’s not just the Singa Ma Jigs’ fault – my daughter was born with a talent for going Mix Master Mike with any audio-reciting toy. She’s already telling me, “It’s a pillow. It’s a pet. It’s a Pillow Pet,” every time we walk into Walmart.

No more TV until after Christmas.

What toy ghosts of Christmas past are haunting your toy box of Christmas present?

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