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Hatchimals’ popularity leads to ‘black market’

The hottest toy for the 2016 holiday season is the Hatchimal, a virtual pet that you help hatch out of its egg and then train. On Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, some Long Islanders talked about why they have given up on searching for this toy after hours spent fruitlessly waiting in line, while others showed off their Hatchimals that they are raffling or selling on auction websites.  Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely; Steve Pfost

Demand for Hatchimals, this holiday season’s ‘it’ toy, is so intense that the colorful eggs that “hatch” into interactive creatures are selling on Craigslist, eBay and other sites for as much as six times their retail price.

The toy manufactured by Spin Master, the Toronto-based company that also sells Etch-a-Sketch, retails for $59.99. It has flown off store shelves and into what some parents are calling “the black market for Hatchimals.”

Spin Master has said more won’t be available until early next year.

Calease Phillips, 39, of Farmingdale, a single mother with an 8-year-old daughter, was on the hunt for a Hatchimal for several weeks.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. to go wait at Target along with some other crazy parents but after all the waiting they had none and that’s when I said ‘That’s it!’ ” she said Thursday. “I know moms that have paid $275. They’ve gone mad over them but I’m done.”

Elisa Salazar, 30, of Forest Hills, Queens, had better luck. She was able to buy five Hatchimals — and is selling them on Craigslist for $175 each.

“One of my co-workers, who has a 9-year-old daughter, was the one who brought it to my attention,” said Salazar, who works as an executive assistant in Manhattan. He read that Hatchimals had won a Toy of the Year award and “that’s when we both decided to go out and buy it because who knows, this toy could be huge,” she said.

Kids “nurture” the eggs until they hatch, and then take care of the creatures, teaching them to walk, talk and play games.

Salazar bought hers at a Barnes & Noble in the city several weeks ago when a tweet alerted her that the book store had them in stock.

However, since posting her online ad, she has received backlash from parents.

“They first try offering me a lot less money and then try to degrade me and tell me they can get it for less on eBay,” she said. “But I’ve been on eBay and many are selling for a lot more.” She hasn’t sold any yet.

EBay bids on Hatchimals range from $115 to $1,300 for a set of three. (The highest asking price — for a blue-green draggle, the offspring of a dragon and an eagle — seeks more than $8,000.)

Salazar remembers playing with her own ‘fad toy’ — a light blue Tamagotchi — and can relate to children wanting a Hatchimal and parents trying to satisfy their wishes.

“I know it must be hard for the parents, that’s why I didn’t hike up the price ridiculously. I didn’t want to go crazy,” she said. “But I live in a $2,000 one-bedroom apartment. I’m just trying to pay my bills. I’m just trying to make extra money to pay my rent.”

Long Islanders selling Hatchimals online also expressed frustration over “bullying” from parents. More than a dozen who were contacted for this story didn’t want their names used, many saying they wanted to avoid added aggravation.

A video posted by “Mommas Page” on Facebook, in which a mom rants about the Hatchimal shortage, has gone viral.

In it, the angry mom says: “You know who has all the Hatchimals? It’s ‘That Guy,’ who is a 43-year-old living in his parents’ basement, playing PlayStation . . . and just surrounded by Hatchimals selling them for a bigger price . . . have you no soul? Did someone take your lunch money when you were a kid?”

Whether the ‘That Guy’ theory is accurate or not, some moms are not giving up just yet.

Doreen Grace of Valley Stream said she is still exploring her options.

“I’ve been looking all over the place online. I even signed up for email alerts,” she said. Grace’s niece got a Hatchimal for her ninth birthday in late October and now her 4-year-old daughter Alexa says it’s all she wants for Christmas.

“I’ve seen them on Amazon for about $300. And when it comes down to it, will I pay the $300? I wouldn’t want to tell my husband that, but yes. I told my daughter, ‘Mommy will get it for you no matter what.’ ”

Grace, 36, clearly remembers wanting an American Girl doll for Christmas when she was a little girl, and not getting it.

“I wanted it soooo bad!” she said. “But my parents refused to pay so much money for it.” The dolls, first released in 1986, sold for $100 to $200.

Richard Gottlieb, founder of Global Toy Experts, a toy industry consulting firm based in Manhattan, says parents and grandparents who lived through toy fads in the past are more willing to spend big bucks on a single item because “they get it.”

“They understand what it’s like because they’ve lived through it several times,” he said.

However, Gottlieb warns that toy fads can be double-edged swords for manufacturers.

“When a toy like this starts to sell out, the manufacturer is both excited and panicked,” he explained. “Toy fads start suddenly and when they do there’s a huge demand and no product. The manufacturer rushes to produce inventory and sometimes overproduces. Prices collapse. When the fad stops, it also stops suddenly and that’s when the company is in financial trouble.”

Gottlieb said overproduction and the public’s declining interest in Cabbage Patch dolls, a toy that once caused store riots, were key factors in Coleco Inc.’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 1988.

“In the ’70s when ‘Star Wars’ came out, a toy company called Kenner was licensed to make the film’s action figures, which of course immediately sold out,” Gottlieb said. “And because fads are harder to manage on the way down than on the way up, companies sometimes get creative. Kenner sold empty boxes with promissory notes inside. It was genius!”

Toy manufacturers, however, are not the only ones who get creative when there’s a toy drought.

People have posted online ads seeking to trade their Hatchimals for televisions, furniture or the second hottest toy this year, the Nintendo NES Classic. Others have entered $10-a-ticket raffles in hopes of scoring the toy in time for Christmas.

Toni Bond, 47, of Port Jefferson, owner of the Purple Turtle Kids Resale Boutique in Mount Sinai, is raffling a Hatchimal at her store. Entering is free; no purchase is necessary.

“I bought one for my 6-year-old granddaughter weeks ago and decided to buy an extra to resell it, but when I saw how hard it was to find I decided to raffle it,” she said. “Hopefully, I can make one child happy. I still remember my own mother hunting high and low because I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. I even remember her name — Missy Nora.”

And Bond’s mother still has the doll at home. “We stood in line for it.”

She suggests parents who can’t afford or don’t want to pay an inflated price for a Hatchimal give their children a letter from the “Desk of Santa Claus” asking the child to be patient and promising a Hatchimal egg “as soon as it’s laid.”

Phillips, the Farmingdale mom who has given up the hunt for now, said she has relatives in other states “searching for this thing still.” But “I’m definitely not going to pay $400 for it,” she said.

“It’s an egg . . . she’ll get it for Easter.”

With Beth Whitehouse

Toy crazes through time:

1950s – The Hula Hoop

1970s – Star Wars Action Figures

1980s – Cabbage Patch Kids

1996 - Tamagotchi

1996 – Tickle Me Elmo

1998 – Furby

2008 – Beanie Babies

Source: Richard Gottlieb, Global Toy Experts

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