Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Ahhh, Christmas. It's a time of peace on Earth and goodwill towards man, when Santa delivers presents to all the good children of the world. It's also a time of anguish and heartache for those unlucky kids who don't get just that perfect toy. Most suburban moms and dads would rather give themselves a barbwire enema than not get their spawnlings that 'it' toy, that one toy that every kid has to have.

And so, all the caring parents of the world descend upon their local Walmarts and Toys R Us stores en masse, all determined to get the exact same thing. Most years, it's a chaotic, but perfectly peaceful affair, perfectly suited for the holiday. Other times though, when the gloves come off, and the brass-knuckles go on, that's when you see the perfect storm of privilege and pain. It's in that spirit that I present to you a list of the top 5 toy crazes that have lead to bloodshed.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Let's get ready to shop!

5. Furby - 1998

Produced by Tiger Electronics, the Furby isn't technically a toy, it's a robot. It's not even a really good robot: it won't fix you a drink, take out your trash or kill Sarah Connor for you. It just kinda stands there and talks in a language you can't understand.

Ok, so that's not all. It can open and close it's eyes, it can move itself slightly up and down and it can communicate with other Furbies. The main attraction is that the toy itself can speak, but doesn't start off speaking English. Instead it speaks Furbish, a made up gibberish language with phrases that can be easily misinterpreted by a Midwestern soccer mom with way too much time on her hands. Hey, it might be saying gibberish, but that soccer mom is either hearing "Allah is the light" or "Give your soul to Satan".

This is the face of absolute evil.
This is the face of absolute evil.

So, beyond looking like evil demons come to drag you down to the depths of Hell, these Furbies don't really have anything else going for them. So, naturally, they became the hot-seller of 1998. These puppies were selling at an 850% markup at times. They even have the distinction of being involved in some of the earliest massive online scams, as many people who thought that they'd save time and energy and just buy their Furbies online ended up receiving nothing at all.

Strangely enough though, Tiger Electronics didn't really set out to 'create craze' like most of the other entries on this list did. They introduced the Furby to the general public long before it was in production. Instead of having nearly a year to get enough units ready for Christmas, they had less than half the time. So, in this case, the problem was simple ineptitude, not outright Machiavellian malevolence.

Where are they now?: In 2005, new "Emoto-tronic" Furbies were unleashed upon the general public. The new toys featured a wider range of emotions, and better voice recognition, but lacked a number of other features that the originals had. Their popularity has never returned.

What do we think?: We need to genetically engineer actual real-life Furbies, breed them on a deserted island (aptly renamed to Furby Island) and then harvest and slaughter them in a long-term plan to provide cheap meat to school cafeterias. Or entertainment. I haven't decided which, but either way is good. Or both. Slaughter them for food AND entertainment. That's the ticket.

4. Beanie Babies - 1995

Beanie Babies are bean-bag toys shaped like animals and given names so you can differentiate between bear with blue colored fur and bear with red colored fur. Ty Warner, the creator, wasn't happy with limiting production of his toys like many others in this list, he also decided that in order to keep his Beanie Babies marketable he would retire older designs. The result was a bubble economy that made the tulip market in 17th Century Holland look down-right sensible by comparison.

The theory goes like this: Toy A is worth x amount of dollars when it is still available. When Toy A is retired, the availability goes down and presumably demand goes up, and can then be sold for several times more than what was originally paid for it.

That's the theory. The fact is, the only people who were buying Beanie Babies were: little kids, obsessive collectors, widows who like the cute toys, those strange people who you avoid because they talk endlessly about their cats and people who collect them to later sell them for a profit. That means that the only two groups who will generally be interested in purchasing a retired Beanie Baby would be those who likely got one cheap while it was still available, and those who want to buy them to later sell them for a profit. As you can probably guess, the market fell out and many people who had been planning to retire through selling their collections were left with crates of worthless plush toys that nobody wanted for the price that the collectors were willing to sell them at.

The giant horse cock on this beanie baby represents the extent that collectors were fucked over.
The giant horse cock on this beanie baby represents the extent that
collectors were fucked over.

The craze was so bad that when McDonalds decided to include Beanie Babies in their Happy Meals, there were numerous reports of collectors buying the meals for the toy and throwing the food away. So much was wasted that eventually McDonalds allowed people to just buy the toy alone, without needing to buy the food along with it.

But really, was there any crime related to those adorable little wastes of space? You bet your ass!

In 1998, two men in Dowell, Maryland, entered a gift shop, filled a display crate with hundreds of dollars of the toys and then ran off with them. In the same year, in Santa Ana, California, robbers beat a woman in the head with a metal pipe in order to steal a quantity of cash and a box of Beanie Babies.

There were also reports of unruly crowds in some places, especially where store owners, seeing a way to make some quick money decided to increase prices on the toys as much as 500%. People didn't cotton to the idea of paying $75 for some cloth shaped like an animal and filled with plastic pellets, and police were needed to keep the peace.

And that's not even mentioning the hundreds of counterfeiters, who even still produce knock-offs that are nearly identical to some of the most popular models, like the Princess Diana death-bear. (I couldn't make that up if I tried.)

Where are they now?: By 1999, the market dropped out for Beanie Babies, and many collectors were left holding bags and bags of worthless toys they could give away, let alone sell. Company stock likewise fell, to nearly half of what it was in the late 90s.

In late 2007 Ty Warner announced the retirement of most Beanie Babies then in production. Less than a month later, new "Beanie Baby 2.0" toys had hit the market. These ones came with codes that could be used to play online games, much like with the Webkinz toys that had overtaken them in the market.

What do we think?: Ty Warner should make a new Beanie Baby bear called Tearie, and dedicate him to all the collectors who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars so they could buy his toys. Then he should only produce 50 units and sell them for $1000 each before retiring them.

3. Playstation 3 - 2006

Let me start out by saying that I love my PS3. I play it just about every day, and I can't imagine watching videos without streaming them directly to my TV like I did in the olden days. This is the kind of tale that I will one day bore my grandchildren with.

That being said, Sony are a bunch of bastards for their handling of the Playstation 3 launch. The system was released just before Black Friday, as most of the items in this list were, but Sony had the brilliant idea of severely limiting the availability of their hot new console in order to drive demand.

Sure, the Japanese launch went perfectly, but nearly a week later at the North American launch, all hell broke loose. One man in Putnum, Connecticut, was shot while waiting in line. In Lexington, Kentucky, 4 people were victims of a drive-by shooting while in a line-up. Luckily, the weapon involved was a BB gun.

And it wasn't all just shootings, there were also reports of stabbings and robberies on launch day, all targeting people who were waiting for or had just received, their PS3s. In addition, entire shipments, like one from Naka City, Japan, were stolen.

Not only was there crime, but the console was ridiculously understocked, especially compared with the Wii and the Xbox 360. In some places, there were six times as many people waiting as there were consoles available to purchase.

Violence could have been much worse if Playstation Home was available on launch day. Having to put up with a horde of ten-year-olds all screaming at once and all with voice modulators increasing the pitch of their pre-pubescent cries would be enough to send even the most moderate man into a homicidal rage.

This runs through the head of anybody who's played Playstation Home for more than five minutes.
This runs through the head of anybody who's played Playstation Home for more than five minutes.

Where are they now?: Well, one is in my rec room right at this moment.

What do we think?: Huh? What? Were you saying something? Shoot him! Shoot him! Oh, uhhh sorry. Can you ask me later, I'm a little busy here.

2. Cabbage Patch Kids - 1983

Cabbage Patch Kids are strange things. Originally the brainchild of Xavier Roberts, an artist in his twenties experimented with needle-sculpting: an old German art form, in 1977. The resulting dolls were a hit, and he soon began creating the toys for sale. Xavier soon converted a medical clinic into Babyland General Hospital and sold his dolls to children who swore an oath to love the things forever.

Soon Coleco, the company that brought us the ColecoVision and a few other shitty video game consoles obtained the rights to mass produce Xavier's strangely Aryan babies and bring them to the world at large.

Problem is, the toys were selling too well. Quickly Coleco, which had no experience with selling something that children actually wanted, was selling by the truckload and couldn't keep up with the demand.

The craze hit a fevered pace in 1983 when Mary Toole of Sioux Falls South Dakota held up a Toys R Us while armed with nothing more than a spork, a BB gun and what can only be described as mania bordering on the psychotic. Two employees were injured that day, despite that there wasn't a crowd lining up to get the dolls at the time and there was quite a few in stock and on the shelves.

Admit it: you were thinking the exact same thing.
Admit it: you were thinking the exact same thing.

In addition, one woman from Wilkes-Barre, Pensylvania, was attacked when a crowd of shoppers became angry. She only suffered a broken leg in the incident.

Where are they now?: Despite selling what could arguably be the most popular toy of the early 80s, and also selling a pair of successful ALF toys, Coleco went out of business in 1989. The property has changed hands three times since then, moving from Hasbro to Mattel and finally to Toys R Us. They have never again sold as well as they did that fateful winter. It might have something to do with the version of the doll that actually ate children's fingers and hair, but then again, it might just be the creepy vacant stare and the ass-tattoo.

What do we think?: The dolls looked extremely similar to one another (except for minor differences in the facial features), the creator tattooed his signature on the butt-cheeks of every single one and he made children swear oaths to love them. Cabbage Patch Kids are the creepy "Fourth-Reich" of the toy world. We'll stick with Garbage Pail Kids.

1. Tickle Me Elmo - 1996

Tickle Me Elmo is one of those strange toys where the concept came long after the invention. Originally, the toy was a supposed to be a monkey, and then it was going to be the Tazmanian Devil from Looney Toons before it lost the rights to do so. Finally, Tyco got the rights to make Sesame Street toys and decided on Elmo as their focus.

Tyco hedged their bets and sent over 200 to the Rosie O'Donnell show where the whale host threw them out to the audience and again to NBC's Today Show where host Bryant Gumbel displayed one prominently.

The whoring paid off as whoring often does and starting on Black Friday, the toy sold out everywhere. Tyco, in a move that would later be mimicked by Sony for their Playstation 3 launch, under-produced the toy in order to inflate demand, leaving only 400,000 to be bought. They continued to control the supply by shipping off toys steadily until by Christmas they had sold over 1 million units.

Eventually, Elmo couldn't take anymore.
Eventually, Elmo couldn't take anymore.

With high demand and low supply, price gouging was the norm, as people were buying the toys and then reselling them for up to $2500 each. Cartier even offered a Tickle Me Elmo free with the purchase of a $1 million diamond bracelet and necklace.

Fights and rioting were common where the toys were sold and one Hot Topic employee was severely beaten by a crowd of 300 customers when it was discovered that he was carrying the last doll in the store. Did he deserve to be given a concussion? Well, he was an employee at Hot Topic, so maybe he had it coming.

Where are they now?: After the success of Tickle-Me-Elmo, Tyco tried to duplicate their luck by introducing variants with Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Ernie. They achieved more success with the TMX (Tickle-Me-eXtreme Elmo), which was the focus of at least one robbery at gun-point, but never again to the same level of mania as before.

What do we think?: Taking a Tickle-Me-Elmo out of its fur and watching the internal mechanics and skeleton activate and move around would be pretty disturbing, but not as disturbing as it would be if we drenched it in fake blood and set it on fire first!

Runner Up: Zhu Zhu Pets - 2009

Zhu Zhu Pets are basically robotic rollerskates covered in fur. Too simplistic? Ok, they're basically hamster-shaped robotic rollerskates covered in fur. There's not really much to these furry little fuckers that hasn't been spouted in the news over the last couple of months. The toys, which usually retail for $8, can be found on eBay for a mere $35, a markup of 437%.

Very surprising for a toy that was thought to contain a large amount of the metal antimony, which is known to be toxic (causing headaches, dizziness, violent vomiting and death). A consumer organization announced that finding in early December, which were quickly shot down by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission which used a different method for testing the metal and had found it to be within acceptable levels.

In 2010 expect to see x-rays where these guys are stuck in somebody's ass.
In 2010 expect to see x-rays where these guys are stuck in somebody's ass.

Even with the shadow of antimony poisoning looming over the toys, they have been extremely popular this year. The reason why they've been relegated to runner-up status is that there really hasn't been any Zhu Zhu-related violence this year. But why?

Well, the antimony test results can be blamed for one. Walmart also began hiring extra security for their Black Friday sales this year, which cut down on the amount of violence in their stores (as well as any trampling-related deaths). Finally, Cepia LLC, the maker of Zhu Zhu Pets, is probably to thank for the lack of violence. Mass shipments of the toys were sent to high-volume stores like Walmart and Toys R Us before Christmas Day, which is a move that probably stopped more than one soccer mom from being curb-stomped this holiday season.

About the only bit of crime we could find relating to the Zhu Zhu toys was an unsubstantiated report of one woman attempting to use them to poison her husband by submersing it in his drink. The woman's reasoning was that the antimony would poison her husband and then she'd be rid of him.

That'd be a hell of a thing to see on a set of divorce papers. "Reason for divorce: She tried to kill me with a robotic hamster."

So that's our look at the toys that have maimed, trampled and shot their way into our hearts. If you want some advice for next year: you can't avoid the rush, but you can get fitted for a mouth guard. Merry Christmas everyone!

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