How Toy Crazes Are Born

There’s something you need to know about two of this year’s hottest holiday toys: Your kids won’t let you buy just one, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In the tradition of Hot Wheels cars, Beanie Babies animals and Pokémon trading cards, Squinkies and Zoobles toys have been carefully engineered to make children crave them in great numbers.

That would explain why there are 180 different Zoobles, tiny plastic big-eyed animals that hail from the land of “Petagonia.” Costing about $6, each Zooble rolls up into a ball that will pop open to form the tiny creature.

Squinkies are even tinier and number 300 so far, ranging from babies and princesses to fish and elephants. Each fits in a plastic capsule, like the ones in gumball machines. A bubble pack of 16 Squinkies retails for about $10.

A collectible toy that sparks a craze is the toy industry’s Holy Grail. It’s the gift that keeps on selling. “More like the gift that keeps on taking my money,” says Linda Meadow, a Santa Monica, Calif., mother of three girls, whose 9-year-old is obsessed with Squinkies.

In a twist on the razor-and-blades business model, the relatively inexpensive Zoobles and Squinkies come with expensive accessories: A Zoobles treehouse is $39.99 at Toys “R” Us; a cupcake-shaped Squinkies dispenser is $19.99.

Toy makers with a hot new collectible worry it will be a one-season wonder. Their customers, after all, are fickle. Zhu Zhu Pets, the robotic hamsters with individual personalities, while still selling, aren’t “the sensation” they were last year, despite the launch of Kung Zhu Pets line of fighting hamsters geared to boys, says Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of the consumer toy website “What helps keep a collectible alive is how much play factor there is,” Silver says.

Photo by Spin Master.

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