Tickle Me Elmo

Christmas 1996: a holiday toy season that will live in infamy. The N64 video game system and Tickle Me Elmo were the two hottest toys to hit the market and nineties parents were freaking out. The crazed rush to buy up all of the Tickle Me Elmo’s and the wildly inflated prices that were charged for the toy in secondary markets made this loveable Sesame Street doll one of the most notorious fads of the nineties.

Tickle Me Elmo was produced by Tyco Preschool and released in the summer of 1996. It was moderately popular until it received a huge plug on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, after which the doll became nearly impossible to track down in stores. Inspired by the way children tickle each other into hysterical laughter on the playground, Tickle Me Elmo was invented by Ron Dubren. In order to activate, Elmo requires hugs from kids that make him shake and giggle. It was very popular among preschool-aged children who loved Elmo’s silly laughter as well as his rumbling frame.

While the doll retailed on shelves for about $30, it commanded much higher rates on the resale market from parents desperate to give their child the season’s most popular gift. “Elmo-mania” swept the country, it even allegedly inspired a few big-box store breakdowns as adults brawled in the aisles over the few remaining Elmo’s. Elmo’s popularity and the craze associated with acquiring the toy was mirrored in other nineties toys like Beanie Babies and later the Furby electronic robotic toy. By the end of December 1996, the entire Tyco stock of one million Elmo’s had been sold. The toy continued to remain popular among consumers, and other tickle-able characters were spun off including Tickle Me Cookie Monster, Tickle Me Ernie, and Tickle Me Big Bird.

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