Be Strategic About What You Buy
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Nintendo to Hatchimals: 20 Gifts That Sparked Black Friday Insanity

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Be Strategic About What You Buy
CatLane/istockphoto

Holiday Hysteria

Black Friday and the holiday shopping season always bring wild-eyed shoppers trying to take advantage of bottom-dollar discounts. But every few years, a particular item — usually electronics or toys — sells even more briskly than usual, touching off a gift-finding frenzy that goes down in the history books. From Cabbage Patch Dolls to iPods and Hatchimals, here are some of the most sought-after items from Black Fridays past. Hoping to avoid the crush of last-minute shopping and don't want to miss out on this year's craze? Check out the Holiday Gifts You Should Start Buying Right Now, Before They Sell Out.

1983: Cabbage Patch Dolls
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1983: Cabbage Patch Dolls

In one of the earliest — and most infamous — examples of a Black Friday craze, shoppers cleaned stores out of Cabbage Patch Kids, which had been introduced earlier that year. As the holiday season wore on, several shoppers were injured during would-be buyers' attempts to get their hands on the dolls. About 3 million of the dolls were sold by the end of the year.

Teddy Ruxpin
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1985-1986: Teddy Ruxpin

More than 1 million Teddy Ruxpin bears were sold in the last few months of 1985, and the talking animatronic bear maintained its "it toy" status in 1986. Feeling nostalgic? An updated version (smartphone-compatible, of course) was rolled out for the holidays last year. 

1988: Nintendo
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1988: Nintendo

Video consoles have become a Black Friday staple, and the original Nintendo pioneered the craze. A staggering 7 million consoles were sold in 1988. "Never has a toy been this successful," proclaimed John Stossel on a 1988 episode of "20/20," after waiting in a line with frustrated holiday shoppers trying to get their hands on popular games. In 2016, the original Nintendo got a reboot as the NES Classic, touching off another rush to the stores. Last year, the Nintendo Switch was one of the hottest tech gifts of the season.

1993-1994: Power Rangers
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1993-1994: Power Rangers

After shortages led to frustrated parents and some overnight camping outside toy stores during the holidays in 1993, the manufacturer ramped production way up in 1994, according to The New York Times. But many of the action figures remained hard to find that year, too. Power Rangers have had enormous staying power: They were even the No. 1 action-figure brand last year, according to market researchers NPD.

1996: Tickle Me Elmo
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1996: Tickle Me Elmo

Laughing, wiggling Tickle Me Elmo dolls benefited from pre-holiday buzz courtesy of TV personalities such as Rosie O'Donnell and Bryant Gumbel. Black Friday saw the toy sold out in minutes at some stores, then came the inevitable trampled shoppers and inflated prices. Tyco shipped more than a million Tickle Me Elmos by December 1996, all of which were snapped up quickly, according to The New York Times. Tickle Me Elmo was reborn in 2006 as T.M.X. Elmo, which caused a similar shopping frenzy.

1998: Furby
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Kick Scooters
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2000: Razor Scooters

The now-ubiquitous aluminum Razor scooters were on just about every kid's Christmas list in 2000, and more than 5 million were sold during the year, notes the Holmes Report, which covers the public relations industry. They owed their popularity, in part, to the fact that plenty of adults were scooting around town on them, too. Unfortunately, experts say the scooters have also been a big reason for a spike in toy-related injuries since their introduction.

Related: 25 Notoriously Dangerous Toys

2004: iPod
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2004: iPod

Though iPods were introduced in 2001, it took the digital music players a few years to go truly mainstream. In 2004, Apple added the colorful iPod mini to its lineup, grabbing the attention of gift-buyers everywhere. During the holiday sales months in 2004, Apple sold 4.5 million iPods, a 500% year-over-year jump, according to Macworld.

2005: Microsoft Xbox 360
Microsoft

2005: Microsoft Xbox 360

In 2005, the Thanksgiving release of the Microsoft Xbox 360 had holiday shoppers scrambling from store to store. The $300 gaming console (and the first-ever from Microsoft) was in very short supply, with some showing up on eBay for an eye-popping $2,000, according to NBC News. Some shoppers even grumbled that Microsoft was deliberately keeping supply low to keep buyers frenzied. Last year, Xbox One was one of the best gift buys at Walmart.

2006: Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii
Nintendo

2006: PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii

The popularity of video-game consoles continued in 2006. Unfortunately, demand also far outstripped supply for the newly released Sony PlayStation 3, touching off a number of violent incidents. It was also a big year for the new Nintendo Wii, which sold a whopping 600,000 consoles in its first week, according to IGN.

2007: Nintendo DS and iPod Touch
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2009: Zhu Zhu Pets
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2011: Kindle
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2013: iPad
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2013: iPad

There's no surprise that the Apple iPad was a hot holiday seller when it was released in 2010, but sales wouldn't peak until 2013, when more than 25 million iPads were sold during the holiday months. In fact, according to Forbes, the top three iPads made up around 18% of Target's Black Friday sales in 2013. But by 2017, revenue from the tablet was down 22% year-over-year. 

2014: Anything 'Frozen'
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2014: Anything 'Frozen'

Though Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dolls actually took the No. 1 toy spot in 2014, the Disney "Frozen" Snow Glow Elsa doll was No. 2 — and "Frozen" items across toy categories generated more than $530 million in sales during 2014, according to MarketWatch. Shoppers fought over merchandise at the Disney Store in Times Square, and desperate parents paid inflated prices for the costumes and toys online, according to the New York Post.

2016: Hatchimals
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2016: Hatchimals

Self-hatching Hatchimal electronic pets were so hot in 2016 that most store shelves were bare well before Black Friday, and analysts estimate revenue from sales hit around $80 million, according to CNNTech. The Hatchimal Surprise came out to continue the egg-hatching trend.

Fingerlings
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2017: Fingerlings

The hottest toy of 2017, Fingerlings were inspired by a viral photo of a pygmy marmoset.  The plastic monkeys that hang on to kids' fingers wowed with their 40 sounds and interactions. Parents were probably more impressed with the $15 price, though the toys were often sold for three times the retail price by third-party sellers on eBay and Amazon. How hot were they? A Fingerling was sold every minute of the week ended Nov. 1 that year, and Target and Walmart often limited the number that could be bought by one person at a time. 

LOL Surprise Bigger
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2018: L.O.L. Surprise!

L.O.L. Surprise! more or less invented the "unboxing" gift back in 2016 and the trinket-stuffed suitcases, collectible figures, and ephemera have been at the top of holiday must-have lists every year since. The trend reached a fever pitch in 2018, as stores and online retailers struggled to keep the L.O.L. Surprise! Bigger Surprise suitcases in stock, along with the brand's related collectible toys. Kids unpack the plastic purse to reveal a treasure trove of dolls and accessories like clothes, shoes, hats, and other bling. As kids unpack each and every item, they also uncover stickers and other surprises like a “magnifying glass” to uncover clues hidden in the product packaging. And the massive popularity of the L.O.L. Surprise series shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the L.O.L. Surprise 2-in-1 Glamper is on our list of the Holiday Gifts You Should Start Buying Right Now, Before They Sell Out.

To see the products mentioned in this gift guide and more, visit our gift idea lists on Amazon.