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The hunt for Hatchimals: How to snatch this year's hottest toy without getting scammed

If you are still trying to get your hands on a Hatchimal this holiday season, you may need to get creative.

The interactive toy that hatches from a plastic egg was released in early October and has quickly become one of the most sought-after toys of the year, selling out at major retailers across the country. Parents have scrambled to get the speckled egg, resorting to online auction sites and entering into social media giveaways.

However, these digital marketplaces aren't always the safest place to shop. Several consumers have reported being scammed on Facebook, among other sites, while attempting to procure the toy for their young ones.

We tested out the toy to see if it's all that it's cracked up to be. You make the call.

Bigger than Elmo

Juli Lennett, U.S. toys industry analyst at The NPD Group, said that Hatchimals, "could be the 'Tickle Me Elmo' of 2016."

Tickle Me Elmo has been the benchmark for success ever since its launch in 1996 sent shoppers into a vicious frenzy to snatch up the toy for the holidays. Jim Silver, CEO of TTPM, an online toy review site, told CNBC that the number of Hatchimals sold so far is three times that of the 1996 hit Tickle Me Elmo.

While many stores have sold out of the product, Toys R Us is slated to restock shelves with it on Dec. 4, however, customers are limited to one toy per person while supplies last. Walmart and Target both told CNBC that they are working to meet consumer demand but do not have a specific time frame for when the toy will be restocked.

"As soon as [the toy] hits shelves, it's selling," Nancy Zwiers, chief marketing officer at Spin Master, told CNBC. "We are even air shipping the product at our expense to make sure it arrives to stores."

The search online

The toy, which retails for about $50, is selling for between $100 and $250 on eBay. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a Hatchimals toy was sold every 30 seconds on the auction site, according to the company.

Several eBay users have put the toy up for $100,000, but don't actually expect people to pay that price. Instead, the high price tag is a tactic to lure eBay users to a seller's auction page. Once there, users click the "make offer" button and send in a lower-priced bid.

Brothers Mike and Stan Zappa, however, price their Hatchimals between $60 and $80, just over market value, and let demand set the price.

"We've seen the toy selling from $140 to $225 this past weekend for Black Friday," Mike Zappa told CNBC.

Zappa and his brother predicted the Hatchimal craze back in October and spent more than $5,000 on about 100 units of the toy, hoping to make a little money for the holidays. After selling 35 of the toys online, the pair have broken even on their investment.

Mike, a single father of two, will put the additional money toward a Disney cruise trip for his kids. Stan, who works 80 hours a week running a pest control company, has already purchased a new couch and will use the extra cash as a cushion around the holidays.

After making back their investment, the brothers opened a Facebook group with the goal of giving away a handful of Hatchimals toys. The group currently has almost 600 members.


A word of caution: Not all of these social media giveaways are legitimate. So make sure to carefully vet a seller before forking over your hard-earned cash or sharing any of your personal information.

A last resort

For those who have lost hope, you can always try waiting until after the holidays to pick up the toy in-store.

Desperate parents have posted various "letters from Santa" on Twitter and Facebook that explain to kids why there isn't an egg under the tree.

The Hatchimal website offers its own letter from Santa that parents can download.

Zwiers noted that the company does not condone third-party sellers and is hoping that the printable Santa letters will help placate children so that parents won't have to shell out more than market price for the toy.

"We recognize it may be difficult finding this in-demand toy," Zwiers said. "We have increased production and a whole new batch of Hatchimals will be ready to hatch in early 2017."