Originally created 12/29/96

Elmo frenzy drops, but shoppers still search for $28 toy



NEW YORK - The Tickle Me Elmo market has crashed.

People selling the crimson stuffed doll on the black market said Friday they aren't getting more than $200 for the toy, which before Christmas fetched several thousand dollars in some cases.

Some scalpers even acknowledged throwing in the towel Christmas Eve and giving Tickle Me Elmo to their own children, instead of trying to make a killing on it.

The frenzy may have died when Santa Claus made his rounds, but there are plenty of people still trying to sell the $28 toy based on a character from "Sesame Street." For example, 72 ads appeared in Friday's Newsday, with asking prices ranging from $100 to $1,500.

"The black-market price had gone down by Christmas Eve," said Michael Siracusa of Long Island, N.Y. "I have friends who got stuck with dolls and had to eat it. They're now selling Elmos for $100 and even $50."

Siracusa said he hit the jackpot two days before Christmas, getting a total of $1,600 for four dolls by selling them to employees of a large brokerage firm. He said he used the profits to buy additional presents and $400 worth of stock for a niece, whose parents told him to sell the Elmo doll instead of giving it to her.

Joseph Graffeo of Long Island gave up trying to hawk Tickle Me Elmo when the offers didn't exceed $200. "It didn't pay to sell the toy for such a small amount. I decided to give it to my 2-year-old twins instead," he said.

Such stories please Neil Friedman, president of Tyco Preschool, the New York City-based manufacturer of Elmo toys. He was disappointed by some of the antics of black marketers.

Shipments of Tickle Me Elmo are leaving Tyco Preschool's factory in China daily, and Friedman said the dolls will be plentiful by mid-January. He estimated the current demand at 1 million. Sales should remain strong through Easter, traditionally a busy time for plush toys, he said.

Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby Shops and other toy stores say they are still getting requests for Tickle Me Elmo from anxious parents. Kay-Bee spokesman John P. Reilly said, "The demand continues to outweigh the supply."