The hottest holiday toy for 2012 is an old favorite: Furby, a fluffy owl-like robot that sleeps, dances, talks, eats, and constantly "learns" new behavior is flying off store shelves -- and going for big bucks on the black market -- around the world.
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If the name sounds familiar, that's because Furby was also the hot holiday toy of 1998, and sold more than 40 million units in three years.
Like the original cuddly pet robots, the 2012 Furby develops its own unique personality depending on how your treat it. Put it near other Furbies, and they all chatter away in their own language, called Furbish; speak to it yourself and it'll eventually "learn" English. The new version -- which comes in 10 different colors -- has a free smartphone app that lets kids "feed" their Furbies and translate Furbish to English, and its LED eyes whirl and change as it learns. Neglect it or treat it badly and it'll become a little rude -- or extremely annoying.
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"Furby undergoes a 'change' after I pull his tail rapidly about 40 times," reports Gizmodo. "His eyes turn into cows and he says 'I CHANNNGGINNNNGGGGG' followed by wild vibrations and seizure-inducing eye flashes. When that's done Furby has a new voice. He says, 'What's up dude.' At this point I hate Furby, and I throw him on the floor."
While adults may be irritated by the fact that Furby doesn't have a volume control or an on/off switch (instead it "falls asleep," sighing and twitching its ears, when things are quiet), kids are thrilled -- and the coveted collectible is flying off store shelves.
"I like everything about it because it has a mind of its own," one fourth-grade Furby tester told The Washington Post.
Walmart, Toys R Us, and Target stores still have a few of the $59.99 toys in stock, but most colors are sold out online, a Target representative told Yahoo! Shine. The most-popular colors -- including voodoo purple, teal, and hot pink -- are nearly impossible to come by.
The toy's popularity isn't limited to American customers, either. The U.K.-based Daily Record newspaper reports that toy stores, online outlets, and even supermarkets have already sold out of the cuddly interactive robot.
"We sold out really quickly and have people in every day asking when there will be more in stock," said Grant Yuill, marketing manager for Hamleys, the first store in Scotland to stock -- and sell out of -- the toy. "We have been promised another delivery but cannot guarantee a date."
Desperate parents are turning to Amazon.com, where some versions of the $54 toy are selling for $80 or more, and to eBay, where less-popular colors are selling for about $75. The hottest colors come with the highest prices: $1,000 to $2,500 for a single Furby.
Even retro Furbies are popular again. The 1998 version isn't available in stores, but collectors have been putting their new-in-box toys up for sale on eBay for several hundred dollars.
Furby isn't the only toy that's flying off the shelves. Retailers are starting to sell out of the season's other hot toys as well, with Monster High dolls, Leapfrog children's tablet computers, LEGO Friends sets, and Beyblade Metal Fury domes already becoming harder to find.