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Hot Holiday Toys of the Past: Furby


LOS ANGELES (CIRCA) — It's been called cute, creepy and a government spy. I'm talking, of course, about the Furby.

This hot holiday toy of the 1990s celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and was truly the first of its kind.

Here's the history of the Furby.

A display of Furby dolls, an interactive children's toy, is seen on display at a Toys 'R' Us store in Glendale, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 29, 1999. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The Furby was invented by David Hampton in the late '90s after seeing the Tamagotchi digital pet toy at a toy fair.

Hampton and his collaborator, Caleb Chung, sought to improve upon the digital pet design by creating something you could actually pet with your hand.

A child chooses his "Tamagotchi" from Grazzini in Milan. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar)

Originally called the "Furball," this toy utilized a single motor to keep the toy cost-efficient, and did not feature an off switch, giving the toy a sense of life like none other.

When you start up a Furby, it speaks a language called Furbish, which is actually an amalgamation of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Hebrew — all languages that Hampton picked up while in the Navy. Furbish could be learned through a Furbish-to-English dictionary that was included with the toy, such as:

  • ah-may = Pet
  • a-tay = Hungry/Eat
  • doo-moh = Please feed me
  • wee-tee = Sing

In January 1999, the Natioinal Security Agency actually banned Furbys from its offices for fear that the toy was able to record confidential conversations, reflecting widespread confusion about Furbys. The way they're programmed, the more you play with them, the less furbish they speak, and the more English they speak; they're not actually learning.

People crowd around the customer service desk just after the 6 a.m. opening of the Wal-Mart in West Windsor, N.J. Friday Nov. 27, 1998, to buy a hard-to-find Furby toy. The store handed out tickets for the toy to those waiting in line outside the store, some who had arrived as early as 3 a.m. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer)

The Furby officially launched in October 1998, and by the end of its first three years sold nearly 40 million units.

So, you're probably wondering, 'Hey is that Furby in my garage worth anything?' And though there is a market for some rare models, boxed Furbys from 1998 are still available for close to their retail price of $35 on local classified marketplaces.

So, for the holidays you can get yourself one of these vintage Furbys, or the latest model, the Furby Connect, available in stores today.


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