Did You Own It: Sesame Street’s Tickle Me Elmo

For many kids of the mid-to-late 90s, it was love at first giggle.

The toy was Tickle Me Elmo, an animatronic plush doll that sparked one of the largest toy crazes of all time. 

The success of Tickle Me Elmo helped to resurrect a long struggling Children’s Television Workshop, while simultaneously propelling Elmo into a new stratosphere of popularity among Sesame Street fans.

So we’re curious to know, did you own it?

Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo arrived on shelves courtesy of Tyco Toys in July of 1996 to decent fanfare amid a run of 400,000 units.

The Sesame Street doll had some heft at 15 inches tall and 1.5 pounds. The best part, however, was hearing Elmo’s iconic giggle when he was hugged. Hug him three times and he’d vibrate and dance.

In short, he was the perfect snuggle buddy.

Tickle Me…Taz?

Despite the crushing popularity of Tickle Me Elmo, the fabled doll almost never came to be. 

Looking to follow up on their first success – the children’s learning computer “Alfie the Robot” – Greg Hyman and Ron Dubren invented the Tickle Me Elmo prototype. Only its name back then was Tickles the Chimp. 

Tyco got on board and after several months used their Looney Tunes license to develop Tickle Me Taz. After losing the Looney Tunes license, however, Tyco then picked up the rights to Sesame Street and released Tickle Me Elmo under Cabbage Patch at Hasbro.

Which is ironic, in that Elmo would soon endure the same toy boom that Cabbage Patch dolls experienced roughly a decade earlier.

Frenzy Me Elmo

Tickle Me Elmo sold modestly in the first four months…until Black Friday, that is, when the last of the original 400,000 units quickly (and unexpectedly) sold. Tyco scrambled and ordered the manufacturing of another 600,000 units, thus creating a holiday frenzy.

And frenzy they did, across the United States and Canada selling a million units to the tune of $350 million in sales before the ball dropped on the 1996 year.

Those who got theirs likely earned it.

In the mayhem, there were reports of women fighting each other in Chicago, shoppers chasing delivery trucks down the streets of New York City and a hapless Walmart clerk being severely trampled during a frenzy in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Value Me Elmo

As a result, the value of Tickle Me Elmo skyrocketed. A fan in Denver shelled out $7,100 for one, while in Los Angeles a Tickle Me Elmo sold for a reported $18,500!

Other Tickle Me’s eventually ensued with Ernie, Big Bird and Cookie Monster getting their turn. A 10th anniversary of Tickle Me Elmo caused a stir in 2006 with asking prices reaching $5,000.

These days, if you simply want your own Tickle Me Elmo to squeeze, hug and, well, tickle, you can find one around $30 to $40, with mint versions still in the box fetching upward of $80 to $100.

Will we see another rise in value as fewer and fewer mint versions come to market? Time will tell. And nothing would make Tickle Me Elmo owners giggle more.

We want to know…did you own it? Add the original Tickle Me Elmo to your hobbyDB collection here!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x