What is a Furby®?

Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan
During the Furby boom, people turned to eBay en masse to find Furbies.
During the Furby boom, people turned to eBay en masse to find Furbies.

The Furby® is an electronic toy created by Tiger Electronics in 1998. The toy was produced until 2000, and in that time became one of the most popular toys of the era. It was an extremely popular example of home animatronics, building on the earlier popularity of toys such as Teddy Ruxpin®. After a period of non-production, a new generation of Furby® was released in 2005, with a number of significant advancements in the technology.

The Furby® is a strange creature, not unlike an owl in appearance. It has a number of different parts that can move, giving it a semblance of life and emotion. The Furby® begins its life-cycle speaking exclusively in a gibberish language known as Furbish, but over time, as it is interacted with more, it begins to speak more and more English and less Furbish. A Furby® is able to interact with another Furby® by means of an infrared port in its head. This allowed two Furbies® to have a discourse without outside stimulus.

People could shape their Furby® somewhat by giving it certain sets of physical stimulus. When a Furby® said a certain English phrase, the user could pet the Furby®, which strengthened its desire to say that phrase. This low-level form of conditioning meant that to some extent people could personalize their Furby®. It also made the Furby® appear to be a somewhat intelligent creature, and many misconceptions arose as a result, including a belief that a Furby® could actually hear words and repeat them in the manner of a parrot.

The Furby® was a novel toy when it was released, and became an overnight sensation. As a result, during the 1998 holiday season demand far outstripped supply, which led to a drastic increase in aftermarket costs for Furbies. The Furby® originally retailed for around $35 US Dollars (USD), but by the holidays it wasn’t uncommon to see them for more than $100 USD, and in some cases as much as $300 USD.

An entire business grew up around reselling the Furby®, and different Furbies® were assigned different ranks of rarity and desirability. People turned to eBay en masse to find Furbies®, making it one of the first large-scale focused uses of the relatively new marketplace. The Furby® boom continued past the 1998 holiday season, although it eventually slackened somewhat and supply increased to meet the high demand.

Some of the phrases a Furby® might say are things like: “Do you want to play?”, “Show me a dance.”, “Tell me a joke.”, or “Very nice, I like.&rdquo As mentioned earlier, various Furbies® are considered rarer than others, and collectors may pay hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for the rarest. The very rarest of all, the Bejeweled Furby®, is appraised at more than $100,000 USD, and there are only five in existence.

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    • During the Furby boom, people turned to eBay en masse to find Furbies.
      During the Furby boom, people turned to eBay en masse to find Furbies.