A Furby (plural Furbys or Furbies) is an electronic robotic toy resembling a hamster or owl-like creature which went through a period of being a “must-have” toy following its launch in the holiday season of 1998, with continual sales until 2000. Over 40 million Furbies were sold during the three years of its original production, with 1.8 million sold in 1998, and 14 million in 1999. Its speaking capabilities were translated into 24 languages.
Furbies were the first successful attempt to produce and sell a domestically-aimed robot. A newly purchased Furby starts out speaking entirelyFurbish, the unique language that all Furbies use, but is programmed to start using English words and phrases in place of Furbish over time. This process is intended to resemble the process of learning English. In 2005, new Furbies were released, with voice-recognition and more complex facial movements, and many other changes and improvements. The Emoto-Tronic Furbies (Furby, Furby Baby, and Funky Furby) continued to be sold until late 2007, when these toys became extremely rare. An updated Furby is being sold as of September 2012 for the holiday season.
Dave Hampton and Caleb Chung spent nine months creating the Furby (in addition to nine months spent designing the toy). After two attempts at licensing the concept, they invited fellow toy and game inventor Richard C. Levy to join their efforts to sell Furby. Levy brought Furby to Tiger Electronics and Tiger’s Roger Shiffman bought the rights to it. Furby’s first public appearance was at the American International Toy Fair in 1998.
Furbies originally retailed for about US$35, and upon release, they sold extremely well. Catapulting demand during the 1998 holiday season drove the resale price over $100, and sometimes as high as several hundred dollars. Furbies sold for over $300 in newspapers and in auctions. Nicknames were given to them, and sellers assigned rarity values to them. Some people continue to call their Furbies by the terms “wedding Furby”, “tuxedo Furby”, “snowball Furby”, “biker Furby”, among others. All, of course, were dubbed rare by sellers, because they were so hard to find at the time. In a sure display of the demand for the toy, some sellers scammed people out of a great sum of money, without even having first given them a Furby. Parental battles, arguments, and fights increased rapidly as supplies dwindled, and when retail supplies ran out, parents turned to the Internet, where Furbies could be purchased for two, three, or more multiples of their retail price. During one 12-month period, a total of 27 million Furby toys were sold.