Sometimes it seems like every Christmas season brings a toy phenomenon that sells out of the stores and drives parents to new heights of competition in the search to bestow the latest hit toy upon their tots. For Christmas 1996, that toy was Tickle Me Elmo. Tyco Toys has been a licenser of various "Sesame Street" characters for a number of years, but the company's shrewd promotion of Tickle Me Elmo turned him into a sales sensation with at least 1 million copies sold. As the most expensive of the nine versions of Elmo that Tyco sells, the company's publicist decided that the toy needed an additional promotional push. That push took the shape of sending a Tickle Me Elmo to talk show host Rosie O'Donnell's 1-year-old son and then another 200 to O'Donnell's show's producers. During an October episode, O'Donnell announced that whenever one of her guests said the word "wall," an Elmo doll would be tossed to the audience. The result was an audience filled with Elmos and sales began to climb. The climbing sales, in turn, became newsworthy in their own right and various media outlets named Tickle Me Elmo to the list of the year's hot toys. Elmo also got more air time on the "Today" show in early November when he appeared on Bryant Gumbel's lap. And, during Thanksgiving week, when Target and Kay-Bee Toys stores slashed Tickle Me Elmo's prices as a draw for Christmas shoppers, the feeding frenzy began in earnest. Stores sold out of the doll in less than an hour and the shortage inspired prices rose as high as $3,500 during on Florida auction for what is a $30 toy. In 1997, supply has finally caught up with demand.