Consumer Investigation: The holiday toy hunt is harder this year. Here are links to some of this year’s top toys and where to find them.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Experts say the time to start is yesterday.

For months I’ve been telling you about how supply chain issues are affecting our lives. We’ve seen shortages of everything from toys to toilet paper. So I conducted an experiment. I compiled a list of 10 of the hottest toys that were $100 or less. I wanted to know if I could find them, and more importantly, would they arrive on time.

Those are certainly the questions for parents this year. I chatted with the parents during a visit to the Rochester Museum & Science Center. I asked them whether they’d started their holiday shopping.

“No, not quite,” said Jibriel Strader, a father of four. “I probably will this week though."

That would be a good idea, Dad, especially this year. A confluence of COVID-caused crises have created chaotic scenes at ports across the country. On News10NBC we’ve shown viewers video of products stuck at ports exacerbating shortages on the shelves.

"Is there anything specific that you’re looking for?” I asked Strader. “Well, if I say it, then they would hear me,” he said laughing. “I don’t want to give anything away to these guys!"

He said his 4-year-old son, Noah, who has his heart set on one toy, and he’s not been able to find it.

"Ah Walmart’s out,” he said shaking his head. A lot of places are out because it’s a really popular toy."

And that’s what I found in my search for the top ten toys for toddlers through teens. First, I had to compile a list, an incredibly challenging task. While retailers create their own top toy lists, I found toys included that were targeted for niche markets, toys the retailer was trying to sell. I wanted to include truly popular toys this year. So I searched not only the lists created by Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon, I also studied lists by toy reviewers like The Toy Insider, Business Insider and The Today Show.

I looked for toys that appeared on the lists of multiple retailers, toy reviewers, and social media sites. News10NBC has no relationships and I was not influenced by any retailer or manufacturer. Here’s my Top 10 and the retailers that currently have the items in stock:

  • The Flybar 6 Volt Battery Powered Bumper Car – At the time I did my research, the 2021st edition of this car was out of stock at Walmart as well as the manufacturer. Flybar is the only manufacturer that sells this car for $99.00. It’s currently in stock at Walmart. Parents, keep in mind that the $99 car does NOT have a remote control. Parents find it helpful until your toddler learns to use the joysticks. Other manufacturers sell the car with a remote, but it is considerably more.
  • The Batman Bat-Tech Transforming Batcave – At the time I did my research this toy was out of stock at Walmart and had been purchased by a number of third-party sellers who were selling the toy for twice the MSRP of $99.99. That is currently still the case at the time of my writing this story (Nov. 4, 2021) A third-party seller is selling this $99.99 toy for $224 on Walmart’s site, and a number of third-party sellers have marked it up considerably on Amazon’s site.
  • L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. All Star B.B.s Cheer Diva Fashion Doll with 20 Surprises – I found this doll for sale at Walmart, Amazon, and Target. But Target has the cheapest price at $21.49. The sale ends on Friday, Nov. 5.
  • Tee Turtle – The Original Reversible Octopus Plushie – This oddly adorable plush toy was made famous by a viral TikTok video. In it, a girl who is lying in bed with her head under the pillow lets her boyfriend know how she’s feeling blue by displaying the frowning face of the reversible toy. When he leaves candy for her, she turns the octopus inside out to reveal its smiling face. While this originally may have been intended for young children, it really caught on with teens. I found this on Amazon for $14.99. Grandma’s Gift Shop sells a similar item for $9.99.
  • Got 2 Glow Fairy Finder – I have to be honest. I really don’t get this toy. But it’s on so many lists I had to include it. I found it at four retailers for the same price at each. It’s out of stock at Walmart and third-party sellers are hocking it at insane markups. But Target and Walmart have it. It’s a dollar cheaper at Walmart selling for $34.88.
  • ThinkFun Code Master Programming Logic Game and STEM toy – I found this on numerous lists of the most popular STEM toys. It’s the least expensive at Walmart where it sells for $27.88. Amazon sells it for a buck more. Several smaller retailers sell it for as little as $20, but they all charge for shipping.
  • HP Sprocket Portable Instant Photo Printer – Business Insider lists this as the perfect teen gift. Portable printers for teens are on a number of gift lists this year. This one is $79.99 on Amazon. You can choose printers for various sizes of photo paper.
  • ThinkFun Gravity Maze Stem Toy – This is another stem toy that gets rave reviews and appears popular among young brainiacs. Walmart and Amazon have it but right now it’s $11 cheaper on Amazon. A smaller retailer has it for $22 but charges $7 for shipping.
  • Playmobile NHL Hockey Arena Set – This is another toy that was listed on a number of top toy lists. Zulily had the best price at $49.99, but it’s now sold out. Now the best price is on the Playmobil website. It lists the toy for $60. A third-party seller on Walmart has it for $63 and third-party sellers on Amazon are selling it for $80 or more.
  • Kidizoom Print Cam – This toy is on multiple lists and is proof that what is old is new again. It’s a camera for kids that immediately prints the picture like the Polaroid cameras of old. Walmart has the best price at $49.98. Third-party sellers on Amazon are selling it for $62 or more. And Target has it on sale for $70.

These toys didn’t make my top ten list, but I couldn’t write this story without mentioning them:

  • POP IT XL – These things are nuts. It seems every grade school kid has one or wants one. You can find them everywhere. You can find them in all shapes and sizes on Amazon. POP IT XL is on sale at Target right now for $18.00.
  • Star Wars Galactic Snackin Grogu – For fans of The Mandalorian, this toy is a must. It’s on numerous top toy lists. It’s the same price at Walmart and Target.
  • The Plush Baby Yoda – It’s also a big hit this year. Target has it on sale for $11.
  • L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Movie Magic Studios – This toy was on a number of lists. It seems LOL dolls are all the rage. It’s on sale through Friday at Target for about $100.

The toy buying took hours because so many sites didn’t have the toy or third-party sellers had it and were selling it for astronomical prices.

I’ll start with the good news. The toys I found arrived early or on time. That’s because I avoided the rush and ordered on Oct. 20.

Here’s the bad news: Many were hard to find. I either had to settle for a similar toy or I couldn’t find it at all. If you’re looking for a specific toy, you have to be willing to broaden your search beyond the retail giants. The smaller online sites with less traffic may have it. The hockey set for half price at Zulily is an example. And we have to be flexible. Look for last year’s edition of that toy. Lastly, keep your confirmation numbers. This year, shipping problems are more likely as Christmas nears.

There’s little doubt that holiday shopping is harder this year. It’s a good time to remind ourselves that the real reason for the season is not what we find under the tree.