Resale listings on eBay and Amazon Marketplace have been full of high-priced Hatchimals lately. The craze over Hatchimals—the immensely popular furry, interactive, hatchable toys that are sold out in stores all over the globe—has pushed the black-market rate for the holiday season’s must-have toy up to three, four, even five times the original $50-$60 retail price.
Naturally, it’s been easy for anyone with a stash of Hatchimals to make quick easy profits reselling them during the 2016 holiday season. That’s especially the case for anyone who correctly predicted the Hatchimals craze ahead of time, like the two brothers from Arizona who scooped up 100 of them in October from a half-dozen Barnes & Noble stores and have earned $100 to $150 in profits for each one they resell.
Not every Hatchimals entrepreneurial scheme has been quite that successful, however. This week, Philly Voice reported on the exceptionally odd story of how one Hatchimals-resale plot is going seriously haywire. Strangest of all, the tale features a best-selling author as the protagonist who invested in Hatchimals not to get rich, but to help fund the efforts to get a man out of jail she says was wrongly convicted to a life sentence.
The author is Sara Gruen, who wrote Water for Elephants and lives in North Carolina. Gruen says that she recently dropped a ton of cash on Hatchimals with the hope of flipping them for profits that could be used to help free from prison a supposedly innocent man who she is currently working with in a mysterious “Making a Murder”-type documentary series. Gruen has reportedly already spent $150,000 of her own money on the case, and hoped to fund the effort further buying and selling Hatchimals.
The problem—well, the first of many problems—is that Gruen didn’t jump on Hatchimals until they were already a full-fledged phenomenon. Unable to buy any of the toys at normal prices in stores, she turned to eBay around Black Friday and purchased 156 Hatchimals for a total of $23,595.31. That breaks down to an average of about $151 spent per Hatchimal. Considering that Hatchimals are generally selling for under $200 at eBay auctions, and that some stores have gotten fresh supplies of Hatchimals to sell at their regular price of around $60, the odds of making big profits don’t seem great for Gruen.
But the situation got worse for Gruen. Much, much worse.
As she told Philly Voice, after listing only her first three Hatchimals for sale, Gruen received a message from eBay warning that she wouldn’t be able to list any more of the toys for seven days. Messages from other resale sites said essentially the same thing: Because Gruen didn’t already have a history as a seller at these sites, she was restricted from posting too many items at a time. It’s a cautionary measure these sites employ to limit counterfeiting and fraud. And the restrictions effectively killed Gruen’s chances to make money. It’s all but guaranteed that the market for Hatchimals will crash after Christmas, and it’s basically impossible to sell all of her inventory by then.
With few other options left, Gruen has turned her resale efforts to Shopify, and she is promising a free signed copy of one of her books with every Hatchimal purchased. Each toy is listed at $189 at the site, and Gruen promises “100% of the proceeds from our sales will go toward the legal fees required to get” the case of a “wrongfully convicted man” to “the Supreme Court, which we hope to do early in the new year.”
Understandably, Gruen is deeply embarrassed by how badly the bizarre Hatchimals scheme has played out. “I cringe and hang my head in shame and feel sick to my stomach,” she wrote. “I have a fortune invested, only one venue to offload them, and in only three weeks they will magically transform into useless pumpkins that will take up space in my office forever, and have caused my financial ruin.”