Putting the 'Cyber-' in Security Blanket

By Valerie Schremp Hahn
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sunday, February 8, 2009

ST. LOUIS -- Any mommy or daddy whose child has lost a favorite blanket or stuffed animal knows the lengths they will go to make everything better again. But often, the well-worn blankie their child loves most is no longer found in stores.

Enter the blankie black market.

Numerous eBay sellers, keen to the desperation of parents, are marking up prices on blankets and stuffed toys no longer stocked on store shelves. The sellers are snagging up discontinued "lovies," knowing that one day, some desperate parent may want them.

Just check out one recent posting of a Carter's brand blanket with pink flowers. The seller gave it a "buy it now" price of $54.88.

"Please do not e-mail asking why the price of this is high," the seller wrote in the description note. "It is priced high because it is nearly impossible to find except on eBay."

KiYoshi Ankoviak, 7, of St. Louis County, and Woobie, a pink stuffed bear, have been inseparable since the day KiYoshi was born.

Woobie's been lost forever a few times, and reincarnated a few times, because KiYoshi's parents, Rick and Michelle, managed to find replacements at department and thrift stores. But when Woobie went missing around Thanksgiving, the Ankoviaks figured this was the end.

KiYoshi was heartbroken. She couldn't sleep. She didn't want toys for Christmas, because none of them would be as good as Woobie.

So Michelle Ankoviak made a desperate search on eBay, managing to find a Woobie match for $16.99. "I kind of thought, 'Thank God there's one for $16, because I would have spent 50,' " she said.

A search on eBay yields numerous stores with names such as Loveys and More and Woobie World.

Jenny Collins of Richland, Mo., sells blankies from her online store, the Sugar Bean's Closet. Her prices range from about $9 to $25, and she'll take best offers on some items.

"I know that some parents will go to all ends to get stuff," she said. "I can understand being frustrated. I've been there as a buyer, going, 'Oh, my God.' If that's my child's security thing, I will pay for it."

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