Santa may need Donner, Blitzen and a Brink's man this Christmas.

The cost of Christmas giving is rising faster than Santa's sleigh on a clear midwinter's night.

Two decades ago, a Barbie doll could be stuffed in a stocking for $3.50. Now, she won't pay a visit for less than $8.50.

A three-speed bike could be parked under the tree 20 years ago for $57; now the tab is $122.

In an effort to measure the impact of inflation on Christmas, researchers at Continental Bank in Chicago have compiled a shopping list of 24 items that might have been purchased for the 1959 holiday season. They then looked for the same or comparable products that will be available this season.

The result was a solid illustration of what the diminishing dollar does to the average American's pocketbook. The total tab for the 24 items in 1959 was $2,837.84. This year it would be a hefty $6,794.20.

"Inflation hasn't stolen Christmas yet, but it may make us bar the door against some of our expensive impulses this year," said Susan Richards, editor of Continental's "Family Banker" newsletter.

The shopping list increase was a reflection of the rising cost of living in the last two decades. The average cost of all goods and services has risen by about 134 percent since 1959.

Surprisingly, some of the biggest Christmas price increases were for wooden toys. A set of blocks went from $2 to $6.50. Ever-popular Lincoln Logs increased from $3.80 to $16.

Also on the gift list was the rather generous present of a one-carat, round-cut diamond ring. The gem's price went from $2,225 to a hefty $6,000 in the 20-year period.

But not all items increased in price. Some are cheaper today than 20 Christmases ago, reflecting the advance of American technology. Between 1959 and 1979, the price of a pocket calculator went from $125 to $10.

A black-and-white, 17-inch TV dropped from $190 to $150. A three-minute holiday phone call from Chicago to New York went from $1.15 to 76 cents.

"Most holiday-type purchases are more expensive today," Richards said. "But at the same time, the statistics say that incomes more than kept up with the prices."

Taking inflation into account, the real income for the average American worker has increased about 65 percent over the last 20 years, Richards said.