How to Get Those Hard to Find Toys

Woman shopping for toys in a store.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Do you ever have a hard time struggling to locate those hard to find toys on toy store shelves?

Your kids might send you on toy scavenger hunts, especially during the holiday season. You might be looking for that one item your child has requested, and every store you go to the shelves are wiped clean?

Here are 10 ways to get those hard to find, must-have toys.

Plan Ahead

After you Google the name of the toy or the brand, click on the shopping tab for a list of vendors selling various items. This will help narrow your online search to specific stores or give you price listings so it may be easier to just buy them right away.

Search web content and YouTube videos to learn about availability. Media representatives and bloggers get previews of items several months before they are available on store shelves, so you do not head to the store looking for something that will not be on the shelves for another few months.

Check Store Availability Online First

While the impulsive trip to the toy aisles may be successful, there are some toys and brands that are exclusive to certain retailers. For example, Paw Patrol toys launched for the first month only at Toys "R" Us, before they hit additional retailers a month later. Some toy companies manufacture certain toys, accessories, and characters for specific retailers. So while you may be able to buy Lincoln Logs construction toys at almost any retailer, there may be different selections at Target than you may find at Walmart or even

Most websites can give you an indicator of whether the item is available in a particular store or if it can be shipped to the store for you to pick up. If you can find enough availability online it may be best to purchase what you see and have it shipped to you or the store. Paying the shipping fee if it's minimal, though it's not ideal, will save you time, money, and frustration driving from store to store.

Ask the In-Store Customer Service

Spend a few minutes at the customer service departments at places such as Target and Walmart, where they are able to give you an idea of the inventory of various toys at other neighboring locations before you drive there. They may tell you when they can expect shipments of new toys in their store. Sometimes they even keep most wanted toys near the front of the store at customer service if people have put toys on hold and not come in to pick them up.

Call Ahead

By calling ahead to different locations en-route, customer service representatives are able to tell you about their current inventory and when they generally receive shipments of products so you can call back and get more information the next day or later that week.

While has its own fulfillment department, many people and businesses purchase these hard to find items in stores, then sell them through their own personal business Amazon store accounts. While you may be able to find the item you want, it will be listed as a fixed price plus shipping, but if it is popular, do not expect it to be cheap or close to the retail price.

If the toy is really popular, it may be available on a website like for auction. This means a buyer arranges a minimum price and consumers bid on the item. You can also find items on eBay and buy them outright for a specific price, though again, like, it may or may not be a reasonable price.

eBay is certainly a great place to look for those older toys and licenses that might be your child's favorite at the moment, where there aren't any new toys in planned production.


Sometimes you can find vintage toys for sale at Etsy. While you may not be able to find the actual retail toy, people are so creative and imaginative that it is possible to find unique and special items featuring their favorite characters such as stuffed animals, hair clips, T-shirts, and birthday party decorations in a personal Etsy store.


Craigslist is a listing of local people with items for sale in a specific demographic area. People list pictures and descriptions of new or used items for sale, then buyers and sellers agree upon a price and meet in person to trade the item. While this can be effective there are lots of scams on Craiglist, so do not give out a lot of personal information, be aware of where you meet people and buy and sell used toys smartly and safely. Be skeptical if you receive emails with a lot of misspellings and vague information. Scams on Craigslist will often include people offering more money than the item is worth.

Online Yard Sale Groups on Facebook

With the popularity of private groups on Facebook, join neighborhood groups and yard sale groups in your local area. People will post items for sale and buyers will purchase then by leaving a comment or a direct message to the poster. They then meet the seller locally for pickup. You still run the risk of the buyer or seller being a no-show, but it can be helpful. In several Facebook groups, there have been entire threads where people share experiences and pictures, letting other buyers know that the local retail store got a new shipment of toys that morning.