$3,000 for a cuddly social-networking toy?

Webkinz sell for top dollar online.

In the '80s, it was the Cabbage Patch doll. In the 1990s, Beanie Babies.

What better toy to rule the millennium age than with a social-networking stuffed animal? A relatively Web-savvy concept by gift company Ganz, these plushies hope to usher in elementary-level children into the Web 2.0 realm.

Love Puppy: would you buy me for $100? Ganz

Webkinz--stuffed animals that also live virtually through avatars that interact with others in their own online world--have become increasingly popular since their introduction in 2005. Like Beanie Babies, certain they're available for a only limited time, then retired. On eBay, the retired Webkinz Cheeky Pet Dog and Cat are at a whopping starting bid of $3,000. On Amazon, the seasonal Love Puppy is selling for $99. But if you peruse a card shop in your area that carried Ganz toys, you may be able to score a non-seasonal or retired Webkinz for the relative bargain of just $12.

"Actually, a lady before you came in and purchased nearly 100 of the Webkinz," Jean Amirbagheri, manager of a Carlton Cards store in San Francisco, told us. "They've been really popular for events where a bunch of kids get together, like Easter, church functions and birthday parties."

An eBay search for Beanie Babies turned up an auction for 450-plus retired beanies, buddies and teenies for a starting bid of $2,500. An entire case of Cabbage Patch Dolls (six in all) are going for $150, while two "classic" cabbages selling for $2,000.

Will Webkinz retain their value-ad allure? The answer is as clear as the stock market.

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