everal years back, all you needed to do to make your kid's Christmas wishes come true was to pick up a creepy stuffed animal tufted with red fur that laughed maniacally at you when you touched its belly. The Tickle-Me-Elmo was a strange Christmas phenomenon, flying off the shelves and causing plenty of toy store fights. Every year, it seems, there's one or two hot-ticket items that retailers can't keep on the shelves. How do they become the year's most coveted gift, and is there any way you can predict what to pick up before they're already gone?

Right now, a Google search of hot Christmas gifts for 2012 will net you plenty of websites offering up lists of very obvious popular gifts. Brand names like Nintendo and Kindle are on these lists, to which we say, "Hey thanks, Captain Obvious! Electronics are popular Christmas gifts?"

The more useless the toy, the more likely it will be a hot seller.
elmo The Furby might be back, but thankfully, Elmo is nowhere to be seen.

Okay, but really now. How can you predict what the hottest sellers will be? Here are three indicators that you should pick up something in anticipation for the holidays now, while it's still on the shelves.

1)    Uselessness—Like the Furby (a talking...gremlin...thing?), many of the most popular toys around Christmas are legitimately useless. Collector's edition Barbies that will sit on the shelves, still in their box, for years? Probably going to be popular. In fact, this year Toys R Us is listing the Furby as its #4 hot-selling toy. While we're baffled by the fact that this is still a product, we're absolutely not surprised that marketers are going to try and make it a "thing" again. The Tigger Bounce Bounce Plush Doll has all the makings of being a hard-to-find item, too. Completely and utterly useless.
2)    Cost—With something popular like the Wii, it's not hard to understand why it flew off the shelves when it first came out. It's expensive! Popular toys can be expensive, all because people love keeping up with the Joneses. If something is outside a lot of people's budgets, make sure you put it in your cart. You win! Until next year, anyways, when something even more expensive and crazy comes out (looking at you, Kinect).
3)    Trendiness—One Direction is probably the hottest boy band, like, ever. Or at least that's what your tween daughter thinks, right? Alright. That said, there's One Direction action figures (male Barbies, let's be real here).
4)    Part of a set—if your kid collects something, forget it. Not only is your kid not the only one who collects it, but if kids are collecting anything, it's probably because everyone in their grade is collecting it. Make sure you know which items of the Polly Pocket set your kid already has, because buying duplicates will only set them back, and you totally can't have that happening.

Happy shopping—and remember, no matter what you get your kid for Christmas this year, they'll probably be bored with it by January 15th or so, so don't stress too much!