Buzz the spaceman commands an astronomic price

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The Independent Online
This year's impossible-to-get Christmas toy lived up to its motto "To Infinity and Beyond" yesterday - at least in terms of price.

A Newcastle car plant worker paid more than three times the face value for Tyneside's only available example of plastic spaceman Buzz Lightyear, to ensure a Christmas surprise for his daughter.

"She only wanted the video of the film Toy Story in which Buzz is featured for Christmas, but I planned to make a determined effort to get her this toy as an extra", said 33-year-old Harry Meers, who paid pounds 94 for the toy at an auction at the Thomas Miller sale room at Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne

No doubt fired by pressured parents, bidding for Buzz started at pounds 20 and rose by leaps. Buzz's sidekick Woody, bought in March for pounds 24.95, went for pounds 82.

Mindful of previous Christmas rushes for Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tracey Islands, a Durham businessman had bought the two toys and kept them in mint condition, predicting that he might make a quick profit on them later in the year.

Mr Meers, who has not seen the film Toy Story, realised that his "surprise" toy was likely to be no surprise. The sale attracted so much media attention he admitted his 13-year-old daughter Amber Elizabeth was bound to find out in advance.

But Mr Meers was not the only parent determined to obtain a Buzz Lightyear doll, which have sold out throughout Britain.

One desperate father set up a costly transatlantic swap to get a Buzz Lightyear toy, after it topped his son's Christmas list. Craig Jones, 30, advertised in the United States - and found an equally frantic parent searching for a Sesame Street toy.

The resulting swap delighted Mr Jones, who received an airmailed Buzz at his home in Ely, Cardiff, yesterday. In return, he sent a pounds 25 Tickle- me Elmo toy to Janet Winterle, of Wisconsin, for her son Mike, 11.

Mr Jones admitted he and his wife Maria, 29, had to spend more than pounds 400 on adverts, phone calls and postage to obtain the pounds 25 toy.

But he said: "It was worth every penny. We can't wait to see his face on Christmas morning when he finds out."

"Chris has been a big fan ever since he saw the film. He's already got the model of Woody, the other main character, but we couldn't believe it when toy shops everywhere sold out of Buzz Lightyear".

Janet Winterle, speaking from Racine, Wisconsin, appeared equally happy with her side of the bargain. She said: "I'm very happy to help Craig and it's great to get the toy for my boy. If world leaders could co-operate like us then we wouldn't have any wars".