Unless you're ready to plunk down $1,000, hide this story from the kids.

Starting Tuesday, Oxford Bank in a suburb of Chicago is giving away America's hottest and rarest toy-Teeny Beanie Babies-to the first 500 people who open $1,000 child savings accounts.

Oxford doesn't know what to expect, but judging by the mad rush last month on McDonald's Happy Meals that featured the cuddly critters, there could be a run in reverse on the bank.

"For months my personal bankers have been saying we have to do something with Beanie Babies," said Ginger Gagen, Oxford's vice president of retail banking and marketing. "They're so hot! They're so hot!"

Teeny Beanie Babies, a teenier version of the plush beanbag Beanie Babies, are also a rare commodity these days. Ty Inc., the toy's Oak Brook, Ill.-based manufacturer, made 100 million of the little stuffed animals exclusively for McDonald's restaurants.

The plush, colorful Beanies-which come in more than 100 varieties and have catchy names such as Radar the bat, Nuts the squirrel, Pouch the kangaroo, and Goldie the goldfish-eclipsed even the popular Tickle Me Elmo as the gotta-have-it toy this year.

Ms. Gagen, whose own four kids own about 100 of the collectible creatures, made the bank join the craze by scouring the Internet's secondary Beanie Babies market.

It slowly began amassing its collection over the Internet, paying about $8 per Teeny Beanie Baby.

She said it wasn't a bad price for a commodity that she saw listed for as high as $40 each on the Internet.

"It's not going to do a lot for banking if you can buy a $1.99 Happy Meal and turn around and make $40," Ms. Gagen said. "We just can't compete with a 2.5% savings account."

But prices can go even higher.

There are at least 33 Beanie Babies sites on the World Wide Web, many of which act as a mercantile exchange. On one site, $600 will get you a full- sized Slither the snake, one of the toys "retired" by Ty Inc. A steep price for something that originally sold for about $5 retail.

"I think our next step is Beanie Baby futures," joked Kevin Tynan, president of Tynan Marketing, the Chicago firm that handles Oxford's public relations efforts.

Oxford stopped short of hiring an armored car to shepherd the Teeny Beanie Babies safely into the Addison, Ill., bank's headquarters.

But they are being held in the vault and removed one by one for each lucky account holder.

While customers won't get to choose which Beanie they want, the most popular Teeny Beanies - Chocolate the moose, Chops the lamb, and Pinky the flamingo - will go to the early birds.

The bank will hold a Beanie Baby swap meet June 13 so customers can trade for Beanies they don't have.

Oxford Bank won't reveal its sources because it will likely need to snag some more, Mr. Tynan said.

"What I'm hoping is we'll get a nice flow of people," Ms. Gagen said. "We'll get some kids to open some kids' accounts and they'll get a cool collector's item with it."

If they take their cue from McDonald's experience, they'll definitely need more.

"We obviously knew it was going to be very popular," said Malesia Webb- Dunn, a McDonald's spokesman. "I don't think anybody could have predicted the mad rush some of the restaurants experienced."

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