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Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Shelling out for Peanuts

Snoopy: Old dog learns new sales tricks

By Jill McGivering in Hong Kong

Thousands of people in Hong Kong queued for several hours on Tuesday in the hope of buying a small plastic toy - a model of the cartoon dog Snoopy.

The toy is available with McDonald's fast food meals as part of a special promotion, which has sparked a collecting frenzy in Hong Kong.

The range of 28 Snoopies has been designed to represent different countries and released to the public one a day. Tuesday's Snoopy had special interest because it represented Hong Kong.

Local people started queuing early in the morning, camping out on the pavement with folding chairs and tables. Some have queued every day since the promotion began more than three weeks ago and are determined to collect the full set.

Police said crowds at the dozens of McDonald's outlets across the territory were mostly well behaved, although two people were taken away by police when a fight broke out. In another incident a child was taken to hospital after being cut by broken glass.

Hong Kong people have a reputation for being avid collectors, but the mania for these small plastic toys has taken everyone by surprise.

Some people are collecting for pleasure; others are hoping to make a quick profit - the Snoopies are sold by McDonald's for less than $1, but local newspaper reports say they're reaching 50 times that price second-hand.

The biggest critics of the campaign have been health experts. Some have voiced concern that it's unhealthy for local children to eat fast food meals every day for a month.

In fact, many of the queues are dominated by adults buying Snoopies for themselves. One man I spoke to said he'd bought four or five fast food meals every day for the past 26 days so he could collect complete sets of Snoopies for friends.

He said some people threw the meals away, but he ate them all himself because he didn't like to waste food.

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