A gunman wearing a ski mask burst into a gift and novelty shop, ordered seven people to the floor and demanded . . . Beanie Babies.

He passed up the cash register, ignored the least-collectible Beanies and fled with 42 of the rarest, worth a total of about $5,000, police said.Even seasoned detectives were amazed by the robber's unusual booty during the 9 a.m. robbery.

"I've heard of some weird things over the years, but the Beanie Babies was a good one," said Los Angeles police Sgt. Roy VanDuyne of the suburban Van Nuys Division.

Although it was the first such heist in the division, and perhaps the entire city, a wave of Beanie Baby robbers has hit this year from Maryland to Santa Ana.

In most cases, crooks encouraged by Beanie Baby-mania have targeted the most valued Beanies, some of which sell for hundreds of dollars apiece. Newer models of the toys, made by Ty Inc., sell in stores for about $5.

At Aahs in suburban Sherman Oaks, the robber took the coveted "Ty" model, now worth $65 or more because it has been discontinued, the store manager said.

The toys likely will find their way to a burgeoning Beanie Baby black market, which has outlets at swap meets and through classified ads or on the Internet, VanDuyne said.

"I didn't even know what a Beanie Baby was until today," he said. "Hopefully we'll catch this guy. He'll probably be around the area doing this again."