Looking for what she calls a "slumber party" purse at the Sanrio store in New York's Times Square, Lisa Mejia, 29, proclaims, "I like Hello Kitty!" Maybe it's because they're the same age? In November, Sanrio's Kitty turns 30, but the world is already celebrating. In Japan--Kitty's home--collectors are keeping an eye out for special gold Kitty coins as well as the $3,700--yes, $3,700--Hello Kitty robot (left), with 20,000 conversation patterns. A global Kitty exhibit includes a photo of a crop circle in England shaped like the feline. In America, where Kitty pencil cases have long been a staple among schoolgirls, an October women's surfing event in Huntington Beach, Calif., will showcase her new board. Stores have already rolled out 30th-anniversary booty like a vintage coin purse, the first Hello Kitty product. And in Los Angeles, a Hello Kitty prom dress, a Judith Leiber purse and sketches of Kitty from stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Calista Flockhart will be auctioned. (How much for an Ally cat?)

Bill Hensley, Sanrio's marketing director, attributes Kitty's enduring appeal to the fact that she's "so incredibly cute." But Kitty and her growing family (including Chococat and pup Chibimaru) have never had a story line like, say, the "Peanuts" gang--which may actually help. "Fans can project their own," says Hensley. Hey, a little mystery never hurts.