It’s likely that you had a collection of Beanie Babies if you were a kid or even an adult in the 1990s. It’s even possible that you still do. Maybe, like me, you’re hoping that one of them will one day be really valuable.
A total of nine bean-filled plush toys, including the first Beanie Baby, Legs the Frog. As well as Chocolate the Moose and Brownie the Bear. Were initially introduced at a New York toy fair in 1993. They were created by toy entrepreneur (and later found guilty tax evader) Ty Warner.
Warner remained unmoved. In 1994, his toy firm of the same name debuted more than 20 new designs, and the poseable toys. Which were marketed through small gift shops rather than major chain stores quickly rose to fame. In 1998, according to a survey by USA Weekend magazine, 64% of Americans possessed at least one Beanie Baby.
A television movie called “The Beanie Bubble” tells the story of the so-called Beanie boom and the man who started it all. The movie, which stars Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Snook, and Elizabeth Banks, had its streaming debut last week on Apple TV+.
Since the company had a strategy of “retiring” or discontinuing characters at random, the limited-edition collectible plush toys that retailed for roughly $5 each in the 1990s quickly rose in value. Each was tagged with a heart-shaped swing tag with its name, date of birth, and a brief personal poem.
By encouraging consumers to buy soon-to-be extinct toys, this tactic increased the demand for uncommon or scarce Beanie Babies. Which immediately increased their value. Adults began exchanging and competing for the toys on a clandestine illicit market. For rare editions or characters that were set to be discontinued, shoppers would stand in line all night long. Some even traveled abroad to obtain a particular Beanie. They were stolen from shops. “Dealers” were employed to locate the artifacts, and Beanie experts quickly appeared, specializing in storage and display options, validating purchases, or foreseeing and pricing the next big thing.
A beanie preservation industry also emerged to safeguard their “future investments”; these products included Perspex containers to shield bears from dust and tiny plastic sleeves to preserve swing tags.