Jealousy, Greed, and Soccer Moms: Exploring the ‘Great Beanie Baby Bubble’ of the 90s | VICE | United States

What happened? What caused these people to think Beanie Babies were so valuable?
Ty had been a very successful toy salesman. In 1994, he released the first Beanie Babies. And at first, nothing happened. Retailers thought they looked cheap. They worried that they were too inexpensive and would cannibalize sales. So at first it was very, very hard for [Beanie Babies] to get it going at all. But Ty Warner was just really convinced that this was the product that was gonna put him on the map. The guy who did his distribution in Canada remembers Ty summoning him into his office in Westmont, Illinois. Ty reaches into his desk and pulls out the prototype for Legs the Frog, and says, “From now on, every dime we have goes into this.”

When I first heard that, I thought it was fake, like a line from a movie. But other people said the same thing. His girlfriend at the time recalled him showing Legs the Frog to her daughters and throwing it in the air, saying, “Can you believe how fun this is?” He’d bring prototypes to their family dinners and ask the daughters to name them. His girlfriend would say, “We’re just trying to eat dinner,” and Ty would say, “We can eat after the toys have names.” So nothing really happened with them at first, but Ty was just… very perfectionistic. He’d spend several hours over every animal. He used to brush the hair on each toy before it shipped. And that obsession didn’t change after a piece was released. He would take an animal after it had been released, and he’d change the design on it because he decided it didn’t look right. Peanut the Elephant, in 1995, was this royal blue color. They shipped a few thousand, not that many. Then Ty decide that instead of this royal blue color it should be a baby blue color. So Ty started to change stuff, and no one really cared.

Then, all of a sudden, Beanie Babies started to develop a following among kids from suburban Chicago. The mothers started collecting them; a lot of this was tied into this soccer mom culture of the 1990s, much of which was centered around consumerism. The Beanie Babies were sort of the apotheosis of this. These women started to get really into it, started trying to assemble complete sets of Beanie Babies. As they went from store to store, calling around, they started to realize there are all these weird variations. Like they would find that he had changed the design on Teddy the Bear. So they started to pay higher prices for the variations. And the word of these higher prices got out. An economist once said that “there is nothing so dangerous to one’s sense of self as to see a good friend get rich.” And so it was that these stories of a relatively small group of people paying increasingly higher prices for the rarest Beanie Babies turned this into a phenomenon with no major marketing and no major stores.

via Jealousy, Greed, and Soccer Moms: Exploring the ‘Great Beanie Baby Bubble’ of the 90s | VICE | United States.

About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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