Jess (the mediocre bowler) Burg comes at us with an article on a very fuzzy topic: BEANIE BABIES. Can’t say I ever collected them myself, nor really understood the hype about them. All I know is I worked at a toy store during 9 out of the 10 last major toy rushes of the late 90’s, but missed out on the beanie baby rush. I was already in college when these things hit the fan – thank god. Jess tells it all below. Be sure to comment and leave your own beanie baby memory or anti-memory about them.
Plight of the Beanie Baby
by Jess Burg
Any thrift store, in any urban or tranquil settlement you will most likely stumble upon the Beanie Baby aisle. Tossed aside and forgotten, their era as the #1 must have bean-filled animal sensation lapsed. Once prized and precious collectors items they now rest in heaps, disheveled amongst themselves like corpses in secondhand catacombs. When I see a mound of them all I can think is how their abandonment is a token of our culture’s futile obsession with crazes. Or my how my poor little sister was bamboozled believing her Beanie Baby collection would buy her first car. Or, my friend Adam’s remark, all the empty beds at the children’s hospital.
I would bet that many of you, like me, tend to skip looking through the piles of Beanie Babies. Let it be known, there are a handful of them still worth a good bit of money—enough to warrant keeping an eye out.
But first, let’s take a moment to re-live Beanie Baby mania. In 1994 Beanie Babies made their gift shop debut in the Chicago area as a product of the Ty Warner toy company, renamed TY Inc in’93. There are nine original or “first generation” Beanie Babies. Every Beanie Baby comes with a small heart shaped red tag on its’ ear that has the Ty logo on the outside. Inside the tag is the given name of the Beanie Baby, its’ birth date and a stupid limerick. At first the plush little toys gained popularity with kids and at offices as gifts between coworkers. They were cute and inexpensive, usually selling at around $5-$7. As popularity and sales grew, the toy company decided to boost collectability by introducing new Beanies, making changes to the color of some Beanies, or retiring them out of production. That’s when the mass hysteria ensued. In 1996 an estimated 100 million Beanies were sold. The New York Times called Beanie Baby mania the source which, “helped surge ’97 toy sales”. Adults and children alike found themselves in spell of Beanie Baby mania collecting them in colossal amounts. Everyone thought an investment in Beanies would promise an opulent payoff. This clip I saw on Vimeo.com illustrates it pretty well. Beanie Baby Craze.
Since the craze Ty has made over 600 different Beanie Babies. Obviously in 2010 the most of them aren’t worth squat. If you become familiar with the few that are, say a royal blue Peanut the elephant, you could be looking at $1,400 sack of beans. This list from about.com gives an up-to-date estimated price list of how much the rarest Beanies could be sold for at auction.
- Chicago Cubs Dusty Bear — $75.
- Cranberry Bear, New Face — $250.
- Derby w/Fine Mane — $290.
- Daisy the Cow, Harry Caray — $50.
- Humphrey — $400.
- Lizzy Tye Dye — $199. (3rd generation / Authenticated)
- Lucky (7 spots) — $60. (Authenticated)
- Nip the Cat (white face/white belly) — $80.
- Nip, All Gold — $225.
- Peanut, Royal Blue Elephant — $1450.
- Peking — $220.
- Princess Diana Bear — $50.
- Quackers without wings — $225.
- Bo w/Bo Tush Tag — $300.
Of course, with any collectable, the better the condition the item is in the bigger the auction price tag. The best place to find a buyer who is just waiting to find the ultimate Beanie Baby addition to their collection is online. EBay has a whole section dedicated on the proper way to determine the value of a Beanie. It outlines just how to list the conditions of the hang tag (heart shaped tag) and tush tag (small white tag on the butt), and offers advice on how to liquidate an entire collection. I encourage you to look up some of these rare Beanie Babies. I have a feeling that somewhere out there a Nip the cat or Quackers the duck is just lying there, waiting to be discovered.