Launched in 1993, Beanie Babies swept across the 90s, becoming one of the most memorable fads of the decade. Founder Ty Warner began creating the little animals stuffed with plastic pellets at his small business in a Chicago suburb. The original nine beanies (Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Spot the Dog, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Chocolate the Moose, Patti the Platypus, Brownie the Bear, and Pinchers the Lobster) entered factory production in 1994, but did not become immediately popular.
Two years later, a well-intentioned albeit misguided magazine article by collector Peggy Gallagher discussed “rare” and “valuable” Beanie Babies, beginning the illusion that the toys were in fact worth significant amounts. Soon after, the stuffed animals were being mass-produced in China though Ty only sold his toys to small, independent retailers. With stores only stocking a couple dozen of each style of beanie, the belief that they were limited continued. However, by the time the idea caught on, the truly rare Beanie Babies had been scooped up and resold by early buyers in Chicago. Everyone else was left with shelves full of cute animals worth little more than their retail price.
So, what makes a Beanie Baby valuable today? It seems that the most expensive beanies online are those considered to be truly limited edition, and those with some variation or error on their tags. Many people are still very much involved in the Beanie Baby game, including Peggy Gallagher, who now authenticates rare beanies. Let’s explore ten Beanie Babies that still hold value in 2016.
10. Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia
In January 2009, Ty introduced two new characters to its line of 12″ stuffed dolls, Ty Girlz: Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia. These dolls were immediately linked with United States President Obama’s daughters, with whom they shared their names. This sparked controversy with First Lady Michelle Obama, who said permission was neither asked nor granted for her daughter’s likenesses to be used. Though Ty claimed the dolls were not created to be a physical likeness of the girls, the toys were retired a month later and renamed Sweet Sydney and Marvelous Mariah. The Sasha and Malia dolls that had been sold prior to their retirement were sold on eBay for $3,000 in 2009, but now Sweet Sasha can be purchased for a measly $999.
This adorable octopus was released on June 25, 1994. Because this beanie was retired less than 3 months after its release and has the first generation hang tag, it is currently listed on eBay for $1,200. A grey Inky with a mouth was released immediately after the first toy retired, and in 1995 a pink Inky with a mouth was sold. However, neither of the later releases of the toy hold as much value as the original.
Royal Blue Peanut the Elephant has been credited as the Beanie Baby that began the collecting frenzy. Peanut was first released in June of 1995, before anyone really cared about the toys. Chicago stores were buying only six Beanie Babies at a time, if they were buying them at all. Ty Warner was persistent, though, and decided to rerelease Peanut four months later, this time with baby blue fur. Only a couple thousand Peanuts were produced in royal blue before the beanie craze took over. When Peggy Gallagher wrote about the original Peanut’s rarity in her 1996 article, he became the first heavily sought after Beanie Baby. After 20 years and many counterfeit versions of the elephant, Peanut has fallen down the list in value, going anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 online.
Mystic the Unicorn was released in four different styles from 1994 to 1999, all of which seem to still have value. Two Mystics were introduced on June 25, 1994 – both with a tan horn, one with a fine yarn mane and one with a coarse yarn mane. Though they came out at the same time, the fine maned Mystic has a first generation swing tag, whereas the unicorn with the coarse mane has a third generation swing tag. This has created quite a difference in their value, with fine mane Mystic listed for $3,750, and coarse mane Mystic selling for $1,130. In October of 1997, the tan horned Mystic was retired and re-released with a whimsical iridescent horn. These particular toys are going for up to $3,000 on eBay, but it seems that some confusion on the release date on the part of the sellers is what is creating the supposed value. Lastly, in 1999, Ty released Mystic again, this time with a furry rainbow mane. Though this version seems to be more scarce, it also gains it’s purported $2,500 value from sellers mixing up its production date.
Released in January 1999, this magenta bear paved the way for the upcoming millennium. This toy gains its value from spelling mistakes found on the swing tag, the tush tag, or both. Millennium can be found spelled with one ‘n’ – Millennium, and with Gosport, Hampshire, U.K. spelled as ‘Gasport’. Different combinations of these mistakes make for a variety of Millennium beanies, the most expensive listed at $5,000.
Made to celebrate chef Joël Robuchon, this bear was given to journalists and other guests at the 2006 opening of the chef’s new restaurant, L’Atelier at Four Seasons New York. Though the total number of toys produced was not revealed, it is estimated to be 200. The beanie donning a chef’s hat and coat sold for $7,353.51 in 2011.
Claude the tie-dyed crab was produced on May 11, 1997. This cute and colorful crustacean is selling for up to $10,000 online due to errors on the tags, though the seller claims he is worth $100,000. An ® above the ™ on its tush tag, and a space before an exclamation point on the swing tag are what make this beanie unique.
Unlike the basic earth tones seen on Claude, this tie-dyed beanie has noticeable differences in the coloring from bear to bear, making each one unique. If that were not enough, there are nearly 50 confirmed variations in this Beanie Baby’s tags, country of origin, and pellet type. This special beanie can be yours for $30,000.
Political beanies Lefty the Donkey and Righty the Elephant were originally released in 1996, with new designs produced in 2000, 2003, and 2008. None of these toys were particularly valuable until two Leftys from 2000 were signed by former First Lady of the United States – and current Democratic candidate – Hillary Rodham Clinton. An avionics technician met Clinton in 2006 and asked her to sign the two beanies for his young daughters. Both donkeys are now listed on eBay for $50,000.
1997 saw the tragic and untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Ty Warner used the popularity of Beanie Babies to help commemorate the Princess by releasing a beautiful purple bear with an English rose embroidered on its chest. The proceeds of this beanie went to Diana’s memorial fund. Princess has long been considered the most valuable Beanie Baby in existence, though that is heavily debated. Like others, the Princess beanie has many variations. One of the most common is a space on the swing tag between the lines “All profits of Ty from this collectible will be donated to” and “DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES MEMORIAL FUND”. The most rare of these is a Princess bear known as a “ghost version”, selling for $507,000. It was manufactured in Indonesia using PVC pellets, and has a space on the swing tag. Following close behind at $502,000 is an Indonesian Princess bear that does not have the rose embroidery.
Keep in mind, these prices have been set by the sellers of the Beanie Babies, and may not be an accurate representation of their value. But, you may want to check the boxes in your parents’ basement anyway. You could have some treasures hidden away!