Uncovering what happened to the ‘90s favorite fad
There is a picture going around the internet lately that you’ve likely seen. Heck, we even shared it ourselves! In the photo, a couple sits on the floor of a court room, between them a massive pile of Beanie Babies. At the time the photo was taken, circa 1999, that pile represented a whole lot of money. In fact, it was worth so much money that the two people in the photo, a recently divorced couple, had to have a judge present while dividing up their collection. Nowadays that whole pile is probably worth $12.84. So what happened?
In the early days of the Beanie Baby line, toy manufacturer Ty Inc. produced their plushes in limited quantities and had a habit of retiring old dolls. During this time, the toys sold fairly well but, in the mid 90s the line blew up really began to take off.
As the popularity of the new plushes rose, the old and retired toys sky rocketed in value. After a series of new articles and stories about the value of these retired babies hit the press, coupled with the rising popularity of a small auction site you may have heard of, Ebay, the stage was perfectly set for Beanie Baby madness to engulf the nation. And engulf it did.
Ty ramped up production and cleverly made sure supplies to each store were carefully controlled to increase demand, all while continuing to retire plushes. (Of course the new retired plushes were produced in much higher quantities than the original ones.) Toy stores and gift shops consistently had lines forming every morning with eager buyers ready to see what new shipments the store had gotten. McDonald’s offered some exclusive babies as the happy meal toy and ended up having to limit customers to buying 10 at a time to avoid selling out too quickly.
These rabid collectors often would say “Well, these are going to be worth a fortune one day”. As the hopes of selling a rare figure for over $10,000 dollars began to spread across the country, everyone and their mothers began collecting them.
And it’s easy to see why. Everyone has heard stories about million dollar comic books and other tales of collectors hitting the jackpot. But what the collectors of Beanie Babies failed to see is that when an item is available in the millions and kept in great shape by a large number of people then, well, they aren’t worth much of anything.