Beanie Babies are the kind of 90s pop culture craze that just amazes me. Yes, of course I had a Beanie Baby collection. They were the cool thing to collect. Created by Ty inc. in 1993, Beanie Babies are different colored, plastic pellet filled stuffed animals.
When I first started growing my collection, I was attracted to Beanie Babies because let’s be honest, what kind of little girl could resist cute, cuddly, little stuffed animals? I was only interested in them for their cute and cuddly value, but that quickly changed once I realized that people were actually making big bucks off these furry little creatures. To me, this change happened overnight. I had apparently already lost half of the value of my Beanie Babies by taking off many of the little heart shaped Ty tags that were attached to them.
The pop culture craze of Beanie Babies was not a mistake. Ty inc. followed several marketing strategies that led them to success. To avoid mass production, the creatures were kept at a reasonable price of around $5. They kept the beanies on the down low by not bombarding customers with advertisements. Because these toys were kept secret in this way, they appealed to customers even more because they didn’t know what to expect. The unpredictability of the stuffed animals kept the product engaging. People didn’t know when a beanie was going to be retired. They also limited the production of the toys, keeping them rare. By selling them at smaller specialty shops instead of large chain toy stores, Ty inc. gave off the image of authenticity. And who said bigger is better? Beanie Babies were also successful because of the simplicity of the design. People knew what they were buying. With the Ty tags, beanies were more than just a stuff animal. They turned Beanie Babies into a personal experience by including names, birthdays and unique poems. Because there was such a variety of animals to choose from, the creatures appealed to everyone. Collectors had to have them all. Retirements of certain models created high demand and sent collectors on a wild goose chase to find the retired beanies.
Little boys and girls were not the only ones collecting Beanie Babies. Adults joined in on the craze as well. In my opinion, that’s a sign of a very successful marketing effort. Ty inc. was able to turn a product that was meant for children into a product that adults cherished as well. In many cases, adults were more Beanie Baby crazed than children.
Yes, the awkward boy narrating is Samm Levine from the cult classic Freaks and Geeks and the movie Sydney White. I have to say, that older guy must have a very strong sense of self to tell the world that he has a passion for collecting Beanie Babies. While I am amazed by the phenomenon that the beanies created, I still think that they should be left to kids. Something about a grown man collecting stuffed animals doesn’t sound right to me.
With the height of the craze around 1995, the fad eventually slowed down after 1999. I am very sad to say that I never ended up selling my collection. They are still in a bag in the basement of my house. I kick myself everytime I think about it because if I had sold them back in the 90s, I could have been a very rich kid. Unfortunately, when the fad died down, so did the price. I recently looked on eBay, and people are currently selling them for as low as $1 and as high as $10. But there is an alternative to selling your Beanie Babies for money. You can donate them. “Operation Beanie Baby” is a mission started by Easter Seals Arc in Fort Wayne, Indiana to bring joy to the lives of deployed soldiers in Iraq as well as Iraqi children.
I wonder if Beanie Babies will ever make a comeback here in the U.S. There have been companies since who have come out with similar products. Perhaps the most popular today are Webkinz.
To me, they look almost exactly like Beanie Babies, except they have a more furry texture. The result of living in digital age, Webkinz animals come with a special code that children can then use to interact with a digital version of their animal on the Webkinz website. Kids who attended the camp I used to counselor at were crazy for these things. They’d bring them to camp and take them everywhere. I guess that shows that there will always be a market for cute and cuddly collectibles. To try to stay in that market, Ty inc. recently launched Beanie Babies 2.0, which employs the same code tactic.
I’m not sure if I think that Beanie Babies 2.0 or any other stuffed animal collection could ever reach the magnitude of the 90s Beanie Baby phenomenon. If a company could get everyone to be obsessed with collecting once, it could happen again. Children will always love anything cute and cuddly; however, do you think adults would be able to fall victim to a trend like this again? Share your thoughts.