Beanie Babies are a line of stuffed toys created by American businessman H. Ty Warner, who founded Ty Inc. in 1986. The toys are stuffed with plastic pellets ("beans") rather than conventional soft stuffing. They come in many different forms, mostly animals.
|Materials||Synthetic plush, polyvinyl chloride, polyester fiber|
Created in 1993, Beanie Babies emerged as a major fad and collectible during the second half of the 1990s. They have been cited as being the world's first Internet sensation in 1995. They were collected not only as toys, but also as a financial investment, due to the high resale value of particular ones.
Nine original Beanie Babies were launched in 1993: Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Spot the Dog, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Chocolate the Moose, Patti the Platypus, Brownie the Bear (later renamed "Cubbie"), and Pinchers the Lobster (with some tag errors with "Punchers"). They were not in factory production until 1994. Sales were slow at first to the point that by 1995 many retailers refused to buy the products in the bundles Ty offered them while others outright refused to buy them in any form. Their popularity soon grew however, first starting locally in Chicago before growing into a national craze in the USA.
In 1996, Ty Inc. released a new product called Teenie Beanies, a miniature cutoff of the original Beanie Babies line. They were sold alongside McDonald's Happy Meals to celebrate that product's 17th anniversary. They also partnered with other companies.
Ty, Inc. stopped producing the product in December 1999, but consumer demand led them to reconsider. Production restarted in 2000 with a Beanie Baby named "The Beginning."
In early 2008, Ty released a new version of Beanie Babies called Beanie Babies 2.0. The purchase of a Beanie Baby 2.0 provided its owner with a code to access an online Beanie Babies interactive website. The website has since been shut down.
Beanie Babies are deliberately under-stuffed. This led to a criticism that the toys looked "cheap"; however, this set them apart from most stuffed animals on the market which could not be posed easily. Ty Warner has said that this understuffing method made the toys look "real".
Another important design element is the tag. Since the beginning, Beanie Babies have included two tags for identification: a heart-shaped "swing tag" at the top, and a fabric "tush tag" at the bottom. Both tags have been redesigned completely over time. Between 1994 and 1996, the swing tags had "To" and "From" blanks in them for use as gifts. Starting in early 1996, the tags include four-line poems related to the Beanie Baby, and a date of birth for the toy. The poem and birthday concept was created by Lina Trivedi who is credited as authoring the poems on the first 136 Beanie Babies that were introduced to the marketplace.
It was not uncommon for Beanie Babies to be accidentally shipped out with incorrect or misspelled tags, which sometimes increased the toy's value. On occasion, the poems, birth dates and even the names have been changed on certain Beanie Babies.
Beanie Babies began to emerge as popular collectibles in late 1995, and became a hot toy. The company's strategy of deliberate scarcity, producing each new design in limited quantity, restricting individual store shipments to limited numbers of each design and regularly retiring designs, created a huge secondary market for the toys and increased their popularity and value as a collectible.
Ty systematically retired various designs, and many people assumed that all "retired" designs would rise in value the way that early retirees had. The craze lasted through 1999 and slowly declined after the Ty company announced that they would no longer be making Beanie Babies and made a bear called "The End". Some time after the original announcement that the company would stop production, Ty asked the public to vote on whether the product should continue; fans and collectors voted "overwhelmingly" to keep the toys on the market.
At its height of popularity people would flip Beanies at as much as ten-fold on eBay. Indeed, at the height, Beanies made up 10% of eBay's sales. Some collectors insured their purchases for thousands of dollars.
Following are key factors that contributed to the collectible nature of Beanie Babies:
- Unique creative elements – each product contained a unique birthday and poem that was printed on the tag of every Beanie Baby
- Supply/demand – Scarce availability fell short of the product demand
- Availability – Beanie Babies were initially only sold in individually-owned small gift and specialty shops
- New releases / retirements – Several times a year, Beanie Babies would retire and the production of those characters would cease to make room for new designs
Warner was keenly aware that the Beanie Babies bubble could burst and eventually started requiring retailers who sold Beanies to also stock other product lines by his company if they wished to continue selling Beanies. None of these lines did as well as Beanie Babies, although they kept the company alive after the fad ended and eventually some became successful in their own right.
Ty, Inc. was the first business to produce a business to consumer website designed to engage their market. This is a major contributing factor to the early and rapidly growing popularity of Beanie Babies. By the time the first iteration of the Ty Web site was published in late 1995 by Lina Trivedi, only 1.4% of Americans were using the Internet. In tandem with the launch of the Ty Website in 1995, all Beanie Baby hangtags had the Ty Website URL and a call to action printed underneath the poems and birthdays that commanded audiences to visit the company website with text that read: Visit our web page!!! As a result, hordes of consumers were visiting the Ty website to gain information about Beanie Babies which was unprecedented. Ty is the first business to leverage their website to connect and engage with consumers of their products. This effort evolved into the world's first Internet sensation.
Diana, Princess of Wales died on August 31, 1997. Warner announced the lavender Beanie Baby bear Princess on October 29, 1997 in honor of Princess Diana since the princess herself owned that type of Beanie Baby.
Counterfeit Beanie BabiesEdit
Counterfeit Beanie Babies began to surface in 1997. Early on, cheap knock-offs and fakes of common Beanies were widely available at discount prices.
Authorities cracked down on counterfeit Beanie Babies in the late 1990s. People were prosecuted for their involvement in the commerce of counterfeit Beanies. In 1998, UK authorities seized more than 6,000 counterfeit Princesses and Britannias. In 1999, a Minnesota man was imprisoned, fined, and put on probation for involvement in smuggling counterfeit Beanies.
During the wake of Beanie Babies' success, Beanie Baby-centric publications were issued. One of the largest was Mary Beth's Bean Bag World, a monthly magazine dedicated to Beanie Babies and competing plush toys. This magazine ran from 1997 to 2001.
In the late 2000s, Beanie Babies modeled after characters from popular children's franchises by Nickelodeon, DreamWorks and Paramount began appearing. These included characters from cartoons on the Nickelodeon television channel such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues and The Backyardigans, as well as characters from DreamWorks Animation movies such as Shrek the Third, and 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Beanie Babies have also been produced for characters from Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole and Guardians of Ga'Hoole book series, Scooby-Doo, Hello Kitty, and Peanuts. Recently Beanie Babies modeled after Disney characters have been created, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and Olaf from Frozen. In addition, they have also produced toys based on characters from the Disney Junior TV series Doc McStuffins, Pixar films like Cars and Finding Dory, and Marvel Comics superheroes. They have also recently partnered with Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, and Hasbro for characters from franchises such as Despicable Me, Sing, My Little Pony, and The Emoji Movie. In addition, Beanie Babies have also expanded their Nickelodeon lineup with characters from PAW Patrol, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Peppa Pig.
In pop cultureEdit
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- Carr, Amy (August 14, 1997). "Those Beanies are still hot, and there's no sign of the frenze slowing down". Daily Herald.
Punchers the red lobster. Originally introduced in 1993 at a toy fair, Punchers was redesigned in 1994 and renamed Pinchers.
- The Perfect Store: Inside eBay via Google Books
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- Wolkoff, Melanie (December 2000). "The Girl With The Midas Touch, What Lina Trivedi Touches Turns to Gold – Just Ask Ty Warner". Mary Beth's Bean Bag World. H&S Media Incorporated. 4 (3): 56–59. ISSN 1520-7005.
- Van West, Patricia E. (September 1999). "Lina Trivedi – The First Beanie Poet & Webmaster". Becky and Becky's Beanie Mania. Beanie Mania LLC. 2 (1): 42–43. ISSN 1099-4874.
- Dunne, Claudia; Sara Nelson (September 1998). "Tag Training 101". Mary Beth's Bean Bag World. H&S Media Incorporated. 1 (7): 20–28. ISSN 1097-0444.
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- Berr, Johnathin. "How the Great Beanie Baby Bubble Went Bust". The Fiscal Times. Archived from the original on 9 February 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- VanderMey, Anne (11 March 2015). "Lessons from the great Beanie Babies crash". Fortune. Archived from the original on 13 February 2016.
- Pew Research Center (February 27, 2014). "How the Internet Has Woven Itself Into American Life". Retrieved June 16, 2018.
- "SUNDAY, JULY 5, 1998: CRIME; A World Gone Beanie Mad!". The New York Times. 1998-07-05. Archived from the original on November 19, 2016.
- Dodge, Susan (January 9, 1998). "Counterfeit Beanie Babies showing up here". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 12 July 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2007.
- "British authorities seize 6,000 counterfeit Beanie Babies". AP Online. November 20, 1998. Archived from the original on 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
- "Couple sentenced for selling counterfeit Beanie Babies". Star Tribune. August 6, 1999. Archived from the original on 1 September 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
- "Mary Beth". Beanielad Trading Cards. 10 November 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2020.
- Topel, Fred (August 5, 2021). "Beanie Babies Landed Some People in Jail According to 'Dark Side of the '90s' Episode". Shwobiz Cheat Sheet. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
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