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Beanie Babies
Beanie Babies Logo.jpg
Type Stuffed toy
Inventor(s) Ty Warner
Company Ty Inc.
Country United States
Availability 1993–present
Materials Synthetic plush, polyvinyl chloride, polyester fiber

Beanie Babies are a line of stuffed toys created by American businessman H. Ty Warner, who founded Ty Inc. in 1986. Notably, the toys are stuffed with plastic pellets ("beans") rather than conventional soft stuffing. The toys come in many different forms, mostly animals.

Although created in 1993, Beanie Babies emerged as a major fad and collectible during the last 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.

Design

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.

Collectibility

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.

Internet

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, only 1.4% of Americans were using the Internet. In tandem with the launch of the Ty Website, 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.

Notable Beanie Babies

Princess the bear

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. Warner said that all proceeds would be donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The Princess Diana Beanie Baby bear was sent to vendors to distribute in the second week of December 1997. Some vendors had to wait until February 1998. Only 12 Beanie Baby Princess bears were released to each vendor initially, but this changed due to strong demand. The first shipments are easily identified as "PVC Princess Bears" due to the tush tag stating "P.V.C. Pellets". The second shipment was during the switch to "P.E. Pellets" on the tag in 1998 and are very common. The bears were made in both China and Indonesia.

Decade the bear

Decade the bear was made in honor of Beanie Babies' 10th anniversary. Decade bears were made in white, royal blue, red, purple, orange, hot pink, green, gold, brown, and light blue. Most Decade bears have silver sparkles on their bodies. It was made in 2003.

Tabasco the bull

Originally named Tabasco, after Tabasco sauce, the name was changed to Snort to avoid trademark infringement. Tabasco has all-red "feet", while Snort has all-white ones. The poem stayed the same and is a reference to the Chicago Bulls basketball franchise:

"Although Snort is not so tall He loves to play basketball He is a star player in his dream Can you guess his favorite team?"

Peanut the royal blue elephant

Peanut the royal blue elephant is one of the most notable of all the Beanies. It first started production in 1995 as a royal blue color. Then, Ty noticed that the fabric color was wrong, and that it needed to be a light blue color, so they released a light blue version and stopped releasing the royal blue one. They made the light blue one until its retirement in 1999. Only about 500 of the royal blue version were made and, as a result, these Beanies can sell for $1,500 with an original tag.

Tremor the dinosaur

Tremor was the first beanie to be sent into space on 30 May 2020 as part of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission.

Counterfeit Beanie Babies

Ty copy infringement
Ty copyright infringement. Photograph submitted to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on first page of the appendix depicting Ty's Beanie Baby: "Squealer" (top) and GMA's stuffed animal: "Preston the Pig" (bottom)

Counterfeit Beanie Babies began to surface in 1997. Early on, cheap knock-offs and fakes of common Beanies were widely available at discount prices.

Cases

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, English 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.

Media

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.

Licensed Beanies

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.

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