A Beanie Baby is a stuffed animal made by Ty Inc. Ty was founded by Ty Warner who promoted the line in specialty stores and gift shops. The Ty company's famous special "posable lining" is under stuffed with plastic pellets (or "beans") rather than stuffing (see PVC and PE), giving Beanie Babies a flexible and cuddly feel. A Beanie Baby is essentially a fancy bean bag in the form of a stuffed animal.
The original nine Beanie Babies launched in 1993 were 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 Punchers the Lobster (later renamed "Pinchers). The line became a phenomenon in the late 90s when Beanie Babies became both a fad and a collectible. Ty decided to stop making Beanies in 1999, however, consumer demand made Ty Warner change his mind. He continues to run Ty Inc. and design new Beanie Babies to this day.
Teenie Beanies, an offshoot of the Beanie Babies line, were made by additional manufacturers for a few McDonalds Happy Meal promotions.
Sociology of Beanie Babies
The phenomenon of Beanie Babies is an example of a product of popular culture
. Based on the sales and revenue of this toy, Ty Inc.
had created an empire worth over $6 billion. In 1995, there was fear that this hot commodity was slowly losing interest to the general public. To their surprise, there was exponentially increasing demand for the product, resulting in a profit of $250 million in the following year. In addition to being part of popular culture, Beanie Babies also fall into the category of high culture
. There is a category of products that are in high demand to collectors, which the general public cannot afford. This difference between attainability and affordability causes this distinction between popular culture and high culture. The difference between these different rarities of certain Beanie Babies makes the price go up, and in turn, is only available to those who can afford it. For example, Ty Warner
signed an American Bear, which sold on eBay for $24,000.
Much of the success of Beanie Babies can be attributed to the marketing strategies of the company . The ten strategies employed by Ty Warner included:
1. Reasonable Price: Ty Warner
wanted to keep Beanie Babies selling at a reasonable price, but did not want to mass produce them. In doing so, he followed steps 4 and 5 by limiting production and distribution by only selling to smaller retailers.
2. Keep it Secretive: Ty Warner
was able to keep people interested because they weren’t jaded by the constant advertisements that most large toy companies use; when people don’t know what to expect, it becomes more appealing.
3. Surprise People:
Unpredictability became entertaining to the mass public and made people even more eager to engage in the collection process of Beanie Babies.
4. Limit Production
: Limiting production ensured that keeping some Beanie Babies rare would keep people excited.
5. Avoid Large Chain Retailers:
Unlike most toys that are mass produced and retailed to major toy stores, Beanie Babies were sold at smaller, more refined specialty shops. This helped sustain the authentic image of Beanie Babies.
: Because only a few different colors of fabric were used for each Beanie Baby, costs were kept low. At the same time, this simplicity appealed to everyone because what they saw is what they got.
Personification made Beanie Babies easier to relate to; every Beanie Baby had a Ty tag with a unique name, birthday, and poem. This only increased the excitement of the buyers because it was no longer just a stuffed animal
Producing a variety of Beanie Babies attracted everyone because this tactic aims to please everyone’s taste. This ploy also made serious collectors more eager to collect every Beanie Baby out there.
Retirement created frenzy among Beanie Baby consumers. When Ty would retire a certain Beanie Baby, demand would increase, while supply came to a halt.
Every previous strategy that Warner developed was a risk, and he succeeded in going against the norm.
Although his plan was unique and could have been a set up for failure, Ty Warner founded an empire in creating a craze that was original. This made competition to the wide variety within the product line of Beanie Babies limited; substitutes were rare and unsuccessful in the market place. Even so, people thought they were making an individual and unique selection, when in actuality, their choices were confined within the Ty Inc. corporation. With the ten strategies, and the limited competition, Ty Warner had created a culture of his own in the way he produced Beanie Babies.
Even though one of the purposes of the ten marketing strategies was to avoid mass production
, Beanie Babies were still mass consumed by the general public at the peak of their popularity. By avoiding mass production
, Ty Warner
gained an upper hand in the sales of toys; he was able to keep a high demand of Beanie Babies while still sparingly producing them.
Beanie Babies began to emerge as popular collectibles in late 1995, and became a hot toy
. 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's announcement that they would no longer be making Beanie Babies. The line was brought back with completely new styles in early 2000 as a result of an online vote over whether more Beanies should be released. Many believe that the mass retirement and subsequent revival were a publicity stunt, but Beanie Babies had fallen out of favor with many children by the time the line was relaunched. In recent years, the popularity of Beanie Babies has continued to fade. Some of the more common styles can be found fairly cheaply. New Beanie Baby designs continue to be released, and increasingly include bears and limited edition items. On December 27, 2007, Ty made a massive retirement of its Beanie Baby line, retiring over 240 styles of Beanie Babies, leaving only licensed characters, key-clip versions of popular Beanie Baby styles, popular store exclusives and country exclusives as current. On January 2, 2008, Ty introduced a "replacement" line called Beanie Babies 2.0
, the next generation of the beanbag toys. While the aforementioned current styles will continue to be produced and special Beanie Babies will be released, the remainder of future retail styles will be produced under the new line, in which collectors can purchase their Beanies and use a scratch-off code to go online and play with their new pet in a virtual world, much akin to other collectibles like Neopets
The tags on Beanie Babies are considered a very important part of its value. It is widely believed that a Beanie without a tag loses half of its value. Every Beanie Baby has at least two tags: a swing tag (also known as a "hang tag", "ear tag" or "heart tag"), and a tush tag (usually attached to the Beanie's rear end). Both tags have gone through many changes over time; these changes have become known as "generations". There are currently 11 generations of swing tags and 13 generations of tush tags. Additionally, there are also extra tags for certain regions that include things like safety information to comply with the Canadian Stuffed Articles Act
or the CE Mark
requirements in Europe.
A few tag "generations" have become particularly noteworthy. Most Beanie Babies with first, second, or third generation hang tags have held their value (or in the case of some harder to find styles, increased in value), while fourth and fifth generation hang tags indicate Beanies that were available during the Beanie fad.
During the Beanie Baby craze, the rarest general issue beanie, according to the Winter 2000 edition of Ty Beanie Babies
, published by Collectors Value Guide, was considered to be the dark blue variation of "Peanut" the elephant. Peanut
was available well into 1998 in a lighter hue, but the dark blue version that was only made accidentally in 1995 rose in value because of its scarcity. "Nana the monkey" was considered the second rarest Beanie Baby; because only a few early 3rd gen tags use that name instead of Bongo. The early wingless version of "Quackers" the duck
, "Chilly" the polar bear
, the earlier versions of "Nip" and "Zip" the cats, "Peking" the panda bear
; a series of colored bears
named "Teddy" (which are even harder to find with the earlier "old face"), and "Humphrey" the camel
also command high prices.
Some special edition Beanies, such as the #1 Bear or the Billionaire bears (which are only available as gifts to Ty employees), are hard to come across and highly valued.
Earlier editions of common Beanie Babies (particularly with first or second generation hang tags) are often sought-after by collectors. Particular hang tag variations in mint condition continue to make record prices on eBay
In the hysteria of the late 90s, the bears were perceived to be the most sought-after beanies, and often carried inflated price tags - however, many of the popular bears have since turned out to be fairly common.
Notable Beanie Babies
Garcia the bear
the bear was released in January 1996 and retired in May 1997. He is a tie-dyed
bear that seems to be a tribute to Jerry Garcia
of The Grateful Dead
. The band used to use a set of colored dancing bears as their logo. The guitarist and the bear share a birthday, but the bear was supposedly "born" the year that Jerry died. The fast retirement for this Beanie Baby was due to an alleged lawsuit that the Garcia family filed against the Ty company, claiming that the name "Garcia" was used without permission from the family. In cooperation with the lawsuit, Garcia was retired and a similar bear named Peace
The bright colors on Garcia the bear made him one of the most popular Beanie Baby styles. Many people enjoy trying to find different colors on Garcia and community of tie-dye collectors continue to make the bear's value unpredictable.
Princess the bear
the bear was released in late 1997 as a charity release for the Princess, Diana of Wales Memorial Fund
. All of Ty Inc's profits from the bear were donated to the fund. Many people expected the bear to become a major celebrity collectible, but the Ty company continued to make the bear well into 1999 so that they could raise more money for the charity. Princess is also notable as the first Beanie Baby to feature a special hang tag that does not clearly fit in with any particular hang tag generation.
It's also important to note that Princess the Bear was one of the very first Beanie Babies that Ty limited to stores. In its first shipment to stores, each account only received twelve of the bear to do with as they wished. Many stores auctioned it to help raise money, others kept the twelve for its store employees, yet other sold it normally. Ty manufactured the Princess Bear with two different types of "beans" within the bear itself. The PVC pellets were in the original 12 to every account, and the PE pellets came later, and is why the Princess Bear's value is really only determined by the styled of pellets inside. After the PE pellets were introduced in Princess, Ty began to make all his Beanies with PE pellets.
Decade the bear
the bear was made in honor of Beanie Babies' tenth anniversary. Decade bears were made in white, royal blue, red, purple, orange, hot pink, green, gold, brown, and light blue. Birthday Bear was the first beanie baby to ever be without a birthday.
Counterfeit Beanie Babies
Counterfeit Beanie Babies began to surface in 1997. Early on, cheap knock-offs and fakes of commons were widely available at discount prices , but when the Beanie craze began to fade, counterfeiters started focusing on rarer releases and country exclusives. Although it is unlikely that people are still manufacturing fakes, older fakes continue to surface on eBay
Some counterfeit versions of real beanies were made that had never been produced by Ty. For example, there are some red fake "Pinky" the flamingo and mint green fake "Quackers" the duck out there.
Several organizations run services that verified the authenticity of Beanie Babies and other Ty products. At the height of the Beanie craze, there were more Beanie authenticators. Beanie authentication has become more affordable in the years since.
Ty Inc. began including anti-counterfeiting measures on new Beanie designs and Beanie tags in 1999. Holograms, glow-in-the-dark stars, heat-sensitive disappearing ink, and other such gimmicks made it easy to spot a fake for some time, but counterfeiters eventually figured out how to fake most of the new anti-counterfeiting features. Ty has since phased out most of the anti-counterfeiting features.
Several signs of obvious fakes include:
- Fabric where the hue or texture does not match the real beanies
- Tags with spelling errors or incorrect/out of place words or phrases
- Incorrectly spaced eyes or other details
- Low quality stitching
strictly cracked down on counterfeit beanies in the late 1990s, and some people were prosecuted for direct known involvement in their commerce. For example, a St. Louis Park, MN couple was sentenced to prison, probation, and fines for their involvement in smuggling counterfeit beanies . York
authorities seized more than 6000 Princess
from a ring