"The Beanie Baby phenomenon is yet another classic exercise of American stupidity. Marketed towards overweight women and wrestling fans, the Beanie Baby has muscled into the territory once controlled by the Cabbage Patch Doll."
-- From The Beanie Babies Page-o-Death
Beanie Babies are the creation of Ty Warner and his company Ty
Inc. Warner had previously worked in the stuffed animal
industry and set out to create a line of low-cost plushies
at a price point that a child could afford with allowance
money (around the $5 range). The toys got their name because instead of being stuffed with foam
they were partially stuffed with PVC
pellets or "beans". The pellet stuffing gave them a somewhat flattened appearance and some dubbed Beanie Babies "roadkill
". Costs were kept down by keeping each design simple and employing limited colors.
In 1993, Warner started selling the toys to Chicago
area gift shops, releasing the original 9 Beanie Babies in 1993. They were:
- Legs the Frog
- Squealer the Pig
- Brownie the Bear
- Flash the Dolphin
- Splash the Whale
- Patti the Platypus
- Chocolate the Moose
- Spot the Dog
- Pinchers the Lobster
Before the original nine, he created two beta versions called Brownie
(which are probably worth more to collectors than a piece of the True Cross
Warner purposely avoided selling his toys to larger merchandisers, making them available to only Chicago-area gift shops. Their cheap price and "hard-to-findness" begin to appeal to collectors. Warner also regularly retired Beanie Babies, ensuring a certain rarity.
By 1994 the dolls became the occult
darlings of the collecting community. Much of Warner's marketing paralleled the Cabbage Patch doll
craze of the '80s. Merchants from all over America began trying to order them, only to find out Warner would only ship to Chicago merchants. By 1995 Warner could no longer ignore the national demand and began shipping to merchants outside of Chicago. By Christmas
1995, sales of Beanie Babies grew 100 times compared to the year previous.
In 1996 Warner released Maple Bear
, which was available only in Canada
. It was the first geographically exclusive Beanie Baby. Likely in lieu of stock options
, Warner began giving employees their own limited edition "employee bears". Each bear today goes for about $5,000 on Ebay
"Give me all your fucking money and throw in some of those mutha-fucking bean babies before I blow your bitch brains all over this restaurant."
-- quote from a man who unsuccessfully tried to stick up a McDonald's in May 1997
In 1997 McDonald's
jumped on the bandwagon and for two months gave away "Teenie Beanies
" with Happy Meal
s. Happy Meals sales spiked, selling 250 million meals/plushies. McDonald's employees -- having to deal with Beanie Babies collectors who are not all entirely "there" (*tap head*) and rarely accepted "like I said, we're out of that one" as a true
statement -- were rewarded for their efforts with a lapel button that read "I Survived the Attack of the Teenie Beanie Babies!!" Yeah, thanks. Like that makes up for being spat on by a woman who smelled like fish.
In 1999, borrowing from The Who
, Warner announced the end of the Beanie Babies line and produced one last bear called "The End
". Warner then reversed his decision, ostensibly because fans made him, and announced Beanie Babies were coming out of retirement.