For those of you who were fortunate enough to miss out on the rise of the Beanie Baby speculative bubble that graced the mid-1990s, a short recap is in order. Back in 1991, a relatively small and unknown plush novelty manufacturer by the name of Ty Incorporated created a unique line of bean-filled soft toys that went by adorable names. The toys were inexpensive to make and small enough to be easily held in a childs hand.
There's A Good Chance Your Beanie Babies Are Still Worthless
By 1993, the first line of what would become known as Beanie Babies would enter the marketplace for the very first time. Sales were slow at first, but little by little, demand for the small plush toys grew, and Ty Incorporated took full advantage of the growing trend by allocating production runs and ensuring that some toys would only be available for a limited time.
By 1996, the craze swept America, and a speculative but steady secondary market was formed, with Ty Incorporated reeling in massive profits. Several resellers appeared on the scene at a time when the internet was at its infancy, and they were reselling Beanie Babies that had a retail price of around $5 to $6 each for $30 to $50 a piece. Collectibles expert and commenter Harry Rinker attempted to caution his readers about the growing fad, but sadly his warnings fell on deaf ears, as would-be speculators only saw gold.
By the year 2000, the public and fly-by-night collectors grew tired of the fad, and Beanie Babies that were once selling for $50 to $100 or more were plummeting in value. With no new collectors to sell to, the Beanie Baby craze died a painful death and remains one of the most often cited lessons that knowledgeable collectors like to share. Contrary to popular belief, new modern era Beanie Babies are still being sold by Ty Incorporated. They just lack the sought-after speculative craze that catapulted Beanie Babies to renowned success in the mid-1990s, but make no mistake, they are still out there.
Fast forward to today, and speculation still drives a lot of the greater collectibles trade. While Beanie Babies are no longer en vogue, things like modern-era toys, licensed Lego products, and video games all fall victim to speculative bubbles from time to time. The overall collectibles marketplace does appear, at first glance, to move in predictable cycles. Some items from my own youth are now being fully desired by fellow collectors who grew up during that same era. The vintage Star Wars toys, the Nintendo games, and even first-edition Pokemon cards are all highly sought after on the secondary market in 2018. It is this drive to stay ahead of the supposed curve that is causing some speculators, and even hardcore collectors, to attempt to predict what is going to be in demand next. This is where caution and logic are strongly urged to be placed above emotion and nostalgia. Unfortunately, most speculators use emotion and nostalgia to attempt to justify logic. This reverse thinking is a recipe for disaster. You cannot attempt to justify the investment potential of an item just because you have a strong emotional attachment to it. The collectibles marketplace just does not work that way.
Imagine my surprise then, while casually surfing through YouTube one evening, I came across several questionable videos surrounding the supposed increase for demand in Beanie Babies that is supposedly happening now. Each of these videos had thousands of views and showcased current listings from eBay on what recent Beanie Babies had just sold. Upon closer inspection, however, it would appear that the listings used to justify the increased demand for these Beanie Babies were not sold at all. They were simply active listings on eBay with outrageous asking prices. To be fair, there are a handful of early Beanie Babies that DO have value on the secondary market. One such example is Peanut the Royal Blue Elephant. Peanuts first release was in a royal dark blue color of which only 500 are known to be created. When Ty realized that the fabric color of Peanut was supposed to be light blue instead of dark blue, they quickly changed it, and, as a result, the 500 known releases now sell for an estimated $500 or more on the secondary market. There are several other valuable examples as well, but would-be speculators should know that almost all of the Beanie Babies ever produced now have a value less than their original retail price back in the 1990s. Dont believe me? Just check out your local garage sale, then go online and search eBay sold listings (with sold being the key word here).
The information provided in YouTube videos like this is both unfortunate and misleading. Since ad revenue is generated for its content creators by the amount of views a video on YouTube gets, YouTube is becoming a haven for unethical marketers who create videos with no truthful content, simply as a means to increase viewership and make money. Sadly, this practice is not just limited to Beanie Babies. Collectors of video games, vintage and modern-era toys, Lego, and Magic: The Gathering products all need to realize that some of the videos currently being shared on YouTube and other social media sites are nothing more than unethical marketers taking advantage of a much too gullible public. In an upcoming article, I will recommend my top YouTubers devoted to the collectibles trade who have my utmost respect. I always urge readers to use caution when taking any kind of advice on speculation, especially in the antiques and collectibles trade.
In conclusion, there is no justifiable reason to ever believe that the glut of overproduced Beanie Babies that still occupy the basements, attics, flea markets, bedrooms, and dumpsters of America will ever have any more value than they did in the mid- to late-1990s. And should that day ever come when 40- to 50-year-olds are clamoring for vintage bean-filled plush toys of yesteryear, I can assure you that there will be quite enough of them to go around to ensure that no major price increases will be reported for almost all of them. So dont believe the hype. Vintage Beanie Babies are not making a return to the collectibles marketplace anytime soon. Until next time, thanks for reading!
Shawn Surmick has been an avid collector since the age of 12. He currently resides in his hometown of Boyertown, Pa., and is a passionate collector of antiques and collectibles. His articles focus on various topics affecting the marketplace.