My childhood was a childhood from the nineties. The nineties were a time when Bill Clinton spent the majority of the decade as president, Seinfeld was the king of the sitcoms, and toys really stuck out. When it comes to a toy that you can enjoy, due to the collecting factor, the enjoyment to play with, and the attachment you can form with each one you buy, there was one that really stuck out from this decade. I'm not talking about the obnoxious, loud, down right awful mechanical creatures known as Furbies (Where is the off button to these things??? You might as well decide against putting the screwdriver away after putting the batteries in it), but instead the more quiet, adorable, and fascinating creatures known as Beanie Babies. If there was any exciting fad from the nineties, this would be it.
Ty Warner was known for releasing many collections of authentic, collectible stuffed animals, but he made his big break with the Beanie Baby. The first nine Beanies were released back in 1993, the nine Beanies being Spot the Dog, Patty the Platypus, Legs the Frog, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Pinchers the Lobster (originally Punchers the Lobster), Chocolate the Moose, Cubbie the Bear (original Brownie the Bear), and Squealer the Pig. For the record, I can say that I have all nine in my collection. In the beginning, the Beanies, originally filled with bean pellets as oppose to stuffing, simply had a name and that was it. In 1996, the Beanies were given birthdays and poems in order to give them more of a personal connection between the owner and their Beanie. Any Beanie retired in 1996 or earlier did not have the opportunity to receive a birthday or poem.
It was in 1996 when Ty began to hit it big with his Beanie Babies. It became a craze that featured many of buyers from those who collected them for show to those who collected them for sentiment to those who liked to play with them. Ty Warner orchestrated the business of marketing Beanies brilliantly, especially during the huge peak. He didn't produce a mass market amount and instead of featuring them at any random store, he chose to stick to selling them to gift shops and stores of that caliber. Another strategy was to retire Beanies that either weren't selling or to simply stop producing them in order to make their value larger. Chocolate the Moose remained in circulation for five years, which was the longest of the original group (this being 1993-1999).
The bears, especially those in a teddy bear style, usually hit it the biggest and garnered the most value and recognition. Such examples include Princess, who was made in tribute to Princess Diana after her tragic death in 1997, Garcia, made in tribute to Jerry Garcia, and one of my prized Beanies, Germania, a German bear.
Ty Warner announced that he would end circulation of all Beanie Babies on December 31, 1999 and came out with a bear named The End. However, due to many buyers, collectors, and enthusiasts complained about this move, Warner decided to make a comeback and start over again. The Beginning was a Beanie Baby made to signal the comeback. The Beanies that were coming out seemed to be similar to the ones from the nineties. However, then came the era of the many special editions.
I am a game show enthusiast as well as a Beanie enthusiast. Being an enthusiast for game shows, I realized that they began to lose their spark as soon as they tweaked the rules and relied heavily on special editions, celebrity editions in particular. Beanies are absolutely no different. While certain special editions such as Princess and Garcia, Lefty and Righty (who were made especially for election years), and a few others were worth collecting, I never found fascination in collecting Garfield, Spongebob, Blues Clues, or anything else in that genre. Beanie Babies are not celebrities, they are humble, working class creatures that hold the job of warming the hearts of their buyers. Once they went full force with concentrating on the celebrities, I backed up and shifted my concentration to collecting the older Beanies from the nineties or others that were worth collecting from the two-thousands. Beanie Buddies, Teenie Beanies from McDonalds, Beanie Kids, among others were fine versions, but they weren't as good as the original Ty Beanie. My most recent Ty purchase was Nibbles the Guinea Pig, a Beanie Boo (a Beanie with wide, innocent looking puppy dog eyes) which I won playing the skill crane.
Beanie Babies were a key part of my childhood, and they will always have a place in my childhood memories. Looking through them on occasion is an act of sentiment and it's a piece of enjoyment that takes you away and feel less aggravated about life and bring you back into the time period that you collected Beanie Babies and kept adding more and more of them into your collection. To me, Beanie Babies were as special as your pets... maybe not as special, but still felt they were more than just a toy filled with bean pellets. While Ty is reaching out to more mass market locations and taking advantage of the Internet with Beanie Babies 2.0, the Beanie Baby memories I'll look back to most are the ones I had when I first became a collector in the nineties and when I backtracked and collected the retired Beanies of the past. Ty Warner's Beanie Baby empire will go down as being genius in the field of toys and collecting, and most definitely the greatest line of stuffed animals (if you can even call them that) of all time.