Cool Stuff Strange Things

Hosted by Ripley’s lead researcher, Sabrina Sieck, let Ripley’s Believe It or Not! introduce YOU to the coolest stuff and strangest things.

Today: Beanie Babies

The Beanie Baby Bubble

Barraged by the parents every holiday, we are facing a serious crisis. What was once supposed to fund a college education now sits idle in our parents’ attic. Today, on Cool Stuff  Strange Things, it’s time to ascend into that graveyard of Rubbermaid and rafters and accept that this is life after the Beanie Baby bubble burst.

The adult version of “clean your room,” is now “what are you going to do with your Beanie Baby collection that is taking up precious space that could store even more ridiculous Christmas decorations!” Even daring to ask if the once beloved bag of beans are worth anything…

Years ago, you could have whipped out the 1998 edition of the Beanie Baby Handbook and given an exact value of each beanie baby. Beanie babies were supposed to be a good investment, but today, you’re lucky to get a dollar on eBay.

What Happened?

Beanie Baby creator, Ty Warner, lucked out though. He is currently worth 2.5 billion dollars.

Warner set out to make a stuffed animal so affordable that a child could buy it with one week’s worth of allowance—selling for just five dollars and gaining mass popularity. The fad quickly went rampant. Shops would limit one per customer, characters would retire never to be sold again, and each run would be produced slightly different—all creating a hysteria around the scarcity of these glorified bean bags.

Coinciding with the rise of eBay, Beanie Babies made up an insane 10% of the website’s sales. McDonald’s also profited by introducing the “Teenie Beanie Baby” Happy Meal toy in 1997—the company’s most successful promotion ever. It was supposed to last a month, but the company ended up giving away all 100 MILLION toys—one for every child in America—in just ten days!

Tragedy Strikes

In 1999, the beaniest Belive It or Not went down. Divorcing couple Frances and Harold Mountain couldn’t agree on how to split up their estimated $5,000 collection and were ordered by a judge to divvy up their Beanies one by one in a Las Vegas courtroom Poor Maple the Bear was the first to go.

Then there’s the dark side to this madness…

People were smuggling Beanies into the United States at such an alarming rate that the company had to issue an embargo, stating, “a consumer is allowed to have one Beanie Baby for personal use every 30 days.” One customs inspection yielded a haul of 15,000 Beanies!

And, over in Kankakee, Illinois, in an attempt to clean up the streets, the police department offered to accept guns in return for Beanie Babies. Demand for the coveted creatures exceeded expectations, and in just half-an-hour, before the strange swap began, people were already lined up around the block. All forty toys were traded for firearms.

So what’s the plan for your beanie babies? Will you be sneaking them back into your parents’ attic, hoping they’ll be worth something someday?

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