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260 pages, Hardcover
First published November 4, 2014
1 mistreated child
2 misguided women
1,000,000 acres of plush
50,000,000 innocent suburban children
50,000,000 obsessive suburban parents
infinite financial optimism
Let child stew in his own thoughts until he reaches entrepreneurial adulthood. Add women one by one, taking care to make sure they do not mix. With great attention fold in the plush, slowly at first but more quickly as the p(l)ot comes to a boil. Add innocent children and instantly remove; vigorously stir in suburban parents and dollars. Liberally heap on financial optimism.
Look away until mixture thickens and bubbles. Pop the bubble, remove from heat, and throw away.
This story is crazed; this story is real. Born in 1988 I am unfortunately old enough to remember the Beanie Baby hysteria. I was also just old enough at the time to understand the concept of money, and the money involved in this speculative nightmare is almost too outrageous to be believed. The first TV news I ever remember watching was about maniacal pajama-clad women throwing away uneaten Happy Meals at McDonalds to get the Teenie Beanie prize. Absolute unadulterated chaos. This is the world we live in.
Bissonnette's prose is unadorned but descriptive, and every once in a while chuckle-inducingly wry. I'm impressed he wasn't even more tongue-in-cheek with such an inane topic. He deftly weaves the personal backstories of Ty Warner and his peripheral cast with the events of the Beanie Baby boom and eventual bust (words which I still feel stupid typing in reference to stuffed animals). He interviews family members, ephemeral employees, and a score of collectors. He frames the craze within the context of other famous bubbles including Dutch tulip mania in the 1630s, the Franklin Mint, and the Internet stock fallout. I believe more firmly than ever that there truly is nothing new under the sun, and I am strangely comforted. I was transfixed from the first page, and I thank the author for writing a book that needed to be written not necessarily for the history but for the philosophical questions it raises.