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The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute
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Archive: Other Books > (Poll Ballot) The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette - 4 stars

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Ellen | 2136 comments Ty Warner, the inventor of the beanie babies, was a genius at marketing but not very successful at life. He started his 'plushie' career with Dakin Bears, learning the business from the ground floor. Ty was their top salesman seemingly able to talk anybody into buying what he was offering. He had the idea to understuff plush toys and fill the remaining area with pellets thus making the toy soft, squishy and poseable. He began selling his 'beanie babies' in the Chicago area to small mom and pop stores refusing to sell to larger businesses because he knew his toys would be displayed in bins. He wanted the stuffed animals to be posed, groomed and given a place of high visibility. Soon a few Chicago housewives saw the cute toys and began to collect them little knowing they were the beginning of a phenomenon in the toy industry.

Warner scrupulously directed every aspect of his business: design, marketing, patents, not trusting anyone to handle his beanies. He feared copycats and on the back of his 1989 catalog was this dire warning: "If anyone dare copy our creative designs or patents without written permission, ownership of your eternal soul passes to us and we have the right to negotiate the sale of said soul. Furthermore, our attorneys will see to it that life on Earth, as you know it, is not worth living." He wasn't kidding. The genius of Warner's enterprise was to 'retire' a certain number of beanies periodically which fed into the hoarding frenzy that became beanie-mania. Suddenly toys that had sold for $5.00 were being resold in a secondary market for $25 to $50. People began to have dollar signs in their eyes as they saw the stuffed animals' potential as investments. They wiped out store shelves as quickly as they were stocked; they followed UPS trucks; they called stores all over the country trying to locate the toys they couldn't find locally. When McDonald's teamed up with Warner to put 'teenie beanie babies' in children's happy meals, the stores were overrun as people would buy up to 100 meals and tell them to keep the food. Eventually McDonald's had to suspend the giveaway in fear for their employees' safety.

The end of the beanie baby revolution was in part fueled by the internet, most especially eBay. Once the public was able to find those rare beanies readily available online the market began to dissolve as the prices dropped. Meanwhile, the strange Ty Warner turned his, what was now, billions into purchasing hotels. He never married although he had been in serious relationships with two women in his life. Neither had anything positive to say about him nor did the majority of his ex-employees. He was tightfisted and egotistical once telling his then girlfriend that he could put the famous Ty heart hang tag on a pile of manure and the public would rush to buy it. A very interesting book indeed.

message 2: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 6671 comments I must say this book intrigues me.

message 3: by Susan (new)

Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 479 comments Thanks for an informative review, Ellen. I remember thinking this craze made no sense and that it was just like many others I'd lived through. Interesting to learn some background -- and I won't read the book, so thanks for doing it for me!

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