If you weren’t alive to remember the dark times known only as the Beanie Baby Craze of the 1990’s, one you’re lucky and two, holy fuck-balls was that some crazy shit. Amazingly, the entire craze can be traced back to exactly one decision made by Beanie Baby creator Ty Warner. More specifically, the changing of a single word.
A reclusive billionaire known for his stalwart commitment to perfectionism as well as being a bit of an asshole, Ty Warner created Beanie Babies in the late 80’s while working for another toy company as a salesman. A move that company presumably came to regret given that Warner was literally the most successful salesman they had on the payroll thanks to stunts like turning up to sales meetings with a giant fur coat and pimp cane. Seriously.
A meticulous and tireless tinkerer, Warner would spend countless hours refining the look of various Beanie Babies changing everything from the placement of their cold, lifeless eyes to the placement of spots on their fur. The problem was, Warner would do this even when a specific Beanie had already been released to the public and it’s never a good idea to pull toys from circulation for something that petty. Advise Warner soundly ignored when it came to a elephant-shaped beanie elephant called Peanut which he pulled from stores purely to change its coat to a slightly lighter shade of blue.
While at the time Beanie Babies weren’t super popular, Warner was keenly aware that there were dedicated collectors of toy who might be pissed that they couldn’t get their hands on the original Peanut. To avoid this Warner released a carefully crafted letter informing fans of the toys that Peanut hadn’t been pulled from stores but “retired”. A phrase that resulted in a 3 times spike in the price of Peanut on the Beanie Black Market. A phrase we invented just now.
Warner observed in fascination as the value of Peanut continued to rise with the price of the elephant seemingly being influenced by nothing but blind speculation on the part of self-professed Beanie experts. As an idea of how easily people were capable of influencing the price of Beanies, the woman who literally wrote the book on how valuable they were literally admitted to just pulling figures out of her ass. Like seriously, she’d just quote a price (usually for a Beanie she owned or wanted to sell) and would watch as the price rose to whatever figure she’d quoted.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, Warner noticed this and began similarly making shit up about the stocks and prices of Beanie Babies, speculating in the media that stocks of specific Beanies were dwindling while ordering millions of them from Chinese factories. Hell, Warner even went as far to ship different numbers of Beanies to specific stores, fueling speculation that those Beanies were rare when in reality, there were millions, just in other stores thousands of miles away.
Stories like these, in addition to ones about certain Beanies selling for tens of thousands of dollars, saw grown adults literally kicking the shit out of each other to get their hands on $5 toys meant for children. In addition, countless people sunk everything from their life savings to their childrens’ college funds into buying Beanies that are worthless today.
The craze ended when Warner announced that he was going to retire literally every single Beanie currently for sale and noticed that the price of said Beanies on Ebay and shit didn’t rise. Collectors also noticed this and responded by selling off all their excess Beanie stock, flooding the market and crashing the tentative speculative market that had grown around the toys. Not that Warner gave a shit given that the toys had made him a multi-billionaire.