Last Christmas my boyfriend and I were visting his sister in Atlanta. We were all warm and toasty around a fireplace, exchanging gifts when lo and behold I unwrapped a cute little stuffed dog. I was about to tear the tag off when to my astonished ears the entire family screamed "NO!"
David gave me a perplexed glance as he was given a dog of a different shade. We began examining our stuffies. I turned the red pooch over to see if it was an antique or something rare, maybe even living, but to me it looked like just another Muppet. Then Sissy widened her eyes and said, "That's a Beanie Baby. Beanies are collectable and go up in value, really fast. But you have to take care of them by not bending their tags or getting them dirty. They also have unique birthdays, names, and little poems on swing tags. Here, take a look at yours, what's it say?"
Opening the paper heart of the Ty Beanie Baby Original tag, I read outloud, "This dog is red and his name is Rover/ If you call him he's sure to come over/ He barks and plays with all his might/ But worry not, he won't bite.' Why how cute, thank you. I love it... toys with poetry."
David's kid nephew and niece were wiggly with glee. "Please come see my Beanie collection!" Buffy pleaded. "NO! Come see mine first!" Begged little Jody. David and I split into groups and met in the hall with our hands loaded with Beanies galore. A few months later I'm back in France making phonecalls to my aunts in the states with the announcement of my sister's new baby. My aunt in Knoxville says, "Oh, that's nice to hear, but you say that you're in France? That's europe, right? You have any Beanie Babies there?" I scratch my head for a second and then look at the two dogs sitting near my computer, "Well, as a matter of fact, David and I got two Beanie dogs for Christmas." My aunt squeeled, "Oh, really? What are their names?" "Uh, I dunnoh." "But what's it say on the tags? What color are they???" "Well one is red and the other is tan with brown ears." "Oh, that must be Rover and Bones. They're retired now and valued between twenty and twenty-four dollars." I scratched my head again, then asked, "How do you know this stuff?"
"Why I'm a collector."
My aunt paused for a breath and with one long schpiel, she laid it into me: "On the weekends I have a booth at the Pigeon Forge Swap Meet near Dollywood. That's where I go to trade with other collectors or folks looking for something affordable and fun for Christmas. I have all the Beanie Babies except for Princess and Britania which are going for $5,000 in some markets. You can only get Britania and Princess in England because they're not allowed in American retail outlets -- they're limited, exclusive editions... Do you think you can get to England soon?" To which I replied, "For a Beanie Baby?" "Oh yes, people fly all over the world for special Beanies. You're smart if you can buy them at toy stores when they come out because they're just about $5 to $7 dollars, but then after they retire, which is about nine months later, they're worth $20 WHOLE DOLLARS. They're not just fun toys. They're good investments and you'll be lucky if you can lay your hands on a Britania or Princess -- they're being auctioned off between $350 to $1,000 on those world wide pages you like, but I'm willing to pay $35 for one. Do you have any friends in England who can mail you one? I can wait until you're back for Christmas. You're allowed to bring ONE over the plane but that's all the federal government allows, and you can't even mail it to me because of custom regulations. They're banned by the post because of all the fraud and counterfiets going about. If you get one let me know and I'll mail you a tag protector so the tag doesn't get injured. Oh, and could you put it in a ziplock baggie?"
It used to be that Federal Express and UPS worried about marijuana and dope smuggling, now it's illegal international Beanie Baby forgeries or stolen authentics.
Within the week, no, within hours I was online researching Beanie Baby home pages which scream "Give me a Princess! I want Britania!" My aunt is not alone in her Beanie mania, there are tens of thousands of pyramid scheming grannies stalking McDonald's for this week's McMini-Beanie special. Such finds are made with a Happy Meal (one to a customer, per visit) and create an addiction for more McMini-Beanies while saiting the weekly fatty sugar quotient in a single hit. Usenet newsgroups report that avid Beanheads make the rounds from one Micky D's to the next hoping to find the Ultimate Beanie-- released Beanies with manufacture defects -- the rare but deformed and most desired Beanie. Some hunters lurk airport giftshops where Beanies are premiered to gain leads on when and where Ty Company will "give birth" to the likes of Batty the Bat, Puffer the Puffin, Smoochy the Frog, and Weenie the Dog.
Beanie collecting may begin innocently, like smoking cigarettes and turning to pot later down the road, but once the Bean bites, all bitten grandmothers and children of the Consumer Animal Kingdom are but product junkies waiting for the next fix. As with methadone therapy, these Beanie junkie cravings are temporarily fixed by McMini-Beanies until the next batch, the pure "currents" are "born."
I can relate to this involuntary Beanie addiction because something funny happened to me... I got to thinking, 'Well hell, if I lay my hands on a Princess why should I give it to my aunt?' And then I started hunting sites for a Beanie born on my birthday, Brownie the Bear, moving on to the demoralizing solicitation of my boyfriend's colleagues if per chance they happened into a U.K. airport would it be possible for them to buy me a Britania. No sooner was I at my imposing bottom did the red light flash: a Ralph Nader newsgroup calling for a boycott on toys made by kids for kids. Beanie Babies are HANDMADE IN CHINA by little Chinese kids who are laboring their health, welfare and right to childhood so that little fatty American kids can shove these dangerous toys, these Beanie Babies, up their ears and noses:
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT! "A bean stuck in a little girl's ear is changing the way a Michigan mother looks at Beanie Babies. Denise Stevens says her 7-year-old daughter Heather wedged the object in her ear while playing.... The mother said she notified the press about the incident to warn other parents about the potential hazard and because 'people need to know what's inside the Beanie Babies.'" [UPI, 4/19/97]
So not only are Beanie Babies cruel to starving Chinese child slaves, but they are also unsafe for play. The only genuine good about Beanies is their commodity which may very well be a false market generated by the Ty Company itself. By feeding sound bytes to the masses in the way that McDonald's has anthropomorphizied french fries and chicken nuggets into loveable, cuddly buddies, Beanie Babies manipulates the affectionate, compassionate members of society by selling them little creatures to love, cherish and protect because they hold intrinsic values, being perceived as living critters with real birthdays and poetry in their hearts.
I like the idea of possessing things to take care of because it may example financial planning and responsibility to kids (things like stamp collecting and trading cards), but then I think of the have-nots who are left out at playtime because they don't have a commericial comfort toy. The preschool where I worked at for a decade, Hilltop, banned My Little Pony and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other minature plastic action figurines because it created a social division and didn't inspire much creative dialogue. Instead, My Little Ponies would send the have-nots crying, "she won't play with me because I don't have a My Little Pony."
In my days, the 70s, it was Whacky Packs and marbles everyone gambled, bartered, traded... even jacks... Those rarely costed any beans at all and the greatest pleasure was in trading because it was like spit in the palm of one's hand -- gross example but true-- being spit buddies with a pal was the highest level of friendship, and trading marbles and cards sealed the deal... I don't think kids are as willing to trade their glossy television iconofied toys, let alone Beanies, because they have bought into the pitch that being without one equals being uncool. It's the same thing with Barbie's body and how every chick in America thinks she has to puke her lunch to look skinny heroin chic. These Beanies aren't toys but satanic monsters gnawing on the psyches of innocents. What's worse beyond the liquid monetary value generated by the Ty Company and how successful it is with deceiving little kids and old ladies is that it's giving me big time guilty feelings for writing such hubristic things because even though my soul knows Beanies are evil, I still want them.
Beanie Baby Dot Net online Beanie Baby Store
Ty Beanie Babies Andrew's Bear Garden, U.K.
Lindsey's Beanie Baby Links great resource
Ty - The Official Home of the Beanie Babies