Hello, my name is Deb Nies, and I have a shameful confession.
Like many of my generation, I fell for the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time….I invested in Beanie Baby futures, in the hopes they would eventually fund my kid’s college education.
There, I said it. I’m not proud.
Like other Moms back in the day, I noticed how much kids liked these adorable pocket-sized, bean-stuffed animals. They were resplendent, what with all the heart-shaped tags emblazoned with the beanie’s name, birthdate, and a little poem. And, gosh, with a price tag of $5, they made the perfect gift to take to a school mate’s birthday party! What an invention!
Frankly, what could go wrong?
Well, as with so many things that eventually turn ugly, it’s because adults got involved. Or should I say they became INVESTED (literally) in beanie babies. We began frantically collecting them. Our appreciation morphed into an addiction, and when the manufacturer (Ty) began retiring the older beanie babies, aka taking away our drug of choice, we got crazed.
There is nothing that creates human need more than being told we can no longer buy something. Did we really want Humphrey the Camel for all of his redeeming qualities or was it because we couldn’t have him? (Worth note here, kids lost interest in beanie babies.)
On the other hand, we “adults” visited toy store after toy store in search of our beanie baby drug. If we couldn’t find the beanie treasure locally, well, then we shopped on eBay. That’s where it got really nuts.
Secondary market prices for “rare” (cough, cough) beanies went through the proverbial beanbag roof! Sellers started marketing with such desired features as “NWT” (New with Tags), “1st edition,” “Mint condition,” and “Retired.”
I’m getting DTs right now as I type this.
As prices rose, and Ty cranked out new models and retired the old, we parents started collecting hoarding beanie babies. We even brought in the kids’ grandparents as investors, too. We dreamed that these little critters would continue to grow in value like some sort of fur baby stock, and their subsequent sale would eventually fund our children’s college education. Who needed the steady, growing power of a boring 529 savings plan, anyway?
In the meantime, you’d think we at least let our kids have the joy of playing with them, right?
Oh, hell no.
We coddled them like some sort of Inverted Jenny stamps or Fabergé eggs. They weren’t to be played with, ever. We used surgical precision to avoid crinkling the holy ear tag as we inserted it into its prophylactic tag protector. And, then, plop it’s right into a ziploc bag with you, Mister. We stored them out of the sun’s rays, away from extreme temperature and humidity changes, and sometimes we bought them accessories.
Some of us probably treated the beanie babies better than our own children.
I knew a (normal) mom who said the first thing she did when she brought home a new beanie baby was to CUT OFF THE TAG, before giving it to her child TO PLAY WITH. I’ll admit it; I died a little inside as I imagined Peanut – the Royal Blue Elephant – with a castrated tag. The inhumanity of it; you may as well have poached his ivory tusk, too.
Like the Inverted Jenny postage stamp misprint, we found increased value in the flawed beanies, the ones with slight manufacturing defects or the misprints and misspellings in the tags. Actual ebay listing titles, “Inky – without a mouth!” and “Valentino with misspelled surface!” and “Mystic the Unicorn with third testicle!” Ok, that last one’s not real.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, McDonald’s teamed up with Ty and released the Teeny Beanie babies. OMG, they were so Smol! (definition: adorably cute/small) The gimmick here? They only came with Happy Meals. Cue up: a lot of adults eating Happy Meals, and in some cases, just buying them, getting the TBB, and then discarding the actual food.
It was Madness, I tell you. Madness!
As a result, our beanie baby “collections” multiplied like Tribbles in a societally-sanctioned hoarding, resulting in overflowing garbage bags of “treasures” all over America. Boxes of NWT beanies marked for a dime each at garage sales are avoided like beanie leper colonies. We’ve tried giving them to our troops and to senior centers, and have been turned away like Elaine’s muffin stumps.
It’s hard times with beanie babies, folks. We’re stuck awaiting the day when their futures rise again.
I cannot help but ponder the future when archeologists again unearth this civilization. Unlike King Tut’s tomb filled with gold, jewelry, and valuable baubles and such, they’ll find bags and bags of immaculately preserved…beanie babies. They’ll be left to wonder, what did these furry idols mean to their people?
And, just maybe by then, they’ll actually be worth something. But, don’t bank on it.
When I explained this black period in our history, my teenage daughter just sadly shook her head at me. “Mom, you are usually such an intelligent woman; what happened??
I replied, “Oh baby. I did it all for you. Here, take this Princess Bear with you to college and see if you can apply it to your tuition, kk?”
***Things adults have ruined: Beanie babies, Harry Potter, Pokemon Go, SillyBandz, etc.
Deb Nies is a contributing author to It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. Her writing has appeared in Our Wisconsin, Modern Bliss, among others. Deb was a proud cast member of the Listen to Your Mother Show – Madison in both 2011 and 2017.
She and her wife, Linda live in the only Waunakee in the world, Wisconsin. They are new empty nesters, as beloved daughter (Hannah) is a first-year at Wellesley College. In real life, Deb is a Social Media & Marketing Consultant, a foodie, an adventurer, and an infrequent blogger. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.