Last year, I visited my parents to help clear out the house we had lived in since 1984. One of my more cuddly tasks was to sort the three garbage bags full of Beanie Babies hanging out in the closet of my childhood bedroom. Most of them found new homes in the garage sale, or were donated to charity.
Far too many other American families and businesses have similar stashes. For some, they’re a forgotten childhood relic. For others, it’s an investment that never quite paid off.
“Basically, if you can afford to do this, simply putting away five or ten of each and every new Beanie Baby in super mint condition isn’t a bad idea.” (The Beanie Baby Handbook, 1998, p. 27)
I was in high school when the Beanie Baby craze hit. I accumulated about 200 of them, mostly as gifts. I wasn’t stockpiling them as investments. I just like stuffed animals. Judging from the number of decade-old Beanie Babies I see in A.C. Moore for $4, plenty of companies and individuals hoarded thousands of the stuffed critters in mint condition, waiting for the day when they could cash in.
The essential flaw in this plan is that everyone hoarded the damn things. Toys are worth more years (or decades) on in mint condition because the vast majority are played with or destroyed.
Alan Scherstuhl came across a copy of the 1998 best-seller The Beanie Baby Handbook in a Kansas CIty thrift store, and gives readers highlights from this delightful relic of the late ’90s. One feature of the book that I had forgotten was that it gave projected values of all Beanie Babies in ten years, or 2008. Their predictions: not quite on the mark, putting values for normal critters at around a thousand dollars.
I’m not calling the Foxes a pair of Beanie Madoffs. Still, I’m unsettled by any speculators who establish inflated prices on commodities in which they themselves are heavily invested. (For further examples, Google “Enron” and “California.”)
I guess as bad investments go, one where you’re left with something you can hug is better than nothing.