In the beginning, there was Chocolate the moose,
Cubbie the bear, Flash the dolphin, Legs the frog, Patti the platypus, Pinchers
the lobster, Splash the whale, Spot the dog, and Squealer the pig -- nine
fuzzy, flabby characters whose debut would start a worldwide frenzy among
toy collectors. They are the Beanie Babies.
The inexpensive, palm-sized critters
were released in 1994 by Ty Inc. of Oakbrook, Illinois. The company draws
its name from founder H. Ty Warner, who started the business in 1986 after
he had previously worked for a stuffed-animal manufacturer.
Warner set out to create a line of low-priced toys
that children could afford, a collection of happy animals available not
through large retail chains but via more intimate specialty shops. Perhaps
inspired by the success of Coleco's
Cabbage Patch Kids more than a decade ago, Ty gives each character design
a unique name and "birthdate."
Babies don't live forever, though. To ensure that
the line is constantly evolving, Ty periodically "retires" certain
characters and designs, creating valuable collectibles to toy fans around the world. Indeed, some of the rarest babies fetch as much as $1,500!
Today, just a few years after the Beanie Babies
were born, the complete line contains more than 100 cuddly creatures, from
Ally the alligator to Zip the cat. There have been baby dinosaurs, fish,
insects, ghosts, bats, spiders, and a tie-dyed bear created as a salute
to the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
In December 1997, Ty releaseed what it called "one of the most unique and special Beanie Babies ever made," a purple bear named Princess in honor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The company has pledged to donate all profits from Princess to the charity fund that bears Diana's name.
Despite the big
bunch of babies sold so far, interest in Beanies hasn't slowed down. In
the spring of 1997, fast-food giant McDonald's began a Happy Meal promotion
featuring Teenie Beanies, a new line of tiny plush toys inspired by the
originals. Two weeks after it began, McDonald's had distributed 100 million
toys and was forced to end the promotion early, unable to satisfy the intense
demand for the red-hot collectibles. Afterward, restaurant employees were
given cheeky buttons which read, "I Survived the Attack of the Teenie
TY and BEANIE BABIES are registered trademarks of Ty Inc. Copyright © 1993-2000 Ty Inc. Ty Inc. does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this site.
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