In an interview with Dazed Digital, one man tells the story of how his father spent all his family's money to "invest" in the Beanie Baby craze, and in the end lost $100,000 on the crazy market idea.
Back in late 1993, Ty Warner, Inc. debuted the toy animals. There were originally nine designs of the toys. They flew off the shelves during Christmas season. People vividly remember the early morning rushes on toy and department stores, with shoppers grabbing up every Beanie Baby on the shelf. People would pay store personnel to call them when shipments arrived, or even to hide Beanie Babies in various parts of the store so they could find them the next day when the rush to buy was on. Stores began enforcing a "one per customer" rule on buying the toys.
The reason the toys were so popular was that the Ty company would occasionally "retire" certain designs, which led the public to believe that they would be limited in supply and therefore more valuable. People began to buy them in a sort of "commodities speculation" scheme, where they hoped to resell them to other, slower collectors as prices rose. A "buy-low-sell-high" idea.
The market for Beanie Babies was so hot for a while that counterfeit versions made appearances, which further stoked the speculative nature of the collecting.
For one family, this market idea went too far.
In the interview, promoting a short film about the misadventures, Chris Robinson tell show his father, a former soap opera star, became obsessed with the pursuit.
"It became this all-consuming family activity, filling up any free time that wasn’t already earmarked for school or our youth hockey teams. Everyone that was close to us got roped in at some point. Cousins, friends, teammates that were unfortunate enough to carpool with us; if you came into contact with the Robinsons during the Beanie Baby days, you were recruited to buy at least one for the family collection."
The family went on to collect the smaller version of the toys that came in McDonald's meals. They had inside information from the Ty company about releases and would stock up heavily on new designs. But as toms point they realized that they did not have a good model for getting a return on their "investment". Their pie-in-the-sky notions of paying for the kids' college tuition with returns on Beanie Babies came crashing down.
Robinson says they still have loads of the toys.