The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute

tags: psychology, business

Enormously entertaining book about the Beanie Baby craze of the mid and late 90s.

The book goes deep into Ty Warner’s backstory. He’s the founder of the company that bears his first name. He’s a man who spent his entire career in “plush,” which is the industry term for stuffed animals.

Warner is an odd guy. He’s still alive at 77. He never married and had no children, but the book portrays him as a bit of a cad, leaving a trail of women behind him. In particular it concentrates on two that were more than “just girlfriends,” though neither of them got what they wanted from the relationship.

Warner made billions from Beanie Babies. And he didn’t lose it all, because the crash happened on the secondary market. Eventually retailers stopped buying Beanie Babies when the demand dried up, but by then, Ty – the company – was raking in millions and millions every day, and they moved on to other toys. The people who lost money were collectors sitting on thousands of toys.

Warner – the man – really manufactured the bubble. He decided to change designs, and “retire” Beanies, which suddenly caused them to become more valuable. Towards the end, he was clearly pandering to the base, because he was creating and releasing “limited edition” Beanies that weren’t that limited.

In the end, Beanie Babies were victims of their own popularity. They became so popular that Ty kept making them, which destroyed any value they had as rare collectibles.

It’s tough to dislike Warner himself. He comes of as a slightly eccentric jerk, but he was genuinely obsessed with the product. Beanies originally became popular because Warner was determined to make the best, highest quality toy he could. Sure, at the end he went a bit off the deep end, but you have to admire the man’s original dedication to the product.

It’s a great, breezy read.

Book Info

Zac Bissonnette

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