Copyright © 1998 Henrietta W. Hay
Henrietta's Off Her Bean -- Over Beanie Babies
June 12, 1998
Recently I was having coffee with one of my friends. She was in a lousy
mood -- the day was a disaster, the air was full of hay fever pollen and
her car wouldn't start. I tossed my newest Beanie Baby (which I just
happened to have with me) at her. She looked at the little creature,
felt its floppy softness and tucked it under her chin. All at once she
smiled: the world was OK again.
That's what Beanie Babies do. They make people of all ages smile and
Since these little floppy, palm sized stuffed animals and birds and fish
(and a few personable snakes) were, after all, designed for children, I
was a bit late discovering them. My Phoenix kids, with great
understanding and a sense of humor, sent me one for my birthday, a
lovely little Siamese cat named Snip, tan with brown ears, nose, paws
and tail tip who reminds me of Antigone, my last Siamese. When I am
lying down reading Snip sprawls on my chest and tickles my chin.
Beanies are the latest, and quite probably the best, in a long line of
stuffed animals. I really can't remember much about the ones I had as
a kid, since I was more interested in basketballs and tennis rackets and
my horse than dolls.
I assume I had a Teddy Bear. After all, they were named after one of my
dad's favorite presidents. But the only doll I remember well was a well
worn Raggedy Anne who was my bosom buddy for years. Trouble is, Ann
came to a sticky end. My curiosity finally overcame my good sense and
I finished her off by cutting her open to see whether there really was
a candy heart in there. There was. My mother was not happy.
Now that I am returning to my second childhood -- or maybe I never
really left it --
my interest in basketball is strictly limited to watching somebody else
play it, and I have returned to stuffed toys far more charming and
whimsical than any I knew as a kid.
Toy designer Ty Warner, owner of Ty, Inc. introduced Beanie Babies in
January, 1994. They are palm sized, brightly colored, soft and floppy
and include a large part of the animal kingdom. They were an
instantaneous success. Now just four years later they have become a
financial windfall for collectors. A complete collection -- 179
varieties and various generations of each, or 600 Beanies in all -- is
valued at $100,000. No, that is not a typo. There are Internet
sites, www.ty.com, magazines and a number of books devoted exclusively
to Beanie Babies. Many people buy them strictly as investments.
Not me. I buy only the ones that speak to me and they do actually seem
to speak. I look one in the eye and determine what it is telling me.
If I like the message, there goes another $5. What has made the little
critters so spectacularly popular is the perfection of their design.
Palm sized, soft and squishy, they are pleasant to hold and squeeze, as
well as to look at. Their little bodies are under-filled with exactly
the right number of plastic pellets, called beans, so they flop around
into different poitions. They sort of wrap around your neck like a baby
or if you prefer they can sit up and watch you.
Kids love them, but obviously adults do too. I sent Puffer the puffin
on a Mediterrian cruise with a friend. He had his picture taken at the
Captain's Table. He ended up in Paris and loved it. When I look at my
little Siamese I can almost can hear her purr. After she saw the
little cat, a friend brought me Roary the lion. Then of course I had
to go out and get Fleece, the lamb, to lie down beside him. And I
have added Mel, the koala bear, and a tiger cat. After all, at $5 or
$6 apiece it's a lot cheaper than collecting jewelry.
Son John told me once that if I have two of something that I really
like, it is a collection. So now I am a major collector. OK, so my
second childhood is in full flower and I am collecting kids' toys. But
after all, Beanie Babies can bring a lot of pleasure to kids of all
ages. So I say enjoy whatever turns you on, whatever makes you laugh.