Remember When... is a weekly feature every (#Throwback)Thursday where we look back on a moment that changed the world of pop culture forever. Come for the nostalgia, stay for the reminder that you are getting SO OLD.
What Happened: A toy company called Ty Inc. came out with plush animals that were stuffed with plastic "beans" and by the mid '90s, people were obsessed with collecting them. All of them. The animals had tags that included the name and birth date of the Beanie Baby, plus a cute little poem describing the animal. Everyone was convinced that their collection would make them millionaires, especially if they had the really rare Beabie Babies or any of the original nine.
What Else Was Happening: Guidebooks to the world of Beanie Babies were a thing, and Ty debuted three animals in honor of the 1996 presidential election between Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Ross Perot: Lefty the donkey, Righty the elephant and Libearty the bear. Families went bankrupt just trying to complete their collections, while scammers started selling counterfeit and knock-off Beanie Babies to the gullible masses.
How We Remember It:
Jenna Loomer, Senior Interactive Producer: "I couldn't get enough. Beanie Babies were like my sixth grade drug and I went every day to the local Tiddlywinks (actual store) to see if they had any new shipments in. I kept all of their tags in mint condition—the whole nine yards. My prized possession was the Princess Diana Bear that I kept in a plastic box. I sold it for $75. To this day I'm convinced I could retire at the age of 27 if I still had that damn bear."
Emily Popp, Writer: I was heavily into American Girl Dolls, so by the time Beanie Babies rolled around I was too exhausted from collecting my Samantha doll that I didn't have it in me to really get into it. But I also didn't want to be ostracized for not having any. I had a flamingo (whose name escapes me), and Garcia the bear. I remember the first website I ever went to was for Beanie Babies. When we first got the Internet in 1996 I did a search for "Full House" (on what search engine, I have no idea), and when nothing of interest turned up, I typed in "Beanie Babies" and ended up on this ancient website for Beanie Babies. I spent hours on that website. I think it was literally just a list of Beanie Babies in Comic Sans font with their pictures next to it.
Julia Hays, Audience Development Associate: "Beanie Babies made me a terrible person. My parents struggled to find them for me—including Princess Di's death bear. Now they sit somewhere awaiting a collectable value that will never happen, like the saddest f--king hope chest that will ever exist. I'd like to take this moment to sincerely apologize to my mother for being a stupid child who demanded so much with these bean sacks, and I'm so thankful I eventually moved on from my materialistic ways. Except for Koosh Balls, am I right?! They're fun as s--t."
Jen Cady, Senior Producer: "Obviously, I collected them. I had sooooo many. I even hung out on the Beanie Babies forums and negotiated a trade involving a Christmas Barbie my grandma gave in exchange for like 5 Beanie Babies. I determined which Beanies would be suitable for this exchange based on my extensive studying of this handbook. And then there was the quest of tracking down all the McDonalds Happy Meal Beanie Babies. This involved calling all the McDonalds in the phonebook (yes, an actual phonebook), asking what Beanie was in their Happy Meal (because it varied from one McDonalds to another) and then driving all over town to purchase a Happy Meal. It was intense—it wasn't just showing up at a McDonalds blindly hoping they'd have the one you were missing. My favorite was Tank the armadillo whose list price on Amazon is $89.99 but you can get him for a bargain $7.10. I'm very tempted to buy him even though my mom still has all our Beanies stored at home."
Jenna Mullins, E! Loves Editor: "My first Beanie Baby was Pinchers the red lobster, which was one of the original nine. Of course, when I first got it I had no idea Beanie Babies would become a phenomenon, and I immediately ripped off the heart-shaped tag attached to the ear because I found it unsightly. And everyone knows Beanie Babies are worthless if they don't have their tag! I'm convinced I lost out on thousands and thousands of dollars because of Pinchers.
"After that, like most people around the mid-'90s, I did terrible, horrible things to get my hands on Beanie Babies. I was working a booth at my church's big summer festival with my mom, and whenever she turned her back, I would steal quarters from our cash box and run over to the booth that was selling raffle tickets to win Beanie Babies. I must have went back and forth seven or eight different times, and I probably stole around 20 bucks. From a fundraising event. For a church."
Lily Harrison, Writer: "Oh god, the tantrums I threw. I was a nightmare. For some reason I had an affinity for the dog Beanie Babies and could not live with myself if I was missing one. The lengths I went to for my beloved Wrinkles (the bulldog, obvi) are shameful. I vividly remember going on a family trip and seeing a toy store. All I could see was the potential to finally find my Wrinkles—I couldn't find him anywhere and was devastated that my collection was missing one key component, and ran into the store asking for him. Turns out,
for better for worse they had Wrinkles. Rightfully so, my father thought I didn't need another one and refused to get him for me. Cut to me, on the floor, hysterical. Inconsolable, really. One of those ugly cries where the snot comes out. Yeah, precious.
"After several hours of walking around and being a nightmare, the parental unit finally caved and got me the stupid stuffed toy. The second we got home I went to my neighbor's house to show off my new Beanie and after leaving Wrinkles alone for five seconds, their stupid dog viciously attacked him! Fluff was everywhere! Karma is such a bitch sometimes. R.I.P Wrinks...
"Also, never forget: when McDonalds sold mini versions of BBs with a Happy Meal. To the naked eye they appeared to be the same as the regular ones, but to a true BB connoisseur, they weren't the real deal. Still, the rush of collecting them all was the only thing I cared about. And French fries. "
John Boone, E! Loves Editor: "We were Beanie Babies hoarders, my family. We'd go to the local drug store (it's out of business now, maybe their only source of revenue was Beanie sales) every week when they'd get new shipments and we had the little book that told you how much the Beanies would be worth in five years or 10 years, or whenever it was that you'd re-sell them for 50 or 100 times their original price. Not to brag, except BIG BRAG: WE HAD THE PRINCESS DI BEANIE. Very rare. My big brother found it, and we immediately put her Ty tag in a protective sleeve when she got home. That's what you did. I think we put her in one of the plastic protective display boxes too, because this was the ‘90s and she was a LIMITED EDITION, VERY RARE Beanie that was going to fetch us millions.
"Last year, I was held hostage on a group text thread with my brother, my sister, and my mom after some article floated around that said a certain Beanie was selling for $500k (or something ridiculous) on eBay. My brother and sister were freaking out because WE HAD THAT BEANIE and WE COULD SPLIT THE PROFITS FOUR WAYS, WE JUST NEED TO FIND IT. This went on for a few hours before I looked on eBay and saw that the same Beanie was also available for $6. Alas, we will not make our millions off the tub of Beanie Babies packed away somewhere in the crawl space. Forget Enron, Ty pulled off the greatest long con of the ‘90s."