Like the 1980s, the 1990s were subject to several intense toy crazes. The Beanie Babies bubble was the first. What is a Beanie Baby, you ask? They were, as described by Newsweek, cute stuffed toys produced by TY, headed by Ty Warner, and promoted as collectibles. This meant that certain models were actively “retired.” This was a deliberate, and successful attempt, make the product scarce. This ethically questionable market manipulation generated monumental demand.
So adults, parents and non-parents alike, scooped up Beanie Babies wherever they could get them. Heck, according to Slate it would not be unusual for a parent to gift a Beanie Baby to one of their children and forbid them from removing the tag or messing it in any way since it was an investment. An economic bubble swiftly developed where people were selling and buying the little stuffed animals for up to $5,000. These toys retailed at $5 each. In one case, a judge forced a divorced couple to separate their Beanie Baby collection in person on the floor of the courtroom.
Eventually, such market manipulations on the part of Ty Warner led to inevitable collapse. Beanie Babies are now the subject of jokes, but Ty Warner was able to use the proceeds to buy the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan according to Forbes. Today most Beanie Babies are worthless.