Beanie Babies are a long-running franchise of stuffed toys manufactured by Ty, Inc., owned by Ty Warner. Although the company already had a couple plush toy lines at this point, Beanie Babies slowly caught on in the 1990s
, starting with a line of nine originals in 1993: Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Brownie the Bear (later known as Cubbie), Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Orca (originally a whale), Patti the Platypus, Chocolate the Moose, Spot the Dog and Punchers the Lobster (later known as Pinchers). What distinguished the Beanie Babies from other stuffed toys was that, instead of having "stuffing," they were stuffed almost entirely with polyvinyl chloride (later polyethelene) "beans," although the heads were still typically stuffed.
The toys were not incredibly popular at first outside Ty's home market of Chicago. Starting in late 1995-early 1996, the line suddenly grew in popularity, in part due to the marketing strategies of selling them only at small gift shops for $5-$6 each. Furthermore, the company began regularly retiring existing Beanies and introducing new ones. Adding some fuel to the fire was the introduction of the first exclusive-release Beanie, Maple the Bear (sold only in Canada). It was also in 1996 that the toys first included birthdays and short, four-line poems on their tags. In 1997 through 2000, McDonald's jumped on the bandwagon as well, including fun-size "Teenie Beanies" with Happy Meals.
The Beanie Babies franchise remained popular into the 2000s
, including an incredible stunt in 1999 when a bear named "The End" was released and Ty decided to let collectors decide whether or not to end the entire line
Throughout the 2000s, the Beanie Baby franchise did see some decline in popularity, but the toys are still sold, played with and collected. There are still plenty of retired Beanies who can fetch a pretty penny on the market these days.
The big kids craze after Pogs
and before Pokémon
Not to be confused with Beanie Kids, an Australian toy.
- Aerith and Bob: Most of the names are very cartoonish, but there are some with more realistic names such as Erin or Scottie.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Zig-zagged. Some are realistically colored and designed; others are more cartoonish and less realistically colored.
- Ambiguous Gender: Some Beanies' genders are never stated in their poems. Usually this is because the poem is in first-person, but other times they just manage to get to four lines without using a pronoun. Some are still obvious anyway due to either having gender-specific names, or obvious gender-specific traits (e.g., the several kangaroos are all female, as they have joeys in their pouches).
- Artistic License – Biology: There are a few examples of this. For instance:
- Seaweed the Otter is holding a piece of seaweed in her paws, and her poem mentions that she likes eating it. Otters are carnivorous.
- Double-subverted with Runner, whose species is only given as mustelidae (i.e., weasel family), an unusually prominent example of Shown Their Work on a toy. However, its poem says it can be a "ferret, mongoose, weasel, or mink"; mongoose are actually their own family, which is more related to felines than anything else. The inclusion of mongoose may be because it originally was a mongoose, but it shipped with a "mean poem" about killing snakes.
- Cunning Like a Fox: Well, it is named Sly, and his poem says "tricky is he." Even Snocap the Arctic Fox is "very sly."
- Cute Kitten: A LOT of kittens and cats.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first three generations had much plainer designs, and no birthdays or poems in their tags. By generation 4, the designs became gradually more complex and colorful, birthdays and poems were introduced, and the fad as a whole took off.
- Follow the Leader: In the wake of the first wave of Beanie Baby success in the late nineties, many other plush toy lines suddenly came into vogue, such as Puffkins. There was also a Darker and Edgier beanbag toy called "Meanies", which relied on grossout humor.
- Gratuitous German: Germania the bear had its poem written in German.
- Informed Species: Doby the Doberman Pinscher looks more like a Rottweiler, due to him having the latter species' "floppy" ears instead of the former's more pointy ears.
- Though technically he has natural ears, since their pointy ears are the result of trimming, not of breeding. Both breeds also have docked tails, which is better known.
- Kangaroos Represent Australia: There's an Australian-exclusive named Bounder.
- Long Runners: The toys have been consistently in production since 1993.
- Meaningful Name: Why do you think they named a rabbit "Ears"? Or a bee "Bumble"?
- Messy Pig: Averted; Squealer is the class clown, and Stubby would "rather eat a big dessert." Knuckles the Pig, however, makes mud pies.
- Nutty Squirrel: Obviously, since they're named Nuts and Nutty; there's also a third named Treehouse. The latter two are also holding acorns.
- Panda-ing to the Audience: Three of the giant variety (Peking, Fortune and Wonton), one of the red variety.
- Playful Otter: Seaweed is her name.
- Precious Puppies: There are a couple that are explicitly stated to be puppies, but even the ostensibly adult dog types are usually puppylike.
- Pun: Any Beanie with a tie-dye appearance is officially listed as "Ty-dye."
- Punny Name: Chocolate the Moose and Claude the Crab are but a few of the many examples.
- A subtle one. Splash was originally identified as just a whale, but this was later specified to orca.
- Done a little less subtly with some of the Beanies that were renamed. Some renames were done to avoid copyright issues (e.g. Tabasco the bull being renamed Snort), while others seem to be done for little reason other than to encourage collectors to buy the rarer, alternately-named version (e.g. Nana vs. Bongo the monkey, Brownie vs. Cubbie the bear).
- Runner the mongoose-turned-mustelid, as seen above.
- At least two Beanies had their birthdays changed for no reason.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Many of the early Beanies had typos in their poems. Perhaps one of the most egregious is "moose" somehow becoming "rnoose" on Chocolate's poem. A list is available here. Some are so obvious that they seem deliberate, just to drive up the price and make one type seem "rarer" just because its poem's misspelled or has a different line.
- Santa Claus: Yes, even he exists in Beanie Baby form.
- Serious Business: For the adults who collect the rare ones. Many Beanie Babies held a higher market value just for the slightest variation in fabric color; having a different-colored horn; having the swing tag in the wrong ear; or any other slight mutation, intentional or accidental. Really, just how would you tell if your Patti the Platypus is magenta (and thus worth about $1,300) instead of fuchsia or raspberry? If you really want to get serious, there's also the royal-blue version of Peanut the Elephant, which once fetched $4,000-plus.
To someone who wasn't there to witness the craze firsthand, it can seem absolutely ludicrous that this was once a zillion-dollar franchise comprising not only the toys themselves, but also protective casings (not just tubes or boxes for the toys themselves, but also clamshells for the swing tags), and entire magazines such as Mary Beth's Bean Bag World. People would actually line up in stores for hours to buy the things. And when McDonald's introduced the Teenie Beanies line, people would buy dozens of Happy Meals and throw the food out just to keep the Beanies. At one point, black-market and counterfeits were also rampant in the market (although most counterfeits were blatantly obvious). In short, some adult collectors would be openly horrified if they saw Beanie Babies being played with by children - you know, the toys' original purpose?
- Humphrey the Camel may or may not be a reference to the Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan song of that name. Then again, one of the birds was accidentally released without wings...
- A Ty-dyed bear named Garcia? Definitely not a reference to Jerry Garcia. (It got renamed Peace.)
- There's a walrus named Paul.
- According to the poem on the inside of the tag, Mel the koala is supposedly named after Mel Gibson.
- Smelly Skunk: Yep, named Stinky, given perfume and mints as gifts, and "hop[es] one day he wouldn't stink."
- Attic Treasures were introduced in the same year as Beanie Babies. These were given a more retraux style and hinged limbs, and were quietly retired in the early aughties.
- Pillow Pals, a large, stuffed plush toy line intended for toddlers. Many of them were expys of Beanie Baby designs. In 2001, they were replaced by Baby Ty, which are made of a softer fabric.
- There were also Beanie Buddies, which were larger, softer counterparts of existing Beanie Babies, sometimes with trivia about the corresponding Beanie in the swing tag. Both these and Baby Ty were made with a new fabric called "Tylon."
- Ty Girlz, which are... well, basically plush Bratz dolls.
- Ty Li'l Ones, itself a spinoff of Ty Girlz.
- Beanie Babies 2.0, Ty's answer to Webkinz.
- Teenie Beanies, the Spin-Off Babies of the franchise.
- Beanie Boos.
- Wild Wild Best.
- Beanie Ballz.
- Ty Monstaz.
- Theme Naming:
- The first five cats were named Zip, Nip, Chip, Flip and Snip. Next in the line were Pounce and Prance.
- Three pastel-colored rabbits were named Hippity, Hoppity and Floppity. Supposedly, there was going to be a Flippity in there too, but it was never made.
- A fourth rabbit named Hippie was made as a counterpart to the above three. He lacked the neck ribbon but was otherwise identical to the above three in size and shape, albeit with a pastel ty-die coloration.
- Trope 2000: Some Beanie Babies have a "Ty 2000" tag.