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The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion…

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute (2015)

by Zac Bissonnette

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A time when people abandoned their senses
Market bubbles are nothing new. A few people make a ton of money and everyone else loses. At the time of the Internet Bubble in the 1990s there was another bubble: the Beanie Baby Bubble. People lost all reason speculating on small stuffed animals, thinking they would become rich. Ty Inc., the toy company of Ty Warner, became familiar to all of America as normally rational adults - even though we're talking about toys this story has little to do with children - lost all sense trying to collect their line of under-stuffed toys with PVC beads in them.

The story of Beanie Babies has to be the finest example of fact being stranger than fiction, and this is the most bizarre story I can remember reading. Warner had a knack for creating toys - he was obsessive about things like quality and materials and display. He frequently sought opinions from those around him on fabric color, eyes, or names. He preferred to sell his creations through small 'mom and pop' gift stores instead of big-box retailers, and many of his employees liked him. In fact, he did many things right and ended up a billionaire - but there was just as much luck involved. Especially since he was an obsessive micro-manager who felt threatened by not being able to control the markets his toys created. He once screamed at his sales staff, "I didn't start my own business to make other people rich!", and boasted he could put his trademark Ty heart on manure and sell it. He alienated pretty much everyone in his life and is known more for his selfishness and stinginess than anything.

This is a darkly absorbing read. I laughed out loud, I scoffed in disbelief, and I shook my head too many times to count - but I really had a hard time putting this short book down. I sort-of remember hearing about the craze - which began in Chicago - but even at the time it just sounded too ridiculous. The only Beanie Babies we ever owned (that I know of) were the "teeny" ones my kids got with McDonald's Happy Meals near the time the bubble burst - and those didn't stay in their plastic bags long, unlike the ones most collectors stored in lucite bins with custom tag protectors. The book covers as much history of Ty Warner and Beanie Babies as the author could dig up, as well as a number of brief but interesting tidbits about other toy fads - I only wish it had more information the seventeenth-century "Tulip Mania" that is mentioned on the back. But this is an interesting and easy read about the most ebarrassing market bubble. (I rec'd an advance copy from Amazon Vine.) ( )
  J.Green | Nov 22, 2016 |
I have been dying to read this book since I first read the reviews in Library Journal and Kirkus. I am soo glad that the hype didn't let me down, I found this book endlessly fascinating. The amount of research that went into this book is staggering and I have mad respect for author, Zac Bissonnette, who made an old obscure topic, relevant, funny, and intriguing again. He talks about the founder, Ty Warner, the history of the company, the start of the craze, the madness ensuing, and the inevitable burst that left thousands in debt. It was a strange, wild, ride and learning all about the way the market and speculation drove beanie sales was fascinating. An interesting pop culture and financial read, full of random tid bits, factoids, and ridiculousness that you should not live without. ( )
1 vote ecataldi | Jun 4, 2015 |
First I must admit I collected Beanie Babies, but I never did it for profit, I’m solely a collector. This is a well-researched book that once again shows that the toy business is not a kid’s game. Bissonette shows that to understand the craze, you have to understand the man behind it. He gives an in depth characterization of Warner and the collectors, both the good and the bad. This is just an amazing story that revolves around some beans and stuffing.

Free review copy. ( )
  mrmapcase | Feb 28, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this book about the rise and fall of everyone's favorite plush collectibles and toys. Bissonnette's breezy and informative book covers a lot of ground but the story is really about Ty Warner and the ups and downs of his company and his signature product. I was riveted and frequently had to read passages aloud to my husband because they were so funny, or so strange, or so sad, or so interesting. I used to collect Beanies and I found the book to be balanced and informative, with a dollop of gossip on top. What emerges at the end is a story about vanity and greed and perfectionism, all for those little bean bag toys. If you ever bought a Beanie you should read this book. ( )
  bostonbibliophile | Nov 28, 2014 |
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"In relating the tale of reclusive billionaire Ty Warner, the richest man in U.S. toy history, Bissonnette (Debt-Free U) contacted Warner himself. To maintain his privacy, Warner suggested Bissonnette interview others. The narratives here from relatives, ex-girlfriends, employees, and clients depict a college dropout and struggling actor from a dysfunctional family begrudgingly becoming a salesman at Dakin Inc. to make ends meet. ...Equally heartwarming and heartbreaking, this accessible work will captivate fans of the TV series Mr. Selfridge and Brad Stone's The Everything Store, as well as sociology buffs, pop culture enthusiasts, and anyone who has worked in retail."
added by KoobieKitten | editLibrary Journal | January 2015 | Vol. 140 No. 1, Stephanie Sendaula (Jan 1, 2015)
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"In the annals of consumer crazes, nothing compares to Beanie Babies. In just three years, collectors who saw the toys as a means of speculation made creator Ty Warner, an eccentric college dropout, a billionaire--without advertising or big-box distribution ... The end of the craze was swift and devastating, with 'rare' Beanie Babies deemed worthless as quickly as they'd once been deemed priceless. Bissonnette draws on hundreds of interviews (including a visit to a man who lives with his 40,000 Ty products and an in-prison interview with a guy who killed a coworker over a Beanie Baby debt) for the first book on the strangest speculative mania of all time"--… (more)

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