How Much Were Beanie Babies in the 90s?

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One thing I always find interesting is the fact that one generation will grow up and have absolutely no idea about something that captured the hearts and minds of the generation before them.

There are a ton of examples of this, from huge historic events to smaller yet still impactful fads, trends, and more.

Today, we are looking at the latter, and jumping back into the 90s to take a look at the hold that Beanie Babies had on the nation. To put it into today’s terms, I guess you can liken it to something like NFTs? Or anything that got super hot and widely talked about in a hurry. Or perhaps the recent trading card boom where cards are flying off the shelves the moment they are placed for sale?

The difference with something like Beanie Babies, though, is that they didn’t require much explanation! Adults young and old, kids, and pretty much anyone could buy into something soft, cute, and collectible like a Beanie Baby. Of course, there is still the question of “why?” as in “why were Beanie Babies worth thousands of dollars in the 90s?” but really, a simple answer could simply be because people wanted them.

How Much Were Beanie Babies in the 90s?

In the 90s, Beanie Babies could range from a few dollars to thousands. This value all depends on the specific Beanie Baby, rarity, and condition, with some increasing in value over the years and others falling drastically.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of how much Beanie Babies were selling for in the 90s.

“…Cost about $5 apiece…”

Typical Beanies, those not “retired,” cost about $5 apiece. But rare Beanie Babies can be worth thousands, such as the scarce Royal Blue Peanut, which can fetch $5,200.

Seattle Times, 1998

Like all things collectible, you’re going to have your “base” versions which sell for a regular price for all to enjoy, in this case $5, and then rare and scarce items that will fetch a lot more, attracting mega collectors or “flippers” hoping to turn that item around for a profit in the future.

“…$5 in 1995 to demand $4,700 only three years later?”

How else could someone describe a market that allows anybody who bought a small stuffed animal named Peanut the royal blue elephant for $5 in 1995 to demand $4,700 only three years later? That’s a pretty impressive return on investment.

Post-Gazette, 1998

Speaking of Peanut the royal blue elephant, it looks like it was a regular $5 release, which was then deemed to be scarce and thus the value increased to that near-$5,000 mark? I’m not sure of the complete story, but this quote reminded me of something.

These days when it comes to something collectible like trading cards, when they are released by Topps and other manufacturers, we pretty much know which cards will be scarce. The difference, though, is that the cards need to be obtained by buying random packs of cards and hoping you find something scarce, where Beanie Babies were sold one-by-one, and thus you knew exactly what you were getting at the time…perhaps just not how rare that particular Beanie Baby would turn out to be?

“The price, $4.99, is irresistible.”

They’re small and understuffed, which makes them cute and huggable. The fabric and stitching are high quality. The price, $4.99, is irresistible.

Biz Journals, 1998

And while we already know they cost about $5 per Beanie Baby, it’s not only an attractive price, but people felt like they were getting a ton of value given the item’s likability, quality, and assortment.

“Offered up to $1,000 for the rarest versions…”

Some people reportedly have offered up to $1,000 for the rarest versions _ especially those with manufacturing flaws. Parents often ask their kids to keep the toys’ ID tags, because presumably they will boost long-term value.

Tampa Bay Times, 1997

I’ll take a moment here to say I’m a baseball card collector, and have been for years. Reading the above, I definitely understand the appeal and logic—though flawed, these “misprints” carry value because they are more or less one of a kind.

And with the ID tags, the same goes for the value of any collectible, really, say “CIB” video games (complete in box, with instructions, etc.) worth more compared to a loose game without any packaging, etc.

“…Sales of more than $200 million a year.”

Ty jealously guards its creations and for good reason: The soft, floppy animals small enough to fit in a pocket are believed to account for sales of more than $200 million a year.

Los Angeles Times, 1997

While this quote doesn’t tell us much about what individual Beanie Babies were selling for, or what their activity was on the secondary market (which is where you see dollar figures start to skyrocket), it is a reminder that these little figures could build a multimillion dollar business back in its day.

“Kort expects sales of his beanbag animals to total $20 million this year.”

At Imperial Toys, big orders are rolling in despite the Ty lawsuit. Kmart just called, Kort said–it wants 250,000 of his Friendly Pebble Pets. Before that, Walgreen’s was on the phone–it wants 500,000. Kort expects sales of his beanbag animals to total $20 million this year.

Los Angeles Times, 1997

As this shows, when something starts to explode, it’s not just that one thing that benefits. Going back to baseball cards, with the Pandemic-fueled card boom, sure, cards were flying off the shelves, but there was also a shortage of top loaders, grading services were backed up at unprecedented levels, and more. And with this, the boom can certainly open the door for competitors and producers of similar products.

“It cost $80.”

There were dogs, cats, ducks, lambs, bears, lizards and other animals–including a hard-to-find blue elephant her parents located using the Internet. It cost $80.

Los Angeles Times, 1997

While searching back in the archives is great for knowledge’s sake, we also sometimes get nuggets like this—”using the internet.” These days, most readers would assume that to be the case, and not only the internet, but a handheld device via an app and from anywhere in the world. Anyway, $80 here for a “hard-to-find blue elephant.”

While all of this comes from researching old published articles, the best way I’ve found to look up actual sales of eBay items etc. is Worthpoint. The problem is, it only goes back to 2000! That said still pretty cool to see that Ty Snort the Bull sold for $6 in July 2020, while Baby Bruno autographed by Rob Thomas sold for over $100 in 2006.

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Ryan created What We Search to help parents find better answers for the many questions they might have about all things kids, food, life, and more.