The Great Beanie Baby Bubble
Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute
There has never been a craze like Beanie Babies. The $5 beanbag animals with names like Seaweed the Otter and Gigi the Poodle drove millions of Americans into a greed-fueled frenzy as they chased the rarest Beanie Babies, whose values escalated weekly in the late 1990s. A single Beanie Baby sold for $10,000, and on eBay the animals comprised 10 percent of all sales. Suburban moms stalked UPS trucks to get the latest models, a retired soap opera star lost his kids' six-figure college funds investing in them, and a New Jersey father sold three million copies of a self-published price guide that predicted what each animal would be worth in ten years. More than any other consumer good in history, Beanie Babies were carried to the height of success by a collective belief that their values would always rise. Just as strange as the mass hysteria was the man behind it. From the day he started in the toy industry, after dropping out of college, Ty Warner devoted all his energy to creating what he hoped would be the most perfect stuffed animals the world had ever seen. Sometimes called the 'Steve Jobs of plush' by his employees, he obsessed over every detail of every animal. He had no marketing budget and no connections, but he had something more valuable - an intuitive grasp of human psychology that would make him the richest man in the history of toys. Through first-ever interviews with former Ty Inc. employees, Warner's sister, and the two ex-girlfriends who were by his side as he achieved the American dream, The Great Beanie Baby Bubble tells the inspiring yet tragic story of one of America's most enigmatic self-made tycoons. Bestselling author Zac Bissonnette uncovers Warner's highly original approach to product development, sales, and marketing that enabled the acquisition of plush animals to activate the same endorphins chased by stock speculators and gamblers. Starting with a few Beanie-crazed housewives on a cul-de-sac in Naperville, Illinois, Beanie Babies became the first viral craze of the Internet era. Bissonnette traces their rise from the beginning of the official website - one of the first corporate websites to aggressively engage consumers - to the day when 'rare' models became worthless as quickly as they'd once been deemed priceless. He also explores the big questions- Why did grown men and women lose their minds over stuffed animals? Was it something unique about the last years of the American century - or just the weirdest version of the irrational episodes that have happened periodically ever since the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s? The Greatest Beanie Baby Bubble is a classic American story of people winning and losing vast fortunes chasing what one dealer remembers as 'the most spectacular dream ever sold.' 'Whenever you have something intended as innocent fun for children, you can count on adults to turn it into an obsessive, grotesquely over-commercialized 'hobby' with the same whimsy content as the Bataan Death March.' Columnist Dave Barry on Beanie Babies, The Miami Herald , 1998 'The spectacular story of the strangest speculative bubble there ever was and the man behind it. A must-read for anyone looking to understand how manias start and markets go insane.' Liquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance 'Fascinating, strange, sad, funny, and entirely engrossing, The Great Beanie Baby Bubble is a smart, engaging book that's as much about the odd saga of these plush toys as it is about the nature of obsession and desire.' Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin 'In spare, elegant prose, Zac Bissonnette tells the riveting story of how Ty Warner ruthlessly built Beanie Babies into a mania as misguided and regrettable as the 1637
New York, N.Y. : Portfolio/Penguin, 2015.
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260 p.,  p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm.