Boom And Bust
July 27, 2013 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Bankrupt By Beanies - A short documentary about what happened to people after the "Beanie Babies as investments" fad wore down. (YouTube, 8:30)
posted by The Whelk (167 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
How incredibly sad.
posted by valkyryn at 9:24 AM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you live in the rural US, then you know people who did this. Hundreds of thousands of yokels did this.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:25 AM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


That was a really effectively constructed documentary.

I picked up Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds at a used book shop about a month ago, and watching this has made me want to finally get around to reading it.
posted by codacorolla at 9:33 AM on July 27, 2013 [6 favorites]



I knew Beanie Babies were a thing but I never knew about Beanie Babies as investments. Crazy
posted by Jalliah at 9:34 AM on July 27, 2013


The lack of sound financial reasoning on display here reminds me of lots of people that I know. People will complain about not having enough money, constantly chasing the next raise and what not, yet they will take loans with insane interest rates and buy unnecessary stuff when they don't really have the money. Just in the few past weeks I've had several people trying to convince me just how great it is to buy gadgets on installment plans because, "you can pay a little each month" when it's perfectly obvious that you'll end up paying 100-200% more due to fees.

I'm not berating working class people or poor people for trying their best in surviving in economies where the deck is stacked against them, just pointing out how bad people can be at making sound financial decisions and the terrible terrible long-term implications of this.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:37 AM on July 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Delusion is a hell of a drug.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:39 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right now I'm watching the director's second eight-minute family documentary, Bastard: An Illegitimate Film. I recommend it.

Seems like Dad here is a man who is just full of good ideas, and has the charisma to get the women in his life to go along with them, at least for a while. There are probably a lot of women and grown children out there who, when they see the Beanie Baby doc on Youtube, will glow with a bitter satisfaction inside.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:48 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw "Beanie Babies" and was scanning and misread "investments fad wore down" as "environments wore down". For an instant my brain fashioned up some kind of futuristic documentary about a post-apocalyptic wasteland where somehow beanie babies were one of the only tangible things left as trees and land and seas eroded away and long buried beanie babies were exposed to the harsh sun. Or where now the beanie babies were stripped for their fabric because everything else had been burned to nothing while the flame-retardant toys were now as numerous as people. Or the horrible mutations caused by atomic fallout made the last living creatures look like beanie babies. I'd watch that. But I couldn't make it past the opening moments of this. Too depressing.
posted by cashman at 9:52 AM on July 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Now if they would have purchased 5000 round cases of .22lr ammunition @$69 a case.......
posted by notreally at 9:52 AM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Now if they'd only invested in Bitcoins....
posted by edheil at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


Beanie Babies were a reflection of the investment mania of the late '90's, where everyone seemed to be cashing in to instant prosperity withdaytrading. Picking stocks was beyond the understanding of the average person (myself included, index funds are where my retirement is stored), and more complex financial vehicles like angel investing were right out unless you were already rich.

Beanie Babies, tho... collectible! Fun! Artificial scarcity! Easy to understand! Simpler and seemingly kinder than stocks and daytrading. A local comic book shop had an entire wall devoted to them and it generated around half his business... for a while.

Then people started asking to sell some of their rare ones to him, and then some of their not-so-rare ones, and their entire collection, and getting angrier and angrier when he told them he only bought from his regular supplier... and he got out of the game prety much overnight.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll never forget the anger and contempt in my sister's face as I handed her a Beanie Baby that she'd asked me to get for her and and I snapped the tag off just before I did.

"YOU'VE MADE IT WORTHLESS!" she screamed at me.

"No," I said, "It's worth $5. Would you like to see the receipt?"
posted by ColdChef at 10:00 AM on July 27, 2013 [44 favorites]


If you live in the rural US, then you know people who did this. Hundreds of thousands of yokels did this.

While urban US is looking with satisfaction at their 401K statements...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:08 AM on July 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is why I keep all my assets in tulips.
posted by briank at 10:13 AM on July 27, 2013 [64 favorites]


When you make your Beanie Baby inventory list, you've gotta use Comic Sans. No, really: No matter what font you try to use, it turns into Comic Sans. It's not just a simple matter of hallucination and false memory. Some say this is how Comic Sans entered our reality. Others say the Beanie Baby Boom was actually caused by the pressure of Comic Sans pressing and forcing its way into our dimensional matrix.
posted by bleep-blop at 10:15 AM on July 27, 2013 [59 favorites]


Probably the best Bryan Cranston role yet.
posted by michaelh at 10:15 AM on July 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


If you live in the rural US, then you know people who did this. Hundreds of thousands of yokels did this.

I worked at a small, independent bookstore in a wealthy suburb of Washington, DC and we could not keep the damn things in stock. Our phone rang off the hook on the days we got Beanie Babies deliveries with people calling to ask if particular ones had come in. Nightmare.
posted by rtha at 10:19 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll never forget the anger and contempt in my sister's face as I handed her a Beanie Baby that she'd asked me to get for her and and I snapped the tag off just before I did.

"YOU'VE MADE IT WORTHLESS!" she screamed at me.

"No," I said, "It's worth $5. Would you like to see the receipt?"


Back in the 80's I had friends who "collected" comic books like Captain Carrot and later on the Frank Miller Dark Night stuff, and the Wolverine series, blah blah blah.

They used to think I was crazy when I actually wanted to read the damn things. Nope. Bought at the comic book store, and then straight into a sealed plastic bag with cardboard backing.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:24 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I learned this lesson young. My three unopened copies of the death of Superman, my mint condition Liefeld-era X-Titles, my multiple copies of early Spawn issues--all bought with my dad's approval (he thought they were a great investment)--never developed into the millions of Overstreet dollars that were promised.

I worked in a comic store recently, and about once a month someone about my age (early 30s) would come in with a long box filled with the same titles I collected and be dumbfounded when I told them they were practically worthless. "But an unopened death of Superman is worth fifty dollars!" they'd say. We had a stack of twenty of those very issues under the counter that we would pull out to show how common they were. Still, we had guys argue, "But the price guide says!" Some people just refused to understand.
posted by melgy at 10:26 AM on July 27, 2013 [22 favorites]


Actually, the same mania possessed my own mother. I had a lot of Star Wars toys when I was a kid, including the AT-AT and Slave I and the Snowspeeder. When I was 13 I decided to sell them to some "collector."

My mom was mad... Don't you know they could have been collector's items? But for the most part the toys had been heavily played with, with broken or missing parts, chewed on by the dog.

Indeed, the mania never ends. In my office here I have a large (very large) cardboard box containing a print by Takashi Murakami. It was sent to me by post in 2007 (!) by a friend who use to flip Murakami prints from Yahoo Japan Auctions to American eBay. And then the Great Recession happened, and nobody collects those stupid prints anymore.

So it sits in my office, in a cardboard box, unopened.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm still gonna be able to retire on my Wayne Gretzky and Rickey Henderson rookie cards, though, right?
posted by gompa at 10:29 AM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Beanie Babies were a reflection of the investment mania of the late '90's, where everyone seemed to be cashing in to instant prosperity with day trading.

I had not thought of this. It was like a cargo cult stock market.
posted by thelonius at 10:31 AM on July 27, 2013 [47 favorites]


I think the part of this that got me the most is the older son talking about how if he were more mature, he would have appreciated running these crazy errands for his dad because at least the Beanie Baby trips were time spent together as a family. Like it was his problem. I get he's putting the best spin on a bad situation but jesus, the misplaced guilt, aarrgh.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:31 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nothing reminds me more of the year 2000 than dusty, faded Beanie Babies on the shelf of a Gifte Shoppe in a strip mall.
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 AM on July 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


Good. I can finally dispose of this stinky old Honus Wagner tobacco card that's been hanging around for the last century or so.
posted by dr_dank at 10:33 AM on July 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I get he's putting the best spin on a bad situation but jesus, the misplaced guilt, aarrgh.

Indeed. And the father's final summary assertion that it never would've happened if the kids hadn't been excited about them in the first place suggests some quiet, brutal self-delusion lingers on. It would seem to indicate dad's never looked his self-destructive compulsions full in the face. Also by its placement suggests maybe the filmmaker's still pretty damn mad about that.
posted by gompa at 10:35 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


All of those price guides were a scam...I used to hunch over Becketts (sports cards) and Overstreet, comparing issue-to-issue returns and calculating my future riches. Upper Deck were particularly good at the whole artificial scarcity hustle. Now all of those sets my brother and I (and thousands of others) bought are effectively worthless.

As Disco Stu put it..."If these trends continue....A-a-a-y-y-y!!!!
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:35 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu, at least a Murakami print has an aesthetic sensibility to it. It will probably match someone's living room or look nice in a certain kind of office. It's probably not worth any more than any other print you'd buy to go over the couch, but eh. At least there's a there there.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


And yet there used to be a display in the lobby of the Bank of Montreal office in downtown Toronto that pointed out the best investment you could have made for the specific time period was a hockey card.

I clothes-pinned mine to my bike forks so my bicycle made motorbike sounds.

We are all doomed in our own little ways.
posted by srboisvert at 10:36 AM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


KokuRyu, at least a Murakami print has an aesthetic sensibility to it. It will probably match someone's living room or look nice in a certain kind of office. It's probably not worth any more than any other print you'd buy to go over the couch, but eh. At least there's a there there.

While I didn't realize it while I was posting the comment, I think Murakami (the artist), reflexively or not (most likely cynically), adopts the same bland aesthetic as the Beany Babies. His work is intended to be "collectible". He's even worse than Andy Warhol.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:39 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many people avoided the whole Beanie Baby Mania thing and just bought the non-scarce ones as toys for their kids?

I remember during the height of it, being at my aunt and uncle's house. My cousins were just the right age to want Beanie Babies as toys (I was the right age to be a surly teenager and roll my eyes at everything), and they had piles of them around the house. We were visiting, and I scoffed at the whole Beanie Baby "thing". My aunt was like, "Eh, the kids like them, they cost $5, and you can get them anywhere. I'm happy to have a house full of Beanie Babies if it means homework and chores get done." I thought that was pretty interesting. I think I grew up a little bit, in that moment.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 AM on July 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


When I graduated with my BA, my family "all chipped in" to gift me a... Beanie Baby. With written admonitions not to take off the tag. (Yes, it was the only thing I got.)

Still have it stuffed in my closet, mainly because it's a bison, love those animals. Giant, majestic beasts who get red eyes and go "muhhhhhh!" when peeved.

I think Murakami (the artist), reflexively or not (most likely cynically), adopts the same bland aesthetic as the Beany Babies. His work is intended to be "collectible". He's even worse than Andy Warhol.

He recently did an installation at Versailles. Loads of people were like "ermehgerd he's RUINED it, it looks AWFUL" and I thought it was kind of brilliant, because Versailles was pretty much an overt, wilful expression of "har har I'm rich you hopeless plebes, look at how much gold filigree n ostentatious crap I can throw into one sprawling castle that you can only hope to look upon in tear-stained awe from afar", and Murakami's sculptures amongst that was like a psychedelic mix of bling and privilege signatures past and present. It was kind of perfect, in other words. It convinced me that there's got to be a great deal of cynicism in his art, yes.
posted by fraula at 10:44 AM on July 27, 2013 [38 favorites]


I'm sure a lot of people did make a lot of money on Beanie Babies, but only if they knew to put them on eBay as soon as each one was retired, and never, ever bought retired ones themselves.

But basically anyone who did make a profit had to be knowingly fleecing suckers, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


adopts the same bland aesthetic as the Beany Babies

Spoken as someone who clearly did not live in the rural/exurban US in the mid 90's. I have no great love of Murakami, but Beany Babies are fucking hideous. I mean, I can see that there's some kind of artistic impulse behind Murakami's work, even if it is totally slick and plasticky and there's also a clear business plan there. (Though FWIW there's a clear business plan behind any successful artist, don't kid yourself.) Beanie Babies, though? Ugh.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beanie Babies are the Thomas Kincade's of the Stuffed Animal world.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:49 AM on July 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I kept waiting for the reveal that Mom and Dad were divorced.
posted by jenlovesponies at 10:53 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


EXACTLY.

Beanie Babies are Thomas Kinkade, crocs, fake wood paneling, and happy hour at Applebee's.
posted by Sara C. at 10:55 AM on July 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


But basically anyone who did make a profit had to be knowingly fleecing suckers, right?

There are people who think most investment is now just playing out a game of "find a bigger fool".
posted by idiopath at 10:56 AM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


when i was growing up, my dad hung on to his old 78s thinking they'd really be worth something someday - in the early 2000s it was my sad duty to confirm my mother's suspicions that they weren't hardly worth anything at all - (they were common big band records)

not that he'd overdone it - just bought what he liked in the 40s and 50s

my personal record collection isn't worth much either

i remember the beanie baby mania of the 90s and just didn't get it - collectables have to be rare, fascinating in themselves and something people are going to want in 50 years

beanie babies never seemed to qualify
posted by pyramid termite at 10:56 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


My mom had a part-time antique business for years and also taught informal classes at the community college on running an antique business. This was mostly during the whole Beany Baby and baseball card bubble. Two of her hard and fast rules were, don't buy anything designed to be a collectable and never buy anything unless you know that you could sell it that day for a profit.
posted by octothorpe at 10:57 AM on July 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


I collect Beanie Babies.

Wait, no. I collect one Beanie Baby. I collect Gizmo.

I can say that I collect him, because we bought one, and we kinda went nuts with him. He went places. He had a livejournal.

But then he got a bit scruffy, so we bought another one.

And another one.

And...um...yeah.

We've given Gizmo lemurs to friends, for their small children. My nephew has one. My niece is getting one for her birthday in one week.

He's our lemur. And he's only an investment in ridiculousness.

(Right now there's one sitting in the living room watching TV, another one also in the living room on the bookshelf, one in the dining room on the stereo, another one in the dining room sitting in a hollowed-out plastic skull, one in the office, two stashed around the bedroom (including the original, who's a little more threadbare and loved), and one up next to the spare bed in the attic. Plus the one for my niece. And I think there might be another one somewhere else.)
posted by Katemonkey at 11:00 AM on July 27, 2013 [31 favorites]


i remember the beanie baby mania of the 90s and just didn't get it - collectables have to be rare, fascinating in themselves and something people are going to want in 50 years

That was my thought at the time. Especially coming hot on the heels of Pogs.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:02 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I picked up Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

yea, read it , it's a great book!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:03 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


My first job was at McDonald's, and we would occasionally have beanie babies as the toy that went in the happy meal. Each week when we were supposed to drop the next animal there would be nonstop cars in the drive thru, with adults buying 15 or 20 happy meals, and having ridiculous melt downs screaming "THE ELEPHANT WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK I ALREADY HAVE THE GODDAMN ELEPHANT GIVE ME THE DONKEY OR ILL CUT YOU YOU LITTLE SHIT."
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:06 AM on July 27, 2013 [28 favorites]


Now if they'd only invested in Bitcoins....

Now if they'd only invested in gold....

Now if they'd only invested in real estate....

Now if they'd only invested in commodities....

Apparently it's only a delusion if it's not propped up by the federal government.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:06 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I picked up Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

yea, read it , it's a great book!


I've got 200 copies! I'm waiting for the market to peak!
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:08 AM on July 27, 2013 [57 favorites]


i saw an old boss vb2 vibrato pedal for 449 yesterday at my local guitar center - i have to wonder if there's a speculative mania going around in some old music equipment ...
posted by pyramid termite at 11:10 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I made a profit from Beanie Babies! Or rather, one Beanie Baby.

Once upon a time, I was matched up with a quasi-mentor figure. She was very opposite me in every respect of personality/values, and we didn't meet but once or twice. But she made the well-intentioned gesture of giving me a gift at our first meeting -- a basket with some girly things and a little stuffed animal. I had never heard of Beanie Babies, and am not much for stuffed animals, but this one was a cute floppy little dog and I kept it.

Years later, I heard about collecting Beanie Babies and I realized that must be what this little stuffed dog was. I looked him up. He turned out to be one of the rarest original ones - Spot without a spot (scroll down to #2), from the first series they issued.

In 1999 he was supposedly worth something like $1000-$2000.

I had removed his tag when I first got him (as you do), and didn't want to mess with eBay, so I ended up selling him for about $300 to a comic book/collectibles store.

Subscribe to my investment newsletter today!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:12 AM on July 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Eh, beanie babies are just silly. Now tulips, THERE'S an investment!
posted by happyroach at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a family member who bought Beanie Babies. I think s/he wanted to just be part of something. There was a hole in them that needed to be filled, or at least distracted from. The craze and the crowds and the lines and the energy of it was absolutely part of the appeal.

It's warped my thinking, actually, since s/he's the only person I know who's been involved in MLM schemes and etc. In my mind, they don't prey on the stupid and/or uneducated. They're receptacles lonely people use to release time and energy they don't have any other way to release.

That is probably not the common case, but it's how I think of them: a kind of secular cult.
posted by jsturgill at 11:19 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Beanie Babies are Thomas Kinkade, crocs, fake wood paneling, and happy hour at Applebee's.

Wait, crocs? Crocs are shoes I wear when I'm in the kitchen for a few hours so the linoleum and concrete doesn't make my feet ache. Did people try and collect and resell crocs?
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eh, beanie babies are just silly. Now tulips, THERE'S an investment!

Succulents are where it is at now.
posted by srboisvert at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


i saw an old boss vb2 vibrato pedal for 449 yesterday at my local guitar center - i have to wonder if there's a speculative mania going around in some old music equipment ...

That seems to be the going rate on eBay, too.

But, yeah, musical equipment (guitar stuff in particular) can be a little ridiculous like that. The irony with that pedal, and others like the PN-2 Tremolo/Pan, is that they seem to have jumped majorly in price only since Behringer started making bargain-priced knockoffs of them. 'Cause if it's worth knocking off, the original must be something special, right? (Just try not to think about why they were discontinued in the first place...)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:28 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Crocs are shoes I wear when I'm in the kitchen for a few hours so the linoleum and concrete doesn't make my feet ache. Did people try and collect and resell crocs?

No, they're just an ugly thing that everyone went crazy for at some point.
posted by Sara C. at 11:28 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now if they'd only invested in Bitcoins....

Both start with B. Coincidence? I think not!
posted by ymgve at 11:32 AM on July 27, 2013


Yeah, Crocs are at least something you can use. My daughter wears them and loves them, which is worth a lot in my book. No resale value of course, but who cares?

i have to wonder if there's a speculative mania going around in some old music equipment ...
Oh glob you have no idea. Some old effects pedals or synthesizers these days are going for obscene amounts of money. I don't know if the people buying them even know how to use them. Not that I know how of course, but I'd like to see them find the hands of people who do.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:38 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The bottom fell out of Crocs too, that's why we switched to collecting Applebee's Happy Hours.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:44 AM on July 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Brocktoon : Now if they'd only invested in Bitcoins....

Now if they'd only invested in gold....

Now if they'd only invested in real estate....

Now if they'd only invested in commodities....

Apparently it's only a delusion if it's not propped up by the federal government.


With the exception of gold (Which I don't get why it is valuable, other then it has traditionally been quite rare), the other items on the list are USEFUL. A barrel of oil can be used to make chemicals from, grease a car, make fuel, etc. A bit of land can be used to build a house on, a house can be lived in.

Beanie Babies and bitcoins are only valuable because they are rare, so you can't get many of them. Diamonds almost had the same problem as tulips and beanie babies: Before engagement rings apparently they were mostly used to store money. Then the great depression happened, and a lot of them started coming on the market at once. Then Debeers coined the term "Diamonds are forever" and did a slick ad campaign and people stopped proposing with cars and fur coats, and started using diamonds, and they had a use, so the price went back up as people suddenly wanted to buy them for rings.
posted by Canageek at 11:44 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


With the exception of gold (Which I don't get why it is valuable, other then it has traditionally been quite rare)

There was an interesting article for the rational as to why our ancestors settle on gold as the must-have precious metal. From my recollection, came down to a couple reasons:

- Rarity.
- Non toxic. You wouldn't want to make jewelry or coins out of something that would kill you.
- Malleable.
- Ability to mine. You can build an industry out of finding the stuff.
- Non-reactive. Wouldn't it suck to put a bunch of gold in a vault, then 10 years later find only half of it remaining?
- Hard to fake. The color of gold is very distinctive among metals, and it's difficult to plate something with gold and come up with the same weight and density.
posted by sbutler at 11:53 AM on July 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Beanie Babies were the biggest investment coup of my pre-pubescent entrepreneurial phrase. (I used to subscribe to Zillions Magazine, which was Consumer Reports for Kids, and I had a lot of businesses--dog walking, can collecting, and such.) I spent a lot of my profits on Beanie Babies, and I bought most of them at Cracker Barrel, weirdly enough. One time, a lady in the Cracker Barrel gift shop tried to snatch the Limited Edition Princess Diana (no really) bear out of my hands, by I held on, and I was victorious.

I ended up selling all my Beanie Babies before the bottom totally dropped out, and I made enough to buy my family a television. I peaked early.
posted by mmmbacon at 11:55 AM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Which I don't get why it is valuable, other then it has traditionally been quite rare

I am desperate to find out how/why on a historical level gold, of all things, became MOTHERFUCKING GOLD BITCHES. Like, I understand that it's shiny and rare, and that it's very malleable which means that people would have started working with it before other metals. And it washes up in creeks as a pure nugget, so you don't necessarily have to extract it from some other material.

But every time I read something that I think is going to go into the transition of gold from "rare and pretty" into the basis of the global economy, this part is glossed over and we go from "rare and easy to work" directly to "let's talk about 15th century Spain".
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the past 3 months, there have been 757,000 separate listings for beanie babies on ebay.

Of those, 54,000 listings resulted in a sale.

24,000 of those sales were under $4.00. (many of them going for 99 cents)

18,000 went for beween $4.00 - $8.00.

6,000 went for between $8.00 - $12.00.

6,000 sold for more than $12.00.

150 of those sold for $100 or more.

3 of those sold for more than $1000 (with the highest being $1800)

all figures rounded off, obviously, and come from Terapeak, which you need a subscription for.
posted by the bricabrac man at 11:58 AM on July 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


and happy hour at Applebee's.

I know Beanie Babies are awful, but comparing them to the sit-down McDonald's? Harsh.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:59 AM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know anyone who went in for this but I think people are being a bit unkind. Collectibles are the sort of "investment" that is accessible to very average people - baseball cards, beanie babies, comic books - when other kinds of investment like retirement accounts and 529 plans have a much higher barrier to entry in terms of education cycle and perceived cost of entry. It's not very different than buying lottery tickets: widely available at standard retailers, low price tag, and a non-null chance of turning into a bunch of money.

What I think a lot of these people lacked the sophistication to understand is the concept of market peak. I think it's very easy to conflate this kind of "investment" with banking, in that if you put it away today, it will always be worth more in the years to come.

It's really easy to mock this, but I'll bet a lot of you were told to mind grandma's Hummel figurines because they'd be worth something when she died. And I'll bet that when she did, more than one of you had a quick check just to see if you had a $30 Goodnight figure or a $1,500 Adventure Bound figure. And like Grandma's Hummel (which has also dropped through the value basement) there are still occasional sales of individual Beanie Babies for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

(Of course much more common is the 500 Beanie Baby lifelong collector's job lot selling for well under $1 each at $315...)
posted by DarlingBri at 12:01 PM on July 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


In the past 3 months, there have been 757,000 separate listings for beanie babies on ebay.

I see a great stop-motion animation in all of this. Some kind of beanie-babies zombie apocalypse. The climax, of course, would be the mass extermination of hundreds of thousands of beanie babies ... thus rendering the few remaining survivors ... collectible.
posted by philip-random at 12:04 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


But every time I read something that I think is going to go into the transition of gold from "rare and pretty" into the basis of the global economy, this part is glossed over and we go from "rare and easy to work" directly to "let's talk about 15th century Spain"..

There is no there. It's just a handy thing to use for money, since it's rare and dense, and people like it because they think it's pretty. You can use anything for money, so long as someone else agrees to accept it. Gold is just particularly appealing.
posted by Diablevert at 12:04 PM on July 27, 2013


Also gold doesn't rust or discolor which is pretty handy if you're going to stockpile something.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:10 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


The flea market I got to has probably 20 stalls that each have a beanie baby bin. $1 each seems to be the going rate. Ever few months we paw through one, find a few good ones, and the kids and I go over the idiocy of the Great Beanie Fiasco.

They are a really good quality stuffed animal with a large selection. They might even be collectible some day in a limited sense (my daughter wanted to get one of every cat they had, for instance). But that day is going to be at least 50 years from now.
posted by DU at 12:10 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking at those eBay listings and seeing all the little stuffed animals in their airless plastic cages is eerie and horrible. And seeing them in huge mountains of other stuffed animals is also horrible in a way.

(Did I mention that when I was deciding whether to sell my one little Beanie Baby puppy, it took me a long time to get over the feeling that I shouldn't because it would be sad/a betrayal? Yes, yes, crouton petter.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:15 PM on July 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


What I think a lot of these people lacked the sophistication to understand is the concept of market peak.

Which is interesting, because it's one of those things that, whether you're a striving lower-middle-class person "investing" in Beanie Babies, or a well off person "investing" in houses to flip or dotcom stocks or whatever analogue, NOBODY anticipates the market peak coming.

I remember thinking about this in my high school US history class, when we studied what led to the Great Depression. And my teacher, who was a retired university professor with a PhD and a whole lot of life experience, actually said, in class, that the then-current economic boom of tech and dotcom and the Clinton years was different, because, well, it just was, because we know things about money now that they didn't in the 20's.

Except he was wrong, of course. Nobody sees the market peak coming.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on July 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I suspect gold's rep comes from the fact that it doesn't tarnish, rust, etc. like every other metal known to ancient man. It probably seemed otherworldly...a gift from the gods, to be worshiped and fought over. A bit like the way today's goldbugs act around the stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:21 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Did I mention that when I was deciding whether to sell my one little Beanie Baby puppy, it took me a long time to get over the feeling that I shouldn't because it would be sad/a betrayal? Yes, yes, crouton petter.)

My wife, the original crouton petter, can't get rid of stuffed animals for the same reason. And if I manage to get some into a bag, I have to leave air holes.
posted by DU at 12:23 PM on July 27, 2013 [34 favorites]


There is no there. It's just a handy thing to use for money

Of course there's a there. Surely we have historical records of this. There is a time when people didn't use gold for money -- didn't even have a concept of money -- and then there is a time when people started to use gold for money. Now, maybe all this stuff happened before the historical record, so we don't have access to any information about it. But there must be an anthropologist studying it, archaeological finds, etc.

Maybe there's no "there" at the level of Niall Ferguson selling popular nonfiction paperbacks. But, in terms of scholarship, this is kind of one of the fundamental questions of who we are, as humans living in a complex global society.
posted by Sara C. at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2013


I deal with this every day, though with music collectors, not plush animals. And yes, it's very sad.

A story I like to tell about one of our customers who "collects" CDs:

He brings a copy of The Velvet Underground's White Light / White Heat to the counter. It's an unremastered West German version. $8.99.

"Why are you buying this? You must already have it."

"Actually, I have five copies already. It's the best sounding version."

"If you have five copies, why do you need a sixth?"

"Makes a great gift."

"Then why do you have five copies?"

"I don't know anyone who deserves it."
posted by dobbs at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2013 [39 favorites]


I had a friend who collected Hallmark Christmas ornaments. Same as beanie babies- how can you seriously expect to invest in something that is being created on purpose to have limited supplies but in itself has no intrinsic value? However, I made my peace with it when I saw what happened to her investments in reality. She never "sold" any of her rare "star trek" or "Barbie" ornaments, but she did trade extra ones with other enthusiasts for ornaments she didn't have. It was a parallel economy based on the barter of plastic hang-y things.
posted by acrasis at 12:30 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Beanie Babies are Thomas Kinkade, crocs, fake wood paneling, and happy hour at Applebee's.

How so, 'cause they're things people enjoy and arrogant, judgmental brats look down on them for doing so?
posted by ambient2 at 12:32 PM on July 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


She never "sold" any of her rare "star trek"...

OK FINE I'M GOING TO TAKE MY COUNSELOR TROI ACTION FIGURE OUT OF THE BOX RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. I'm going to do it. Really.

The weird part is that the only reason said action figure is still in the box is that the box copy is REALLY interesting, as a document of early 90's pop culture. I almost can't bear to throw it away. But it would be silly to have a chunk of ripped cardboard just hanging around the house, reminding me of what it was like to be a dorky middle schooler. But I can't bear to get rid of it. Because it's so weird/cool/evocative of a particular emotion.

Especially weird in all these complicated feels is that the actual action figure matters very little to me. Though D would have been a great counterpart to the Beethoven action figure I had a couple years ago. So many sexily accented dream dates. So much hair.
posted by Sara C. at 12:34 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


succulents are where it's at now

What-- no-- really? My 15-year old ebay account is named after a kind of succulent! I GOTTA CASH IN ON THIS
posted by moonmilk at 12:42 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I bought lots and lots of records all through high school--just stuff I wanted to hear, when going to Atomic Records and Earwaves and Rush-Mor was a weekly adventure. I kept them in plastic, but I also listened to all of them, a lot. 4AD, United Dairies, that sort of stuff.

I was pleased to be able to sell almost all of it in the mid-2000s for rather more than I expected. Would not have paid off my student loans, however.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:43 PM on July 27, 2013


You've got to have some Beanie Babies, I mean where else are you going to hide your rare Magic cards?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:44 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got my parents to buy me a beanie baby before anyone, it seemed, knew what they were. It was one of the first ones I think, a black and white cat (Zip, for those of you in the know... one of the rare ones apparently, with the white face, back in 1995). I loved that stupid thing. To be honest, I love a lot of the(non-rainbow-colored)m. But I was just as happy with the generic ones as the Beanie Babies(TM).

I used to play with them like, you know, they were toys. Once a friend of my mother was over and she actually yelled at me for playing with them and asked her if she had actually let me take the tags off. My mom was pretty surprised at her reaction.

Anyway, sometime later a friend of mine's house burned down. Total loss. I didn't really have anything much to offer aside from clothes and dishes we brought to them in trash bags, but I felt so horrible that she had nothing left that I gave her that cat. I mean I loved it, but losing everything seemed bigger than that. I like to think she appreciated it. I was told that I was crazy for doing it though because it was worth SOOOOO MUCH. Apparently today it is worth up to like $350... from the most optimistic price guides. I found one on eBay for $60 bucks buy now, in a plastic case, with no bids.

I still have a few beanie babies (and fake beanie babies). They're pretty cute as toys. I never did understand the craze, though. So many people where I lived (midwest, funnily enough--don't really appreciate the term 'yokels' though) bought into it, did the McDonald's run, bought the happy meals and threw out the food just so they could get the toys. It was insane. I guess we'll see if it comes back someday, but mostly it just strikes me as kind of sad.

I wouldn't mind having Zip back though. I hope that girl enjoyed having him.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:47 PM on July 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yeah, a big record collection with a good proportion of non-shit can bring in OK money. There's an older guy with a brownstone near the big Brooklyn Flea who has a basement full of records from back in the day. Very little of it is hard to find or especially sought after. But every weekend he's got crates on his front stoop. He probably makes a couple hundred dollars a week, and he doesn't even have to leave the house. And his basement is getting slowly less cluttered. That guy is living the dream.
posted by Sara C. at 12:51 PM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think beanie babies are cute. My daughter has a strong attachment to the one the nurse gave her when she ended up in the emergency room.
posted by drezdn at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2013


I picked up Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds at a used book shop about a month ago, and watching this has made me want to finally get around to reading it.

Definitely do. Both Tulipmania and The French North American real estate boom are particular interesting because of the government intervention that took place sorting everything out afterwards.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:56 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never really understood collecting. I had a cousin that bought two copies of comic books, one to read and one that went directly into a plastic sleeve, never to be touched again. My friends in high school collected and traded baseball cards to an obsessive degree. I loved the game, but thought that the packs of cards should still come with gum. I certainly rolled my eyes like a big jerk when my sister would talk about her Beanie Babies.
But a few years back I was at somebody's house and opened a hallway door that wasn't the bathroom, but a linen closet. I let out an audible gasp. I was 8 years old when The Empire Strikes Back came out. This guy had every Star Wars toy from my childhood, still in the original packaging. There was a Jawa, right at eye level. He had the land speeder, he had the Darth Vader with the lightsaber that slid out of his arm, he had the goddamn Millennium Falcon sitting in an unopened box. He had Greedo!
I like the idea of a personal library full of fine first editions, but I'm never going to have that. Otherwise, I never really thought of collecting anything. But I was definitely covetous of that linen closet.
Not really sure what my point is, but I had a flash of the collector's desire. Maybe talking about a collection in terms of an investment provides some cover to people who enjoy whatever they collect from the mockery of friends and family.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:58 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


RE guitar pedals... There are definitely some pedals with hugely inflated prices (especially Klons). The crazy thing about it is most of the rare expensive pedals are easy to reproduce today. The ones that really should be going up in value are the ones with hard or nearly impossible to find parts.
posted by drezdn at 12:58 PM on July 27, 2013


And if you want to buy an electronic component that is going up dramatically in price, there's always the Fairchild J201.
posted by drezdn at 1:00 PM on July 27, 2013


fraula, had I known about that bison beanie baby I would have been all over that. Because BISON.

Actually, I would have bought it like right this instant because look at it but about a month ago I found Buddy Bison and now there's no going back. he comes with a little carabiner on his back! so you can connect him to your belt loop and take him safely on adventures with you to national parks! wif his big brown eyes and his cute big ol' nose. I think he's supposed to be for kids but fuck that
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:01 PM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Same thing happened with Magic the Gathering cards. We bought the cards to play a quick fun game. When they kept coming out with expansions and suddenly value lists I lost interest.

Gave my alphas and betas to a friend, he made 5k off 'em, college kids ain't the brightest (well ONE of 'em was LOL.)
posted by Max Power at 1:03 PM on July 27, 2013


Stuff like old comics being worth thousands of dollars happens because most people at the time thought they were of no importance.

If there's something that's going to be worth thousands of dollars in the future, it's going to be something that doesn't have one of these collecting fads around it.
posted by RobotHero at 1:05 PM on July 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


I actually made it through a period of unemployment in the mid 2000s due in part to Magic the Gathering. Mainly because my brief period of collecting/playing was right at the beginning, so I had a bunch of moxes and a few black lotus and the like. Never worked out the total, but it paid the rent for a few months. But it's the only time I really got into the whole buying entire display boxes thing, so I ended up lucky that the game lasted beyond the fad period.
posted by tavella at 1:06 PM on July 27, 2013


Beanie Babies, baseball cards, comic books, Magic cards.

All the people who invested in these thought this is how the world works. If you have some wit, not even a huge amount, just more than the average, anyone can make some money. It's not based on work, it's not the creation of wealth, it's not privilege, they thought. It's virtue -- the virtue of being intelligent, of being better than others. Not just a distraction from where the real money was being made throughout the 90s, but a way to take part in it, like Beanie Babies could match the money being made in finance.

It wasn't just them being fooled, by Ty -- remember them? I searched the thread for the name and didn't find it -- by their friends, by the fucking media. It was their worldview that fooled them. When Beanie Babies collapsed, so did that view of the world. No longer were they the ones in the know, the ones who would make out like bandits -- they were just schmucks, with the rest of us, were so all along, and more so because they once had the audacity to believe. And it was an inherently conservative worldview.

It is fashionable to say the world never changes, that people now are always being taken for suckers, that there's another thing in the cycle coming on. But really, you don't see things being looked at with the investment intensity of Beanie Babies any more. And even the "real" investments, the ones that people's retirements were based on, a lot of that evaporated not so long ago.

These things do change over time. Worldviews change. This is what it looks like when it happens.
posted by JHarris at 1:07 PM on July 27, 2013 [27 favorites]


My first job was at McDonald's, and we would occasionally have beanie babies as the toy that went in the happy meal. Each week when we were supposed to drop the next animal there would be nonstop cars in the drive thru, with adults buying 15 or 20 happy meals, and having ridiculous melt downs screaming "THE ELEPHANT WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK I ALREADY HAVE THE GODDAMN ELEPHANT GIVE ME THE DONKEY OR ILL CUT YOU YOU LITTLE SHIT."

I resorted to hiding them in the ceiling tiles of our store for my aunt (who, to this day, loves me the best because I got her complete collections) because my fellow managers couldn't be trusted not to swipe them and sell them.

We also had people buying Happy Meals and just dumping the food out the window into the parking lot. Awful.

However, that HAD to be the most successful thing McDonald's ever did. The store I worked at did on average $2500 - $3000 a day in sales. On a really, really busy day, we might hit $5000. During the Beenie Baby thing, we did multiple $15,000 days. All cash; no credit card machines then. I never saw so much cash in my life. (This was [flurf] years ago, when value meals were $2.99 and the average check was something like $3.12.)
posted by gjc at 1:07 PM on July 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


So if you ever meet me IRL and you're interested, ask me what it was like to work for the company who ran Ty's website back then. Hint: if you want to kill a designer's soul, make him try to please this customer.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:08 PM on July 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


If there's something that's going to be worth thousands of dollars in the future, it's going to be something that doesn't have one of these collecting fads around it.

That's why I've cornered the market on Zunes.
posted by drezdn at 1:08 PM on July 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


You know, I willingly spend absurd amounts of money on antique books that I know aren't actually worth anything, but I do it because I love them and to me, they are worth the money. I understand that im being gouged and just don't care; in fact, if the seller tries to convince me that the book is really valuable, or important, or worth money i often won't buy it just because i know they are full of ahit and it angers me. Sometimes I even (gasp!) Have them rebound, thus effectively making them worthless if they had any value to begin with.

It's sorts the same with these "collector" things. I mean, i think lots of people understand that they aren't really valuable. But it's sort of a fun game. I can look at my beautiful old editions and feel like they're valuble- i dont have anything else like that. In a way, the beanies et al aren't worthless... I mean, they're worth what someone is willing to pay for them, they're worth someone's desire to have them.Also they is snugglies. I wuv snugglies.
posted by windykites at 1:09 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


RE guitar pedals... There are definitely some pedals with hugely inflated prices (especially Klons). The crazy thing about it is most of the rare expensive pedals are easy to reproduce today. The ones that really should be going up in value are the ones with hard or nearly impossible to find parts.

Which is surprising, since the pedals were nothing but basic electronic components connected together in interesting ways. If you have a schematic, you should be able to solder together anything nowadays. (And to your point, why would you when a $2 DSP chip can do what ALL the pedals could do. Plus, make the guitar sound like a saxaphone if you want.)
posted by gjc at 1:10 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there's something that's going to be worth thousands of dollars in the future, it's going to be something that doesn't have one of these collecting fads around it.

Worth thousands of dollars in your lifetime anyway. If you could come up with a well preserved Dutch tulip bulb from 1635 I'm sure you could find quite a few buyers.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:14 PM on July 27, 2013


Plus, make the guitar sound like a saxaphone if you want.

WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:14 PM on July 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


A while back I remember reading about the "useless valley" for collectibles. I think the name was sort of a take on the "uncanny valley" concept. Basically, you have an early peak where it's worth a lot, then a rather long gulley -- the aforementioned useless valley -- where it's worth basically nothing, and then finally, years later, a peak where it's finally old and rare enough to be considered antique. My guess is the height of the first peak predicts the length of the useless valley. Are beanies worth anything now? Nope. Still too much inventory. Will they be worth anything 50 years from now? Doubtful. 100 years from now? Maybe. 200? You better believe it!
posted by evil otto at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


You guys are taking such a short view of this.

They are made out of cloth and beans, both degrade quickly. In 2 or 3 thousand years they are going to be worth their weight in credits, gold pressed latinum, or likes, whichever we are using for currency.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:31 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This short 1998 article on the role of price guides in manipulating collectibles markets is particularly enlightening.
posted by fairmettle at 1:33 PM on July 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


To follow up my own comment:
It's virtue -- the virtue of being intelligent, of being better than others.

The people at the top of the financial heap? The ones with power and privilege, who got rich even when the financial system nearly collapsed a few short years ago, through whatever means available to them, including -- and I am surprised both that this term has become common enough to be coined and generally understood, and that anyone can pronounce this term without shaking with rage -- regulatory capture, their worldview sees it as being about their virtue, too.
posted by JHarris at 1:44 PM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


They are made out of cloth and beans, both degrade quickly.

They are made of 100% petrochemicals, actually. Maybe it's best to think of them as ingots of PVC and/or polyethylene.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on July 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you live in the rural US, then you know people who did this. Hundreds of thousands of yokels did this.

Huh. Never knew Chicago was the rural U.S.! (I worked with a woman in the mid-'90s who was a financial administrator for subsidiary of a fairly large insurance firm in Chicago, and she was planning on retiring on her Beanie Baby investments. When I tried to point out -- no doubt in a not very diplomatic way, admittedly -- that this seemed like a not-great idea to me, she shrugged me off by saying, "well, you're a Marxist, so you would think that.")

So yeah, lots of people did this... but they were rural and urban and suburban people alike.
posted by scody at 2:17 PM on July 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


I've been binge watching a show on Netflix called Hollywood Treasures where people find movie related collectibles, and then auction them off. Some of the items bring in tens of thousands of dollars, and most things go for at least four figures.

Even though I've collected a few things in my day, I never really got the extreme interest people had in the items until, in one of the last episodes of the season, they found the Rocketeer helmet. I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't an amazing or important movie, but as a kid I couldn't wait to see it when I saw the first picture of the main character on a magazine cover. I loved that movie when I saw it. While I will probably never be able to spend the $10k it took to by it, I could finally understand the impulse.
posted by drezdn at 2:27 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's why I've cornered the market on Zunes.

You joke but there is just enough of a demand of (and a very limited supply of) Zunes (particularly the 64GB HD models) that they are actually holding their value fairly well. I haven't seen or heard of any unopened Zunes since Microsoft pulled the plug on them but the used ones, while not selling above original retail, are still expensive enough that you would recoup most of your money if you sold one second-hand.

And yes, I own a Zune. 120 GB, second generation. Love it.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:42 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


By the way, if anyone finds any Gizmos in the UK, let me know. I could always use more.

(I don't have plans for burying myself in toy lemurs...no...)
posted by Katemonkey at 2:52 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh man reading about McDonald's and Beanie Babies gave me flashbacks to when I was managing a Burger King when Pokemon hit. Never have so many little hamburgers been so quickly assembled and then promptly thrown in the trash.

Fuck Pikachu and you too Jigglypuff.

There's a thesis to be written about the Beanie Baby, Pokemon, Furby and Tickle-me Elmo debacles but I don't think any of us want to really know what it would tell us about ourselves.
posted by M Edward at 2:55 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aha and regarding gold and Magic cards, Burger King sold gold-plated Pokemon character cards.

Talk about hitting all the notes.
posted by M Edward at 2:58 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Beanie Babies, baseball cards, comic books, Magic cards.

There is a subset of Magic cards that has only gotten more valuable over the years. I mean things I thought were pricey when I used to play 10 years ago are just nuts now. But like with everything else it's the stuff from before people knew they were collectible.
posted by atoxyl at 3:00 PM on July 27, 2013


Holy shit, if you had told me out of context that thing about people throwing off so much food for the greed of a few silly toys, I'd laughed you out as a urban legend. We surely are a bunch of creative fuckers when it comes to finding new ways of being assholes.
posted by Iosephus at 3:25 PM on July 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


all i am taking away from this thread is that there are gold plated pokemon cards and i don't have any
posted by elizardbits at 3:29 PM on July 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have two Beanie Babies. My boyfriend and I found them in the sale bin at a vintage clothes shop in Boston. One is a blue/purple T Rex, the other is a brown/green stegosaur.

I clipped the tags off when I got them home, and they now live in my bed. They are adopted brother and sister; Zoya is protective of her little herbivorous brother Stevie.

I think we spent $5 on the pair of them. No idea if they're worth something. Don't care. They're my little bedtime cuddle buddies, along with a scruffy raccoon named Charlotte and a spider from Ikea.

Fuck collecting.
posted by egypturnash at 3:38 PM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not berating working class people or poor people for trying their best in surviving in economies where the deck is stacked against them, just pointing out how bad people can be at making sound financial decisions and the terrible terrible long-term implications of this.

Just a friendly reminder that making bad financial decisions is by no means limited to poor/rural people. Plenty of rich cityfolk do it too. How would you like to hear about an investment that is almost totally opaque (so near impossible to tell exactly *how* it makes you money), has incredibly flawed benchmarks with which to measure relative performance, has a (for the most part) terrible track record, very little regulation or protection for investors, and charges outsized fees for the privilege of all of the above? Hey - sign me up!!

And don't even get me started on gold, which has about as much investment value as beanie babies, despite what the goldbugs would tell you about malleability, transferability or whatever else. I'd write a little mini-essay on it right now, but I'm already late to meet my friends for Wolverine.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:16 PM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


atoyxl: "There is a subset of Magic cards that has only gotten more valuable over the years. I mean things I thought were pricey when I used to play 10 years ago are just nuts now. But like with everything else it's the stuff from before people knew they were collectible."

Yeah, checking ebay it looks like the original moxes are going for $350+, and black lotus for $500+. And ancestral recall has gotten crazy too. They were only going for $100+ when I sold mine. But I regret nothing, they kept me in food and housing when I needed it, and I hadn't played for a decade.

I think the secret is, it's fine to be an obsessive collector because you enjoy the collecting, but never try to do it as an investment. Sure, you might come up lucky but 99 percent of the time you won't .
posted by tavella at 4:18 PM on July 27, 2013


The father in the documentary... he's an actor. I remember him from 12 O'Clock High and then he was on General Hospital for years and, based on the other documentary by his son, has lived a amorously entangled life... just creepy and disturbing. All those boxes and crates in storage because he still thinks that maybe...
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


But every time I read something that I think is going to go into the transition of gold from "rare and pretty" into the basis of the global economy, this part is glossed over and we go from "rare and easy to work" directly to "let's talk about 15th century Spain"..

David Graeber's DEBT: THE FIRST 5000 YEARS (one of many Metafilter discussions) I think tries to address this. Essentially, it's not "why gold?" as much as "why not gold?" All human societies create "money" all the time to keep track of who is in debt to whom. It's not about barter, it's about honour and trust and status.
posted by alasdair at 4:49 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I go to a lot of estate sales (primarily for voyeuristic purposes and to buy useful junk) and today I went to two sales that reminded me of this doc.

One house had thousands of cookbooks (including multiple copies of weird books like "Cooking with Hunks" (as in beefcake, not beef) thousands of cookie cutters, thousands of dishes and mugs and teapots. And pots and pans and steamers.... This giant house filled to the brim with "collected" stuff that in the end will likely go into the dumpster! Sure, it's nice to have extra dishes for a party, but I suspect this woman threw no parties. There was no room because there was too much stuff.

The second was full of collectable Barbies (in their boxes!) Disney "collectables" and at least 50 six packs of mini-coke bottles (unopened! who wants 10 year old cola?) along with Coke memorabilia. Hopefully that stuff brought he person enjoyment because their heirs aren't set for life from the proceeds. At least in that case, the stuff was a manageable amount.

I did pick up some nice carbon steel knives for a buck each, but knives are useful for keeping people away from my collections.
posted by vespabelle at 4:53 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had to go look, after watching this, and there are still people who think that Princess is worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

Having lived through all that madness, I keep thinking, one of these days I'm going to buy one just to take the tag off it.
posted by Sequence at 4:56 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, it's better than the (possibly apocryphal) story of the kids who were given a Curta from a deceased relative's estate, and promptly started to lob it about like it was a grenade, finally smashing it on the road. Yes, a Curta; upwards of $800 of irreplaceable mechanical jewelry.

That's my serving of fear soup for the day …
posted by scruss at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2013


I had to go look, after watching this, and there are still people who think that Princess is worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

i checked out princess diana bear beanie babies - prices were everywhere from 99c to 395k!

that's insane

oddly enough, the 99c one is being bid on
posted by pyramid termite at 5:16 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Advertised prices are meaningless.

You need to look at the price sales have occured at.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:21 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had the misfortune to have a summer job at a hallmark card shop during the height of the boom. It was a nightmare. Spoiled children who's parents said they'd by one, then throwing a fit in the store until they got five (complete with the parent giving me an "isn't his raw greed adorable?" look). Of course, the worst were the adults, demanding to know when the new shipmen would be in, literally hovering while the manager opened the boxes. It was brutal, and one of the reasons when, as the manager was asking if I'd like to be promoted to assistant manager, I apologized and gave my two weeks.

From there I ended up at a Best Buy. It was not a good summer.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:23 PM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I don't know anyone who deserves it."

This is why I have four copies of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I can't pass up a copy at a used book sale, but I can't seem to pass them on either.

And I have the damn book in every digital format too, so it's not like I need any hard copies at this point...

posted by elsietheeel at 5:31 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Back in the 80's I had friends who "collected" comic books like Captain Carrot

Ut! They should have been collecting Flaming Carrot.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:40 PM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


My great aunt Elena lived in rural Florida with her rural Florida sons. She got Alzheimers and when she did her sons had a garage sale, and sold everything in her house. Some of the things they sold were these pretty cut glass cups and silver-plated trays with a funny-looking bird on them. They sold them to, like, the local orthodontist, for $25.

Many years later I had just come back from Russia and was talking to my grandmother (Elena's sister) about the experience. She sighed and said, "You know, our family has a connection with Russia. Your great aunt Elena married a fellow from up north, and one of his ancestors helped Peter the Great bring the railroads to Russia. To thank him, Peter gave him these cut crystal goblets and silver platters with his crest on them. We 'bout died when Steve sold them in the garage sale."

Two decades later, I still wake up screaming over this memory.
posted by staggering termagant at 5:43 PM on July 27, 2013 [16 favorites]



A few years ago when I was getting things for my house I would attend estate auctions. They were a great place to get household goods for really cheap. One auction had all these dolls in boxes. They looked like nice dolls with pretty dresses and frills. A few of them sold for quite a bit and then there were a bunch left that nobody seemed to want. I had no interest in collecting dolls but decided that if they were going for this cheap I'd get the lot and use them as gifts or donate them to something like a Christmas toy drive. I bought them for three dollars each and they got put on a shelf and promptly forgotten.

A year or so later I saw them again and decided to check and see if they were worth anything. Ended up some of them seemed to be according to prices on E-bay. I decided to see if one would actually sell and ended up getting 80 bucks for it. I stuck the rest back on the shelf, thinking they might be worth more in a few years. I haven't thought of them until now. I should check.

Even with that happening I have no interest in collecting and especially not dolls. I figure getting them at the price I did was just luck.
posted by Jalliah at 5:43 PM on July 27, 2013


This little documentary left out more than it told; it's interesting that the filmmaker chose such a short format. The othe doc 'Bastard' is short, too. Also leaves out a bunch. But it does address the fact that his dad is a pretty well known soap opera actor, Chris Robinson aka Dr. Webber on General Hospital. The family tree that Chris Jr lays out is pretty wild. He finds out he's the second Chris Jr. along with other siblings that his other 'current' siblings know nothing about.

There should be a full length film about Chris Sr, as he seems like a real character. Here he is on a talk show with one of the daughters from an earlier family talking about his time in jail. Then he's not a real doctor but he plays one on TV, shilling for cough syrup. The trail that led him to hoarding Beanie Babies would be quite the cautionary tale.

This kid has a gold mine of subjects without ever leaving the house.
posted by readery at 6:06 PM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have to admit a fair degree of shaudenfreud at stories like this, because at the time this was going on, there was absolutely no talking to these (type of) people. Any hint of skepticism was treated as pure cynicism. Any words of caution were considered defeatist. All we got was a "look at these prices" and a "just wait, you'll see!"

I've never given them an "I told you so," but neither have I gotten a "welp, you were right." Can only hope they've learned something.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:35 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've got 200 copies! I'm waiting for the market to peak!
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:08 PM on July 27 [32 favorites +] [!]


In a few years, you'll realize this wasn't actually funny enough to warrant 32 favorites. But it will be too late, I will have cashed my favorites in for bitcoins by then - then I will be unstoppable.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:57 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


There was a local shop that sold beanie babies almost exclusively at the peak of the hysteria that my daughter and I used to visit on walks. She liked them and would get them regularly as presents. It was a handy destination. Also I had a client that I did books for a few storefronts down. The owner of the shop was so thrilled with the business and was thinking of expanding in to the neighboring space. She knew I did financial work for others and would talk to me about me potentially taking on their business. I avoided that like the plague. You could see that it had no long term potential. I hoped her husband being there more was not due to him quitting a job to grow the beanie baby business.

I've seen it enough doing accounting for small businesses. People start down a path and it becomes difficult to admit defeat, so they double down on the same losing strategy. I've hated to be the one to point out they would be taking a loss rather than making a profit for the year.

There was a special creepy,crazy quality to the adults that would wait around the shops for the shipments and go to multiple McDonalds to acquire their investments.
posted by readery at 7:02 PM on July 27, 2013


and at least 50 six packs of mini-coke bottles (unopened! who wants 10 year old cola?)

Go to youtube and type in "Crystal Pepsi."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The word for that, readery, is desperation.
posted by JHarris at 7:09 PM on July 27, 2013


When my daughter was very little I brought home a tie-dye Sammy Sosa beanie baby for her. She fell in love with it and lugged it around everywhere. Chammy, she called him. One day it got left at the playground. We told her he was visiting his friends, and in the meantime I found a place online and ordered another one special delivery; I probably paid $15 or so for it. It arrived two days later, and when she took a nap I put it next to her while she was sleeping. When she woke up, she looked at it for a few seconds—the tie dye pattern was definitely different, so it took some contemplating—then held it up and yelped joyously, "Chammy!" Later I found a miniature version of the same doll and brought it home, and that became Baby Chammy.

She stills has the two of them, up on a shelf above her bed. They are not for sale.
posted by stargell at 7:40 PM on July 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


My son's Very Special Bear is a Ty brand bear, but it's not beanie baby bear, it's a 12" bear that we bought from the MOMA (or MET) catalog years ago (far before he was born). The catalog called him "Art the Bear" and I'm desperate to find another one in case one day good ol' Art goes on walkabout someday. But 12" Ty brown bears are illusive, to say the least, and when you find a pre-beanie Ty bear they go for more than $100 (often).

Yeah, checking ebay it looks like the original moxes are going for $350+, and black lotus for $500+. And ancestral recall has gotten crazy too. They were only going for $100+ when I sold mine. But I regret nothing, they kept me in food and housing when I needed it, and I hadn't played for a decade.

Just about a week ago we discovered my husband's old Magic cards in the back of a closet. We had a friend who managed a gaming store just at the time they were coming out, and so we ended up with a lot of cards, but none after the third expansion came out. After a bit of research, we sold a total of 9 cards for over $3000 -- enough to pay the oil bill for the winter. I suspect it's stories like ours that make people think they're still collectable when they really are not.
posted by anastasiav at 8:09 PM on July 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I kind of think that keeping a toy in mint condition is just sad. Not because I believe they have feelings, but because they are made for playing with, and yes, for being worn out and destroyed. A linen closet full of unopened, packaged toys is like looking at hours of happy play time that never happened. What a waste. A battered Luke Skywalker missing his light saber might not be worth money, but he made some kid happy.

I distinctly remember someone bringing on an antique toy truck to Antiques Road Show, and telling how their mother had never let them play with it for more than an hour or so, and made them put it back in the box, so it was in amazing condition and had all the little parts. It was worth a few thousand. The old guy bringing it in still seemed a little bitter about the whole thing; I don't think the money made up for never being able to play with his own damn toy.
posted by emjaybee at 8:36 PM on July 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


Speaking of the Antiques Road Show, during the summer months they show old episodes from the 90's, with the addition of graphics and sound fx showing the 2013 appraised value of each item.

A surprisingly large percentage are accompanied by the deflating sound effect.
posted by fairmettle at 8:52 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: well, you're a Marxist, so you would think that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:03 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


sbutler: "There was an interesting article for the rational as to why our ancestors settle on gold as the must-have precious metal. From my recollection, came down to a couple reasons:

- Hard to fake. The color of gold is very distinctive among metals, and it's difficult to plate something with gold and come up with the same weight and density.
"

I'm no expert, but I've read that Tungsten with a 1/16th of an inch plating of gold would be rather difficult to detect.

For more info, please read here.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:27 PM on July 27, 2013


Oh my god, Sara C. opened the box!
posted by avocet at 9:31 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


(here is my cat posing with Deanna while she was still in the box.)
posted by avocet at 9:33 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hm, maybe this thread is what makes me finally take Challenger out of the box and assemble it.
posted by avocet at 10:14 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


In addition to "Extraordinary Popular Delusions," I suggest "This Time Is Different", which basically teaches you every bubble is full of people insisting that THIS TIME is really different from literally every other bubble because REASONS.

My aunt is one of the last true believers holding out for her Beanie Baby riches. When she was evacuating from Katrina those were the first things in her car (and she has hundreds of the damn things). They're basically her retirement plan and her kids' inheritance. It's amusing and sad in equal measure.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:22 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's a thesis to be written about the Beanie Baby, Pokemon, Furby and Tickle-me Elmo debacles but I don't think any of us want to really know what it would tell us about ourselves.
posted by M Edward at 2:55 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


Sadly, the PhD in humanities might be a worse investment than any of these.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 10:23 PM on July 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Still, we had guys argue, "But the price guide says!" Some people just refused to understand."

The rule is, if you had it as a kid but lost it at some point, it's worth a lot of money. If you still have it, it might be worth some money if it still had some fiddly little part you lost along the way, but without that fiddly little part, it's not worth anything really. If you have something and it's in great condition and it has all its parts and you think it really might be worth something, it's worthless.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:30 PM on July 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


My friend has the yellow duck with no wings - apparently the third most rare beanie baby. I don't know what the company called it; his name is Fred.

He has no tag. He has been taken everywhere and loved and gotten dirty and washed and loved some more. He's priceless.
posted by jb at 11:05 PM on July 27, 2013


"...Your great aunt Elena married a fellow from up north, and one of his ancestors helped Peter the Great bring the railroads to Russia. To thank him, Peter gave him these cut crystal goblets and silver platters with his crest on them. We 'bout died when Steve sold them in the garage sale."

If it makes you feel better, the story isn't true, not as it was told here. Peter the Great died in 1725; the first steam railroad was demonstrated in 1804. (Thanks, Wikipedia). Maybe it was a royal Russian crest, maybe it was one of so many other aristocratic crests. Or maybe it was just a crest that a mass manufacturer put on them. There's no way to know. But the dishes can't have been early 18th century dishes awarded for spreading a 19th century invention.
posted by jb at 11:15 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


They're basically her retirement plan and her kids' inheritance. It's amusing and sad in equal measure.

I'd suggest upsetting, maybe heart-rending.
posted by JHarris at 12:37 AM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


They are made of 100% petrochemicals, actually. Maybe it's best to think of them as ingots of PVC and/or polyethylene.

I'm collecting them so that after Peak Oil, I can sell them to the Road Warrior in exchange for getting me out of Bartertown.
posted by hattifattener at 2:16 AM on July 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


jenlovesponies: “I kept waiting for the reveal that Mom and Dad were divorced.”
It was in the credits.

Also, am I correct in my understanding of the denouement that this man spent $100,000 buying these dolls?
posted by ob1quixote at 4:16 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


My black market beanie baby biographical goes thusly. I worked at a McDonalds during the bulk of the Beanie Baby fad. Whenever the boxes came in with the treasured plush dolls, me and the other early morning guy would take a full set for ourselves. Then it was just a matter of waltzing into a Beanie Baby show and whispering the right person that you are unloading a full set of as-yet-unreleased Beanie Babies. Then the bidding war began.
posted by mediocre at 1:26 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I still have my one BB - Claude the Tye-Dyed Crab. No tags. I love him because I got him long before I got my nickname (Crabster). Sentimental value.
posted by sundrop at 4:50 PM on July 28, 2013


I love Beanie Babies. I can get them at the thrift store for 50 cents each. And when my 3-year-old loses the favorite-of-the-week, I am sure to be able to find the identical replacement without much trouble.

Last week a local woman was trying to sell the Princess Diana bear on our facebook group version of craigslist. She had multiple bears listed at $60+, but not a nibble of interest from the group. I didn't think she's appreciate it if I offered her a buck a piece.
posted by belladonna at 6:05 PM on July 28, 2013


Hey, it's what the market will bear. (Get it?)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:40 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


When she woke up, she looked at it for a few seconds—the tie dye pattern was definitely different, so it took some contemplating—then held it up and yelped joyously, "Chammy!"

That's sort of like the last year a kid believes in Santa Claus. She knew it wasn't the same bear, but decided it was easier to be happy than it was to start asking all kinds of questions.
posted by gjc at 7:26 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know what collecting I don't get at all? Old oil stuff. I watch Canadian Pickers and American Pickers and they love old oil cans. I get why they are valuable, in that they are super rare, as they almost got oily, but why on earth would you want to decorate your house to look like a gas station, which seems to be what people are doing?

I get Star Wars stuff, I 'collect' that myself (as in, if I see it at a garage sale cheap, then I buy it, and put it on a shelf with the rest of my beat-up childhood toys that I know will never be worth money, except for the very old Yoda that still has his cloth cape, as I got him when I was old enough to not destroy him while playing). But that brings back good childhood memories. Who has good childhood memories of a gas station?
posted by Canageek at 12:09 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do, because my grandfather used to own one, an old time gas station/garage social hub combo. The best thing was the soft drink machine that dispensed icy cold, real glass bottles of soda. Mmmmmm root beer. And Orange Crush. And the lively chatter, the fascinating and mysterious array of machines and tools, the sun slanting in through the high windows of the garage, the elixir scent of petrol, oil, rubber, etc. Intoxicating!

It still doesn't give me the urge to decorate my house with oil cans though.
posted by taz at 12:49 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a Beanie Baby Facehugger in a drawer somewhere. It was a promo thing for Alien Resurrection.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:21 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think Magic cards, at this point, count as a bubble. People want to play with them, so there's a market, supply and demand determine prices, and they're pretty liquid. A really expensive Magic card would be like $20. Of course, they aren't really investments either, because nobody expects value to go up a huge amount, because:

If a card was really rare and also good, it would probably eventually get reprinted, meaning that the old version would only be scarce from the perspective of a collector. Upon doing some research, it seems like they've promised not to reprint a few very rare and way-too-good cards from the earliest years of Magic, which is why these have insane prices.

Of course, sometimes a card will spike in value because newly-released cards interact with it in interesting strategic ways. It seems like if you worked for Wizards of the Coast, you could make a fair amount of money "insider trading" by buying up cards that you know are about to become good.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:27 AM on July 29, 2013


Beanie Baby Facehugger

GRABBIEST OF HANDS
posted by elizardbits at 9:42 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here you go elizardbits
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on July 29, 2013


I like that mom is speaking from the faux travertine "Tuscan" kitchen of a McMansion.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:33 AM on July 29, 2013


You know what collecting I don't get at all? Old oil stuff. I watch Canadian Pickers and American Pickers and they love old oil cans. I get why they are valuable, in that they are super rare, as they almost got oily, but why on earth would you want to decorate your house to look like a gas station, which seems to be what people are doing?

Not a house, but a finished garage, basement, rec-room or other "Man Cave", where it evokes imagery of classic cars in their heyday, and motoring along between all-night diners resplendent in neon and googie style. Still kinda dumb, but loads better than the light-up spinning Schlitz globe my grandma had.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:20 AM on July 29, 2013


Still kinda dumb, but loads better than the light-up spinning Schlitz globe my grandma had.

You shut your big dumb head, dumbhead! Must have all the major beer label promotional glass geegaws
posted by Fezboy! at 6:56 PM on July 29, 2013


don't think Magic cards, at this point, count as a bubble.

If there was a Magic bubble, I think it's height was right before Fallen Empires came out.
posted by drezdn at 8:31 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


vogon_poet and drezdn: In response to an early crash of the market when they reprinted a bunch of cards, WotC created a 'Reserve list' of cards they pledged never to reprint, to keep the prices stable and keep collectors happy. However, in 2002 they apparently removed a bunch of cards from it, (cheaper ones, to be fair) making them available for reprint, breaking this promise. This didn't raise too many waves, as it was due to fans asking for a bunch of cards back, but yeah.
posted by Canageek at 10:23 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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