Further Beanie Baby Thoughts

Beanie baby elephant on the grass surrounded by daisiesWell, once again I didn’t post an update on Monday as promised. So shoot me! We are moving along, though, and the electrician will make his second appearance for the week today, at which time the kitchen will have its lighting. So I’ll post a picture of that. Our dear family is being v-e-r-y tolerant of the mess. We’re in a trough right now where we can’t go ahead and finish unloading the furniture for the main living space because of the aforementioned carpet problem. Friday is the deadline for getting everything out of the pods; otherwise we’ll have to pay for an extra month.

In the meantime, though, I finished listening to the book on the Beanie Baby craze that I posted about on Friday. I wanted to add a few thoughts to what I said then. I was reminded of something I’d read in a book about a priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles, Tattoos on the Heart, getting them out of the gangs and into decent jobs. One former gangbanger said that the money he made in drug dealing was “dirty money,” and that it never lasted long. But the money he made working at Homeboy Industries was different. It was money he’d made honestly, and he spent it differently. Money is money, obviously, but I think the guy was completely correct: how you make the money makes a difference.

So, not to draw too straight of a line between a drug dealer and a Beanie Baby speculator or anything like that, but they’re both pandering to base human instincts, one the desire to forget one’s troubles and get high, the other to get in on a too-good-to-be-true deal. (To be fair, there were plenty of people who just started out buying the toys for their kids and then as time went on got sucked into the craze.) The “secondary market” in the toys, in which they were re-sold, became hotter and hotter. People tied up tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the toys, warehousing them, cataloging them, and waiting for just the right time to sell. Some actually thought of their BB collections as long-term investments, an idea that was completely ludicrous. Others became obsessed and consumed with the desire to gather as complete of a set as possible. I have to admit that as I listened to the section of the book detailing some of the cutest BB characters I felt a little tug—not a big one–especially as I remembered the crab. So adorable! I doubt that I’ll ever be sucked into the “collectible” craze, but you never know. Remembering the TW story would be a good antidote if that happens.

Probably the most interesting, and the saddest, parts of the book deal with Ty Warner himself, the man who became a billionaire off of plush toys. It’s kind of jarring to think of a grown man obsessing over just the right eyes for a stuffed animal, just the right texture, just the right colors. His first line of plush (that’s the industry term) consisted of stuffed cats, and when he displayed them at trade shows he would groom each one, brushing the fur and making sure that it was trimmed neatly around the eyes. But this loving care didn’t extend to actual, like, people. One of the most striking facts in the book is that he refused to help out his sister, who’s struggling with heath problems and working various low-paying jobs. He turned down her request for a loan—a loan, mind you—that she needed in order to pay for surgery. And yet, since he never married and has no children, and since he has so far refused to make a will, she will almost certainly inherit his immense fortune when he dies.

And where is the Ty Warner saga going now? Well, in 2014 Warner was convicted of tax evasion. If you don’t feel up to a whole book about him and his empire, you can read this article from 2014: “Behind the Beanie Babies: The Secret Life of Ty Warner.” The Bissonnette book goes farther into the present; I won’t describe what Ty is doing as the book ends since I do want you to read it, but the whole thing is very, very ironic.

Such a great cautionary tale!

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