I started this blog because I have a strange, unfortunate, esoteric knowledge that I feel is going wasted. I know way too much about Beanie Babies. And now, 20-some years after the popularity of those adorable bundles of beans went parabolic, I am seeing reporting by outlets that would otherwise be considered reputable.
Another confession: I still collect these things. It’s a nostalgic outlet for me. There are a lot of Beanie Babies that I could only ever dream of having as a child. Now that I’m an adult, and in the wake of the devastation of prices, those dream lots are now affordable to me. Rex the tyrannosaurus? Steg the Stegosaurus? Bronty the Brontosaurus? Spot without a spot? All of these are Beanie Babies that once made casual collectors froth at the mouth. They were retired, removed from the supply, before the average person entered the market.
So I needed a place to do two thing. 1) As I research prices for Beanie Babies, I am creating a bit of a repository wherein I track what people have paid. It affects what I, myself am willing to pay as well. And the analysis here will be reasoned and simple. Perhaps it will help fight back against these stupid stories about Princess Diana Beanies being sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s an important exercise for me in some sense because I think that the sort of casual reporting that occurs in the world of esoteric products like this is indicative of the rest of news. If the news can’t get their reporting right on news about Beanie Babies or they can’t get their facts right about Ebay listings, how can you possibly trust them to report politics? How can you trust them to report science? How can you trust them at all? This is my small contribution to correcting the record about something stupid so that you can know what kind of fact checking is needed to stave off a case of the conspiracies for something more important.
Looking at Beanie Baby Search Volume
Since 2004, search volume has remained fairly consistent. Just take a look:
Suddenly in January 2014, we see an enormous spike. And every few months thereafter, spikes in search show up. So what happened in January 2014? Returning to search volume charts, we can see that something happened between January 13 and 17 of that year.
In going back, I have tried to trace what exactly happened. It appears that the event that sparked the renewed interest during this time period may have been what was happening to Ty Warner himself. He was convicted of tax evasion for hiding a tiny portion of his fortune overseas.
But it happens again in October 2014.
Well, get ready to laugh. This renewed interest came from a hoax article about how the spider eggs that your beanies are filled with are finally hatching. The story is funny, and evidently believable enough to have forced Snopes and others to write articles informing people that it’s a hoax.
Then again in April 2015.
As best I can tell, this is the beginning of the idiocy. The article that sparked the interest here is a Daily Mail article that claims a couple bought a Princess Diana Beanie Baby only to realize that the item was worth £62,500. Bullshit! It was never worth that, and this news story is a great example of some of the crappiest reporting you’ll find. But the reporter, Steph Cockroft, will have absolutely no consequences because the subject matter is non-consequential. You want to understand how we got here with media, this is it. Reporters cut their teeth on inconsequential crap, and they get promoted to higher level positions.
In this case, the report basically explains that a couple bought a Princess Diana Beanie Baby at a store. When they got home they saw that there were some listed at over £60k. So the Daily Mail reports that that is what it’s worth. It’s literally a news story about an arbitrary number that some person put on an ebay listing. It might seem innocuous, but there is a less than small chance that people may even move to buy these products on this news story. Alas… I digress.
The next spike occurs in August 2016.
Best I can tell, this spike was caused by an article in ZMOnline entitled If You Have Any of These Beanie Babies, You’re Rich. This is another insane piece alleging all sorts of crazy prices for Beanie Babies that aren’t worth what they are claiming.
It happens again in 2018. This time, it’s Cosmo. The stupidity of this column, written by Jen Ortiz undergirds the point that media literally does nothing to fact check.
The Cosmo article was disseminated everywhere. It was republished on lots of major news outlets, and was picked up all over by local news and radio stations.