Beanie Babies, Naked Barbie, American Pickers and Old Coots

As we begin preparing for our move we’ve been poking thru our various boxes and bins looking for stuff we don’t want to pay to move.  Which, for me, is just about everything.  I love getting rid of stuff.

In one of those plastic bins (the oversized version) is my daughter’s collection of Beanie Babies.  Boy howdy, do I hate these things.

On the off-chance you missed it, or were smart enough to just ignore it, BBs were all the rage in the mid to late 1990s.  They are little bean bags in the shape of various animals and the Ty Company was cranking them out just as fast as they could come up with new versions.

Each had a little tag with the BB’s name.  How cute.

This was perfect timing for my little girl as she was about 4 to 10 while this was going on.  Between those we bought for her and those she got as gifts she wound up with around 100 of the little sacks.

One day at work a woman mentioned that she was “investing” in BBs and that these were going to finance her kids’ college educations beginning in about a decade.  What the….

A little quick research showed that, sure enough, these things had become “collectable” and people were rushing to pay ever-increasing dollars for “discontinued” Babies.


Now I have no crystal ball, but the most rudimentary understanding of supply and demand economics was enough to know this could only end badly.  Most likely sooner rather than later.

After failing to convince my colleague of the flaws in her “investment” plan (hey at least I tried), I rushed home.

“Gather up the Beanie Babies,” I said to my wife and daughter in delight.  “We’re going to make a killing!”

“No Daddy,” said my little girl.  “I love my Beanie Babies.  They are not for sale.”

“Quickly now.  This bubble will be bursting momentarily.”

“You can’t sell our daughter’s toys,” said my wife.

“Sure we can!  By the way, you didn’t take the tags off did you?”


“I don’t,” tears rolling down her cheeks “want them to go.”

“Ah sweetie, we’ll get you some other dolls.  Silly people will pay lots of money for these, but not for long.  Gather them up.  How many do you have?”

It didn’t take long before I realized that this just wasn’t going to happen.  That I was doomed to watch as this asset (and how could I now consider them anything else?) depreciated into nothing.

Now, opening that bin, here the despicable little things were.  Staring up at me.  Mocking.  No longer cherished, no longer wanted and, of course, no longer of value.  Just to be sure, I went to Ebay.  As of today there are 10,649 listings for BBs.  All but a very, very few have zero bids.  Zero.


Yours for only $500,000.00

The most expensive offered is a Princess Diana for $500,000.00.  Nope, that’s no typo.  Half a million dollars.  Really?  Could anyone be stupid enough to pay that kind of money for a bean bag toy?  Can you say “Tulip Bulb?”

This “very rare” BB is one of seven currently offered.  The lowest priced one is $4000.  No, I don’t know what the difference between a 500k and 4k Diana is other than, perhaps, the seller’s assessment of how stupid people can be.

Not surprisingly, they seem not to be selling.  So if you want one, you’ve got time. (And I’ll make you a deal on a bunch more.  Call me.)

Did they ever sell at such levels?  Beats me, but if they did I can guarantee there are lots of counterfeits out there.


The cheapest one with an actual bid is 55 cents.  With free shipping.  So, basically this seller is paying to get rid of it.  I sure hope my old colleague found a better way to pay for her kids to go to college.

The problem with Beanie Babies, or anything else produced as a collectible, is that when people buy them they save them.  They will never be rare and rare equals value.  I know people who each year buy the annual Barbie Collectible Edition and tuck them away in their unopened original box.  Barbies from the early 1960s are valuable, right?  So in a few decades these will be too.  Right?

This Headless Vintage Barbie is on Ebay as I write.

18 bids so far.


Clothes evidentially not included.

Nope.  These old Barbies have value precisely because no one at the time ever dreamed they would be collectible.  Very rare is the Barbie from that time still in its unopened box.   Those produced now by Mattel as “collectables” will never be rare.  ‘Cause, well, everybody is collecting them.

Personally, I’m not a collector.  In fact, I’m just about as far from being a collector as one can be.  I don’t much like owning things. Feels heavy and burdensome to me.

But for some reason I can’t quite explain I have recently become addicted to TV shows about collectors.  American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Storage Wars and the like provide me great entertainment.  Maybe it is just that these people are so alien to me it’s hard not to be fascinated.

Take American Pickers.  If you haven’t seen it, basically these two guys drive around the country in their van looking for “rusty gold.”  They’ll roll up on some old coot’s spread and say “We’re Pickers from Iowa.  Mind if we look around?”

The places they visit are usually out in the country and are surrounded by junk in the yard.  Often as not, there will be several out buildings each crammed to the rafters with crap.  They will rummage about thru these piles and pull out something.


“What a great piece!” they’ll say holding up a rusty piece of crap that, to me, looks like all the other rusty pieces of crap.  “How much would you have to have for this?”


“Well I don’t know.” says the old guy, and it is almost always an old guy.  “I don’t think I could part with that.”

What?!  Until this moment you probalby  haven’t seen this thing in 40 years and you forgot you owned it 30 years ago.  Sell!

“How about $400?”

Sell, Sell, Sell you idiot; and then beg them to buy more!!

“Nope.  Think I’ll just hang on to that there.”

Old signs seem popular and they like old bikes and motorcycles.  Other random stuff, too.  Since their business is reselling this stuff they must know what has value.  I get that.  But they ain’t buying no Beanie Babies.


Old crap is not the only reason to watch this show.

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  1. DollarDisciple says

    My mom and sister were *obsessed* with beanie babies when that fad was still going on. I can remember my mom going to mcdonalds for dinner specifically to get the ones that they passed out in happy meals. At one time, im sure my sister knew the names (that’s right, they have names too) of all the BBs in circulation. Those things have been sitting in a cabinet gathering dust since then.

  2. zebrashoes says

    hahah you must really love me if you were willing to let me keep the Beanie Babies rather than sell them.

    You should have just sold them. I would have got other it….eventually.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      now you tell me! 🙂

      guess I figured I had already given you enough material for your future therapists.

      Oh, and taking you to Disneyland (twice!) is a far greater measure of my love.

  3. femmefrugality says

    I have a Princess Di bear. I’m pretty sure every little girl who was a little girl when she passed does. Those will never sell. If they do, let me know because I’ll be very rich. These are some great points that can be applied across the collectibles market.

    Love those shows, too, but Pickers is my least favorite. I feel like they rip people off. I know it’s how they make money, but somehow it seems so much less offensive when people approach them, like in Pawn Stars.

  4. The Keichi One says

    Man, this is me and “Spawn” action figures. Thought I would retire at 21 with those things when I was a teenager. When I’m back in that states they are all going going gone.

  5. Emily Eisenhauer says

    Do you have any of your beanie babies left. My little sister saw a few of mine I had and now she is obsessed.

  6. Jen says

    This post sent some shivers down my spine, because my husband just started collecting bank notes – hey, this stuff will be worth millions some day, and yes, we will send our kids to college on them. Shipments from ebay arrive daily to our home – some with old notes costing several thousand $$ per pop. Sad thing is that I am sure the ebay value of these things already has taken into account the note appreciation (if any) and they are selling at net present value. Just hoping we can resell those notes some day for what he paid for them.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      And your comment sent shivers down mine, Jen.

      Hope you have a plan “B” 🙂

      If not, it will be character building for your kids to pay their own way… 😉

  7. cbeck says

    I know this post is pretty old, but in case anyone is wondering still, the reason for drastically different price points on Ebay is simply a racket attempting to inflate the market value of a collectable. I see it with used “vintage” guitars all the time. A single seller has a few different store fronts and/or accounts. They have a good stock of the same or similar model of guitar. The best one they list for a thousand or more with “rare” or “mint”, the next best one maybe half to 75% of that value with an “or best offer”. And then one at a time they dump the rest off with starting prices of a hundred or more/less or even a dollar. People who are not too familiar with the market see the “valuable” guitars on storefronts and assume that could be a reasonable value – then find the lower price one on what appears to be normal accounts and start bidding thinking they might make a steal on a very valuable product – when in reality they have probably paid at or over market value on an otherwise unsalable product. It boils down to using a single “mint” or “first edition” specimen of a product as it’s own loss leader.

  8. Ron Cameron says

    “Quickly now. This bubble will be bursting momentarily.”

    Hahaha! I just laugh every time I read this line. I imagine Spock, or a bad actor, is saying it in the scenario in my head.

  9. thelughsperience says

    Just reading this post now. I know you don’t post on this blog anymore, but I can’t help but ask, maybe you will see this… I am in the midst of “selling out” all my old toys. Many things I consider “collectible” Uh, if these things aren’t really collectible, how does one, if it doesn’t sell, when to stop selling it? I am trying to sell before I donate, but it is seriously delaying everything else that I have planned after because nobody is buying.

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