After the Beanie Baby Bubble Burst

What happens when the frenzy ends and the world doesn’t value your valuables?

At the height of Beanie Baby mania in the 1990s, plenty of people genuinely believed the toys might be the key to their retirement or their kids’ college tuition. Some people stole litters of them, and at least one person was reportedly killed in a Beanie-related dispute. Now, when cleaning out their basements or going through bins left behind by their grandparents, some people decide to check in — just in case — to see if they’re sitting on a gold mine of ’90s relics. Most of the time, they aren’t. “I hate getting people’s hopes up, because we’re constantly crushing dreams,” Boeker says. “I don’t like that.”

It’s not that Beanie Babies are worthless — collectors in the hobby are willing to pay quite a bit of money for the right ones. It’s that the most coveted Beanie Babies today are the ones most people have never heard of.

When I ask Boeker what makes a Beanie Baby worth anything, then or today, her answer is frank: “It’s what people are willing to pay for it.” Why some people are willing to pay anything for it is harder to square.

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