When I was 7 or 8 years old, I remember walking through the local mall, and wanting to stop and play with these small bean bag toys that my brother and I had found. They were bright, colorful, and seemed to be overflowing from cut down barrels on display outside of the local multiplex.
Duster Dan and I were enthralled, but were quickly told to move along by our mother. A few weeks later, we started seeing those same toys all over the place. This was our introduction to the madness that would become the “Ty” Beanie Babies craze. And you’d better believe that we jumped right on the band wagon.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago: I am now helping my mom clean out her bedroom at my childhood home. There are display cases still showcasing this small fortune spent week by week and excursion by excursion to the local centers of commerce. Now, the only growing part of the collection is the dust that continues to gather on various glass, plastic, and ceramic displays. A half dozen or so bears have been selected out and are now smooshed in a plastic disposable cake transporter. Others lay in a box in the main grandkid play area.
I mentioned, to J-Mac that I had spent the weekend going through Beanie Babies, and the hilarity of it all. He went on to inform me that his mom only recently got rid of this testament to the 90s. What were we all thinking?
In truth, we weren’t. Exclusivity, limited edition releases, and special editions for the death of Princess Diana or Y2K (hah) fueled a repeating cycle of consumerism. There is a small market for a few of these toys available, but we all drank the Kool-Aid about how these toys were gonna be able to pay for our college. Now, we are just as likely to find them at a garage sale for a dollar.
I even remember, at the start of fifth grade, how we waited outside of The Ballpark in Arlington (now Globe Life Park) to receive Pugsly, the Pug Dog as a special promotion, alongside a Beanie Baby baseball card. There were only 10-15 thousand given out that day, but we really felt like we were something, holding this “precious” ballpark giveaway. On the way out of the park that night, someone offered my brother and I $300 dollars for one of those cards. We turned it down cold. Our hearts were still young.
I would never point to the 9/11 terror attacks as “the loss of our national innocence or some trite equal expression. However, for the oldest generation of millennials, we had our Beanie Babies. Our Tomagotchi, our Pokémon cards. Our answer to the skateboard was the Razr Scooter. We were the last group to come of age while cell phones were still a novelty and the world had yet to experience commercial wireless internet.
I can write and post this article from my pocket while out and about with my young kids. And one day, soon, they will ask me about the hundreds of Beanie Babies that live at their grandma’s house. But how am I supposed to explain this?