Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at a popular brand of teddies...
To carry on with our Christmas series, something that is hugely collectable to both adults and children alike and make ideal Christmas presents are TY bears – or “Beanie Babies” as they are known.
Beanie babies have been extremely popular with collectors of all ages since they were produced in the early 1990s.
Although the intention by their producer, TY Warner, was to create a “pocket money” priced toy that children could afford to buy, the irony is that it was adults that took to them, collecting them in their thousands and trading second hand ones over the internet for (sometimes) hundreds of pounds.
Warner’s original idea was to produce a range of toys with simplistic expressions and very little detail, in a huge variety of styles, colours and themes catering for everyone’s tastes and interests.
Each one was made from a soft plush material making them lovely to handle and with a price tag of less than £5 they were easily affordable.
The important thing about these toys was the tag that was pierced through the animal’s ear. On it was their (unique) name, date of birth and small story about each character. Such were the perceived value of the tags that in the late 1990s little plastic covers were made to protect the tags and keep them in perfect condition.
Cleverly TY started retiring some of the characters and by 1997 the craze had begun in earnest. Collectors scrambled over each other to purchase some of the original nine before they disappeared.
TY were very clever with their marketing, leading to even more interest from collectors. They only sold to small stores and advertising was kept to a minimum. This allowed adults to feel some sort of sense of pride or discovery about each new purchase.
Then the regular retirement process sustained the brand. In 2000, TY released a Beanie Baby named ‘The End’, causing buyers to genuinely believe this would be the end of production leading to a hysteria about purchasing this particular character.
However, Beanie Babies continue to be produced by TY to this day.
Look for first editions, certificates of authenticity and retired ones and you could be looking at a very good investment.