Remember the Beanie Baby craze? The tiny stuffed toys first appeared back in the early ‘90s and eventually became a cultural phenomenon. The cheap little figures were highly collectable, and many people bought multiple versions of each new release hoping it would one day be their retirement fund. So far, that’s not happened.
However, there are few stories more tragic than the one film student Chris Robinson chronicles in his short documentary Bankrupt by Beanies – which showcases how Robinson’s father spent over $100,000 on the Ty creations in hopes of funding his kids’ college education. He’d have been better served just spending the money he “invested” on the dolls on tuition instead.
Robinson’s film regales the viewers with how the collection (which now features “15,000 to 20,000” toys) started, the lengths Robinson’s father went to in order to get multiple versions of limited-run figures, and how it all has come crashing down. It’s a cautionary tale about speculative investing – one that could just as easily have been about early ‘90s comic books or even the stock market.
Yet, for as tragic as Robinson’s tale is, it’s not a complete downer. Robinson Sr. points out that he’d never have gotten as deeply involved in the scene if his kids hadn’t genuinely loved the toys, and the other siblings now look back on the time spent building the collection as quality time with their father. But still… one hundred thousand dollars. That’s gotta sting every time you look around the house at a plastic bin filled with Beanie Babies.
Who knows, though? Maybe Robinson – or his children – can recoup some of that investment in another decade or two. Everything old is eventually new again.