Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Collectibles Must Pay Their Dues

Resurrecting the happy childhood memories of owning and playing with a set of Klackers called to mind a more recent but decidedly different sort of fad: Beanie Babies. While researching and writing the Everything Collectibles Book in early 2001, Beanie Babies were a well-known and frequently discussed contemporary collectible. By that time, however, the fevered pitch of the Beanie Babies' phenomenon had noticeably waned, but I nonetheless thought it prudent to at least mention Beanie Babies in the book. They just couldn't be ignored in the pantheon of collectibles because they were just so popular—for one brief shining moment at least. What the heck happened?

Here were these cuddly cute, pellet-filled, petite stuffed animals that were must-haves for thousands upon thousands of Americans, and not just little girls and boys. In fact, Beanie Babies were foremost marketed as collectibles. They weren't pitched as children's playthings like the pair of acrylic balls on a string known as Klackers (and so many other things). No, Beanie Babies were a well-orchestrated fad for a while with an investment endgame. They were a sign of the times, just like Pokemon and limited edition baseball cards. I constantly see gold investment commercials today claiming how gold is a precious asset that only appreciates and never depreciates in value. This apparent appreciation-lock is what purchasers of collectibles born and sold as collectibles, including Beanie Babies, expected from their investments. (One footnote for gold investors here: Pray that the Twilight Zone's "Rip Van Winkle Caper" denouement never comes to pass.)

In most instances the capitalists who tried to circumvent the immutable laws of the collectibles market lived to see their grand schemes go up in smoke. Of course, many of these entrepreneurs made their killings on short-lived but nonetheless fertile fields of green. The creator of the Cabbage Patch doll, for instance, made multiple millions in one maniacal year (1984).

Beanie Babies and countless other items christened collectibles upon their birth—and given birthdays, retirement dates, and the like—rarely live up to their billing. Collectibles need to pay their dues and age like fine bottles of wine, or something like that. I'd rather see kids clacking away with their Klackers than adults hijacking UPS trucks to secure the latest limited edition Beanie Baby—a stuffed kid's toy that they had no intention of ever giving to their kid. Not all fads are created equal. Some are remembered fondly, albeit a bit painfully (Klackers), while others we'd just assume forget. But then we already have.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.