By keeping a tight lid on virtually everything about the adorable, polyvinyl bean-filled creatures-and despite eschewing advertising-the marketer keeps the jousting for the $5 toys at a deliberate frenzy.
Many of the independent toy and specialty shops stocking the critters have Beanie hotlines and maintain waiting lists. At one store in suburban Minneapolis, the reserve list for Beanie Babies in March topped 10,000 before the store stopped taking requests.
And McDonald's Corp., which this spring ran a Teenie Beanie Baby promotion expected to last five weeks, exhausted its supply of 81 million dolls in one week.
Toy industry analysts believe privately held Ty will sell upwards of 100 million Beanie Babies this year alone, which Playthings magazine says would beat the one-year new-toy record.
Maintaining interest in Beanie Babies-"born" in 1993, with the idea that kids would be able to buy smaller, cheaper plush animals with their allowance money-is accomplished by retiring old characters at regular intervals and replacing them with new ones. To date, 99 Beanies have been introduced, with retired Beanies such as Chops the lamb in high demand among collectors.
Retired Beanies often are found for sale over the Internet at www.
ty.com, Ty's site that serves as a marketplace for buying, selling or just chatting about Beanies.
Empty store shelves and retailers begging for more are signs "Beaniemonium" has yet to plateau. But even too little of a good thing may backfire; some toy retailers say they've seen interest in Beanies drop since supply hasn't kept up with demand.