6 Expert Tips for Making Money Off Your Beanie Baby Collection

Dominique Godbout, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Dominique Godbout, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Beanie Babies were a hot commodity in the 1990s. People spent millions on the pellet-filled toys at their peak, and some even went as far as to forge checks and burgle toy distributors to fill out their collections. So-called “Beanie Mania” was driven by the idea that the stuffed animals would grow in value over time—a gamble that led to disappointment for many owners. But while the majority of Beanie Babies sold decades ago aren’t worth much money today, a select few are worth a small fortune.

According to Dr. Lori Verderame, an antiques appraiser with an expertise in Beanie Babies who spoke with us for this article, some Beanie Babies sell for thousands of dollars. Before you list your childhood toys on eBay, it helps to know if you’re sitting on a gold mine or thrift store material. We spoke with Dr. Lori about what to look for after taking your Beanie Baby collection out of storage and how to potentially make some money from it.

1. Learn Beanie Baby terminology.

Beanie Baby collectors and appraisers have their own language. When researching what makes certain toys valuable, it helps to be familiar with these terms so you can apply them to objects in your own collection. For instance, certain errors or variations of the heart-shaped tag on a Beanie Baby’s ear could dictate its worth. Experts refer to this as the hang tag, the swing tag, or just the ear tag. The looped fabric tag stitched to the Beanie Baby’s bottom end is known as the tush tag, and it can also contain errors that may increase your doll’s value. The “beans” inside a Beanie Baby are called pellets. They come in two types: polyethylene (PE) pellets and polyvinylchloride (PVC) pellets, with PVC being the rarer of the variations.

2. Beanie Baby Errors don’t always make it valuable.

Many of the most valuable Beanie Babies today have some sort of error, either on the tags or on the doll itself. The rarity of these errors can make an otherwise worthless toy extremely valuable to collectors, but this isn’t always the case. “People are surprised to learn that errors are in fact very common,” Dr. Lori says. “They will say, ‘well, mine has an error, so that must be rare.’ They don’t look at enough Beanie Babies to realize that many of them have errors.” If you find a misprint on a Beanie Baby tag or some other manufacturing mistake, do some research before getting your hopes up. Some Valentino bears had up to four manufacturing errors, including brown noses instead of black ones and tag typos, and that place them among the most sought-after Beanie Babies today.

3. Beanie Baby smell is just as important as appearance.

5-Year-Old Adam Kalina's arms are full of Beanie Babies on a 1999 shopping trip with his mother.Bill Greenblatt/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You may have a rare type of Beanie Baby from the early 1990s with a mint-condition ear tag, but if it smells like your basement, you’ll have a hard time selling it. Mold, mildew, and cigarette smoke can all taint your Beanie Babies with hard-to-remove scents. To prevent this, Dr. Lori recommends moving them out of their cardboard boxes and storing them in plastic containers. “Make sure you’re keeping them in plastic tubs, or even plastic Ziploc bags in order to keep any kind of dirt or damage away from them.” And if you’re a buyer, the importance of odor is a good reason to avoid purchasing vintage Beanie Babies online that you can’t see or touch first.

4. Look for the original nine Beanie Babies.

When appraising Beanie Baby collections, Dr. Lori looks for nine toys in particular. These are the “original nine,” or the first-ever Beanie Babies produced in small batches in late 1993. They include Patti the platypus, Spot the dog, Squealer the pig, Brownie the bear, Chocolate the moose, Pinchers the lobster, Splash the killer whale, Legs the frog, and Flash the dolphin. Even without errors, one of these Beanie Babies will almost always get the attention of toy collectors if it’s in good condition.

5. Be skeptical of Beanie Baby price guides.

Though you can look up how much certain Beanie Babies have sold for in the past, that doesn’t mean every toy like it is worth the same amount. Price guides may claim to know how much every type of Beanie Baby is worth, but these estimations are far from precise. If you want to know how much an individual item could be worth, you need to have it examined by an expert. A Beanie Baby appraiser can not only tell you if your toy is worth selling, but they can help you identify the type of buyer who will be willing to pay the most for it. “Some Beanie Babies need to be properly marketed in certain ways,” Dr. Lori says. “Do you want to market to toy collectors, market to the folks who are only collecting rare Beanie Babies, or do you want to market to someone who says ‘I’ve lost this childhood toy’? There are so many collectors who are still actively collecting them even 30 years past the 1990s, when they were at their height.”

6. Never ship a Beanie Baby that hasn’t been sold.

The wives of PGA Tour golfers sell stuffed Beanie Babies to raise money for charity at the 2004 PGA Tour John Deere Classic.A. Messerschmidt/WireImage via Getty Images

A legitimate appraiser can help you sell your Beanie Baby, but not everyone claiming to be an expert online should be trusted. A major red flag is when someone asks you to ship your Beanie Baby to them in order to get it evaluated. “You should never send your object away to anybody for any reason,” Dr. Lori says. “People send them away and never see the object again. [Scammers] say, ‘Oh, I lost it. It never got here.' No expert who is worth their weight will ever want your object.” The same goes for potential buyers who haven't put any money down on your item yet.

A much safer way to get a toy evaluated is to do it through a video call. Many professional appraisers are willing to do this, and it's still an accurate way to gauge your Beanie Baby’s worth compared to showing it to someone in person.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

65 Years Later: 10 Fascinating Facts About the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted on February 22, 1956, by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey as one of the people indicted as leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted on February 22, 1956, by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey as one of the people indicted as leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Associated Press // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Montgomery bus boycott is remembered as one of the earliest mass civil rights protests in American history. It's also the event that helped to make both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. household names when, enraged with the way Black Americans were treated, they helped organize and carry out the boycott, which lasted more than a year.

On December 1, 1955, a segregation-weary Parks famously refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white rider, an action that led to her arrest. Her trial began just a few days later, on December 5, 1955, which marked the beginning of the 381-day boycott that led to the desegregation of public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama. On the 65th anniversary of this historic event, read on to learn more about the people behind the headlines and the unsung heroes of this revolutionary event.

1. Rosa Parks was a lifelong activist.

Rosa Parks is sometimes portrayed as someone who first stood up to power on December 1, 1955. Quite the contrary. “She was not a stranger to activism and civil rights,” Madeline Burkhardt, adult education coordinator at The Rosa Parks Museum and Library, tells Mental Floss. Parks and her husband Raymond were active in the local and state chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She had served as secretary of both branches, during which time she investigated sexual assault cases.

“She was an assertive Black woman against racism, though in a quiet way,” Dr. Dorothy Autrey, retired chair of the history department at Alabama State University, tells Mental Floss. “It’s a myth that she was physically tired that day [she was arrested on the bus], but she was tired of seeing racism against her people.”

After the Montgomery bus boycott, Parks participated in the 1963 March on Washington and went on to serve on the board of Planned Parenthood. She received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

2. Rosa Parks was arrested twice.

Parks was initially arrested on December 1, 1955, for violating bus segregation laws. However, this wasn’t her most photographed arrest. Her famous mugshot and those pictures of her being fingerprinted (including the one seen above) are from during her second arrest, in February 1956.

Local police issued warrants for the arrest of Parks along with 88 other boycott leaders for organizing to cause the bus company financial harm. The protests had a mighty financial impact; according to Burkhardt, the protest led to losses of approximately $3000 a day, which would be the equivalent of $28,000 a day in 2020. The organizers dressed in their Sunday best, took a photo in front of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, then turned themselves in.

3. Rosa Parks wasn’t the first—or only—person arrested for disrupting bus segregation.

On March 2, 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on the bus to a white woman in Montgomery, Alabama.The Visibility Project // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Nine months before Parks made headlines, a 15-year-old named Claudette Colvin was arrested when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white woman. Civil rights organizers didn’t initially hold Colvin up as a movement figurehead because the unmarried teen became pregnant shortly after her arrest. However, leaders later revisited her case, and she became one of five plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, the federal court case that ultimately overturned segregation laws on Montgomery buses and ended the boycott on December 20, 1956. Parks wasn’t one of the plaintiffs, but several other local women were, including Aurelia S. Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith, and Jeanatta Reese (though Reese later withdrew).

4. Rosa Parks had a previous run-in with bus driver James F. Blake.

In 1943, Parks got onto a bus James F. Blake was driving and paid her fare at the front. As she began walking down the aisle of the bus to make her way to the Black seating section at the back (instead of exiting the bus and re-entering through another door as was required), the driver forced her off the bus and pulled away before she could re-board. Blake was driving the bus Parks boarded on December 1, when she refused to give up her seat.

5. Although ministers are often celebrated as the boycott’s organizers, women were behind the initial protest.

Indoors at the National Civil Rights Museum stands a recreation of the bright yellow Montgomery city bus where Rosa Parks defied the city's segregated bus transport policy. Location: Location: memphis, Tennessee (35.135° N 90.058° W) Status: Courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When Alabama State College professor Jo Ann Robinson caught wind of Parks’s arrest, she and the Women’s Political Council (WPC) jumped into action. A bus driver had verbally assaulted Robinson shortly after she moved to Montgomery to teach, so when she became president of the WPC, a local Black women’s professional organization that fostered civic engagement, she made bus desegregation a priority.

They hand-cranked 52,000 mimeographed political flyers in one night to advertise the planned boycott. Robinson initially asked citizens to protest for one day, Dr. Autrey says. “They weren’t sure where the boycott would lead. They had no idea it would last over a year.” However, local ministers and the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that formed to oversee the protests, took up the mantle and helped the boycott last.

6. The turnout in Montgomery was massive.

More than 45,000 people, representing 90 percent of the Black community in Montgomery at the time, participated in the boycott. “Even with social media today, I don’t think we would ever have the level of organization they were able to get from flyers and church sermons,” Burkhardt says.

7. Initially, the protestors weren't looking for Montgomery to desegregate its public transportation system.

The boycott organizers' demands didn’t require changing segregation laws—at first. Initially, the group was demanding seemingly simple courtesies, such as hiring Black drivers and having the buses stop on every corner in Black neighborhoods (just as they did in white neighborhoods). The also asked that white passengers fill the bus from the front and Black passengers from the back, so that Black passengers weren’t forced into standing-room only sections while white sections remained sparsely seated. Those goals gradually changed as the boycott continued and Browder v. Gayle moved through the federal and supreme courts.

8. Martin Luther King Jr. was only 26 when he joined the movement.

John Goodwin/Getty Images

King was a relative newcomer when he was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), an organization founded on the same Christian principles of nonviolence that guided King throughout his career. His principles were put to an early test when an unknown white supremacist bombed his home on January 30, 1956. (Fortunately, no one was harmed.) King was chosen because he was largely unknown, unlike E.D. Nixon, the local NAACP leader, who was instrumental in organizing the community, but who also had a long history of confrontations with local politicians.

9. Carpools and underground food sales helped fund the boycott.

To help people avoid taking buses, Montgomery churches organized carpools. They purchased several station wagons to help with the operation, dubbing them “rolling churches.” However, local insurance companies wouldn’t provide coverage as they didn't want to support the protests, even indirectly. Instead, King found insurance through Lloyd’s of London, which, ironically, had once insured ships that carried enslaved people during 18th- and 19th-century ocean crossings.

Funding to buy these vehicles, insurance, and gas came from across the community, including from Georgia Gilmore, a cook who organized an informal diner called the Club from Nowhere to feed boycotters and raise money.

10. Working-class Black women were instrumental in the boycott’s success.

At the time of the boycott, Rosa Parks worked was a seamstress at the Montgomery Fair department store, and she was hardly the only working-class woman who made the boycott a success. “Were it not for maids, cooks, and nannies, the boycott would not have succeeded,” Dr. Autrey says. “They were the primary riders, and they also received the brunt of the hostile treatment. These women were fed up and were primed to take a role in the boycott.”

Many women walked miles to work instead of riding the bus or even carpooling. When a reporter asked one such woman, Mother Pollard, if she was tired, she responded, “My feet is tired, but my soul is rested.”

Though the Montgomery bus boycott ended more than 60 years ago, the effects of the movement are still felt—and honored—today. Beginning this month, a new initiative—spearheaded by Steven L. Reed, Montgomery’s first Black mayor—the city will be reserving one seat on every Montgomery bus in Rosa Parks’s honor.