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Beanie Baby Collectors Find Investment Comfort
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With unpredictable stock markets worldwide and a person's financial worth changing hourly, some people have turned to stuffed animals for security.
Produced by Ty Inc., Beanie Babies are a line of small, colorful, loosely stuffed animals. Priced about $5 so kids can buy them, the toys have become a hot commodity in adult circles where some Beanie Babies now sport price tags in the thousands along with their heart-shaped hang tag and poem.
Helen Thomas of Starkville helps her husband Jack collect Beanie Babies as a hobby. He got started when a sister-in-law and neighbor began to talk to him about how much fun it was collecting and asked him to look for certain ones they wanted. Now he collects for his two granddaughters.
"Jack is retired and collecting Beanie Babies has given him an opportunity to meet lots of people and has given him an outlet for the time he has," Thomas said.
Jack Thomas started collecting in early 1997 and concentrates on buying the new ones as they are released. He stands in line for Beanie Babies, and enjoys the people he meets there. When possible, he fills out his collection with retired Beanies, but he does not pay high prices for them.
"He's not looking at value," Thomas said. "We collect for our granddaughters to have in the future, but not as an investment. It is so they will have something hopefully that will be of interest to them and inspire them to have a hobby or collection of their own."
Thomas subscribes to Beanie Mania, a magazine aimed at collectors, for his Beanie Baby information. His wife uses the Internet to research Beanie Babies and to learn about new releases, retirements and prices.
"I use the Internet to find out what the going prices are just in case I happen to see one that he doesn't have," Thomas said. "On occasion, I will purchase one for him."
The Internet is full of information for Beanie Baby collectors and fans. One WebCrawler search of the name brought up 2,978 hits dedicated to the stuffed toys. Sites are dedicated to rumors, retired animals, new releases and accessories from sunglasses for Beanie Babies to sleeping bags and leashes. Some sites teach the careful buyer how to spot counterfeits, while others offer Beanie Babies at auction or for trade. Some collectors even post pictures of their Beanie Babies.
Dr. Tom Carskadon, psychology professor at Mississippi State University, pointed to relived childhoods, competition and wanting what can't be had as forces driving much of the interest in Beanie Babies.
"As soon as you tell someone that something is rare and they probably won't be able to get one, they suddenly want the thing they were told they couldn't have," Carskadon said, explaining this as the hunter-gatherer instinct.
The opportunity to relive their own childhood drives some collectors, as does the challenge of completing the set, Carskadon said.
"If you have all but a few of the set you're collecting, it's inevitable you'll probably want to see if you can complete it," he explained.
While collecting anything can be a satisfying activity for both children and adults, Carskadon didn't recommend collecting Beanie Babies for their potential growth in value. Beanie Babies are worth only what a buyer is willing to pay for them.
"As an investment, it's probably right up there with lottery tickets," Carskadon said.
Dr. Beverly Howell, family economics and management specialist with MSU's Extension Service, said in making a risky type of investment, consumers must realize the risk and not invest more into it than they can afford to lose.
Each individual's savings and investments should balance based on their needs and goals, she said. Younger people often can afford to take larger risks as they have more time to recoup any losses. But for those seeking sure returns within a defined time period, risky investments are not recommended.
"Consult with a financial advisor who knows your situation and can tell you how such an investment can fit into your overall plan," Howell said. "There may be room in your balance between financial assets and ventures for this risk."