In the late ’90s, adults collected stuffed toys so hard. If you’re under the age of 30, know that collectors inflated the price of rare Beanie Babies past any number you would believe. Picture how much you would spend on a stupid fucking fish beanbag and literally double it. This ripped a few holes in our universe. An enthusiast Beanie press appeared overnight. There are fewer normal journalists working today than there were Beanie Baby journalists working in 1998. The fact I can’t find statistics to support that but I can find out Stripes (The Dark Tiger) was worth $250 that year proves it.
Stores opened that sold nothing but these things. An entire economy formed around a product with no function or artistic value in an almost mean-spirited parody of capitalism. Thousands of dumbshits were betting their lives on how the rest of the dumbshits were dumber. It sounds crazy, but imagine you were an eight-year-old in China who had already been making copies of American toys for five years. Overnight, the price point for your bear-faced USA trash went from 3 cents per unit to $5000– literally double. This meant there were enough counterfeit Beanies to make an entire 60 minute VHS tape about it, and it sucks like nothing else. It sucks like China made a counterfeit Phil Collins out of horse meat.
The video is hosted by Steve, a man whose whole personality is captured by the phrase “Beanie Lover.” I’m not being a dick. If Steve was reading this, he would smile, look up at the thousands of glass eyes watching him from his shelves and say, “Someone finally understands me, Wiggles. Sherbet. Ticklish. Applejack and Bearning Love. Cubbie, Cubbie (with dickhole). And most of all you, Prinz von Gold (with collector’s dickhole).”
Steve is joined by two Beckies and a Vicky, and between the three of them, they have nearly eight minutes of Beanie Baby credentials. These women have achieved so much in the world of Beanie collecting that the collapse of their industry should honestly be treated with the reverence of 11 to 12 human lives being snuffed out. I don’t like the position it’s put me in where I have to describe its sadness to you, but it’s like watching the last white rhino die and then meeting a group of researchers who spent the last decade underground developing a way to teach white rhinos to sing. These people carry with them so much knowledge and every bit of it will turn to useless tragedy the moment they share it. So let’s learn how to spot some goddamn counterfeit Beanie Babies!!!
First of all, just touch them. A real Beanie lover can tell it’s not an authentic Ty Beanie Baby if the material is wrong. It’s not as plush or smooth. It doesn’t shine. You should also look for spelling mistakes on the tush tag. If it says “INTERNMENT camp Beanbear ” it may not be an authentic Liberty Bear Beanie. And look closely at the toy’s eyes. As one Becky puts it, counterfeit eyes are duller. And as the other Becky adds, “they are dull and um, the ones on the original ones are more shiny.” Please don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say we’ve now covered all the material from the first 30 minutes of How to Spot Counterfeit Beanie Babies.
The scariest thing about stupid people is how easy it is to convince them they’re no longer stupid. You tell a dumbass one fact about lens aperture and they are immediately armed with all they need to know to expose a moon landing hoax. You tell them one theory about body language and now they can scientifically detect any lie. So to me and hopefully you, this video looks like a few pieces of non-actionable information and nothing else. But to the intended audience, the idle stupid, this is spycraft. Knowing dull eyes are duller than shiny ones, the viewers are now crime fighters one step ahead of an international fraud ring. I would fucking like to see someone try to sell Becky a dull-eyed stuffed pig for $5000 and see how quickly she asks to inspect the tush tag more closely.
Speaking of inauthentic, Steve stops the ladies after a bit to summarize their advice. Taking deliberate pauses in a performative display of improvisation, Steve thinks out loud, “Features… Materials… Tags. Hmm…. so, hmmm… what’s a good way we can we rememb–. F.AKES M.EAN T.ROUBLE.“
As an amateur expert on body language, I alone can tell this is phony, but Becky, Vicky, and Becky love it. They give Steve’s acronym a generous laugh in what absolutely must be third base in the Beanie Lover community. It’s cute, but sort of destroys the internal logic of this video. These dingbats want us to believe they can spot off-color kitty cat felt from an Applebee’s away but they have no defenses against an untrained actor delivering pre-written cleverness? I could beat either Becky in a freestyle battle by just singing “Shoop” and she would leave thinking she was defeated by history’s greatest lyrical rap genius. She’d be right, as many sucker MCs already know, but for the wrong reason.
Steve and the ladies have a brief discussion about how the stuffed animals made by Chinese grifters sort of look sadder than authentic Ty Beanies, and they all agree this subjective measure of a toy’s emotional state is a great way to spot counterfeits. Then comes, without question, my favorite part of the video. Vicky opens up the tag on a suspect Peanut the Elephant for Steve, who reads the poem inside. It’s about a penguin named Waddle and Steve’s keen eye catches a tiny mistake the counterfeiters made. Did you? No, that’s not it! What you didn’t catch was that Peanut is an elephant, not a penguin with a different name.
What I love about this moment is how genuinely proud Steve is of himself for spotting this. It’s so reassuringly asexual. The guy is such a phony and this hobby is so humiliating I thought he had to be faking it to be the only dong near all this Jo-Ann Fabric ass. But no, he was waiting his whole life to declare that Peanut counterfeit and that’s not something you do in front of women if you still have plans for your boners. This is word-for-word how the magical moment went:
So after 40 minutes we know to look for hilariously obvious mistakes in materials, features, and tags. It’s now time to get into specifics. If you are at your Beanie dealer right now this is what you were skimming the page for. Stop scrolling HERE:
Fake Erins are tricky to spot because they have a ribbon. A devious counterfeiter knew the first step in copying a bear without a ribbon was to make sure it had a ribbon. Another feature to look for is the heart tag missing from the side of its head, which you may know as the defining feature of this entire toyline. But if the bear is wearing clothes it shouldn’t be and it’s missing the main identifying tag and you’re still not sure it’s a fake, look for “shamrock wrong” before buying. It’s a big investment, but your purchase of a real, authentic Erin will explain everything far better than even the most eloquent suicide note.
A careful inspection of Jolly’s Tush Tag might reveal a kerning error on the words “OakbrookILUSA.” This could indicate a possible forgery if you were so dogshit-brained you didn’t spot the wrong color mustache covering 80% of its face. If you needed a video to help you spot the differences between these two walruses, you are already being robbed by the chimpanzee claiming to be your husband. Look carefully near the unpeeled banana your “husband” is biting into. No tan line on his ring finger! How could that be if your husband is left-handed?
The only real way to spot a counterfeit Chops is to turn it around and squeeze open its anal vent. This can take hours and what you’re listening for is a weird moan from your Beanie dealer.
When you’re investigating a possibly fake Wrinkles, try to remember his name. Does the Beanie you’re looking at have tell-tale “wrinkles?” Or is it clearly a faced baguette, you cow? We’re having fun, but look at you. Look at what your life has become. The most depressed people you’ve ever met take strength in knowing you, even if for but a moment, carefully inspected this stuffed dog for authenticity. Your victory over a Bangladeshi child seamstress’ deception is the yardstick of sadness desperate souls can measure themselves by. The estate lawyer who will one day hand this toy to your cat as set forth by your last will and testament will smile through times of trouble and think, “I guess it can always get worse.”
Beanie counterfeiters are sometimes so good only a museum appraisal can spot the difference. Aside from this Libearty spelling it “Benine Baby,” you would never know it was a fake. Nice try, but Steve’s crew outsmarts people who can’t spell Beanie for breakfast. Try to sneak the word “Benine” past him or any of these Beanie Lover Beckies and they will say, “Okay, you can have my purse, though I’m starting to think you’re not my real husband. You are clever, ape, but your first mistake was sewing your ribbon to your neck. Ah, yet fabric rough… fabric rough was your LAST MISTAKE.”
I know this video is 22 years old, but I am desperately hoping this information gets to you in time: the knockoff Pinky isn’t pink. If you are buying a red Pinky, STOP.
Okay, you get it. We learned a lot about the hole left by hopelessness and how to, through vigilance and expertise, fill it without being tricked. Now get out there and make informed Beanie Baby investments, and should you ever come across a disreputable dealer, there is a Ty Hotline to Report Fake Beanies.