The inside scoop on the rise and fall of the Beanie Baby.
Personal finance writer Bissonnette (How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents, 2012, etc.) offers a crisp, investigative and presumably unauthorized biography of creator Ty Warner, 70, and a look at the rise of Beanie Babies and their swiftly ensuing three-year consumer craze. A decade after the height of Beanie mania, the author became intrigued at the lack of an in-depth appraisal of the plush toys and their elusive creator. Warner, who abandoned an unproductive acting career to fastidiously peddle plush cats at toy trade shows, initially created the Beanie Baby toy animals for children in 1993, but they soon morphed into a hobby for obsessed collectors who misguidedly considered their purchase a “long-term investment.” Greatly aided by eBay, Ty, Inc.’s profits crested at $3 billion in retail sales in 1998. Following that peak came a slow descent into obscurity as the reclusive billionaire channeled his own cash into the company to keep it afloat. Though never scoring a prized interview with the secretive toy creator, Bissonnette supplements his analysis with copious other interviews. Current and former company employees, collectors, dealers and Warner family members contribute consistently unflattering opinions of the toy entrepreneur, painting the so-called “Steve Jobs of plush” as a calculated businessman obsessed with plastic surgery and a womanizer whose deceptive “stage persona” and uncanny product instinct generated millions. Worse are the accounts by former girlfriends Patricia Roche and Faith McGowan about their histrionic romances, as well as Warner’s sordid relationship with his own father: Much of this material feels gratuitous. The author also includes a jailhouse visit with one collector who resorted to murder over a botched transaction and the details of Warner’s recent conviction on tax evasion in 2013.
A spicy portrait of a taciturn toy magnate made entertaining with sensationalistic testimonial.