By DAVE BARRY
Cartoon by Jeff MacNelly
Let's talk about how you can get rich investing in Beanie Babies.
For the benefit of those of you who live in primitive rain forest tribes, I should explain that Beanie Babies are little beanbag critters with cute names such as (these are real names) Smoochy the Frog, Spunky the Cocker Spaniel, Claude the Crab, Weenie the Dachshund, Floppity the Bunny, Tank the Armadillo and Chops the Lamb. Beanie Babies are manufactured in China the Brutal Dictatorship for a U.S. company called Ty Inc., which is named after the owner, Ty the Extremely Rich Person.
Beanie Babies were originally intended as fun playthings for children, but as the old saying goes, ``Whenever you have something intended as innocent fun for children, you can count on adults to turn it into an obsessive, grotesquely overcommercialized `hobby' with the same whimsy content as the Bataan Death March.'' So now Beanie Babies are big business, with grown men and women fighting over them and paying thousands of dollars for certain rare models, such as Peanut the Royal Blue Elephant (not to be confused with Peanut the Light Blue Elephant, which only a total loser would pay thousands of dollars for).
Unfortunately, the Beanie Baby craze has attracted some ``bad apples.'' I have here an Associated Press story stating that in Andover, Mass., police caught somebody trying to sell a stolen Happy the Hippo for $900. The story also states that a couple in Nashua, N.H., allegedly bought Beanie Babies with forged checks, then sold them and used the proceeds to buy heroin.
Fortunately, not all of the people involved in this craze are criminal heroin addicts. Many of them are merely insane. If you don't believe me, you should read their discussions on the Internet. As I write these words, Ty Inc. is about to release a new batch of Beanie Babies, and in the various Beanie Baby Internet chat rooms the serious collectors are speculating feverishly about what type of animals they will be. One person will post a message saying something like, ``I heard that the new group will be Wart the Toad, Hefty the Cow, Siphon the Tick, Stench the Dung Beetle and Mucous the Oyster.'' And another person will respond: ``I question the accuracy of your list, because a VERY highly placed source has informed me that the new group will be Suction the Remora, Chuckles the Scorpion, Yap Yap the Neighbor Dog That Makes You Want To Buy An Uzi, Segment the Tapeworm and George Will the Wasp.'' And on the debate rages, far into the night.
Recently, at a business function, I met a high-ranking corporate officer whose wife, a grown woman, collects Beanie Babies. The man told me that on a recent business trip, he bought her a Beanie Baby -- I believe it was Strut the Rooster. He knew it was one she didn't have, and he thought she'd be thrilled, but when he gave it to her, she scoffed at him, because she specializes in jungle-dwelling Beanie Babies -- such as Freckles the Leopard and Ziggy the Zebra -- and whoever heard of a rooster in the jungle, for God's sake? You can imagine how he felt.
Anyway, my point is that Beanie Babies are viewed by many collectors as a serious financial investment (Ross Perot currently has 83 percent of his money invested in Beanie Babies, with $276 million in Bongo the Monkey alone). This is not just some ``passing fad'' like the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of some years back, wherein people spent hundreds of dollars for a bunch of hideously ugly dolls, only to discover, after the frenzy died down, that they had purchased a bunch of hideously ugly dolls. This will not happen with Beanie Babies! Beanie Babies are different!
Why do I say this? Because I purchased one. I was at a McDonald's, getting a cup of coffee, and they had a promotion on Beanie Babies, and I decided to invest $1.89 in Inch the Inchworm. I'm sure it will be worth a lot of money, although it did suffer one setback when Daisy got hold of it. Daisy is a beagle we've been dog-sitting for, and one day, while looking around for food, which is pretty much all Daisy ever does, she came across Inch the Inchworm. Apparently at some point, perhaps millions of years ago, there was a bitter dispute between dogs and inchworms, and Daisy has not forgotten. I head this ``whap-whap-whap'' noise from the living room, and I found Daisy shaking Inch violently by the neck so as to kill him in preparation for eating him. (And if you think a dog can't eat a beanbag, you know nothing about dogs.)
But I'm not concerned. I'm confident that Inch the Beagle-Spit-Drenched Inchworm will only appreciate in value, and that soon I'll be able to retire as a millionaire. Why do I say this? Because I'm going to pour this hot McDonald's coffee on my thighs.