Some unexpected news in the world of Beanie Baby collecting this week gave ‘90s kidults hope that the stuffed animals they hoarded years ago might be good for something other than burying in a time capsule alongside pogs, Gak™, and a “Waterfalls” cassingle.
The viral story explains that Cornwall couple Leah Rogers and Ryan Flanaghan came upon a rare, first-edition purple Princess Di bear (one of only 100 produced in 1997 as a memorial to the people’s princess) for £10 at a yard sale.
It’s undoubtedly a rare item, and Princess Diana hasn’t been forgotten—a U.K. poll recently suggested that many tacky people want the new royal baby to be named after her—but $90,000? Even the rarest Beanie Babies were thought to be practically worthless in 2015, so where did that widely-reported figure come from?
A single eBay auction, it turns out.
“One first-edition Princess bear is listed on eBay for 62,500 pounds (over $90,000), but prices range from $1,500 to $21,000 elsewhere on eBay,” People reports, citing the Independent, which cites “reports.”
Here is a fact about eBay: You can list any object for any crazy old price, but no one has to buy it. That alleged $90,000 listing, if it ever existed, doesn’t turn up under a search for first edition Princess bears that have actually sold.
The real sale prices are more like $75, with prices going as low as $15. One princess bear did sell for nearly $30,000, back in April, but it’s not clear what (if anything) made it more special than the others. Perhaps a gullible purchaser?
At the time, Beanie Baby collector website tycollector.com, which lists the maximum value of a Princess at $52, issued a “FRAUD ALERT” regarding prices based on eBay listings that didn’t actually sell, and specifically blamed shitty U.K. tabloids for basing their articles on such listings:
In an irresponsible and non-professionally researched newspaper article on April 18, 2015, the UK Daily Mailand The Sun (UK) provided misleading information about Princess Beanie Baby values. Once again, tycollector.com was inundated with emails from people in the UK and Ireland hopeful that their PrincessBeanie Baby was worth a lot of money and asking for the best way to sell theirs.T
The writer of the original article (as is usual with these types of articles) used “listing” prices on eBay, as opposed to the prices buyers have actually paid for Princess over the past 30 - 60 days, to support the premise that Princess is valuable. One cannot avoid speculation about the credibility of ANY article in the UKDaily Mail or The Sun, when those online magazines/newspapers permit such a misleading article as the one about the Princess Beanie Baby to be published.
Unfortunately for our couple of prospective homebuyers, that’s the exact trajectory this story took, originating in The Sun—with the headline “Boot sale bear is £62,000 rarity!”—before it spread to the U.S. media.
Update: Snopes has picked up the story, and pointed out that the claim that any version of Princess was produced in a limited run of 100 has been disputed by Beanie Baby collectors, which makes this whole thing even more ridiculous than it already was.