Is It Worth It... Beanie Babies

AS THE junior Antiques Roadshow proves, kids have got into this collecting lark big time. What's mind-boggling is that the latest must- have item - stuffed toys called Beanie Babies - have no TV or film tie- ins, and have been seen changing hands for up to pounds 2,000.

Admittedly, Beanie Babies are quite cute, if you're into that sort of thing. They come in all animal shapes, from tigers to bears to puffins, and they're about six inches tall. But what the manufacturer, Ty, has done is to "retire" each toy after a limited period, thereby creating an instant collector's item. And it's working. If you can get your hands on the rare Peanut the Royal Blue Elephant, for example, you could flog it to some spoilt American kid for $5,000.

Shops have cottoned on and, frankly, are taking the mickey. A few stockists that have in-demand "retired" toys are refusing to sell you one unless you buy five plebeian ones. In the US, neighbouring shops will show as much as a 200 per cent difference in price because harassed parents have lost their heads while buying for their darlings. Or for themselves - the craze has also infected grown-ups.

Beanie Baby clubs have sprouted around the world, and collectors are clogging the internet with frantic requests for Nana the Brown Monkey or Brownie the Brown Bear ($4,000 each). And now Ty has unleashed Beanie Buddies, Attic Treasures and Pillow Pals on the world. Take cover.

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