The retail of Beanie BabiesTM began with the Original 9: Chocolate, Cubbie, Flash, Legs, Patti, Pinchers, Splash, Spot and Squealer. The Original 9 made their debut in the US in late 1993 and the UK in 1994. Ty Inc had to create a special placeholder tag for its first UK shipments that soon became known as the pre-1st generation hang tag. It is unmistakable in appearance as its plain-text white rectangular template is unlike the traditional red heart-shaped tags found on all following generations.
It's speculated that the pre-1st generation hang tags were only on UK shelves for one month in early 1994. They were quickly replaced by the same 1st generation hang tags found on US retail shelves - but with the addition of “UK stickers” that had the European required CE mark on them. And so, with this information in mind, we can begin to speculate how rare pre-1st generation Beanie Babies are, at least relative to others of value. So go ahead let’s go ahead speculate!
The US and UK markets combined for about 12 months of retail sales through 1994. At most, two of those months were the pre-1st generation in the UK. If we assume Beanies Babies were sold at a relatively constant rate in both countries, pre-1sts have a time rarity factor of 2/10, or 5x rarer than the 1st generation. This is likely conservative as we’re ignoring holiday sales, of which the pre-1st generation did not overlap any. So, to begin on a conservative note: 5x rarity factor over the 1st generation.
Looking at census figures in 1994 shows the US had about five times the population of the UK. We can assume population is the only factor if spending habits between the two countries are similar. This is conservative since US population had a higher purchasing power parity. We'll account for that in a little bit, but to keep is simple for now: 5x population = 5x rarity factor. Combined with the prior time rarity factor of 5x, we’re now up to 5x*5x=25x cumulative rarity factor over the 1st generation.
It’s unlikely that Ty Inc produced Beanie Babies at the same rate per capita for its UK consumers as it did for its US customers. In 1994, purchasing power parity of the UK was about 75% that of the US. We also must consider this was a time before the mainstream internet, social media and thus rapid exchange of information in general. And so, what was Ty Inc more likely to focus on? A richer domestic market that it had closer (and cheaper) public relations with, or a distant overseas market?
Assuming greater focus on the domestic (US) market, we can only guess that Ty Inc may produced Beanie Babies at a rate of 1/2 to 1/4 (per capita) for its international UK market. And so that gives us an international rarity factor of 2x-4x. Combining this with the prior cumulative rarity factor, 25x*[2x-4x]=50x-100x rarity factor over their 1st generation counterparts. Since we are guessing, we'll again be conservative and go with the lower bound or: 50x cumulative rarity factor over the 1st generation.
The pre-1st generation plain-text white rectangular hang tags are far more delicate than the thicker and thus mechanically stronger 1st generation hang tags. So, it’s likely that not only were fewer pre-1st tags successfully preserved (in mint-condition) after nearly 3 decades, but even sold in mint condition at the time of retail. Unfortunately there's no way to put a number of this figure right now. But it's absolutely an effect, so we'll just have to guess.
Let’s speculate the pre-1st tags are twice as likely to be creased or somehow damaged versus the stronger 1st generation tags. We’ll call this the mechanical rarity factor and its value is 2x. Combining this with the prior and already conservative rarity factor: 50x*2x=100x cumulative rarity factor over the 1st generation. We're going to stop here as additional parameters are going to continue to increase this number, as there's really no evidence for higher production or sales for the UK market.
What does this mean in absolute numbers? Unfortunately no one but Ty Inc knows exactly how many were sold. All we know is that in the past year only one pre-1st went up for sale on Ebay and other markets, compared to ~15-30 1st generation. Just one, of an entire set of nine. You're more likely to run into a six figure PSA10 card, than of one of these historical icons. Luckily, we have one of a theorized only handful of remaining completed mint-condition sets, available here for you!
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