Is NFT a potential investment or a hype bubble? Just look at this plush toy and you’ll understand

A .jpg sells for millions, are NFTs the new Beanie Babies?

Every time we discuss NFT, American netizens and the media always like to bring this metaphor that we are a little unfamiliar with.

Beanie Babies, also known as "Beanie Babies", are a plush toy that was popular in the United States in the 1990s. For young Americans, it may just be a clutter in the basement. But in the eyes of my parents, this was once a hopeful investment, an opportunity to make a fortune, and a national frenzy that should not be missed.

Some people squatted in front of the computer until 12 a.m. for it; some people traveled across the United States to line up to buy it; some people experienced the exciting moment of buying at $5 and selling at $50,000; All found to be bubbles.

Today, the Doudouwa craze has faded and it has become a pop culture icon.

Young people on YouTube are rummaging through boxes at home, hoping to find Doudouwa who "made themselves rich overnight". HBO Max recently released a documentary "Beanie Mania", and Apple also announced that it will make a new film on the theme . Some even turned these plush toys into NFT projects, calling it "a combination of my childhood dreams and modern passions."

▲ Picture from Vox

Are NFTs the new Doudouwa? Is there any chance of turning them into NFTs to cause another craze?

Doudouwa, "Tulip Bubble" in the 90s

In 1986, Ty Warner founded Ty Inc., a toy company. Seven years later, he launched the first Beanie series, which featured cute little animals in bright and lively colors. The price was only $5, but no one bought it.

From a product point of view, these plush toys are revolutionary. Before that, most competing products were filled with cotton that was full and stiff, but Doudouwa reduced the amount of cotton and added plastic particles to fill it, allowing children to swing flexibly and increase playability. Later, Warner also gave each doll a character, with a name, birthday and a short poem.

But it's the artificial scarcity that really makes it frenzy.

Warner often discontinues a collection or style of Doudou in the name of "modified design". In 1995, he discontinued an elephant doll (Peanut the Elephant) and changed its color from royal blue to light blue. The original price was later bumped up to $5,000 due to the limited production of the early series.

▲ Peanut the Elephant

Various media reports and anecdotal rumors believe that he is a first-class "hunger marketing" master. The book "The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute" claims that Warner's move was originally driven by perfectionism and attention to detail. obsessed.

Warner also has other "saucy operations", such as his insistence on selling Beanie Dolls only in independent toy stores, refusing to enter the large chain Wal-Mart or Toys R Us. Each partner store has a limited number of arrivals. If you want to buy a specific style, you may have to run around in line to grab your head.

The first adult fandoms to spark a frenzy were "soccer moms." Most of them live in the suburbs and are good wives and mothers in middle-class families, busy with housework and taking care of children. In order to collect the complete set, they will deliberately call all the cooperative stores in the United States to inquire about the inventory, and then fly to buy them back.

These mothers are like "fans" and "sisters" who are chasing stars. Not only do they own them, but they also form an important part of Doudouwa's communication. Some people self-published magazines and sold more than 3 million copies; some people started blogs to pay close attention to Doudouwa's news , replying to emails to answer questions; some people compiled price guides and provided authenticity identification services . Part of that love even continues to this day.

Every time Doudouwa stops production, it will be announced on the official website. People are not sure whether the next thing that will become scarce is a sheep, a camel or a duck, but the news of resale for 5 times, 20 times, and 1,000 times the price is overwhelming, and the investment value of plush toys is being boasted little by little, and more and more People take the initiative to join and want to make a fortune from it.

▲ The Doudouwa website of the year gave a preview of the discontinued series

In 1997, Doudouwa and McDonald's authorized cooperation to launch a mini version, 100 million plush toys, which were robbed in just one week. Some people even bought 100 Happy Meals, no food, only toys – very much like the way people are robbing McDonald's cat dens and KFC blind boxes today.

▲ Doudouwa who cooperated with McDonald's

That same year, The Princess Beanie, a purple bear, was born with a white rose on its chest and a small poem in memory of Princess Diana on the label. At the beginning, due to insufficient production capacity, the cooperative store was told that they could only order 12 pieces.

▲ A group photo of Paul Burrell, the former housekeeper of Princess Diana, and Doudouwa, pictured from GettyImages

The collective craze for Doudouwa peaked around 1998.

Sales for Ty Inc. exceeded $1.4 billion for the year. Survey data shows that 64% of Americans own at least one. Doudouwa is also considered to have witnessed the rise of the Internet boom. Its buying and selling transactions accounted for 10% of eBay's total annual sales, which to a certain extent promoted the popularity and development of e-commerce. The following year, Warner cracked the Forbes top 400 rich list, with an estimated fortune of $5 billion.

▲ The creator of Doudouwa, Ty Warner, is called "Jobs in the plush toy world" by employees.

On the other side, the world has become quite magical. Some couples divorced and asked for property division, and squatted on the court to divide Doudouwa; fake and shoddy copycat versions of Doudouwa appeared, and some people claimed to be repairers who cheated, and there were even murders caused by these plush toys…

▲ Divorce Doudouwa is a real thing, picture from Reuters

But as production continued to expand, "hunger marketing" gradually became unplayable. At the end of 1999, Warner once again tried to do big things, announcing that the whole series of Doudouwa would be discontinued on the last day of the 20th century. After the news was released, people were surprised to find that the secondary market did not respond. The bubble just burst.

Sales fell, prices plummeted, and speculative adults scattered. TV actor Chris Robinson is one of the "bitters" who have lost everything, and he spent about $100,000 for Doudouwa. He originally wanted to earn back the college tuition for his five children, but lost everything; now, he can only sit and stare at the 20,000 plush toys at home.

▲ Robinson later made a short film about his bankruptcy experience

Humor writer Dave Barry said Beanie was originally a fun toy for children but turned into "an obsessive, ridiculous, over-commercialized so-called hobby" by adults. And market historian Jeremy Grantham pointed out that at the moment Doudou's price spiraled upwards and disconnected from value, it became a bubble.

This is a human flaw. No one can escape the bubble, no matter how smart you are.

Are NFTs the new Doudouwa?

While reading Beanie Bubble: Popular Delusions and the Dark Side of Love, bestselling author @_ElizabethMay tweeted:

I am reading a book about Doudouwa. If you replace every mention of "Bear No. 1" with "Boring Ape NFT", this is a book about NFTs.

The tweet was liked 12,000 times and retweeted 2,007 times. Passing netizens carried out nostalgic and loose discussions in the comment area.

Some people say that NFT is the same scam of Doudouwa. Others think that NFTs are not even as good as Doudouwa – Doudouwa is cute and comfortable, even if it is not worth a lot of money if you turn it out today, it can be washed and used as a toy for children, and NFT can't catch it or touch it. Others, can't wait to hear divorce stories about NFTs.

▲ HBO Max's Beanie Mania documentary "Beanie Mania", some netizens said, this is also like telling the story of NFT

Developer Rik Nieu tried to analyze the similarities between NFTs and Doudouwa from several perspectives.

He believes that, in terms of the entire market, both have new designs that are constantly emerging. Specific to a certain series/style/item, a limited number will result in scarcity (for example, there are only 10,000 boring ape NFTs). They all use internet or media coverage for hype marketing, have distribution channels at their fingertips, and attract like-minded communities (Discord, Twitter, DAO, etc.).

Vox editor Emily Stewart adds —both have an unbridled optimism, a mania for owning something and the belief that it will appreciate in value; and both are fraught with fraud and crime.

▲ Netizens: As long as there are big V tweets, people who buy NFTs now will think that Doudouwa was an excellent investment.

Arthur Suszko, 34, is a Doudou fan and NFT collector. In his view , today's NFTs do have many similarities with the Doudouwa craze of the 1990s. He launched an NFT project for this purpose, and he kept the physical objects of Doudouwa himself, but opened the corresponding NFT for trading.

On the one hand, Suszko calls it "a combination of my childhood dreams and modern passions." On the other hand, he also knows that the NFT craze may be fleeting. "No one cares about these randomly generated .jpegs that may sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars now."

▲ Picture from: Beanie Baby DAO

Most of the discussion today focuses on the hype and craze of NFT projects. But in fact, NFT itself is not comparable to Doudouwa.

NFT (Non-Fungible Token) is a non-fungible token. It uses blockchain technology to mark the ownership of a digital asset for you. It is unique and irreplaceable. For example, NFT is more like The technology behind Doudou, not the plush itself.

In contrast, Boring Ape, CrypoPunks, and even Phanta Bear (phantom bear), which was recently launched by Jay Chou, are more comparable to Doudouwa.

▲ Phanta Bear, pictured from The Finery Report

NFT projects may come and go, prices soar or plummet, some form bubbles, and some can’t lift the water, but the underlying technology has always existed: NFT technology clearly knows which local tyrant belongs to a certain pixel wind.jpeg, and will also remember The transaction records that live on it all the way, specifically how it changed hands several times, how it went from $6 to $6 million… Everything can be traced.

The potential of NFTs doesn't stop there.

It can be a way of immortality for art (such as Wong Kar Wai's "In the Mood for Love"), an incentive for creators (received a share for each resale), a form of identification, a community's Admission tickets, or unlock some kind of participation and voting rights.

As for buying NFT artworks at sky-high prices, is it stupid? It's a matter of opinion.

Collecting in consumer culture is generally divided into three stages: acquisition, possession and resale. It is said that "a great deal of money cannot buy a good heart". If you really like it, then from the perspective of art appreciation, its value to you is subjective and determined by you. If you want to have it out of following the trend, it’s not a loss, because some NFT projects today have become a social status symbol like tulips in the 1630s.

But if you are just for speculative investment, and you are jealous of others making a lot of difference, then pay attention: once you can't find a pick-up man, and when the frenzy ends, you are likely to be the one who stares at 20,000 plush toys at home Robinson.

▲ Figure from the HUSTLE

Economist Robert Shiller once wrote in "Irrational Exuberance" : "The expansion of speculative markets is often linked to popular perceptions that the future is brighter and more certain than the past."

Aside from the hype, the people who bought Doudouwa feverishly may have good hopes for the millennium and the Internet. Today, everyone follows the trend of NFT, blockchain, encryption technology, web3, decentralization, metaverse… Probably because they have expectations for the future described by these terms.

By the way, on the trading platform OpenSea, there is another NFT project that replicates the Doudouwa mania in the 1990s. The introduction is ironic and interesting. It says, relive the '90s craze with Bubble Beanies!

Even if this bubble bursts like the last one, it won't take up your attic space anymore.

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