March 18, 2021
Although Ty’s Beanie Babies were a smash hit with children in the 1990s–and continue to be traded as valuable collectibles—over the past couple of years, another line of bulbous and brightly colored plush toys has sparked the interest of a new generation, The New York Times reports.
Made by Kelly Toys of Los Angeles since 2017, Squishmallows now are available as more than 800 characters and are sold in 40-plus nations worldwide.
Squishmallows—a line of larger soft, huggable toys created in 2017—has exploded in popularity during the pandemic, thanks to social media and in particular TikTok (or “SquishTok,” as fans call it). Collectors say the stuffed animals have given them comfort in a painful year, and that hunting for them has fostered a much-needed sense of community during an extended period of isolation.
“Even though the craze was coming before the pandemic, it certainly hit a fever pitch in the past year, and this craving for comfort is a big part of it,” Kelly Deen, senior vice president of marketing at Jazwares, the parent company of Kellytoy, which created Squishmallows, told The New York Times.
Jazwares said in early March that it has sold more than 73 million toys. (In February 2020, The Toy Book, a trade publication, reported that the company had sold 50 million Squishmallows.) According to the company, sales of Squishmallows have tripled in the past six months.
Avid collectors own dozens if not hundreds of them. Melissa Whittaker, a 35-year-old cashier in New Hampshire, has more than 70 Squishmallows, each with a tag stating its name and unique traits. “I love their cute little faces,” she said. “They’re very nice to hug, and you can double them up as pillows.”
Ilana Wiles, 46, a mother and Instagram influencer in New York City, said that she and her husband often take their 11-year-old daughter, Mazzy, on Squishmallow scavenger hunts around the city and on Long Island.
“It’s a fun activity, and they’re not that expensive if you’re buying them at a retail store,” Ms. Wiles said. “It’s a very big reward for not a lot of money.” Most of the toys are priced between $10 and $40, depending on their size.
Some that have become hard to find are fetching big prices at resale, though. According to Insider, Squishmallows are being resold for hundreds of dollars on sites like Mercari.
“The success of Squishmallows comes from the exclusivity, which helps drive collectibility, Jonathan Kelly, co-president of Kellytoy told the Times. He said that the company is increasing production to keep up with demand.
“It’s created a lot of issues finding them in stores,” said Rebecca Brown, 21, a college student in Huntsville, Alabama, who has 325 Squishmallows. “There’s a lot of scalpers now that go out and buy an entire store’s stock.”
Ms. Brown said Squishmallows have become particularly popular among students during the pandemic. Some position their Squishmallows in frame during their Zoom classes as a conversation starter or to show off their collections. Ms. Brown’s school, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has its own local Squishmallow Instagram page, where fans can meet online and in-person and connect with each other.
Research contact @nytimes