There are three kinds of items antiques dealers and consignment shops simply refuse to accept: Norman Rockwell plates, Precious Moments figurines and Beanie Babies. While those last two items have become synonymous with American kitsch, the latter symbolizes the perils of using collectibles as commodities.
"The difference between old comic books or Beanie Babies -- and they're worthless -- is that people were buying Beanie Babies for a retail price of $4 to $6 and were hoping to sell them on eBay for $40 to $50," Kahn says. "They thought it would be worth a lot of money, but some of these people were crazy and went to Toys R Us and bought $4,000 worth of Beanie Babies that ended up not being worth what they retailed for."While there are certain exceptions -- misprinted versions of Iggy and Rainbow that sold for a combined $5,000, a Coral Casino bear for $2,800 and in-box third-generation bear for $900 -- most Beanie Babies only enrich Ty Warner, the founder of Beanie Babies producer Ty Inc. who turned the toys into a $4.4 billion fortune and luxury hotel empire. The overwhelming majority of Beanie Babies end up in large lots that sell for $2 or less per plush beanbag. That's a price Kahn places on par with the resale value of collectible plates containing Norman Rockwell illustrations, but still more than the return on the pastel, pink-and-purple Precious Moments figurines. "Precious Moments are worth precious nothing -- they have no value," Kahn says, noting he refused to consign a woman's collection of 7,000 such statuettes that she'd insured for $110,000. "I gave her some advice: Leave your door open, your lights on and your back windows open."