The Great Beanie Baby Bubble

Zac Bissonnette Portfolio, 272 pages, $26.95

This book shares some of the strengths and weaknesses of one of the central characters in the story: Ty Warner, the man behind Beanie Babies, who was astonishingly attentive to detail yet emotionally opaque.

"The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute," though, doesn't deliver anything like a good explanation for the delusion.

For anybody not paying attention just before the turn of the century, Beanie Babies were perfectly nice little stuffed animals selling for less than $10. The phenomenon: Far too many adults treated them like artifacts from Tutankhamen's tomb, scrambling to collect and preserve every new variety of Beanie in the sure knowledge that they would only get more valuable.

Except, of course, they did not. And collectors spent hundreds and even thousands of dollars on what ended up as they started: Perfectly nice stuffed animals worth less than $10.

We do learn a bit about Warner. He refused to grant an interview but did nothing to stop others from talking. Former employees, business partners and ex-girlfriends described ­Warner as a singularly selfish, calculating and generally unpleasant fellow with a fondness for cosmetic surgery and the potential for the occasional surprising act of generosity. And he has an unmatched focus on the quality of his products, which still sell today, absent the collectible gloss.