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Teenie beanie mania hits Hagerstown

June 04, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

It was 6 a.m. Friday when the McDonald's restaurant on Dual Highway opened. Fifteen minutes later, the place was packed.

Dozens of people showed up within the first hour to get their hands on the International Bears, the latest installment of Ty Teenie Beanie Babies, palm-sized stuffed toys that the fast-food franchise first introduced in 1997.

The Teenie Beanies are smaller versions of the popular Beanie Baby toys. Collectors and gift-givers came early for the arrival of the newest Teenie Beanies, called the International Bears.

Best friends Carmen Delosier, 44, and Kitty Shoop, 55, both of Hagerstown, woke up at the crack of dawn just to add the bears to their Beanie Baby collection.

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"I don't get up until noon, and I was up at 5:30," Delosier said. "We've been Beanie-ing for over a year now, and between the two of us we each have over 200."

Delosier estimated that she has put 10,000 miles on her car searching for new Beanie Babies, and she's gone as far as Seattle to get them. With one bear each after the first stop, Delosier and Shoop were preparing to rack up even more miles that day to try to get more of the collector's items.

Hagerstown resident Peggy Mills, 63, arrived at McDonald's at 6:30 a.m. After waiting in line for 25 minutes, she emerged triumphant with the International Bear from Great Britain. The wait was worth it, she said, "because my daughter wants a bear."

Mark Levine, who owns six McDonald's restaurants in the Hagerstown area, said he was prepared for the Teenie Beanie craze.

"The Teenie Beanie Babies have for three straight years been the most popular McDonald's Happy Meal toys ever," he said. "I think it's our children's generation of Barbies."

Although Teenie Beanies have been offered free inside McDonald's Happy Meals in the past, the four International Bears will be sold separately for $2.49 each with the purchase of an Extra Value Meal, Levine said. His stores released the first two bears, Glory from the United States and Britannia from Great Britain, on Friday. The other two, Erin from Ireland and Maple from Canada, will go on sale June 9.

To cope with the demand for Teenie Beanie Babies, Levine is imposing a limit of three toys per customer. He also gave his stores temporary phone numbers this year so their main numbers could be turned into recorded "Beanie Baby hot lines" that are updated each morning.

Levine said he created the hot lines because "the phone didn't stop ringing for the past two years" when the Teenie Beanies were on sale.

During the first hour of business Friday morning, the line of customers at the Dual Highway McDonald's peaked at about 30 people. Jim Robison, 61, of Hagerstown said he wanted to buy the International Bears for himself and his grandchildren. Robison started collecting the toys about a year and a half ago, and he has since acquired about 350 of them.

But not everyone was there to experience the Beanie Baby phenomenon. Richard Ridenour, 63, of Smithsburg said he hadn't been aware of the new Teenie Beanies.

"What's going on in here?" he asked. "I just came for coffee."

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