INNISFAIL – Margaret McPhee is passing on a passion that sustained her for a quarter century in order to help others.
The 83-year-old Innisfail senior is donating more than 2,500 prized Beanie Babies to Innisfail & District Victim Services.
Her massive collection of the popular line of stuffed toys, which first became a major sensation for collectors in the last half of the 1990s, will be auctioned off online from July 12 to 21 at the following website, https://www.32auctions.com/IVS
“The goal with the auction is to raise funds to continue to provide support and services to victims of crime and trauma,” said Jamey Kroetsch, of Innisfail & District Victim Services.
Kroetsch added the auction link will take Beanie baby enthusiasts straight to the auction where an account is required to bid on the items. There is also a section just for donations. All payments will be through PayPal, which accepts credit and debit cards.
“I am sort of sad to see them go but I know it’s time,” said McPhee, who has lived in Innisfail and the area since 1998 after moving from Fort St. John, B.C. “I thought I should do it now because who knows? I could live another year or I could live another 10 but if I kept this Beanie Babies collection, I am leaving it to my kids to get rid of.”
McPhee said she has been collecting Beanie Babies since before the mid-1990s.
“I just thought they were so doggone cute and everything,” she said. “At the time I was doing this I thought, ‘well, I don’t go to the liquor store and I don’t smoke’, and I thought, ‘well, I have to have something to amuse me or spend a few reckless dollars on.”
McPhee estimates she has spent between $25 and $30,000 on her collection of beloved Beanie Babies, which she says totals about 3,000.
“I was collecting just about everything that came out. I bypassed some I should have bought, ones that ended up being the big pricers,” she said, adding she stopped buying them about seven years ago when the marketing strategy for the famous stuffed toy went digital. “As I am not a tech person I just sort of quit buying.”
So, at the age of 82 McPhee felt it was time to make a decision about the future for her prized collection.
She said her son from Edmonton and two daughters, who both live in Philadelphia, told her they did not need the toys. Her grandchildren, all born around the turn of the millennium, had grown up, “graduating past the Beanie stuff.”
McPhee then thought about selling them piecemeal from home but that was not workable.
“For me to try to set up a display of all these Beanie Babies and have people coming by my house all the time for a Beanie sale, I wasn’t up for that,” she said, adding the toys were immaculately displayed in cabinets at her home. “I thought, ‘no, these things are all boxed. They’ve never been handled. Once I bought them from the store they’ve never been played with or anything and they’ve got protection caps on the tags. They are in pristine condition.”
And then came an inspiration. She called Mary Dawn Eggleton, program manager at the Innisfail & District Victim Services.
“For some reason I thought of victim services. I didn’t know whether they would be interested or not,” said McPhee. “I thought, ‘well, the firemen, the emergency people, the police – all those units. They all go out to accidents and fires.
“I told Mary Dawn you can do what you want with them. They’re yours. You do what you think is best,” she said, adding the agency was delighted with the offer.
Since then, McPhee has been busy sorting through her massive Beanie Baby collection. There are some she won’t part with, like the trio of the dozen Princess the bear Beanie Babies that came out following the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, in 1997.
“Those I held back,” said McPhee. “Maybe I can convince the family about some of them. But most of them will be going.”
For more information on Innisfail & District Victim Services go to the agency’s website at www.innisfailvictimservices.ca