Ty Inc., citing a flood of letters from children around the world, said Friday that it will hold an Internet vote on whether to proceed with its plans to stop making the popular stuffed animals known as Beanie Babies on Dec. 31.
Ty Warner, the company's founder, posted an announcement on the company's Web site announcing a worldwide Internet vote to start on Dec. 31, with the proceeds from each 50-cent vote cast going to a pediatric AIDS foundation.
Ty shocked collectors around the world when it announced in September that it would cease production of all Beanie Babies, a move that sparked feverish trading in the plush stuffed animals on the Internet and sharply pushed up their prices.
"I have received hundreds of letters from children, educators, hospitals, clinics, charities and collectors around the world asking me to reconsider my decision and create new Beanies," Warner wrote on the company's Web site.
"After much thought, I am willing to put the fate of Beanie Babies in your hands ... I will kick off the new millennium by conducting the first live worldwide vote of its kind, a global vote to determine whether Beanie Babies should, or should not, be continued."
He said the company's factories were already shut down, but he would "re-launch production" if collectors voted for continuation of the Beanies Babies, a line of small, stuffed animals representing various animals in whimsical colors.
The vote will begin at 6 a.m. (US EST) on Dec. 31 and end at 6 a.m. (US EST) on Jan. 2, 2000.
Ty Inc., based in Oak Brook, Illinois, said the charge per vote would be 50 cents, which would prevent repeat voting, with all the proceeds to be donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
A spokeswoman for the foundation predicted the vote would generate millions of dollars in donations.
"We extend our heartfelt thanks to Ty Warner for his extraordinary generosity and commitment to children," said Paul Michael Glaser, television star and chairman of the board of the foundation.
The group is named after his wife, who died of AIDS in 1994 after being infected with HIV by a blood transfusion while giving birth. The couple's daughter died as well, and their son Jake is battling the disease.
Beanie Babies, cute toys stuffed with plastic pellets, were first sold in 1994 and became hot collectibles in the summer of 1996, when Ty began to retire some of the characters and introduce others.
They sell for as little as $5. But many less-common models sell for much more, and in May one Beanie Baby --- Reanut the Royal Blue Elephant -- sold at auction for $4,200. Analysts had long predicted that Ty might announce a new, altered line of Beanie Baby-like toys in 2000.
Published reports have identified Warner as a billionaire and the richest toy maker in the world. Last spring he bought New York's Four Seasons luxury hotel for US$275 million.