Ty, the company that makes Beanies Babies, has renamed their first African American dolls, which may have been originally christened after the Obama girls. At first, when the dolls–Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha–were announced, company spokeswoman Tania Lundeen said:
They’re such adorable girls. How can we resist?
But Michelle Obama didn’t feel quite the same way. Her spokesperson responded:
We believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes.
at which point Ty backpedaled, saying they’d chosen the dolls’ names because
they are beautiful names
and not because coincidentally President Obama’s daughters had the same nomenclature. Ty’s Lundeen said:
There’s nothing on the dolls that refers to the Obama girls. It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not.
But then Ty suddenly changed the names of the dolls to Marvelous Mariah and Sweet Sydney, making online toy sellers very happy: The new names have prompted, naturally, a spike in the price of the dolls on EBay, since those with the original hang tags of Malia and Sasha are now considered "retired" and thus rare and valuable.
Ty has been feeding this speculator frenzy for over a decade by producing limited numbers of dolls and retiring (or in this case renaming) them, creating a post-modern version of tulip mania. Or any other number of recent bubbles.