How Squishmallows became the new Beanie Babies

Bean Matthews color coded Squishmallow collection. Photo courtesy of Matthews.

Over the years, certain items have become popular to collect and trade. From Disney pins to Funko Pops, each character is a must-have for fans of different shows or movies.

A new trend that has become popular among people to collect on social media are Squishmallows.

Created in 2017 by Kelly Toys, Squishmallows are stuffed animals that come in many different shapes and sizes. With more than 800 designs, each Squishmallow is unique to collect because of the stories and names that come with each one.

At prices as low as $2.99 to $60, people of all ages can buy Squishmallows ranging in sizes of 3.5 to 24 inches.

Obsessing over stuffed animals hadn’t been unheard of when people were crazing over Beanie Babies in the ’90s. People learned their lesson when Beanie Babies lost their monetary value and years of collecting became relatively worthless. Now that it’s 2021, why are people becoming infatuated with stuffed animals again?

Squishmallows started gaining traction in 2019 when people on TikTok started posting videos of their collections. What started as simply sharing an interest turned into something more.

Squishmallows are sold nationwide. Here are just a few of the locations of retail stores in California where Squishmallows can be found. Infographic by Angelica Lopez.

Now people were showing themselves going to different locations and hunting for Squishmallows. Although the stuffed animals are sold in multiple retail stores, it has started to become more difficult to find them.

Although a fan-created master list of every Squishmallow known to exist has been made, there is no official count or knowledge of how many different Squishmallows there truly are.

Squishmallows found in one place will often only be exclusive to that location. There are also some that can only be bought online.

The fact that you may find a rare Squishmallow one day is what makes hunting for them so popular among the stuffed animal collectors. Collections vary from each person to the next because of how limited some of them can be.

With rarity also comes people who take advantage of those looking for Squishmallows for their collection. Stores often have to put up signs stating that customers are limited to purchasing only two because of scalpers coming in to buy all of them in stock.

The resale prices haven’t reached the ridiculously high market value that Beanie Babies held at one point, but rarer Squishmallows are often listed at slightly higher prices than you’d find in stores.

Squishmallows largest community can be found throughout TikTok and Instagram, with accounts and pages dedicated to showing their collection, helping others find certain ones at stores or trading Squishmallows. Groups that help others find and sell their collections ensure that people aren’t selling them above retail prices.

Despite not being a listed retailer, Squishmallows can be found in the most unexpected places such as the 99 cents store. Photos by Angelica Lopez.

Despite some of the other intentions people have with buying and collecting Squishmallows, most people who collect them simply enjoy the feeling that the stuffed animals bring them.

For example, a Squishmallow that started getting attention was Stacy the Squid. People felt like they could relate to her bio that read, “Stacy is a shy squid, she prefers to be home with her friends or even by herself. Big groups of Squishmallows make her a little nervous, so she loves to learn and explore through books. She’s quiet at first but all her friends know she can be very silly.”

Bean Matthews (they/them), 22 years old, said that they think Squishmallow’s inclusivity is what made them appeal to so many people.

“I started collecting squishmallows in November of 2020 and I started because they bring me a ton of comfort, especially in such a scary time like the pandemic,” Matthews said. “To me, what makes squishmallows different are their bio tags and the way they feel. As a neurodivergent nonbinary person, it feels so nice to be represented and the texture of squishmallows is super grounding when I’m having a tough time. I think a lot of the squishmallow community have similar reasons for liking them.”

They first heard about Squishmallows through TikTok and that’s what initiated their desire to start collecting.

“My first Squishmallow was 16” Wendy the frog from Walgreens, on sale for $10,” Matthews said. “It was such a rush and finding her made me so happy. My favorite squishmallows are all of the ones that use they/them pronouns, like Juniper and Bobby and Teegan. Hunting for Squishmallows can be a little tiring and frustrating, but finding them makes it all worth it. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, locally and online, through collecting and I feel very grateful for them. I like Squishmallows for how they feel, the stories they come with, and how good it feels to find the one you’ve been searching for forever.”

Reyana Bates (she/her), 22 years old, started collecting in December 2020 after hearing about them from her roommate.

“I decided to start collecting after I realized how cute they really were, and how comfortable they are,” Bates said. “Squishmallows are much softer than other stuffed animals, and I think they’ve become so popular because they’re so comfy. My first Squish was Cali the Caticorn, and she was the last one at Walgreens, so I knew I had to have her. My hunting experience usually includes going into multiple stores near me checking their sections, but unfortunately they’re too popular to find anymore.”

Bates said Squishmallows and everything that comes along with collecting them makes her feel secure and less alone.

“Being in the community has really helped me feel more comfortable about my love for squish,” Bates said. “I’ve also made a lot of new friends in my area… I like Squishmallows because they’re comforting, and they make me feel safe.”



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