This blog post is written in loving memory of bean No. 57 of the Pokémon: Advanced series.
It’s amazing how companies train kids to become gamblers at such a young age. I recently found all my old Pokémon cards again and like magic, this strange mixture of nostalgia and obsession overtook me to the point where I went straight to Target to buy more. There’s just something about the anticipation you feel when you don’t know what’s inside your purchase, not to mention the surprise (and usual regret) of opening the package. Before there were loot boxes in video games, there were trading card games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, as well as fast food toy lines that made children restless. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Mighty Beanz, of all collectibles, are still circulating out in the wild.
What Are Mighty Beanz?
Mighty Beanz are a line of collectible jumping bean toys made by Australian company, Moose Toys, and licensed to Spin Master in North America. Releasing in 2002, the first wave of Mighty Beanz included 60 different bean designs, each with its own number designation, theme, name, and description. As the pioneer of the jumping bean craze, Series 1 included some of the zaniest, most cartoony-looking beans, ranging from such archetypes as a clown or dragon to very blatant parodies of real-life persona. What better example to give than bean No. 1 himself, Rock’N’Roll, whose favorite food is described as chocolate-coated, deep-fried cheeseburgers. I wonder who that’s supposed to be…?
The concept of collectible plastic beans containing small, metal ball bearings and coated with colorful paint and whimsical characters was exactly what made eight-year-old me tick. Growing up, I couldn’t wait until the next opportunity to pick up a new pack of beans from the store! Mighty Beanz typically sold in smaller packs of three or larger packs of six, which concealed the contents so that you never truly knew what you were going to get. While it’s a no-brainer that kids would prefer the larger pack over the smaller one, each six-pack also teased kids by revealing one bean in a clear, plastic window at the bottom of the box. The window also had a “TILT ME!” label, enticing kids to make the sample bean jump. Needless to say, the beans practically sold themselves.
What made the idea of Mighty Beanz so ingenious was not only the fact that there were so many to collect, but that each package came with a checklist categorizing the beans by rarity. Nothing ignites a collector more than knowing that there are rarer items in existence that they don’t yet have. Take little Timmy, for instance; a kid in 2002 who wanted all the “cool ones.” You can bet that his parents might have shelled out a pretty penny just so that little Timmy could be satisfied with his collection. Unfortunately for little Timmy’s parents, the world of Mighty Beanz was about to get a whole lot bigger in 2003.
Expanding the Universe
The original lineup of Mighty Beanz rolled out across five series, but if I’m being honest, the originals weren’t the ones I remember as fondly. What really made these toys so special was the crossovers they had with such iconic franchises as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marvel Super Heroes, and Pokémon, among many, many others.
So many different worlds made it doubly difficult to complete a specific set. Not only that, but while introducing new characters into the mix, Moose Toys began producing mightier Mighty Beanz that were nearly twice as large as the typical bean. These larger beans were tanks by comparison, and some even came in packs with rubber outfits called Bean Bodz that could be fixed to customize the bean. I was never very keen on these larger beans, as they wouldn’t fit inside my official patented Mighty Beanz collector's case.
Collecting beans from each of these cartoon universes was half the fun, as the true thrill came from pitting them against those of your friends. If you were the competitive type, you would either challenge your friends to a battle or a race. To battle with your beans, you’d need a flat surface (preferably the floor, but a table would suffice). Next, you and your rival would sit across from each other, and one of you would choose a bean to stand up. The other would lay their bean down sidewise and have three chances to roll it into the opponent’s bean to knock it down.
I’ll admit that I preferred trading or racing beans with friends as opposed to battling with them, as I couldn’t stand seeing how beat up my beans would get after countless times of them either dropping to the floor or bouncing off the walls. Unlike battling, racing required a separate accessory. Introducing Moose’s Mighty Beanz Ultimate Jump Park – perhaps the worst toy I've ever owned. How hard can it be to build a simple track? Apparently very, as no matter how many times I took the track apart and rebuilt it using the instructions provided, my beans either got stuck midway through or completely fell off the side. Seriously, I encourage you to search the track on Amazon and check out some of the reviews.
The Fall – and Rise – and Fall – and Rise of Mighty Beanz
After jumping around toy aisles for four consecutive years, Mighty Beanz were discontinued in 2006. It would take another four years for the beans to make their triumphant return in 2010, which saw the release of the Simpsons and DC Universe characters, but even this resurgence was short-lived. Until very recently, Mighty Beanz were once again discontinued in 2012, where the brand laid dormant for another six years. In 2018, the beans were resuscitated once more – and what better way to regain relevance in modern society than to introduce a line of Fortnite Mighty Beanz?
While I can’t justify rushing out to buy Fortnite beans in quite the same way as splurging on Pokémon cards, I’m satisfied to know that Mighty Beanz aren’t quite the dead toy line that I thought they were. That said, I’ve only been able to find the most recent iterations of the beans being sold by third-party vendors online, so it very well may be that Mighty Beanz are officially on their last legs.
Mighty Beanz Hall of Fame
I confess that I sold my entire case of Mighty Beanz – as well as that wretched racetrack – at a yard sale years ago. While I don’t have a photographic memory, I do remember most of the beans in my collection. I think it might be nice to pay homage to all the fun I had playing with them as a kid by featuring them here, in numerical order.
Series 1 (Original) – 2002
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – 2003
Marvel Super Heroes – 2003
Pokémon: Advanced – 2004
...and the one that got away. I'll never forget you, Latios!