After failing as an actor, Illinois-born Ty Warner followed in the footsteps of his toy-selling father and pitched stuffed animals to Midwest retailers out of a white Rolls-Royce. Warner mortgaged his home to found his own company, Ty Inc., in 1983, but it would be a decade before he launched the pellet-filled creatures, which were a combination of a stuffed animal and bean bag. A collecting frenzy ensued three years later when Warner started retiring certain designs early and speculators began hoarding them. Now Warner collects luxury hotels.

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