Bongo the Monkey is a classic 1995 Beanie Baby that you might well recognise. His beady black eyes and uniform brown fur made him one of the simpler designs of the era, and fans rushed to collect him in his two-year manufacture period.
Variants included a brown-tailed version and a tan-tailed version. But most importantly, one variant named Nana – the very earliest name under which Bongo was released – could be worth as much as $1,000 in today’s market.
Monkeys were a particularly popular comedy figure in the 90s. In 1992, Disney’s Aladdin introduced the sidekick character of Abu, a notorious primate kleptomaniac. George of the Jungle, Doctor Dolittle, Dunston Checks In and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, meanwhile, all featured prominent primate characters. On TV, Ross’ pet monkey became a common sight on the show Friends, while Friends star Matt LeBlanc even co-starred with a chimpanzee in the 1996 comedy Ed.
Bongo the Monkey was first released to toy stores on August 17, 1995. He is almost completely mid-brown, with a paler face and ears. Bongo resembles the world’s most common monkey species: the Rhesus macaque.
Bongo’s poem, printed on every Tush Tag, reads:
“Bongo the monkey lives in a tree
The happiest monkey you’ll ever see
In his spare time he plays the guitar
One of these days he will be a big star!”
The Tush Tag specifies that the toy was made in China, and also exhorts fans to visit the website www.ty.com. Though a common sight today, in 1995 this message signified a bold step in marketing.
Ty Inc. was the first business to ever make a direct-to-consumer website, which played a valuable role in promoting the brand amid a frenzied fan base.
Bongo was Ty Inc.’s first monkey, but certainly not its last. Bongo was followed by Mooch (1998), Rally (2000), Zodiac Monkey (2000), Bonsai (2001), Valentine (2003), Chopstix (2003), Swinger (2004), Fumbles (2004), Poet (2004), Romeo & Juliet (2005), Weaver (2005), Hoodwink (2006), Charlie (2006), Cheek to Cheek (2006), Zoomer (2006), Junglelove (2006), Sunset (2006), D’vine (2008), Friends (2007) and Rainbow Sock (2012).
Bongo was made in miniature as a Teenie Beanie in 1998, and again as a Beanie Buddy in 1999. A popular character worldwide, he was sold under different names in some countries, such as the German version, Mitch.
In recent eBay.com auctions, Bongo’s price has varied considerably. One Bongo, reportedly given away as a promotional item at a Canadian production of Phantom of the Opera, sold for $60 in May 2023.
Others commonly range in price from $35 to $25, depending on condition. The very earliest versions of Bongo (dating to 1995) were named Nana, and these extremely rare copies are worth more than your average Bongo. However, such items must have an intact named tush tag to prove their worth.
As a rare edition, Nana does not surface on eBay.com as often as other Beanie Babies. There have been no recent sales of Nana online, making it harder to determine exactly what the toy is worth.
However, sellers remain hopeful that this toy can fetch a fortune with the right market. Currently, Nana is listed on eBay for sums as high as $999. News sites including MSN have reported that a pristine quality Nana the Monkey could be worth as much as $4000.