C-C-Collectible: Chia Pets

You hear it every year without fail: “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” Like the greenery they grow, these odd little planters appear to crop up out of nowhere on store shelves each November. If it seems like Chia Pets only appear for two to three months out of the year and disappear mysteriously until the next, there’s a reason for that—they do!

A traditional Mexican terracotta craft turned marketing sensation, Chia Pets are everywhere around the holidays. They’re quirky, sure, and an easy checkmark on your shopping list for that cousin you don’t know too well, but are they worth anything after the novelty wears off? Believe it or not, some people don’t just gift, grow, and forget about Chia Pets the other nine months of the year; they collect them! Here are a few of the most collectible standouts in the great garden of Chia Pets.

Hippo chia pet planter alarm clock
A 25th Anniversary Chia Pet hippo, with a special bonus gift included.


These fuzzy terracotta planters have been around in some form since the late 1970s, with plain human heads called Chia Guys serving as the base for a small patch of green chia grass hair. The Chia ram, released in 1982, was the brand’s first proper pet and proved more successful. Imported—initially from Mexico, and post-2000, from China—by Joseph Enterprises, the Chia Pet became a massive hit with its non-stop television ads and earworm jingle in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

About that notorious jingle, some of the most sought-after classic Chia Pets aren’t valued for the planter itself so much as a bonus: a singing Chia Pet alarm clock. These sets were only sold for the brand’s 25th anniversary and are hard to come by unopened. While the accompanying planters were available in various animals, the musical clock only came in the shape of the original Chia Pet sheep.


Mr. T chia pet chia head vintage
I pity the collector who doesn’t have one of these rare Mr. T Chia Heads.

Although the original, generic human Chia Guy was a relative flop, Chia Heads, themed after real people and characters, proved to be a massive success for the brand (and its imitators, but more on that later). One of the most wanted is the Mr. T Chia Head. This rare planter grows chia grass in a narrow line to mimic the A-Team star’s signature mohawk hairstyle. It was given away in special promos for the classic television station TV Land in the late 1990s. Some Mr. T heads were also given as gifts to Nickelodeon executives around the same time.


Despite holding the trademark for the name “Chia Pet,” the brand doesn’t hold a patent on its basic design. This technicality has inspired many imitators, especially during the chia heyday of the ’90s. One such Chia-impostor was the punny “Grateful Head,” a Jerry Garcia-shaped chia seed planter sold by Juan Amigo’s Catfish Design Ltd. in 1993. This unlicensed chia planter is highly collectible thanks to the fervent fandom around the Grateful Dead and the design being a perfect fit for Garcia’s legendary head of hair.

Jerry Garcia grateful head chia
While not an authentic Chia Head, this Jerry Garcia planter is arguably among the most collectible.


Speaking of legendary hair, let’s move into the modern era with an extremely niche but official Chia Head. To celebrate the long career of Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks hockey team gave away a limited number of Chia Heads modeled after the beloved defenseman. Fans who bought tickets to the team’s game against the Los Angeles Kings on March 28th, 2016, got their very own Brent Burns planter as a promo. Burns’ iconic long beard and hair were supplied by the included chia seeds and some patience. Because Chia Burns was never sold in stores, fans who didn’t make it to that specific game are forced to look online for theirs, often at an eye-popping price secondhand.

San jose sharks brent burns chia pet
Brent Burns’ Chia Head also accommodates a Chia beard. A must for NHL fans and Chia collectors alike.


Another unusual promotional Chia Head, or heads, I should say, comes from the YouTube comedy series Good Mythical Morning. Show hosts Rhett and Link released an extremely limited run of Chia Heads to their followers in the winter of 2020. Inspired by a sketch in which the hosts pretend to interview an Abraham Lincoln Chia Head, planters in the likeness of this dynamic internet duo fetch a nice price on the secondhand market.


Since the action figure brand NECA acquired Chia Pets in 2018, the lineup of themed planters has only grown, including everything from beloved painter Bob Ross to the terrifying Cthulhu. Character-specific Chia Pets and Heads have been a hit since they were introduced in the early 2000s. They have also breathed new life into the brand in recent years, with folks around in the ’80s and ’90s increasingly nostalgic for both the planters and their iconic commercials.

Chia Pets make a great novelty or office white elephant gift, but few hold the value of the ones mentioned above. The garden of chia tchotchkes (both original and imitators) is vast and varied, but most are mass-produced. Niche fandoms can make a collectible out of just about anything, and these odd little planters are no exception. So, suppose you see a particularly unusual Chia Head or Pet in the wild, especially in a limited edition? In that case, it c-c-c-couldn’t hurt to grab one as a potential flip down the line or, if all else fails, an easy gift.

Rory Tessmer is an eBayer and freelancer from southeastern Wisconsin with over a decade of specialty retail and resale experience under their belt. Rory has had the pleasure of seeing (and sometimes even playing with) hundreds of unusual collectibles over the years, from tesla coils to military mule-branding kits. In their spare time, they enjoy cooking, gaming, and noodling around with their synthesizer.

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