BA for Teddy bear collecting



It's no picnic at the teddy bears tea party

A lot of teddy bears born in Germany at the beginning of the century have given lots of pleasure and have then grown up to earn lots of money for their owners. Some that are born today will do the same for their owners, but which ones? Now there is a question. Quality and rarity are factors that always come into the equation. Something that will also start to have a bearing on the value will be the substance from which the bear is made; no longer will cloth be the only material used to make them, pottery, concrete, plastic and precious metals will all play a part in people’s fascination with the teddy bear. Another factor that will play a part in a bear’s rise to fame will be whether they make it in story form in print and more especially as a cartoon character on TV or the Internet, all this will be dependent on the bear’s personality and their family.

So what of the past and what is its bearing on the present? Today, well–worn cloth bears made 70 to 80 years ago are changing hands for thousands of pounds. In December, 1994 Teddy Girl was sold at Christie’s, South Kensington, London to Yoshihiro Sekiguchi, a Japanese business man for £100,000, the highest price ever paid for a teddy bear. The 1904 cinnamon Steiff bear was originally bought in the same year for Lt. Col. Bob Henderson on the day that he was born. Henderson, who died in 1990, founded the Good Bears of the World, a charity that gives teddy bears to sick and lonely children. So much pleasure is given by teddy bears.

Before that the highest price paid for a bear was by Ian Pout in 1989, a retired City of London stockbroker, who runs Teddy Bears of Whitney in Oxfordshire, and who bought “Alfonzo”, a red Steiff bear made in 1908, for £12,000. This was thought to be a staggering amount to pay for a bear, but this amount was surpassed later in the year when “Happy” was sold for £55,000. A Steiff blue bear sold for £49,500 in 1993, but everyone is looking for the green one which is believed to exist.

History, or providence, is all important, for Pout’s bear began life in the court of the Russian tsar. Grand Duke Georgy Mikhainlovitch gave the bear to his daughter, Princess Xenia Georgievna as a gift. “Alfonzo” missed the Russian revolution because the Princess and her family were staying at Buckingham palace in London and then were prevented from returning to Russia by the outbreak of the first world war.

Sales are held at various times of the year at Christie’s, Bonhams’ and Phillips in London. As many as five hundred bears can be auctioned and prices range from a hundred pounds to many thousands. People will become quite emotional at the auctions for many people will have spent all their lives with the bear that is being sold. It’s like finding a new home for a loved one.

Teddy bears started in 1903 when a cartoon appeared in an American newspaper depicting American President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt refusing to shoot a bear cub that his hosts had tied to a tree so the president would not be left without a kill on a hunting excursion. Soon after this, an enterprising novelty shop owner in Brooklyn, New York, made some toy bears and put them in his window calling them Teddy’s Bear. They became so popular that they soon sold out. A company called the Ideal Toy company was established to capitalise on the new found excitement. At this time 1903 the Steiff toy company, started by Margaret Steiff in Giengen, near Stuttgart in southern Germany had just started producing soft toys with movable heads, arms and legs. She tried out several prototypes including a jointed chimpanzee and tried several colours browny–yellow, red, black, blue, apricot and green. The toys, made from mohair, were filled with wood shavings. It seemed natural to produce teddy bears so they were modelled on the bears in Stuttgart zoo. Steiff bears always had a distinctive button in their left ear and have become the desirable of bears to collect, selling one million bears in their first year of manufacture. Bing, another German manufacturer, joined Steiff and dominated the market. With the onset of war in 1914 German goods were banned from Britain so opening up the bear market for manufacturers such as Harwin, Chad Valley and Chiltern. These bears have now become very good investments. Look out for rare animals such as dogs, elephants, rabbits and pigs made by the famous names.

The most famous bear “Winnie the Pooh”, sits alongside friends “Kanga”, “Eeyore”, “Piglet” and “Tigger” in the New York library. “Pooh”, the world’s favourite teddy was made by Farnell, Britain’s foremost soft toy maker. Other bears have come along during the years and made a name for themselves, one such is “Rupert”, the white bear created for the Daily Express by Bestall. Another is “Paddington”, the bear found on Paddington Railway station, London, having just come from Peru. “Sooty” Harry Corbett’s bear is another bear that will be with us for years to come. A new bear such as “Ingleby”, sculpted by John Hart has started to appear. The new Ingleby Bear collection has been sculpted by Gwendoline Hirst, who owns the copyright for the new bears. “Ingleby” and family are manufactured in concrete by the Original Stonebear Company in Yorkshire, England and can be used as a garden ornament, although he and the family have a habit of finding their way into the house. You can find grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts, sons and daughters, some wearing spectacles, some wearing hats, but all giving pleasure.

Now is “Ingleby” a bear for collectors? Whatever happens he will give much pleasure to those who have chosen to collect his family and friends. Always remember, collect for pleasure not for profit.

Sources of information can be gained from The British Teddy Bear Association, PO Box 290, Brighton, BN2 1DR. Monthly magazines such as The Teddy Bear Times, Teddy Bear Club, Hugglets and Teddy Bear Scene give further reading. Sites are appearing on the net with being a start.

Enjoy your hobby.

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