Vintage Teddy Bears
The old-fashioned Teddy Bear has been delighting children since 1902. As the story goes, the bears were created as the result of a Washington Post cartoon that made fun of President Theadore Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear while on a hunting trip.
Teddies are a simple uncomplicated toy, yet for young children they're still unbeatable as a source of warm, cuddly security. You can't hug a playstation. Well you can but it doesn't feel good. The other good thing about Teddies is that they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with their own 'personality'. They are a classic toy, and while fads come and go, they never go out of style.
The very earliest Bears looked more like real bears with long snouts and small eyes but as the decades wore on Teddies became more stylised. Today's bears tend to have more babyish features and are rounder and fatter.
Some grown-ups still have their childhood bears and for many, it's the toy they feel the strongest sentimental attachment to - perhaps because it's often the one they've had since babyhood.
The World's Most Expensive Teddy Bear
One of the most famous Teddy Bear manufacturers is Steiff, who claim to have produced the very first Teddy Bear. Recently they brought out a rich, luxurious Bear to mark the 125th anniverary of the company. Vintage Steiff bears are highly collectable and if in good condition, often command large prices.
The anniversary bear (shown at right) is adorned with solid gold mouth, golden thread fur and bejewelled eyes - sapphire pupils with diamond irises.
There were only 125 of these special bears produced and they sold for around 84 thousand USD. I daresay you wouldn't want little Tommy dragging this bear around the kitchen floor.
It's doubtful that Steiff did make the first Teddy, although they certainly were an early manufacturer. Credit for the first Teddy Bear is usually given to Morris Michtom, a stuffed toy maker and candy shop owner who was so taken by the hunting cartoon of Roosevelt, he decided to make a bear in his name. The bears proved to be wildly popular - so much so that Michtom formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in 1907
Teddy Bear's Picnic
Vintage bears are quite collectable and serious collectors know how to identify the distinguising features that date a bear. This can involve the material used, nose-shape, body shape, eyes, facial expression, arm length etc.
Most Teddy Bears were originally made from mohair, then in the 1920s, faux silk plush, followed by nylon plush or sheepskin in the late 1930s/40's. Mohair or a combination of mohair/synthetic plush was still used up until the 1950s when it was superseded by acrylic plush/polyester. Particular manufacturers have their own characteristics but of course an in-tact label, provided it's genuine, is the best guide.
In the early days bears were stuffed with fine, long wood shavings that gave them a stiff, crunchy feel. This was followed by kapock (from a tropical tree seed pod), which was harder and heavier and by the 1960s plastic foam had taken over. Along with polyester wadding it's the most popular stuffing used today.
Among the most collectable Teddies are very early Steiff bears, which had long
snouts and humped backs, along with large, splayed out feet and elongated arms with curved paws. Apart from Steiff, other top collectable labels are Chiltern, Gund, Jakas (1950's) Joy Toys and Ideal. Vemont and Merrythought are also popular.
Reproduction Teddy Bears
Vintage Teddy Bears are a huge billion dollar a year industry and not just for the bears themselves. Their images are used on anything from mugs and t-shirts to bed linen, curtains and lunch boxes.
Vintage reproduction bears are collectable in their own right and are a good option for those who cannot afford or can't find original antique Teddy Bears. A recent article in London's Independent newspaper noted that reproduction Teddy Bears (along with other vintage items) are becoming a 'secondary industry' on the collectables circuit.
"Teddy bears are enjoying the most lucrative reproduction picnic"
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