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Collecting Vintage Australian Teddy Bears - Joy Toys

Updated on September 25, 2010

1940s teddy

 

 

The oldest and most prolific of the Australian soft toy manufacturers, Joy Toys is known for its quality. Highly sought – after by collectors, Joy Toys teddy bears command high prices on the Australian market.

Early Days – 1920s

The teddy bear industry began in Australia in South Yarra, Melbourne. Joy Toys commenced business in the early 1920s, as teddies became popular, and as WW1 meant a ban on teddies being imported from Germany, and disrupted shipments from Britain. Established by George Kirby and his wife, the company flourished.

The earliest bears produces were fully jointed, from fine quality English mohair,  stuffed with wood wool, and had twill pads with four foot claws. Eyes were glass, of the best quality. As German bears had been the predominant imports, these early Joy Toys bears resembled German bears.

1930s-40s

The company continued its success, with the bears becoming distinctly Australian in appearance, but with British characteristics. Necks became immobile, and arm pads were tapered and made of cotton, including twill. The distinctive Joy Toys nose appeared, in which an outer stitch on each side was extended up, and with a “Y” shaped mouth. Kapok ( soft, silky fibre from the seed pod of a tropical tree) was used as the stuffing. Often the eyes are missing from these early bears, which appears to have been a fault in the production.

In 1935 Joy Toys acquired the licencing rights to produce Walt Disney character toys and this helped the company to grow. Mickey Mouse was a popular toy, with  pie-crust eyes, and similar to the original rat-like “Steamboat Willy”.

In 1946 the British firm of Tri-ang took over the Joy Toys Ltd firm in Whangerie, N.Z. Tri-ang was originally founded by the Lines Brothers in 1850, and which also owned Pedigree.

Dolls were produced, often of felt with buckram (cloth mask) painted faces. Good examples still exist though they are a favourite with moths and so some damage is usually present!

1950s-60s

Joy Toys teddies of this period often display a distinctive smile! Happy bears are appealing and sell well! In the 1950s they had jointed (though stumpier) arms and legs, made from mohair/synthetic plush, velveteen or, later in the 60s, synthetic plush. Paw pads were often from a similar fabric, sometimes reversed. Crumbed rubber was also used for stuffing during this period, which deteriorated over time and so many of these bears have an unfortunate lumpiness!

During the 1960s, with the introduction of machine washable synthetic materials, the company developed a distictive unjointed teddy, with outstretched arms and straight legs. Pads were of a similar fabric. The same sweet smiling face, glass eyes and embroidered nose and mouth, could be seen in a range of animals that were  also produced, such as pandas and dogs. Stuffing was plastic foam moulded into the shape of the body.

Golliwogs were made at this time, with smiling vinyl faces, short fuzzy black hair, cloth bodies and jacket “tails”. These toys are highly sought-after.

Another distinctive toy of the 60s and early 70s was the long-legged range. These included golly wogs and poodles. Each “stood” three feet tall with long dangly arms and legs. Stuffed with foam, gollies had flat cotton faces, whereas poodles had shaped faces, curly “hair’ and a tail.

In 1966 Lines Bros (Tri-ang) took over the company, though it continued to operate under the Joy Toys name.

1960s-70s

Teddies produced in the early 1970s were of the unjointed shape. Produced from synthetic materials, they still generally had the beautiful glass eyes that Joy Toys was renowned for.

A vast range of soft toy animals also continued to be manufactured at this time, including giraffes in various sizes, dogs and cats. Giraffes, as they had been since the 1950s, were made from artificial silk plushes, giving them a lovely satiny sheen.

In the late 1960s, and into the early 1970s, tariffs were removed by the Australian goverment on imported toys. Consequently, the market was flooded with cheap imports from Asia. This made it impossible for Joy Toys to compete successfully. After attempting to stay in business with a range of cheaper quality toys, it closed in 1976.

Labels

The labels attached to the toys varied according to when they were made, though the time periods given are approximations.

1920s-40s-green embroidered “Joy Toys/Made In Australia” on white cotton label.

1950s-early 60s-green printed “Joy Toys/Made in Australia” on white cotton label.

1960s-70s-red or purple printed “Joy Toys/(Made In)Australia” on white label. Ocasionally labels simply said “Made In Australia”.

Swing tags accompanied each toy, though these are now hard to find intact.

Values

Value depends on many factors, including the generally accepted market determinants: rarity; age; condition; and appeal.

The increasing use of the internet has affected values in recent years, as it has opened up the global market to buyers and sellers. Many prices have fallen, whilst others have remained steady.

The following prices are an approximation only, and reflect the differences in values from those expected at a market, through to those expected at auction, private sale or antique shop.

Teddies:
1930/40s – $250-$1,200

1950s - $80-$250

1960/70s – $30-$100

Dogs:
1940/50s – $45-$110

1960/70s – $10-60

Golly Wogs:
1960s – $80-$300

1970s – $50-150

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    • profile image

      fran 

      6 years ago

      I have a little lion made by joy toy with class brown eyes and wkiskers on his face and hair on head with pink bow oround neck

    • Jo W profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo W 

      6 years ago

      Hi Margot,

      Your lion sounds wonderful! He would have been made in the 1950s-early 1960s. His larger size and rarity would give him a value, at a Collectors' Fair, of $120-150. Thanks :)

    • profile image

      Margot Sirr 

      6 years ago

      I was wondering if you could tell me how much my toy is worth. It is a rather huge mohair lion cub with glass eyes. It is sitting up on its haunches is 55 cm long, 29cm wide and 45 cm high. Its label is white with JOY-TOYS Australia embroidered in it in green. It is a yellowish beige in colour.Thankyou very much.Margot Sirr.

    • Jo W profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo W 

      8 years ago

      Thanks! Hope you had a lovely trip! :)

    • freelancewriterva profile image

      freelancewriterva 

      8 years ago

      Jo W, my wife and I visited Australia. I wish that I had read your hubpage before our trip. Great Hubpage.

    • Jo W profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo W 

      8 years ago

      Thanks Pamela! Yes, we love our teddies! :) I wonder how you could tell! (with five hubs about them!) :) My childhood teddy is a Joy Toys teddy so I've always been interested in his history! :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago

      It's neat to collect something that gains value over the years. I imagine you really like you teddy bears. Interesting hub.

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