Who was your favourite bear? Was it Rupert, Winnie the Pooh or Yogi?
Along with being among the most loved toys, teddy bears are also very collectible. They were named after American's 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, who was commonly known as Teddy. During a 1902 bear hunting trip Roosevelt's party cornered and tied up an American black bear. Roosevelt refused to shoot the animal claiming it was unsportsmanlike and the incident became the topic of a cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post and the name stuck.
A person who likes or collects teddy bears is an Arctophile and they often favour specific types inspired by a particular manufacturer, age, special edition and how a bear is dressed or isn't. Different makers have different ways of making a head, ears, arms, and legs - some can be identified by the stitching on the nose. The age of the bear determines the type of stuffing and fabrics used, patterns and the material used for the eyes.
An iconic brand is Germany-based Steiff. It was founded in 1880 by Margarete Steiff, a seamstress. The toys began as elephants and were sold as pincushions, however, children began playing with them and she went on to design other animals including dogs, cats and pigs. Her nephew Richard joined in 1897 and gave the company an enormous boost by creating stuffed animals from drawings made at the zoo and the business grew when a 3000-piece order was placed in 1903 by a buyer in America. Steiff's USP is products are subject to meticulous testing and inspection and made using alpaca, felt, mohair and woven plush. Eyes are generally wood or glass and the stuffing is commonly wood shavings or polyester fibre. The brand's iconic "button in ear" tag introduced in 1904 was to help avoid counterfeits. The tag originally had the symbol of an elephant which was later replaced by the name "Steiff" - there have been some special toys have both the elephant and the name.
Ignaz and Adolph Bing founded their company in Nuremberg in 1863 selling toys and kitchenware. They began producing teddy bears in 1907. Bing teddies have mischievous faces with a big smile, long shaved muzzles with double stitched embroidered noses and orange glass eyes; they also had shorter arms and legs. Some earlier Bing bears had their ears and faces made from a single piece of fabric. Early pre-1910 Bing teddy bears had a metal shaped sign in their ear, which had to be changed after Steiff objected. It is exceedingly rare to find teddy bears with this tag.
Chad Valley and Chiltern are among the best loved vintage teddy bear manufactures. Both companies started making their first soft toys in 1915 when Chiltern made their now famous Master Teddy and Chad Valley produced their first jointed plush teddy bears. Chiltern's 'Hugmee' range is particularly popular with collectors, however, early versions stuffed with woodwool were not particularly child friendly.
Merrythought has handmade traditional teddy bears in the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge, Shropshire since 1930. It is a family business famous for crafting the finest, jointed, mohair teddy bears sold all over the world but with a particularly strong fan base in Japan.
Established in 1991 ILS World's private client team is experienced at working with clients who include collectibles as part of their investment portfolios providing advice on trust and specialist company formation as tools to safeguard the pieces for owners and future successors. The growing number of online auctions has boosted the appeal of passion assets and in recent years there have been many dedicated to the sale of teddy bears.
Steiff started the special edition/duplicate bear trend as early as 1980, and many manufacturers, including Steiff and Gund, now have collector's clubs. Special edition teddies include bears to celebrate such varied events as German Reunification and the Moscow Winter Olympics. Manufacturers often limit numbers so as not to flood the market and keep the price up.
The private client team has a great deal of experience supporting many passionate collectors and we collaborate with acknowledged industry professionals such as storage experts who know bears on display should be dusted regularly and kept out of reach of pets. They should never be kept in polythene bags but instead in a moderately cool and dry spot with a cedar block to repel moths.
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