Eric Knowles Eric Knowles, Antiquarian


The world record price paid for a Teddy Bear stands at a staggering £110,000. The black bear was made in about 1910 by the German maker Steiff. The big price was due to a combination of factors - its maker, its colour, its age and having previously been the property of a pioneer collector. In more recent times a blue coloured Steiff Bear christened by a previous generation of the family, 'Elliot', attracted a bid of £49,500.

If you feel inclined to adopt an unwanted Ted the good news is that there are plenty of potential candidates available for considerably less money. To find out more the best advice would be to get yourself along to a specialist auction or get to know a helpful dealer. A couple of reference books I can recommend are Bears by Sue Pearson and the Teddy Bear Encyclopedia by Pauline Cockerill. Book knowledge is fine but there's no substitute for getting out and about to auctions and the numerous Teddy Bear Fairs.

So how and when did the Teddy Bear first appear in the nurseries and bedrooms of the world. Most collectors suggest a date of about 1903. Soft toy Bears had been produced in Germany during the late 19th century but invariably shown on all fours attached to platform on wheels. The craze for an upright and jointed Bear appears to have begun as a result of the exploits of US President Theodore Roosevelt. Whilst out hunting 'Teddy' Roosevelt came across a cornered bear which he refused to shoot, the incident featured in a newspaper cartoon. This prompted Rose Michtom to produce a plush bear which was displayed in her huband's New York City store window. The bear was an instant success and the entire stock was purchased by the wholesalers Butler Brothers, leading to the founding of the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

Mention Teddy Bear to most people and the name Steiff is recognised by as the name to look out for. Not that you will find a label, but check the left ear for a metal button and look for long arms and a pronounced hump to the back. Germany proved pre-eminent as a maker of plush jointed Teddy Bears but the advent of the First World War saw the British maker emerge.

The first and most important UK maker as far as collectors are concerned is the firm of J K Farnell and Co. Prices start at £500. This was the company that during the 1920s produced the 'Alpha' bear that was to prove the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. The post war years saw the emergence of other British household names such as Merrythought, Deans, Chiltern and Chad Valley. The price of British bears is determined by maker, age, size and condition with some pre war bears being had for as little as £ 50.

Mrs Joan Taylor of Kent has written about a Teddy she 'rescued' from a local jumble sale a few months ago labelled Deans / Gwentoy.

Dean's are a maker that go back to 1915. Your Ted however has to date from after the purchase of Gwentoys in 1974 and has a value of about £30.

Incidentally AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh now resides in New York City Library, alas the chances of his return are about the same as the Elgin Marbles.



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