Collecting Teddy Bears

Teddy bears have been with us for around 100 years and has been a popular toy with boys as well as girls.  Although the Teddy Bear arrived in Germany and the USA almost simultaneously, it was named in America, after Teddy Roosevelt.  As the American Ideal Toy Company began making their Teddy Bears, in Germany Margarete Steiff’s toy company was working flat out to meet the demands for this new kind of toy.

Steiff’s first soft toy bear was developed when Margarete’s nephew, Richard, joined the company in 1897.  Richard worked for the final years of the 1890s on the development and in 1902 he produced the world’s first string-jointed bear, which was showcased at the 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair.

With their long arms and feet, pointed snouts and humped backs, Steiff Teddies resemble real bears more closely than many competitors.  A Steiff bear is instantly recognizable due to the distinctive button in every bear’s ear and Steiff bears remain the most valuable, due to their historic appeal and high quality.

The success of Steiff soon drove other companies to make bears and in 1907 the Germany company Gebrueder Bing made a bear that carried a metal button in its right ear with the initial G.B.N. (Gebrueder Bing Nuremberg) stamped on it.  They were taken to court by Steiff in 1908 and forced to remove the button.    Steiff also rejcted the metal tag in black, cream and red that Bing clipped in the Teddy’s ear.  The company managed to get around this by placing the button under the arm of the bear.  You will quite often find a Bing bear with the metal button, but one marked with a signal tag is very rare.  You can recognize an early Bing bear by the black button eyes, small ears set wide apart, small facial features, curved paws, jointed arms and legs and a swivel head.

The first British bear is said to have been made in 1908 by J K Farnell, a London company.  Farnell’s Teddies were expensive due to the high quality materials used and the company soon began exporting to Paris and New York.  In 1996 the company name was bought by Merrythough who produce high-quality replicas of the original Farnell bears.

Farnell bears are often mistaken for Steiff due to their small features, large feet, long arms and black button eyes.  You will, however, recognize it by the large cupped ears set on the corner of the bear’s head, the shaved muzzle and the often long and silky, high quality mohair used by the company.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 imports from Germany were banned and this resulted in the production of British made goods, including Teddy Bears.  The Dean’s Rag Book company launched its first bear in 1915 under the name of ‘Kuddlemee’.  Early Dean bears were made with Mohair and stuffed with wood wool, as well as being fully jointed.  Bears from the 1920s and 30s have shaved muzzles and embroidered black noses, and some have a silver ID button in their ear.

Even after 100 years Teddy Bears have not lost their appeal and are popular with children and collectors alike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *