Collecting Teddy Bears

There will always be toys that we can count on to be there for every generation, including the yo-yo and marbles, but none is more endearing or enduring than the teddy bear. Teddy bears are more than toys, however. Teddy bears are more than toys however, and can also be rare collector's items. Whether you're looking for a gift for a special child or simply want to add to your teddy bear collection, you'll find just the right teddy bear to touch your heart on eBay Australia. Start shopping for teddy bears now on eBay Australia!

Discover the History of Teddy Bears

Although the exact origin of the teddy bear is not certain, there are two stories that seem to explain the creation of the teddy bear at around the same time.

Teddy’s bear

In the first, U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub offered to him following an unsuccessful hunting trip in 1902. When a cartoon showing “Teddy’s bear” turned up in newspapers throughout the country, lollies store owner Morris Michtom came up with a design for a jointed toy bear. Teddy’s bear was such a hit that Michtom closed his lollies store and started the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, now one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world.

Michtom did not use a label for his jointed mohair plush bears, and this has made authenticating his bears much more difficult. The early Ideal bears are similar to Steiff bears, but have larger ears set low on the head and feet that are slightly pointed.

Steiff’s bear

In the second story, German toy designer Richard Steiff is believed to have viewed performing bears in a circus when he visited America, giving him the idea for a toy bear with jointed arms and legs that could turn its head like a doll. In 1903, he exhibited his new toy, Friend Petz, at the Leipzig Spring Toy Fair.

The Steiff plush bears, with long, curved limbs and spoon-shaped paws, are immediately identifiable by the company’s trademark. The earliest buttons from 1903 to 1904 were embossed with an elephant; next followed a blank disc, from 1904 to 1905; and thereafter a stud stamped with the name "Steiff.''

The teddy bear craze

Whatever the real story, both Steiff bears and Michtom bears are the most valuable because the early versions are rare. Those that do come onto the market are usually from 1904 or later.
It didn’t take long for teddy bears to catch on and by 1906 they were all the rage, coming out with a plethora of colours and styles. Some bears even had embellishments such as electric eyes. The term “teddy bear” (without the apostrophe “s”) was first printed in Playthings Magazine’s October 1906 issue.

The current wave of collecting started in the mid-1960s, when toymaker Margaret Hutchings published Teddy Bears and How to Make Them, which included a brief history of the toy. In 1969, English actor Peter Bull published Bear With Me. The two books gave legitimacy to teddy bear collecting and brought closet arctophiles -- those who collect bears -- out into the open. Soon, the teddy bear became more than just a comforting toy for a child. It became a valuable collectable for adults.

Explore the world of teddy bears

Besides Steiff bears, many other famous and popular bears have become collectable over the years:

Care Bears: Care Bears started as illustrations on greeting cards and morphed into real teddy bears in the 1980s.
Cherished Teddies: Cherished Teddies are really figurines designed by Priscilla Hillman.
Boyds Bears: Boyds Bears is a popular brand that got its start in the 1980s when founder G.M. Lowenthal quit his job at Bloomingdales (a major U.S. department store) and started an antiques business.
Paddington Bear: Paddington Bear is a classic and well-known fictional bear, starring in children's books.

Collect and Value Teddy Bears

So why should you get into collecting teddy bears? It’s a matter of taste. It's possible to collect on so many different levels. You could choose vintage and antique teddy bears, artist teddy bears, limited-edition teddy bears, teddy bears from particular regions, themed bears, or miniature bears.

Some teddy bear collectors come to eBay Australia to collect because of the investment. Countless fads have come and gone, but teddy bears continue to survive, perhaps because, of all the things you can collect, teddy bears are one of the few that you can hug. That alone is priceless.

Collect with your heart, but be smart. Make sure your antique teddy bear is authentic. Don’t be confused by artist bears, which can sometimes be heavily aged, but don’t claim to be old. Be sure to pay close attention to the teddy bear’s look and construction.

Teddy bear’s label: The label won’t lie. Even if most of the label on a teddy bear has worn away, you can compare what remains to pictures in books in order to identify your bear.
Teddy bear’s hump: Unlike most modern teddy bears, early teddy bears were designed to look like real bears, with a muscled hump between the shoulders. A bigger hump could indicate an older bear.
Teddy bear’s limbs: Early teddy bears can be distinguished by their long, thin curved arms. The legs usually have narrow ankles ending in big feet, and the hips are wide.
Teddy bear’s joints: Most teddy bears made from about 1905 on have wooden disc joints that allow their limbs to move. The limbs of earlier teddy bears may be connected to the body with metal rods, but usually, those rods are only seen in low-quality teddy bears. An upper-end bear will have two arm joints, two leg joints, and a head joint, while other teddy bears often skip the head joint.
Teddy bear’s eyes and footpads: A teddy bear with plastic eyes and synthetic footpads generally dates from the 1950s and 1960s. Early makers of bears used boot buttons or glass for eyes, and velvet or felt for the footpads.
Teddy bear’s nose: A long nose indicates an earlier bear. The long nose was meant to mimic the look of a real bear.
Teddy bear’s stuffing: The earliest bears are stuffed with wood shavings, called wood wool. In the 1920s, other fibres, such as kapok and wool waste, began to be used for the body and limbs, but the heads were still made of wood wool.
Hand-sewn seam: Traditionally, the body was the last part of a teddy bear to be stuffed, and it was usually sewn up by hand. Most often, the hand-sewn seam runs down the back of the bear, but Steiff bears all have seams in the front. To identify hand sewing, look at the quality of the stitching. Puckers may also indicate that the seam was finished by hand.
Fabrics: Soft yet durable, mohair was the fabric of choice for most early bears. Made from goat hair, mohair feels like real hair. Bears made after 1930 may have silk plush fabric, while bears made in the 1950s are often made of synthetics.
Teddy bear’s pads: Felt pads are associated with high-quality bears. Lower-quality bears had pads made of brushed cotton.
Stitching: Although most bears featured straight claws, some bears have stitched “webbed” claws on the back of their paws.

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