In the never-ending quest for “just one more teddy bear” to add to our collection, we have searched in all the usual places - at antique shows, shops, boot sales, flea markets and numerous unlikely places. You just never know where that next teddy bear is going to turn up! We must admit that a fair number of teddies joined our collection from visits to Great Britain, back in the days before teddy bears were the hot commodity they have become. I remember one such trip in which we returned with no less than 5 extra suitcases filled with teddy bears! We did have to pay a significant charge for extra luggage, but it would have been more expensive to ship them, and we simply did not want to take the chance of them being lost.
We have learned over the years not to be surprised where our next teddy bear comes from. A case in point was a television appearance we did with teddies from our collection, sharing their stories on a program dedicated to “unusual” hobbies. The appearance apparently had a significant impact on one viewer, as we received a phone call shortly after the program aired from a lady who said she had a teddy bear she wanted to send us. “That’s great”” exclaimed Doris. “Is it an old teddy?”
This 23 ½ inch Kestner has that "please take me home" look !
A recent survey by a major collector publication listed the top five collector hobbies in the United States. Care to guess which hobby made #1 ?? I am sure many of you can easily identify doll collecting as the most popular hobby. There are many reasons for this, including the fact just about every little girl throughout history can fondly recall having a doll in their early years. You would be hard pressed to determine the date the very first doll was made, as most experts agree that they go back as far as humans. For example, pottery dolls have been found in the graves of ancient Egyptians dating to 2000 BC. Today's collector has an unending choice of directions to go in collecting dolls. You can collect by age, and more specifically by country of origin. You can collect by time period relevant to your age (a very popular category, as it relates directly to the collector's childhood). You can collect by size, from tiny miniature examples less than one inch in size, to life size examples. Many collectors focus on the material the doll is made of, and that would include just about every material imaginable, from clay, porcelain, wood, wax, composition, cloth (rag dolls), and today's modern plastic materials.
What is there about a clown that puts a smile on our face?? Actually, some clowns can be pretty scary to little children, but on the whole, a clown is a sure way to entertain children of all ages, big and small, young and old. A clown (or toy, doll or teddy bear represented as a clown) brings back a flood of memories to adults who recall attending the circus with Mom and Dad.
Yes, it's true ... there was a time when children's toys actually sold for one penny!
They were small in size and sold primarily by street vendors at the turn of the century. The time frame for these gems of the collector's world ran from around 1890 to the mid 1930s, and to say they are priceless today is an understatement. Some rare examples have sold at auction in recent years in the five figure range. Penny toys were crafted from a variety of materials, including paper, wood, celluloid, cast iron, wire pressed card and tinplate. Prior to their introduction, most toys were only found in the homes of wealthy or middle class families. The introduction of penny toys opened up a vast new market for manufacturers. The goal of the producer was quantity, not quality, and therefore they did not hold up well under hard play, which means that examples in good condition are difficult to find today.
Some years ago I overheard a customer ask a similar question at an antique show, in regard to a rather large nondescript vase she was holding. The dealer's rather flippant answer was "It depends on whether I am buying or selling." He then proceeded in a more friendly tone to point out that the vase had no markings to identify its age or maker and there were several rim chips. Finally, he told her the price he'd be willing to pay and she was obviously disappointed, saying she'd seen a similar one on The Antiques Road Show that was valued at substantially more than he was offering.
While bear collectors typically fall into two categories (collectors of contemporary teddies or antique bears), our experience shows that most of us tend to accumulate some of both, being more impressed by that all important facial expression than we are with the age of the bear. We herewith share some of the ideas to take proper care of your teddies, regardless of their age.
Mohair is the preferred bear fabric for collectors of both old and new teddies. It was the traditional fabric preferred by the first makers because of its soft feel and its ability to hold up to hard play. Today's makers of quality bears (manufactured and artist made) tend to favor this fabric for much the same reasons. However, mohair does have one negative factor that was likely not considered by bear companies in the early days. It is not only loved by children, but is also strongly favored as a meal by moths and silverfish! Frequently a teddy of the 1920s or 30s will show bald spots that are attributed to many hours of hard play, when in fact he may have been the target of frequent visits by hungry bugs. We have actually come across vintage bears that were stripped nearly bald by such attacks.