One of the biggest concerns that older collectors have is knowing what will happen to their cherished collection of Bears when they pass out of their hands in the longer term.
This is a particularly difficult situation when older collectors have to down size due to health or other circumstances. Often after years of painstakingly building a treasured collection, the collector has to stand by while their Bears are sold off at auction , or distributed among the family or are stored away in an inaccessible attic, where they remain undisturbed only to emerge later in a hurried house clearance.
While such opportunities are hugely beneficial for ardent bear hunters, the very idea can cause sleepless nights for collectors.
So what should you do to protect and future-proof your valuable Bear collection?
The first tip is to get your Bears valued annually for insurance purposes. This will ensure that your collection is properly covered for loss but also it will give you a chance to check on the condition and relative value of each Bear and give you plenty of opportunity to keep them in tip top form correcting any problems you might notice on inspection.
The second tip is to keep an accurate inventory recording the provenance of each bear, its current condition, market value ,price paid and potential resale value. This will be of immense benefit to family members in appreciating your assets and ensuring that when the time comes they don't dispose of your wonderful bears without realising their true value.
The third tip is to identify family members or friends who share your interest in Bears and who may already like to talk about Bear collecting with you , and who in the future may become ideal custodians of the collection.
( If all else fails The Museum of Childhood , Bethnal Green will be an excellent place to will your rarer historic specimens)
By following these tips, I hope you will be spared the need to give up collecting and disposing of your Bears before you need to, and - best of all you may be spared any sleepless nights worrying about it!
I am often being asked by young new collectors (and their parents) about the best way to start an investment collection of bears.
The investment collection is about picking the sorts of Bears that could have longer term financial value as opposed to the normal collection for fun (e.g. high volume mass market Bears often made in China) that may never be worth anything more than sentimental value to the owner.
It goes without saying that fashions change, the world is fickle and the first and cautionary rule of investing in anything is that your investments can go down as well as up!
Of course like any collection, the second rule is to like what you collect.
It seems very perverse to have to tie up your pocket money or spare cash in something that gives you no pleasure and since part of the fun and commitment of serious collecting is to gain as much knowledge as possible- and see as many examples as you can- getting to know your collection in great detail requires a lot of time and effort in Bear hunting and researching the subject.
There are two main ways that people choose to invest in Bears these days :
One way is by modern collectable limited editions, for those who have the time to put the Bears aside for a long time to wait for them to become rarer and so potentially more valuable to other collectors.
Or the other way for the impatient or older collector, with deeper pockets, is to start to acquire the rarer very old bears straight away.
( Artist Bears are a special case, since they depend for their appreciating value on the immediate judgement of the market and like any work of art they will be valued on their individual merits, and sought after by their followers)
For younger collectors with plenty of time but not much money to spend, one of the cheapest ways to get into Bears is to look out for perfect examples of limited editions of high value Bears such as Steiff that have been collected and sold on. These are still new bears available in restricted numbers but older sets pre 2003 are currently coming on the market at reasonable prices. A limited edition Steiff bear ( with a white ear tag )new in box, bought today with all its box, accessories and certificates intact can already be several years old, and then the gamble is that your particular bear is kept longer and in better condition than all its rivals to make it desireable to other collectors and potentially profitable at some point in the future.
For most serious collectors, getting straight to the older rarer bears is a more practical solution.
For investors the main criteria are rarity , age and above all condition.
It will come as no surprise that the third rule of investing in Bears is that first quality scores higher than poor quality and rarity is prized above all.
So it is all about looking for Bears that are the best you can get. A new collector may snap up lots and lots of examples of balding bears in at attempt to tick all the boxes in his collection, but an investment collector will apply much more attention to the quality of each bear before investing.
What the internet has done for investors in Bears is to make the search for valuable bears much easier, you can literally trawl the world for fine examples for your collection and compare quality and descriptions to get the best quality that you can afford, it has also temporarily increased the availablity of old bears by bringing together bear collectors on a worldwide scale.
This means that even rare examples and bears from earlier years appear to have more examples available than when Bears could only be found by trawling round antique centres and auction catalogues in the UK.
In the short term this wider global availability depresses prices as with any glut in any market, it also makes a lot of the badly stored, badly treated bears less valuable than they would have otherwise been, but for the investor who is always in it for the long term this presents an opportunity to buy cheaply and trade up to better examples.
Given some Bears will be lost over time due to poor storage and accident, we can be reasonably confident that the demand for quality rare bears among collectors is going to continue over time.
Good Luck and good Bear Hunting!
This is the worst example I have ever seen of a fully restored Vintage Bear being sold on the open market. It was obviously done by a well meaning Teddy Bear hospital. It is actually made up of two bears. the head and body and from one bear and the legs are from completely different bear. It was being offered by an Antiques Centre at a modest price but to an untrained eye this vintage bear would have given a very poor return on investment. The corduroy pads on a 1930s bear were a bit of giveaway of the unsympathetic restoration, and at first sight balding patches on the torso were at odds with the full fur legs. The colour match was not quite close enough to hide the fact that the legs were from a different bear altogether.
The number one question I get asked is :How should the bears be looked after?
I should say at the outset that there is no universal answer because this is a surprisingly complex question. There are so many underlying issues that any collector has to consider.
From the fundamentals : Why you are collecting?
e.g. For enjoyment or for investment or any combination of both? and
How do you view your collection?
e.g. as something to display , something to hide away or something to be played with etc
To the practical considerations which are unique to each collection
e.g.where you live- local temperature, humidity, risk of condensation, risk of dust, DIY disruptions, smoke, pests, animals, children, travel and house-moves etc .
What I can do perhaps is to suggest ways to avoid some of the damage to bears that I spot when I am out and about viewing collections:
Bears left in direct sunshine will fade ( sometimes in a single afternoon!). We have all seen examples of Bears with different coloured head and shoulders from being sat regularly on a windowsill.
Bears left outdoors may not survive being baked or soaked and a mohair bear will be left permanently damaged by a session in a tumble drier.
Bears in Lighted Display Cabinets which are not sealed may discolour if the internal lighting is too bright, and the lights may attract moths to the bears. Smoke from cigarettes and fires and dust may also penetrate the gaps in the cabinet and the fabric of the bears.
Even Bears in the relative security of sealed cabinets need picking up and turning fairly frequently to ensure that the mohair is not flattened from too much sitting.
Old mohair Bears have already demonstrated a remarkable survival instinct in surviving this long and will enjoy being displayed on chairs and shelves and beds etc and handled freely but do still need to be kept free of dust which can lodge in the mohair and need to be kept out of the mouths of pets and children .
With a degree of care they will survive remarkably well as long as they are protected from moths and regularly handled to avoid too much sitting in one position.
Special Limited edition bears are relatively modern and so depend for their investment value on the preservation of their accessories intact and in near perfect condition.It is almost impossible to keep the full investment value in such limited editions once the accessories get lost or damaged.
In long term storage, Bears should be wrapped carefully and individually to keep them safe from predators and to protect them from being contaminated together.
Take care if using coloured wrappings that they dont leech into the mohair or damage the packaging .
Care should be taken to keep bears in storage away from predators, extremes of temperature and remember that Strong moth balls can also affect the smell of the bear .
Even stored bears should be inspected regularly to spot any possible risks to them and turned regularly to avoid undue pressure on the mohair.
Whether you are keeping your collection as an Investment , for the joy of collecting or for purely sentimental reasons, you will want to keep them as long as possible and in the best possible condition. But sometimes the best thing you can do for your much loved favourite bears is just to keep them with you , close at hand. There is nothing nicer than having Bears around and giving them a quick cuddle!
Keeping your collection out of sight and out of mind , or inaccessible, takes all the fun out of collecting Bears.
So, the most important thing in my book is to take time to enjoy your collection, to observe and appreciate each bear on a regular basis and to be mindful of anything unusual that might pose a risk to your Bears so you can take steps to protect them.
Bears like pleasant conditions and peaceful lives- Just like us really !!
Hello, and welcome to my occasional blog on Bear collecting.
One of the issues I am often asked for advice on is : "When is an old Bear not an old Bear?" and this question of authenticity goes beyond spotting the obvious fakes that appear from time to time dipped in tea, and shaved with razors trying to appear as old and valuable as possible and can also include some genuinely old bears which appear quite a bit too good to be true.
We all know the joke of the favourite broom that has had five new heads and four new handles, well in the case of valuable antique and vintage bears sometimes restoration also goes well beyond normal essential repairs such as replacing lost eyes or refixing a loose limb.
Of course if you are just looking for a beautiful bear for a gift or for your home, with no thought about continuity of age or bear collecting per se, you will seek out the best examples you can find, and an antique or vintage bear boasting gorgeously bright mohair in pristine condition makes a wonderful companion or a gift that will be highly appreciated.
However for me, as a purist and bear collector, I am immediately on the alert if an old bear has no obvious signs of wear and tear, or even the usual variation in colour compared with its jointed areas etc. I always want to talk to the owner to find out and satisfy myself about how the bear has been stored and preserved over its 50+ years in such amazing condition.
To me , stripping a bear back to its component parts and remaking it completely from scratch in order to clean, restore and refurbish it seems, in my opinion, to undermine the originality of the fully reconstructed bear- sure it is still original in many ways in the sum of its component parts, but somehow in the transformation, I feel it has lost touch with its history and with the handling and experiences that has brought it to this point. I would liken it to the gutting and rebuilding of a house using the original stone, the finished result is entirely pleasing but I feel no longer truly authentic.
I suppose too that one potential fear for the purist of buying an undocumented fully-restored bear could be the risk that a talented teddybear artist ,who uses their expertise to completely reconstruct an old bear, might unconsciously have corrected or improved the irregular features or limbs of the original hand-sewn bear beyond what the original maker was capable of .
Speaking personally as a collector, I would always prefer to see an old bear that has been in the wars and survived , with evidence of Mummmy repairs, the where-necessary partial restoration of say replacement eye or pads etc, and the genuine discolorations of a long life on a shelf than to have a fully-reconstructed old bear however beautiful the result.
So it seems to me that authenticity, when it comes to Bears, is about more than just historical accuracy, it's about reading the flaws and age-related marks to date the bear like one would read the rings on a tree and rather like the lines on our own faces mark the inexorable passage of time,
a truly authentic bear bears its scars with a rueful grin - an unmistakably endearing
Hello and welcome to my blog on Collecting Bears. Whether you are a newcomer to Bear collecting or a long term addict you are part of a worldwide special interest group that will bring you friends and contacts wherever you are.
As a long-term bear collector I like all kinds of Bears and soft toys but my particular preference is for older bears and stuffed toys from the early 1900s-1960s when they were popular brands and designs, hand-finished with glass eyes and firm stuffing.
I handle a great many bears and soft toys in my work which, in a nutshell, is really an eternal search to rescue and re-home the vintage and increasingly rare bears that may well be the last examples of their maker's art.
I always feel a sense of awe when I pick up a 70 year old Bear or Stuffed Toy .What a long life that innocent toy has managed to survive to reach my hands and I wonder about the conditions it has endured , all the hands it has passed through and all the events it has witnessed from its place on a shelf or a bed.
Quite remarkably, well -made toys do survive the attentions of their young owners and emerge relatively unscathed to become collectors items almost by accident, though a few are fast-tracked into collections by being kept forever new in their original packaging and never allowed to be played with.
Which ever route is taken to a collection, the bears and toys in question deserve our utmost admiration for having survived all the potential ravages of time and the unforseen risks from predators, moth, dust, pet-hair, cigarette-smoke, damp , sunlight or water damage, house-removals and changes of owners etc.
As the older bears become rarer, our demands for pristine standards of appearance are scaled back and we recognise that fraility is part of the charm, the over-exuberant play leading to torn ears and lost eyes, the wear and the balding patches where the mohair has been hugged to extinction, removal of ID tags and labels on safety grounds, and the intermittent squeak of a once lusty growl are obvious signs of a long well-loved bear.(My favourite 10-inch blind bear came from a German collector who sadly died before being able to give its history,but the many and differently-worked neat darns on its paws are evidence of a highly-prized bear which it is a pleasure for me to keep.)
So whether you inherit or acquire a uniquely two-tone bear faded by the sun or a bear with various Mummy repairs to limbs and a wobbly head you can be sure that none of this matters in the total scheme of things, because in the end it is like a race in which old bears and toys compete with each other to be the very last example of their maker's work, and so the issue we need to consider as Collectors, is not so much what has brought them to this point but how will they survive in future!
So everytime I handle a bear, and pack it up to go to its new home, I am struck by the thought that this bear in my hand might be the one that goes on to become one of the final survivors of its particular make or type and I feel a little thrill that I have briefly owned it, and in a small way- helped it on its way in the great race....
Lizzie is the Chief Bear Collector for Blakesley Bears and writes an occasional blog about Collecting Bears, building , caring for and maintaining Collections and some of the issues affecting Bear collectors generally.