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.