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!
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.