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
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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.