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How Much Is MY Antique Bear Worth?

We are frequently asked to identify and value antique teddy bears (sorry, it's a service we no longer provide due to the very large number of requests): sometimes it is for insurance purposes but often it is because the owner is curious. There is rarely a quick answer as it depends .............

Condition

Condition is very important. Teddy bears, through their very purpose, were often played with by children and therefore shows signs of wear and tear. Many problems (worn pads, new eyes, joints) can easily be repaired by an expert but some (torn mohair, dry rot) are more difficult to remedy. A bear whose mohair is thinning or is bald can be clothed to make him more appealing and a suit of clothes will also offer him some protection for the future. See our range of teddy bear clothes here. A bear with all his original features will be much more appealing to a collector and therefore more valuable. A badly worn bear can be worth up to only 75% of the value of a bear in mint condition.

Manufacturer

The manufacturer does play an important part. Steiff bears are highly sought after and usually fetch the highest price at auction - see a list of some of the most expensive bears in the world here. Other German manufacturers such as Bing are also highly collectable. Farnell bears are probably the most expensive British bears but demand for Chad Valley, Chiltern and older Deans and Merrythought bears is increasing - this increases their value.

Labels, Buttons and Tags

Forms of identification were often removed by caring parents. However, apart from assisting with identification, the mere fact the bear is more complete improves it's value - especially the famous Steiff button in ear. The absence of that famous button can reduce the value by around 25%. Aside from attached labels, buttons, swing tags and certificates a bear may have it's original box, a box in good condition can add up to 10% to the price.

Size

Collectors who are short of space opt to collect miniature bears, such as those by Schuco or Farnell soldier bears but generally larger bears are more expensive. In some reference books you may even find the author providing prices per inch for bears.

Age

Generally speaking the older the bear, the more it is worth. Those manufactured before WWI are particularly valuable. However, even those made in the 1950's and 1960's are now increasing in value as parents and grandparents buy them as investments for future generations.

Rarity

A bear produced in limited numbers may now be in demand purely because of that rarity. One example is Sussenguth's Peter bear which was produced in 1925 but didn't sell as it, with open mouth and bearing it's teeth, frightened children.

Colour

Most bears were made of light brown, blonde or gold mohair so a premium is now paid for unusual colours such as cinnamon, apricot, black. From the 1930's red, blue, purple, green, purple or orange mohair were used and those too are now popular with some collectors.

Provenance

Few bears are obtained from their original owner but if there is any documentary evidence relating to it's ownership, which may also assist in dating the bear, it is valuable. Appropriate "tangible" evidence in the form of receipts, old catalogues, photographs associated with the bear are highly prized by collectors and can add considerably to it's value.

Appeal

The most subjective attribute for beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is fortunate we don't all have the same tastes BUT a bear with an appealing face will be worth more e.g. Steiff "Happy" £55,000 had a charming expression.

Mechanical Functions

It is generally accepted by collectors that growlers frequently cease to function relatively early on and this does not have a big impact on their value. However, bears with working musical boxes, the ability to tumble or somersault or other mechanical ability such as Schuco yes/no bears are very popular and can command a premium.

How much was that teddy bear at the auction?

Here is a list of some of the most expensive bears in the world, ALL are Steiff bears. These bears appealed to the bidders for various reasons but it is interesting to note that the current title holder of most valuable teddy bear was manufactured quite recently.

Teddy Bear
Year of Manufacture
Price
Sale Details
Alfonzo: red Steiff owned by Princess Xenia. Read Alfonzo's story here 1908 £12,100 1989
Christies
Elliot: 32cm blue Steiff bear 1908 £49,500 1993
Christies
Happy: 65cm dual plush bear whose looks seduced Paul & Rosemary Volpp 1926 £55,000 1989
Sothebys
Harlequin: multi-coloured bear, originally given to a Steiff worker c1925 £60,000 1999
Steiff Festival Geingen
Bar 28PB: 40cm, the oldest known Steiff bear 1904 £82,000 2000
Steiff Festival
Geingen
Titanic Bear: black mourning bear made after the sinking of the Titanic 1912 £91,750 2000
Christies
Happy: 40cm dual plush bear 1926 £101,556 2002
Steiff Festival Geingen
Teddy Girl: 46cm brown bear that served alongside Colonel Bob Henderson in the war 1905 £110,000 to be confirmed 5 Dec 1994
Christies
Louis Vuitton: one of a small limited edition of bears dressed in designer clothing and auctioned for charity 2000 £130,000 2000
Teddies de l'ann Monaco

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