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Tips on Collecting Antique Teddy Bears

Saturday, June 27, 2009 @ 10:06 AM Karen Hood

Make sure your antique teddy bear is authentic. Don’t be confused by artist bears, which can often be heavily aged, but don’t claim to be old. Be sure to pay close attention to the teddy bear’s look and construction.

  • Teddy bear’s label: The label won’t lie. Even if most of the label on a teddy bear has worn away, you can compare what remains to pictures in books in order to identify your bear.

  • Teddy bear’s hump: Unlike most modern teddy bears, early teddy bears were designed to look like real bears, with a muscled hump between the shoulders. A bigger hump could indicate an older bear.

  • Teddy bear’s limbs: Early teddy bears can be distinguished by their long, thin curved arms. The legs usually have narrow ankles ending in big feet, and the hips are wide.

  • Teddy bear’s nose: A long nose indicates an earlier bear. The long nose was meant to mimic the look of a real bear.

  • Teddy bear’s eyes and footpads: A teddy bear with plastic eyes and synthetic footpads generally dates from the 1950s and 1960s. Early makers of bears used boot buttons or glass for eyes, and velvet or felt for the footpads.

  • Teddy bear’s joints: Most teddy bears made from about 1905 on have wooden disc joints that allow their limbs to move. The limbs of earlier teddy bears may be connected to the body with metal rods, but usually, those rods are only seen in low-quality teddy bears. An upper-end bear will have two arm joints, two leg joints, and a head joint, while other teddy bears often skip the head joint.

  • Hand-sewn seam: Traditionally, the body was the last part of a teddy bear to be stuffed, and it was usually sewn up by hand. Most often, the hand-sewn seam runs down the back of the bear, but Steiff, Bing and Farnell bears all have seams in the front. To identify hand sewing, look at the quality of the stitching. Puckers may also indicate that the seam was finished by hand.

  • Fabrics: Soft yet durable, mohair was the fabric of choice for most early bears. Made from goat hair, mohair feels like real hair. Bears made after 1930 may have silk plush fabric, while bears made in the 1950s are often made of synthetics.

  • Teddy bear’s stuffing: The earliest bears are stuffed with wood shavings, called wood wool. In the 1920s, other fibers, such as kapok and wool waste, began to be used for the body and limbs, but the heads were still made of wood wool.

  • Teddy bear’s pads: Felt pads are associated with high-quality bears. Lower-quality bears had pads made of brushed cotton.

  • Stitching: Although most bears featured straight claws, bears from Merrythought and Farnell usually have stitched “webbed” claws on the back of their paws.

Source: Ebay Teddy Bear Buying Guide

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