An­tique of the month

In her col­umn cel­e­brat­ing col­lectibles, an­tiques ex­pert Ju­dith Miller looks at ev­ery­one’s favourite toy, the time­less teddy bear

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Although a com­par­a­tively late ar­rival on the toy scene, teddy bears have be­come very pop­u­lar with col­lec­tors. There are sev­eral ri­val claims as to which com­pany pro­duced the first teddy bear. The Ger­man com­pany Steiff (est 1877), pro­duced jointed bears from 1902–3, and in 1904 a Steiff bear won a medal at the

World’s Fair in St Louis. The New York-based Ideal Nov­elty & Toy Co (est c.1906) pro­duced a jointed mo­hair bear that be­came known as ‘Teddy’s bear’, sup­pos­edly af­ter a car­toon show­ing the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt sparing a bear cub on a hunt­ing trip. Such was the pop­u­lar­ity of the toys that man­u­fac­tur­ers in Ger­many, Bri­tain and the USA all di­ver­si­fied into teddy bear pro­duc­tion.

Dur­ing and af­ter World War I, Bri­tish com­pa­nies ex­panded to fill the gap left by banned Ger­man im­ports. All Euro­pean bear man­u­fac­ture was se­verely dis­rupted by World War II, fol­low­ing which there was an in­creased use of less-de­sir­able syn­thetic plush. One of the best-known Bri­tish teddy bear mak­ers was Chad Val­ley, which pro­duced bears from the 1920s. Pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued through­out WWII and in 1967 the com­pany ac­quired Chiltern Toy Works (est 1920). In 1978, Chad Val­ley was bought by Pal­i­toy and records and cat­a­logues were de­stroyed, so dat­ing their bears can be very dif­fi­cult. As is the case gen­er­ally, early Chad Val­ley bears are more de­sir­able than later bears. From 1920, Chad Val­ley bears were marked and are there­fore easy to iden­tify. Bears made by Chiltern be­fore the takeover are also col­lectable, es­pe­cially early bears, which were made from high-qual­ity, long, soft mo­hair and had long, curv­ing arms and wide feet with card­board re­in­forced vel­vet pads.

Other dis­tin­guished teddy bear mak­ers in­clude Dean’s

Rag Book Co Ltd (1903–72), in Lon­don, noted for its un­usu­ally coloured bears and such nov­elty de­signs as bears on wheels, and Mer­ry­thought

Ltd (est 1930), Shropshire. Tra­di­tional early Mer­ry­thought bears are highly sought af­ter and are usu­ally marked with a cel­lu­loid but­ton in the ear; this but­ton was later moved to the back, and a fab­ric foot la­bel was added. J.K. Far­nell & Co (1897–1968), also claimed to have in­vented the teddy bear. How­ever, a more likely claim to fame is that it was al­most cer­tainly a Far­nell bear that in­spired A.A. Milne’s much loved Win­nie-the-pooh books.

Above: A 1950s Chiltern blond ‘Hug­mee’ plush teddy bear, with plas­tic nose, £200–250Right: Far­nell white plush teddy bear, with glass eyes, black stitched nose, pro­nounced hump, pads and mo­hair, £220–280

ALL STAR CASTThe Royal Opera House(ROH) has col­lab­o­rated with Scot­tish de­sign duo Ti­morous Beast­ies to launch an ex­clu­sive range of porce­lain ceram­ics along­side tex­tiles and ac­ces­sories. Cap­tur­ing the grandeur and his­tory of the in­sti­tu­tion, the flam­boy­ant de­signs fea­ture lay­ered flo­ral sil­hou­ettes as well as ar­chi­tec­tural, dance and orches­tral mo­tifs in­spired by the ROH and its art forms. From left: Cof­fee cup and saucer, £25; trin­ket tray, £12, and tea-for-one set, £40, RoyalOpera House shop.

Above: A Steiff cream teddy bear, with shoe-but­ton eyes and owner’s ini­tials stitched onto each paw, circa 1907, £900–1,100 Be­low: 1950sChad Val­ley bear with a tar­tan bow

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