Popular culture in America tells us that the history of the Teddy Bear originated in 1902, created by candy shop owner Morris Michtom after being inspired by a cartoon by Clifford Berryman in the Washington Post involving U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

Theodore Teddy Roosevelt was known as a big game hunter and often went on hunting trips with his fellow politicians. While hunting with a party including the governor of Mississippi, he was the only man to have not yet located a bear. Roosevelt’s assistants found a black bear, cornered it, and tied it to a willow tree for Roosevelt to kill. However, Roosevelt found this type of kill to be very unsportsmanlike and refused to shoot the bear. The story quickly spread throughout the country as newspapers reported on the President who wouldn’t kill a bear. These articles prompted political cartoons, including the one by Clifford Berryman which inspired Michtom’s stuffed bear named Teddy’s Bear. Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation and became the first company to produce teddy bears. The bears gained worldwide popularity.

Around the same time, the Steiff Company in Germany began producing stuffed bears as well. This origin story centers on Richard Steiff, who, when visiting America, saw bears performing at a circus. These acrobatic bears gave Steiff the idea to produce a bear with jointed arms and legs and a rotatable head to allow for similar movement. He debuted his new toy at the Leipzig Spring Toy Fair in 1903.

These original bears were typically made with wool mole hair, glass eyes, and velveteen pads. Both old and new bears are considered collectables, with some of the most desired having been and still being produced by the Steiff Company. Another well-respected, long-lasting company known for their bears is Bing. The earliest Steiff bears (1919/20’s) and Bing are today worth well over £1300.

What Did These First Bears Look Like?

These first bears had unique characteristics that help identify to which toymaker they belong. The Steiff bears had long, curved limbs. They were also embossed with an elephant on their button initially; eventually, the company transitioned to an unembossed button and then one with the name Steiff. The first Ideal bears created by Michtom are very similar to the Steiff bears, which can make identification difficult. However, Ideal bears have larger ears and pointed feet.
These early bears were also designed to look like real bears more so than their modern-day counterparts. They typically have a longer nose and feature a hump on their back. The bigger the hump, the more likely you have an older bear. Manufacturers also often affixed labels to their bears, typically on a paw. These labels can help greatly with identification, even if they are partially worn away. A hand-sewn seam is also common for older bears, as well as stuffing made from wood shavings.

Collecting Teddy Bears

Collecting these bears became popular in the mid-1960’s. The bears became more than just a child’s toy; they were popular among adults for collections as well. There are many brands of Teddy Bears outside the aforementioned brands of Ideal, Steiff, and Bing that are long-lasting and have produced bears that are today considered very valuable. Chad Valley Bears had long moleskin hair and limbs stuffed with silky fibers. J.K. Farnell & Co. is the first English bear manufacturer and is believed to have made the first Winnie the Pooh bear. These bears featured amber eyes and were often used in displays at the department store Harrod’s. Another one of these is the Merrythought bear, which is still produced today. Merrythought is in fact the only bear producer left in England. Schuco Teddy Bears, Boyds Bears, Care Bears, and Cherished Teddies are also valued, well-known bears in the marketplace. Maybe you are another Jena Pang and your collection of teddy bears worth £100,000? The price range can be from £60 to £1,500 or the toy you own might be worth of £4,500 or £15,000 like Jena Pangs collection. All types of bears are at LuckyLookers waiting for you to take a look!