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Steiff Bears: The Early Years - A Collectors Guide

May 27, 2008
The Steiff story began in the late nineteenth century, when wheelchair bound seamstress, Margarete Steiff, started making stuffed toys animals. He family saw the market potential for her skills and began manufacturing these animals in a serious way.

In the early years, the idea of stuffed animal toys struggled to take off. In spite of the marketing efforts of the Steiff family, no one seemed to appreciate the appeal of the little creatures. Somehow the Steiff bears, even though they resembled real bears from the wild with their long noses and hump backs didn't seem to possess the all-important 'aah factor'.

The Leipzig toy fair of 1903 was where Steiff was officially launched for the very first time to the world's toy buyers. Unfortunately, the show wasn't a success, but, just as the bears were being stowed away back into their boxes, a toy buyer from the United States passed by the stand and his curiosity was aroused. He placed a substantial order and the future success of Steiff was assured.

Within a few years, Steiff Bears were to be found in the nurseries of the world's wealthiest families. Owning one had become quite a status symbol.

Next came the story of President Theodore Roosevelt's infamous hunting trip. An early day ecologist and friend of wildlife, he had reluctantly agreed to go on a hunting trip, but when shown a bear tied to a tree to make it easier to shoot, he was outraged. He famously cried out, "Spare the bear! I will not shoot a tethered animal." Word spread rapidly and it wasn't long before Clifford Berryman, the renowned Washington Post cartoonist, produced a cartoon showing Roosevelt saving the poor beast. The cartoon reached the desk of the directors of Steiff Bears and gave them a golden opportunity. Their original bear was re-modeled in a more appealing and sympathetic manner and the Steiff Teddy Bear was born.

In the world of collecting, it's normal to assume that items only keep their value when preserved in mint condition. Oddly enough, this doesn't seem to always be the case when it comes to Teddy Bears. Collectors seem to appreciate that wear and tear and signs of being 'loved' do not detract one bit from the value of a Steiff Bear.

Naturally the most valuable Steiff Bears are the oldest and those which hold their value most are those from around 1907, which still have in one ear, the little button in the shape of a hexagon. In more recent times, the button is round in shape and is accompanied with a woven yellow tag bearing the Steiff logo in red. Collectors should always keep a careful lookout for replica bears. These are accurate recreations of the earliest Steiff, but the tag, instead of being red on yellow, is black on white.

In the current market, the most valuable new Steiff Bears are those which are produced in Limited Editions. The smaller the size of the Edition, the more valuable the bear. These Steiff Limited Editions always carry a tag coloured red on white.
About the Author
The author is sp church. His website specializes in Steiff.
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