Personal Finance: Soft, cuddly and always in demand
Between 1989 and 1995, auction prices for teddy bears doubled. And they're still rising. John Windsor explains why even the ugliest of bears have their admirers
Saturday 21 November 1998
It does not look like it. As the Christmas teddy bear auctions approach, those cuddly bundles of stuffed mohair have begun to look like a scary prospect for would-be collector-investors. On the one hand, they have been fetching reckless prices; pounds 110,000 was paid at Christie's South Kensington by the Japanese businessman Yoshihiro Sekiguchi, for a 1904 Steiff bear. On the other hand, sentimental old women can be seen bidding up the price of battered bears, just because they feel sorry for them.
Love, or just whim? No market likes whims. Is there a risk that the teddy bear market might suddenly turn into a bear market?
In fact, the time to make a killing out of teddies is already over. Between 1989, when adult collectors began falling in love with them, and 1995, auction prices doubled. Since then, they have been rising at a modest 10 per cent a year. But it is still a buoyant market.
Although the occasional crazy price may give would-be buyers the jitters, there is usually an explanation for them. That world-record pounds 110,000, for example, was paid for Teddy Girl, a bear with a unique provenance: it accompanied the famous teddy collector Colonel Bob Henderson into the trenches of the First World War, where it was much photographed. It became a unique piece of social history.
Meanwhile, prices for bears in the market's other ranks have continued to rise as a solid base of collectors has built up. Ian Pout, who owns Teddy Bears of Witney, the first shop specialising in teddies, estimates that when he issued his first catalogue in 1985, 95 per cent of buyers were women. Now both sexes are buying - and men outnumber women. He reports that young couples have started buying, too. "They want love in their home", he says, "and a teddy is a tangible sign of love". Since the late Eighties, teddy collectors' clubs and magazines have helped to boost bears' popularity. There are new faces at every auction.
South Ken's teddy specialist, Leyla Maniera, may be putting all the market info into a nutshell when she says: "Some people attend a pre-sale view, see a little face poking out and just fall in love with it. They have to have it".
It is the classic Edwardian teddy that is easiest to fall in love with. Mr Pout describes it as having a centre seam on its head, a hump on its back, well-rounded face with a long muzzle, long arms, big feet, narrow ankles and angled wrists.
More flinty-hearted collector-investors are not seduced by cuteness alone. In a market whose prices have levelled out, they have become more discriminating. They know that German Steiff bears - with button in ear and unequalled for quality - are still the safest investment. It is worth paying pounds 800 or more at auction for an early Steiff if it is in fine condition - that is, seldom played with, relatively unloved. A rare Steiff in black, rather than gold, of 1911-1912, can fetch around pounds 10,000 at auction. Bonhams' teddy expert, Leigh Gotch, estimates that a rare white Steiff of 1910 that sold for pounds 1,400 in 1988 would fetch pounds 3,000 today.
Such pre-First World War bears look more like real bears. They may be a bit spindly and the faces quite ugly - unlike the rounder, cuddlier type introduced in the Twenties. But demand for them has increased. Even ugly bears can inspire love.
Old teddies that have been played with have a fetishistic attraction that is all their own. But there is a quite separate market for modern reproduction bears. The best of these are rising in price. Steiff's first annual limited-edition bear, of which 2,000 were issued in this country, cost pounds 150 retail in 1989 and now sells for pounds 600 or more in mint-and-boxed condition. Steiff's smaller bear of 1990, in an edition of 3,000, sold for pounds 110 and now changes hands at pounds 250.
Mr Pout, a former stockbroker, gives the following then-and-now prices for Steiff annuals: 1991 pounds 140, now pounds 350; 1992 pounds 135, now pounds 260-pounds 270; 1993 pounds 245, now pounds 350; 1994 pounds 145, now pounds 300; 1995 pounds 135, now pounds 250; 1996 pounds 145, now pounds 195; 1997 pounds 155, now pounds 185. The 1998 edition is retailing at pounds 165.
Among Mr Pout's editions of teddies is Witney Deli, a faithful reproduction of the bear that starred in Brideshead Revisited as Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte's pet. Formerly in the Henderson collection, Aloysius is now owned by Mr Pout. The 5,000 Delis, complete with scarf, cost pounds 275 each.
Teddy Bears of Witney (01993-702616). Bonhams' dolls, toys and teddy bear sale, 17 December, 11am (0171-393 3951/3953). Christie's South Kensington teddy bear sale, 4 December, 2pm (0171-581 7611)
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Mark Dampier: An infrastructure fund that builds returns by taking different roads
Simon Read: Timeshare owners accuse Macdonald Resorts of land grab
Donald MacInnes: Let's pretend Scotland won and now a salmon is running the country
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Bargain Hunter: Win a new iPhone 6
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 The response to my Pizza Express review has been overwhelming, and taught me a lot about journalism
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
Day In a Page
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize