For over a hundred years, stuffed Steiff bears values have remained steady among professional collectors and toy enthusiasts, due in large part to their childhood nostalgia for these lovable creatures. These original 'Teddy' bears were first released by Margarete Steiff's German toy company, Steiff, in 1902, and some rarer models have been valued at over a $100,000. It's time to dust off those bags of stuffed animals hiding in your attic to see if you have one of these beloved bears.
Vintage Steiff Bears Identification
Before you go running to take your furry friend to the appraisers, you can use a brief criterion to help you assess whether your stuffed animal is really a Steiff.
Checking the ears of antique stuffed bears for buttons can help you immediately identify a Steiff. The company is well-known for marking their stuffed animals' ears with metal labels, and while your bear's button might not have survived through years of childish amusement, a hole in the bear's ear might indicate that a button had once been present. The earliest Steiff bears' buttons had elephant insignias on them, but more contemporary buttons are marked with the company name and are accompanied by a yellow ribbon.
Early Steiff bears were supported using a metallurgical skeleton. This rodded structure gives them their iconic stiff appearance, and allowed historic children to move their arms, legs, and necks.
Wood Wool Stuffing
Although not all of Steiff's bears were stuffed with wood wool (excelsior), the most valuable of their bears were. By 1905, the bears' bodies were filled with a softer stuffing (kapok), but their heads retained the wood wool padding in order for the bears' snouts to retain their shapes. Teddy bears full of wood wool will make a distinctive crunching noise when they're hugged or squeezed.
Mohair Fur and Felt Pads
Steiff favored using mohair as its main textile for the way that it mimicked the furry texture of real bears, and the manufacturer most often sewed their teddy bear's arms and feet closed with felt patches to aid in this illusion.
Steiff Bear Values
Steiff bear values have remained steady throughout the years, and bears that are in good condition can sell for hundreds of dollars. One such 1909 bear, listed at Christie's Auction House in London, has an estimated value between $520 - $800. Much like other antiques of the period, these bears' value increases or decreases based on its condition. Bears without missing patches of fur and with intact Steiff buttons will fetch closer to the $300 and $400 mark than those with more obvious wear and tear.
Meanwhile, vintage Steiff bears produced in the post-war period (1950s - 1980s) have far less monetary value, due in part to their age and their less realistic appearance. The Old Teddy Bear Shop, which specializes in the sale of antique and vintage Steiff bears, values bears produced in the 1950s and 1960s at $60 apiece on average. Though these rounder, fuzzier bears might bring in less cash than their stiff-backed predecessors, there's still a significant market for them among toy enthusiasts.
A Few of the Most Expensive Steiff Bears Ever Sold
However, that mohair teddy bear you just pulled from that attic trunk could be worth just as much, if not more, than these costly sales.
- The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the Steiff 'Louis Vuitton' bear was auctioned off in 2000 for $182,550, making it the most expensive teddy bear ever sold.
- The Titanic Mourning Bear was created in memory of the victims of the Titanic tragedy, and only 665 were ever produced. This black-fur bear also sold in 2000 and cost the Puppenhaus Museum in Basel, Switzerland, approximately $156,273.
- Colonel Bob Henderson's beloved 1905 "Teddy Girl" fought alongside him during World War II, and as Henderson survived D-Day and returned home a hero, so too did his trustee Teddy Girl. Christie's sold this veteran bear for a little over a $100,000 in 1994.
- Just a year before, a charming, blue Steiff bear from 1908 went to auction. 'Elliot' had been manufactured as a sample for the London-based company, Harrods, but was rejected and left for decades in the Steiff headquarters in Germany. This "well-kept grandpa bear" brought in more than $160,000.
- The unique Harlequin Teddy Bear of 1925, which sports a red and blue mohair coat, was recently appraised by Christie's to be worth between $66,000 to $105,000. This bear first belonged to a woman who worked for Steiff for over forty years and was given to her in honor of her service.
Visit an Appraiser to Value Your Steiff Bear
Since there are a myriad of factors that influence Steiff bear values, such as fur condition, manufacturing date, historic significance, and rarity, it is important to have your potential bears appraised. Whether you choose to sell or keep your antique Steiff teddy bear, accomplished appraisers like Dr. Lori Verderame can help you better identify your bear's value. Pursuing authentication will be the first step towards finding out if your attic bear is just a family friend or a hidden gem.