Collectible Time For Teddy Bears

teddy bear drawing
Back in 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt was bear hunting and didn't have any luck, so friends tied a small bear to a tree so he'd have something to shoot at. The idea appalled him, and he ordered it set free, says Saturday Early Show Collectibles Expert Tony Hyman.

A newspaper cartoon about the incident inspired a Brooklyn couple to offer handmade "Teddy" bears for less than a buck. Business boomed, and the Ideal Toy Company was formed. (These early Ideal bears sell for thousands of dollars each today.)

Find out about other collectibles described by The Saturday Early Show's Tony Hyman in the Collectibles Archive or visit Tony Hyman's Web site.

If you think you have a collectible worth a lot of cash, send an email to with "What's It Worth?" in the subject line. Or write to "What's It Worth?" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Dozens of companies around the world have made Teddy bears over the years, but none are more popular, or more valuable, than those made in Germany by Steiff. A Steiff from 1905 is worth about $1,200, and even one from 1960 will fetch about $400. Steiff bears have jointed arms and legs--actually wired on. Heads turn all the way around, and all Steiffs (except the first two years) had metal ear tags.

Like other early bears, the $3,000 Steiff from 1905 has eyes made of shoe buttons. Another Steiff made 20 years later has eyes made of glass, and it is half the value of its 1905 brother.

From the '30s, you'll start seeing a rainbow of bears: blue, green, even pink. But early bears are usually seen in more animal-like colors (tans, browns, yellows, rust). Early black Teddy bears are very rare and could put $20,000 or more in your pocket.

The most common are 12-inch bears, because they were affordable and a practical size for a young boy or girl. So today's collectors pay even more for large early bears.

Bears are rarely identified by maker, so if you think your bear was made before 1950, get expert advice, as even well-loved (well-worn) bears may have value.

Information on Teddy bears courtesy of 20-year veteran bear collector Polly Zarneski, who is happy to buy, sell, appraise and otherwise have fun with bears. If you have a family bear you wish to sell or preserve, you may call her at (509) 327-7622, or write to her at 5803 North Fleming, Spokane, Wash., 99205.

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