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RICH PICNICKINGS; Bear necessities for profit.

CHILDREN and adults alike love their teddy bears, which explains why they're so hugely collectable. Price tags can be pretty huge, too.

Winnie The Pooh might break the record if he ever came on the market but currently Teddy Girl is the top bear - she went under the hammer for a world record price of pounds 110,000 in 1994 at auctioneers Christie's.

Teddy bears are an invention of the early 20th century. The biggest name in the field is the German manufacturer Steiff - Teddy Girl is a Steiff - and the fashion was launched when the firm unveiled their first jointed bear at the Leipzig Trade Fair of 1903.

But not all bears carry such impressive price tags - you can start a collection with just a few pounds.

Leyla Maniera is the teddy bear expert at Christie's. She says: "The bear market is enormously popular and you can see why. Anyone can collect and you can begin with around pounds 2."

Big collectable British names include Chad Valley, Farnell, Deans and a couple of others still in production - Merrythought and Sweet Dreams.

The price range is so wide that you just need to keep an eye open for bargains. Remember that condition makes a big difference - it's the sort of variable which can make Farnell bears, for example, worth anything from pounds 100 to pounds 5,000 or even more.

This is also where a favourite word of the experts creeps in - provenance. It just means origin and, as Leyla points out, it counts for a lot. "The more you know about ownership the more desirable a bear becomes for collectors," she says.

The experts agree that the ideal proof of provenance is a photograph of the bear taken some 80 years ago.

You might not find that kind of treasure, of course, but a few basic rules apply to teddy collecting. Sue Pearson, who runs her own shop Antiques and Collectors' Bears in Brighton, does professional valuations and also runs a teddy bear hospital service.

"Classic bears are jointed, they are made of mohair and they date back to before 1970," she explains.

"They go for anything from pounds 50 upwards, although you can easily find yourself paying several hundred pounds for a British bear - we made wonderful bears."

Bears from between the wars are especially popular - but you'd be looking to splash out anything between pounds 300 and pounds 500. One wartime bear made quite a hit with best-selling author Jack Higgins, who wrote The Eagle Has Landed. He bought a bear from Sue Pearson which had been a mascot for a wartime RAF squadron.

The bear, complete with uniform and badges, is called Tarquin and he's been immortalised in Higgins' latest novel.

BUT it's not just the really old bears which are passports to possible small fortunes.

Sue Pearson says some wonderful bear designers are making their mark today, among them Jo Greeno and Janet Clark.

And if humorous bears tickle your fancy then look out for the label "Something's Bruin".

You're probably looking to pay between pounds 100 and pounds 300 for these items today and Sue reckons they're set to become highly collectable.

But, again, you don't have to pay that much. As little as pounds 30 would buy you a new bear.

At that price the designer would be a complete unknown - now. But fashions can move fast and you might end up with a valuable bear.

The only firm rule for collecting is: buy what you like yourself. At least one manufacturer - Rexard and their Sweet Dreams label - make limited editions of bears for special customers.

Company spokesman Ray Hatton says: "One of our best customers are the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. We make a customised bear for them which carries the regimental colours."

Experts reckon that's the sort of bear which could become very desirable as could the toy the same firm makes for the MCC - Lord's Ted.

MONEY

Factfile

A FIRM called Hugglets holds four teddy bear sales a year - the next is on Sunday, August 30 at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8, from 12 noon to 4.30pm.

Christie's are holding a teddy bear sale on December 4 at 85 Old Brompton Road, London, SW7. details: 0171 581 7611. Price guide: Cheapest bears, pounds 2; Pre-1970 original jointed mohair bears, pounds 50 upwards; new designer bears pounds 100-pounds 300; special bears with known history and photographs, pounds 500 upwards.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Scott, Oliver
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 12, 1998
Words:741
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