The first word in teddy bears comes from Steiff – perhaps the world’s greatest expert in this baby toy phenomena. After all, it was their founder – Margarete Steiff – who made the very first teddy bear in 1902.
“For children, only the best is good enough” Margarete said, and indeed that would appear to be the case when you are purchasing a Steiff bear for your baby’s very first teddy! After all, these historic toys can fetch investment calibre prices today… In 1989 , a 1926 Steiff bear sold for $85,000 at Sotheby’s, which is a pretty good mark-up (and a shame if you’ve just thrown one in the charity bin from your grandma’s attic)!
There is plenty of debate about exactly who made the first Teddy, but it seems to have been one of those zeitgeist moments in history. In Germany, Margarete Steiff had already sewn the first jointed toy bear when a Brooklyn candy store owner was inspired to produce a jointed toy bear after seeing a now-famous cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt on a bear hunt, refusing to shoot the bear in a national newspaper. The Brooklyn bear was the first toy bear to be called ‘Teddy’ after Theodore Roosevelt, although the Steiff bear was the first actual toy bear to be created. Of course, the rest is toy history with hundreds of companies producing teddy bears since that time, and thousands of toy teddy bears given to children each year.
Whatever the history or the popularity, the fact is, teddy bears hold a very unique appeal to the youngest of children making them a perfect present for a first birthday, a second, even a tenth or one hundredth!
From a collector’s perspective, Steiff bears made between 1903 and 1905 are the most-sought after of all teddy bears. They feature hump backs, long snouts, long arms with curved paws, and big tapered feet— after 1905, the trademark Steiff button was sewn into the ears of bears.
The creme de la creme of teddy bears, Steiff is a classic brand that will always be popular with kids and parents alike – and why not. It is, after all, the original!
These days, Steiff produce a number of distinct lines including: The Collectors Line, For Babies, For Kids, Classics, Limited Edition and Replicas
The Baby Collection There are bears made from cotton as well as plush donkeys, pillows, rattles and pull-along toys in this collection. The least traditional of Steiff’s range, they are nonetheless the safest for babies from birth to 18 months of age.
Kids Teddy Bears From growling bears (introduced in 2007 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first talking bear, Steiff developed the growler with a new louder voice that growls much longer) to pirate bears in suitcases, there are more than 50 teddy bears perfect for your child’s first teddy bear. The Babies and Kids lines are made using one of three materials: plush, woven fur, and mohair, from the wool of angora goats. Mohair was in fact the material used for the very first Steiff Teddy bear ever created, and it is the most beautiful and durable of all the materials.
Original Collection Classics Made of the best and highest quality materials, the original collection classics are an unlimited range with more than 50 characters in its repertoire.
Replicas Each replica is a faithful recreation of the very first of its kind and is handmade and decorated using traditional tools and in accordance with the original design. Each year there are only two or three of these replicas created and in limited numbers, so they are truly collector’s items.
Limited Editions Each year Steiff produce a limited edition collection, with between 1,000 and 2,000 of each limited edition character produced in total. In 2014 there were 18 limited edition figures produced with a further 11 country-specific characters, ranging from a Heidi limited edition bear available only in Europe (although not in Germany, UK or Ireland) to a Steiff Police Set available only in Germany.
Steiff’s extensive collection also includes high quality Giant Cuddly Animals – ranging from a 70cm tall Panda to a 120cm Polar Bear, and including penguins, seals, hares and bears – Riding Animals, with unicorns, lions, elephants, bears and horses, as well as Little Floppies, Happy Friends and a cast range of wild and farm animals. Whatever animal your child loves… Steiff has created one to keep them company!
The ‘Button in Ear’ trademark The now-famous Steiff ‘Button in Ear’ comes with three variations of attached tag: a yellow tag, which indicates the toy is part of the current range, is machine washable and child-friendly; a white tag with red writing, for Limited Editions; and a white tag with black writing for true-to-original Replicas. For children, you will primarily be looking for the yellow tag, as most Limited Edition and Replica bears are not recommended for children.
Steiff’s Purity Law guarantees that there are no harmful substances, dyes or colours used to make these toys – so parents of children who chew on their Steiff bear can be reassured they will not be ingesting any harmful chemicals. This Purity Law also guarantees that only the finest natural fibres, such as mohair and alpaca, or synthetic fibre woven fur (woven in Steiff’s own factory) are used in the making of their products. The plush is extraordinarily soft and long lasting and loses nearly no hair. The fillings are new and non harmful, and the seam workmanship is gauranteed to last a lifetime. Throughout the production process, metal detectors are used to ensure the highest hygiene standards, and there are over 12,000 tests carried out of processes throughout the laboratory each year. But in addition to Steiff’s own safety standards (which go above and beyond specified international tests and controls) Steiff have also been awarded the Dekra Certificate for mechanical, chemical, physical, health and hygiene standards; the CE Symbol confirming that the toy complies with all European safety standards; as well as ISO 9001 Certification which confirms that Steiff complies with the highest standards of the QM system.
Steiff Club If you become a passionate Steiff aficionado, you might want to join the Steiff Club where you are privy to quarterly magazines, events, an annual gift, free admission to the Steiff Museum in Giengen as well as exclusive club editions.
To win your own Steiff Toy Share your Moment of Happiness with Steiff by posting a picture, video or text until the end of 2014 and you could win one of the weekly prizes.
Good For… (babies) visual focus, babbling and conversation, reaching… (older children) imaginary play, story telling and role play, expressing thoughts and emotions
Keep in Mind… Many of the bears in Steiff’s collection are collector’s items and not recommended for children, so take a look at the warning labels before buying that ‘baby’s first bear’
Kids Love… Well, they might not realise that these are the classic teddy bear, but they love a gorgeous cuddly bear nonetheless. And the great thing about the Steiff bear is that the jointed arms and legs mean they can pose them for afternoon tea, or in the younger age range of toys, the ‘bean bag’ style bottoms mean they will happily sit up alongside your child
Parents Love… Well, first up, knowing that you have the all-time classic teddy bear is kind of a feel-good factor, and the thought that it might eventually cover your child’s university fees, if you can bear (yes, we know) to sell it at auction, might comfort many a parent who is trembling at the thought of paying twice the price of run-of-the-mill bears for that Steiff button.
Designer Details Founded in 1880 by Margarete Steiff, heritage German toy manufacturer Steiff introduced the first Teddy Bear to the toy market in 1902. Based on his drawing of bears at Frankfurt Zoo, Margarete’s nephew Richard created a grizzly bear with moveable arms and legs covered in mohair. In 1904, a round metal ear tag was added to protect Steiff from cheap imitations. One of the world’s first trademarks, the metal tag itself was also trademarked to ensure legal protection. To this day, Steiff toys wear a button in the ear, with the yellow labels indicating machine-washable, child-friendly favourites. And while the Teddy is the most famous of all Steiff creations, the company’s menagerie also extends from monkeys to kiwis and from key rings to Studio Animals that stand as tall as 250cm.