Lockdowns started happening in the United States just over a year ago. The lack of live events and the reality of social distance were mostly overcome by the industry's online infrastructure. Nevertheless, during the epidemic, each category has performed differently. As a contributor to Auction Daily, I keep a close eye on the antique toy market with a particular interest in collectible Teddy bears and vintage teddy bears plush. Here are the four main developments in the fine teddy bear market that I have seen in the last 12 months.
On November 12th, Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, NJ, held two of the priciest Steiff Teddy bear auction transactions of 2020. The first was lot #482, a 24′′ tall enter-seam teddy bear from around 1905. Teddy bear values is It made $25,000 compared to an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 USD. There were 21 bids and 49 viewers. The second item was lot #483, a 28-inch-tall "cone-nosed" teddy bear made in 1905. Estimated to bring in $10,000–$15,000, it brought in $22,500. There were 19 bids and 49 viewers.
Even if these few transactions stand out amid many others, they are noteworthy and indicate a robust and aggressive market. Additionally, it demonstrates that collectors are prepared and eager to pay top price for premium goods.
This was well illustrated at the October 2020 auction held by Appletree Auction Center in Newark, Ohio, which included several endearing Steiff bears that caught the interest and imagination of numerous collectors. With 39 bids and 30 observers, Lot #0368, a 16′′ golden blonde beautiful steiff Teddy bear from circa 1920, brought in $4,612.60.
This interest is not just in the United States. Lot #5165, a 17 cm white bear from the second quarter of the 20th century, hammered at EUR6,000 (USD7,249) at Germany's Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's December 2020 sale and earned EUR7,440 (USD8,989) on its EUR350-700 (USD423-$846) presale estimate. Amazingly, there were 60 bids and 21 viewers.
This downtime also provided collectors more time to polish and assess their holdings, which frequently necessitated moving things along out of choice or necessity. And regrettably, I frequently hear from collectors who are reassessing their priorities as a result of COVID and are deciding to completely rehome their collections. For better or worse, this results in a larger total supply and the rare auction surprise that makes you wonder, "Where has that been hiding for all these years?"
Rebekah Kaufman regularly contributes to a number of international print and online magazines, speaks at conferences in the US and Europe, and offers advice and knowledge on antique Steiff to the public, auction houses, and business associates. She is not associated with Steiff North America or Margarete Steiff GmbH.