Special Auction Services (20% buyer’s premium) included 34 lots of teddy bears and soft toys on June 8 consigned as an exercise in downsizing. “As I am semi-retired now I want to see them go to new homes, although I have kept a small cabinet of miniature bears,” she said pre-sale.
Pearson began collecting in the 1950s. In the 1970s she started selling teddy bears and dolls at fairs and a tiny stall in Brighton market. In 1982 this became her world-famous shop Sue Pearson Antique and Collectors Bears (Prince Albert Street, The Lanes) visited by arctophiles from the key collecting nations of Europe, America, Japan, and Australia.
Some of the 34 lots, displayed in a spare bedroom of Pearson’s Sussex house, were those featured in lecture tours and pictured in two often used reference books: A Collector’s Guide to Bears (1995) and Miller’s Teddy Bears A Complete Collector’s Guide (2001).
In this nostalgia-driven market stories of original owners matter as much as rarity and condition.
‘Joan’s Teddy Bear’, an early British golden mohair toy of 1916 (pictured top), was bought directly from Joan Haggard who owned it all her life.
The bear was sent to Haggard unexpectedly from the colonel of her father’s regiment on the day her father was due to leave for active service abroad in September 1916. As she grew up, Haggard was encouraged to give away her toys to those less fortunate; however, this was the one she could not bear to part with.
This bear, sold with photos and correspondence between Haggard and Pearson, made a top-estimate £600 from a UK collector on the phone.
Another teddy with a military link was ‘Johnny’, an early German bear in First World War uniform, sold with a letter from his original owner Grace Tyler. She admired ‘Johnny’ in the shop window and, much to her mother’s dismay, it was bought for her by a kind cousin for the large sum of 2/6.
Living through the First World War, it was very typical for a young girl to dress a bear in the uniform of her father or brother. ‘Johnny’ sold for £500 (estimate £300-400) via the phone to a UK collector.
A 2ft 1in (62.5cm) high cinnamon mohair Steiff from the first decade of the 20th century was the childhood toy of a German girl who married and moved to northern Rhodesia. ‘George’ stayed in the family for four generations, in particular providing comfort to Margaret, a girl with cerebral palsy. The pair met the Queen Mother in 1957 when HRH was visiting a care centre. ‘George’ sold for a mid-estimate £1600 to a US collector bidding online.
One of the best performers against estimate was a rare German red mohair teddy bear, 1910-20, which took £1100 against a guide of £400-600 from a US collector on the phone.
Among the more unusual lots was a rare felt toy by Harwin & Co, a firm operating in north London until 1930. This 14in (36cm) high toy, ‘Ally’, was modelled as a Scottish infantryman in First World War garb. It went to a US collector via a commission bid for £850 (estimate £300-400).
Teddy bears outside the Pearson collection sold at SAS were covered in Auction Reports, ATG No 2499.