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Teddy Bear Identification

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Teddy Bear History > Bear Identification > Clues ...


Looking at your Old Teddy Bear

Always remember that no Teddy Bear can be dated before 1902.

The first step to identify your old teddy bear is to have a good long look at them. If they wear removable clothes, take them off so that you can clearly see their shape. Look for a label on the back or side seams and in the ear, also the way they ware put together by the maker.

So, Key points to look for and some of the things to consider when looking at your bear are ...

Family History ... Some bears can be dated quite accurately by the memories of the previous generations of your family - elder sisters or brothers(!) your parents or your grandparents, aunts and uncles. Bear in mind that young women could be given bears at any age, just as they are today. Just because you know a bear through the family from your great aunt, don't assume she had it as a baby. 

The Label ... This is the easiest way to find out who made your bear. Even if only a small fraction of it remains, you can compare it with those shown in books. Most companies changed their label design quite often throughout their history and the style of label can often pin a bear down to a specific manufacturer and date.

We haven't room here to go into details about labels, but all the books listed below show clear photos and descriptions to help with this.

The Look of the Bear ... There are hundreds of pictures of old bears scattered around the internet and you can compare yours with these but do remember that the look of the teddy bear has changed quite a lot over the century since they were invented.

The Hump ... Almost all early Teddy Bears copied the look of real bears who have a large hump between their shoulders. The more exaggerated this hump is, the more likely the bear is to be early. Another point is that German manufacturers continued to make bear with humps into the 1930s, by which time makers in England, America and elsewhere had softened the look of their bears. A classic Steiff may have this feature, even today.

Limbs ... Arms, legs and feet were also very exaggerated on the early Teddy bears. Legs often had broad hips, narrow ankles and very large feet, while arms are often thin, curving upwards at the end and can often be so long that they reached down past the hips to the bear's mid leg.

During the 1920s and 1930s, economic factors caused most bear making companies to shorten the arms, often removing the curve, and reducing the size of the feet to reduce the amount of fabric.

Nose ... Early teddy bears have long (and sometimes very long) snouts or noses, making them appear more bear like but this added to the cost of manufacture. Noses became progressively shorter throughout the years.

Joints ... A Teddy Bear usually has five joints: 2 arms, 2 legs and the head. In some cases, the head was un-jointed - particularly on small poor quality bears and notably on some Irish made bears from the 1950s. Cub-like bears, with un-jointed legs in a sitting position became popular from the 1930s, especially in England.

The earliest teddy bears and some later poorer quality bears from continental Europe, were made with metal rods joining the limbs to the body. However, the wooden disc-joint was developed around 1905 and soon became standard.

A completely un-jointed style of teddy bear was invented by Wendy Boston in the 1950s and this style of bear spread around the world, becoming more popular than jointed bears for a while.

Un-jointed bears of this time usually have arms sewn on at right angles to the body and legs and often have a line of stitching across the bottom which enables a bear to sit down.

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Clues - Looking at your teddy bear for clues to its identity

Build - Looking at its construction for clues to its identity

Fakes - is your bear a fake? Some hints.

Books - You can spend hundreds on books

Experts - Who are the real experts

Facts - Some ideas about writing down your facts


Alphabetical Listings...
Wendy Boston
John W Bratton
Chad Valley 
Janet Changfoot
Deans Rag Book Company
Grisly Speilwaren 
Gund The American giant 
Hermann, Hermann Speilwaren, Gebruder Hermann, Hermann Teddy Original 
Jimmy Kennedy who wrote the words to the song Teddy Bears’ Picnic
Teddy Bears’ Picnic music by John W Bratton and the lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy

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Teddy Bear History - Teddy Bear Timeline - Teddy Bears Picnic - Teddy Bear People - Teddy Bear Identification