Since Steiff bears introduced the stuffed teddy bears into the market over 100 years ago, they’ve been trusted companions to children and adults. Many people keep their teddy bears through major life changes, from moving homes to getting married.
While the tradition remains even today, vintage and antique teddy bears stay on top of the value and demand chain for many reasons. For example, in 2000, a Louis Vuitton Steiff Bear was auctioned for almost $200,000, while another rare model sold for over $150,000.
Naturally, these figures will pique your interest and have you rummaging through your old toys looking to make top dollar.
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Where did Antique and Vintage Teddy Bears Originate From?
Two toy companies, Ideal Toy Co. and Steiff, produced the first teddy bears in the early 1900s. Per invaluable, in November 1902, former USA president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt went bear hunting unsuccessfully.
His companions caught one for him and tied it to a tree for him to kill, but he declined. Nevertheless, it made the papers when Clifford Berryman, a political cartoonist, depicted the event in a quirky caricature. He drew the bear as a cub birthing the “Teddy Bear.”
That year, Ideal Toy produced stuffed bears like the cartoon and named them “Teddy’s Bear.” Ideal Toy’s founders requested Roosevelt’s permission to use his nickname for the Toy, and he consented. His association with the stuffed Toy led to its popularity and increased sales.
Background on Steiff Teddy Bears
In 1902, German toymaker Margarete Steiff launched the teddy bears under her toy making company, Steiff. It released its first teddy, the Bear 55 P.B. to commercial failure since Germans couldn’t relate to the toy like the Americans with the Teddy Roosevelt reference.
Luckily, an American company, George Borgfeldt Toy Co., sought to import the Steiff bears and commissioned 3000 teddies to be shipped to the US. The company intended to compete with the established Ideal Toys Teddy bears but failed in this plan.
Unfortunately, a misfortune befell the business when the consignment didn’t reach the market. Urban tale suggests it got lost at sea, but expert appraisers theorize otherwise, saying they likely were unfitting for sale due to the rigorous travel.
The 55 P.B. Bears have never been sold or seen since 1902, so they remain the most elusive model of Steiff Bears ever produced.
If you’re wondering, 55 P.B. Bear means – 55cm tall, Plush Beweglich (Moveable in German) Bear. The first Steiff Bears sold in the U.S. were the 28 P.B.s in 1904.
Steiff Bear Value Guide
Being one of two pioneer brands to make Teddy Bears, Steiff Bears are coveted amongst collectors. They have all the elements of a valuable antique or vintage item, from historical significance to longevity and rarity.
Already, you should know that Steiff Bears are valuable because they’re produced by one of the oldest teddy bear makers in the world. You’ve learned the history of the German company, so you know its role in popularizing these toys.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide for you to appraise the stuffed toys at face value before reaching out to a professional.
Why are Steiff Bears So Expensive?
There are so many factors that contribute to the ultimate price of a Steiff Bear. But, overall, collectors can attest that it’s one of the most valuable antiques and vintage teddy bears of all time.
Its life-like design, including the metallurgical skeleton, mohair fur, and padded felt feet and paws, make it a favorite collectible. Keep reading to discover the other contributory factors.
Which Steiff Bears Are Valuable?
As a general rule in keepsake collections, older items are more valuable than recent creations; however, there are a few outliers. Following that logic, the most valuable Steiff Bears were produced before the 1950s (after the Second World War ended).
All Steiff Bears made between 1902 -1922 are antique models, while those made between 1923 – 1972 are vintage. The designs released in its last decade are considered retro because they’re between 20 – 29 years old.
What Is the Most Valuable Steiff Bear?
The Louis Vuitton Bear, valued at almost $2 million, is the most valuable Steiff bear due to its unique features, including high-end LV logo outfits. Keep scrolling for more on this bear.
How Much Are Steiff Bears Worth?
Using the analogy above, all Steiff Bears aren’t priced the same because they hold different significances and, by extension, values.
For example, antique Steiff Bears sell between $500 – $800, Vintage pieces go for less at $300 – $400, while Retro releases sell between $100 and less per eBay.
Watch a Steiff Bear appraisal on Antiques Roadshow by PBS below.
Apart from the obvious age difference, other factors that affect the value include;
- Historical Significance
For obvious reasons, finding a Steiff Bear with historical significance would increase the value exponentially.
For example, if your bear was owned by a historical figure, featured in a blockbuster movie, or autographed by a famous person, then you can expect a premium price tag.
You can also log specially made Steiff Bears under this category. The company had partnerships with some other brands like Louis Vuitton. In 2000, a branded LV Steiff Bear sold at auction for $182,550 per Guinness Book of World Records.
That same year, after the multi-award-winning cult classic Titanic hit the theaters and broke records, Steiff released the Titanic Mourning Bear to commemorate the tragedy. It sold for $156,273 at auction.
More on these below.
Different collectors pick collectibles for various reasons, whether to own a complete collection of a brand or specific models due to their importance. That’s why age is a major factor in evaluating the monetary value of an old teddy bear.
It determines the availability of the item since many Victorian-age things were lost during the first and second world wars (1919 – 1918, 1939 – 1945). Therefore, any product that survived that era automatically becomes coveted because it reminds nostalgic collectors of the past.
Also, with the evolution of technology and the rise of minimalistic designs, the world is losing the distinct characteristics of age-old brands. It doesn’t matter that a manufacturer still exists today because those designs that made them unique have been watered down to fit modernization.
Rare Steiff Bears with a limited release, recalled or discontinued models are the most valuable designs.
While many collectors choose Steiff Bears based on their sentimental and nostalgic value, there’s no point in owning a toy in bad condition. Physical appearance is a key factor in whether you want the plush bear for decorative or practical purposes.
Inspect the furry body for tears and other physical defects. That also includes the labels on the ears and the buttons. Unfortunately, finding a vintage or antique Steiff Bear in excellent condition is rare, so it’ll be expensive.
Steiff Bears with original orange labels and button fasteners are top-tier collectibles.
If you’re the seller, ensure you keep your bears intact before presenting them for sale and appraisal. Also, take extra care when cleaning them, so you don’t damage the material and ultimately devalue it.
Also, as a potential reseller, it’s best to buy a bear in at least good condition to last for decades while increasing in value.
Certificate of Authenticity
This is an optional document to own, but it helps because it’s evidence of authenticity. Buyers are always wary of all items posing as old pieces of history, so it’s always an extra edge to present your Steiff Bear with a Certificate of Authenticity.
8 Most Valuable Steiff Bears
Loui Vuitton Trench Coat Bear
Colonel Bob Henderson’s Teddy Girl
Titanic Mourning Bear
GBP 50,000 – 80,000
Hot Water Bottle Bear
Center Seam Bear
8. Steiff Center Seam bear
Manufacturing Year: 1908
The most distinctive feature of the Center Seam Steiff Bear is its Silver Brooch bearing Will. it’s tacked on a gray ribbon on the right side of its chest making it one of the few with accessories.
Christie’s sold it in 2004 for 28,680 Pounds which is approximately $37,000 in today’s USA market.
7. Hot Water Bottle Bear
Manufacturing Year: 1907
Who doesn’t like a two-in-one item? The Steiff Hot Water Bottle bear is a sitting stuffed toy that holds a detachable small water bottle in its chest. It’s a discontinued model from 1907 – 1914 due to its marketing failure, but today, being a rare find, it’s worth over $40,000.
The bear on this list had its original hot water bottle (Cannister) in a neat carrier hence its high value. In today’s economy, that value has dropped to 31,200 Pounds.
6. Diamond Eyes Steiff Bear
Manufacturing Year: 2005/2008
Despite being a recent creation, the Diamond Eye Steiff Bears are worth 79,000 euros ($80,219.68) due to their features. They have real diamonds on their glass eyes and were produced to celebrate the 125th year of the brand with only 125 pieces.
The bear’s fur also has golden threads matching its golden nose linked to its mouth and an anniversary gold medal worn around its neck. Insider reported that each bear had a $35,000 price when it entered the market, but it has doubled in today’s market.
5. Steiff Harlequin Bear
Estimated Price: 50,000 – 80,000 Pounds
Manufacturing Year: 1925
This two-toned bear was a special model gifted to Steiff Company employees for long-term dedicated service (40 years) upon retirement. It earned its name Harlequin as the English version of the German word, Harlekin.
It could also be a result of its unique colorway, like the D.C. comic book character. The Steiff Harlequin bear sold for 46,850 pounds in 2010, in Christie’s. It was part of Paul Greenwood’s stash after his fraud conviction.
4. Steiff 28 PB
Manufacturing Year: 1904
Since the urban legend says all 3000+ of the 1902 55 P.B. bears were lost at sea, the 1904 28 PBs are the oldest models recorded in Steiff’s history. As the oldest surviving model, it’s only normal that its monetary value is in a six-figure ballpark.
Reuters reported a sale for about $105,000 in Germany despite the 28 P.B. bears being in fair condition. That 2002 sale was the first time the bears made it to the commercial space in decades.
Today, it’s valued at $40,000 by most publications including Peeps Burgh.
3. The Steiff Titanic Mourning Bear
Manufacturing Year: 1912
Although Steiff’s black teddy bears first entered the market in 1912 after the sinking of the Titanic, they gained their highest sales day in 2000. Before the sale, the company had made a limited number of 665 in five standard sizes.
Of all five sizes, the most valuable is the 20-inch bear because it’s the least available. However, the Telegraph reported that Puppenhaus Museum in Switzerland, bought one surviving black fur Steiff Bear renamed The Titanic Mourning Bear at $136,000.
The bear on this list was found in excellent condition despite its almost a century-old existence making it highly coveted by collectors.
2. Colonel Bob Henderson’s Teddy Girl
Late British Colonel Bob Henderson was famous for carrying his Steiff Teddy Girl bear everywhere during his service. He’d owned the stuffed Toy from his birth in 1909 until his dying breath in 1990.
As the stories go, he held on to his teddy girl during World War II making Teddy Girl a pseudo veteran of the British Army.
In 1994, Teddy Girl was sold as part of his Estate in an auction for $143,000+ per Reuters.
1. Louis Vuitton Bear
Price: 1,978,000 Euros
Manufacturing Year: N/A
Steiff toy company partnered with leading fashion brand Louis Vuitton to create this beautifully adorned teddy bear. It stands in a branded LV logo trench coat and matching hat with a briefcase similar to the O.G. cartoon depiction.
Per Cata Wiki, the teddy bear was sold to a South Korean museum in 2000 for a few euros shy of two million.Note that there’s another Steiff Bear collaboration with LV that’s fully monogrammed in brown and nude without any outer clothing.
Vintage Steiff Bears Identification
With your new knowledge of Steiff Bears’ value, it’s tempting to rummage your attic or store for possible moneymakers. However, before you do that, there are a few things to know: “How do I identify my Steiff Bear?”
Knowing what to look for would help you pick the authentic Steiff Bear when buying and appropriate a good estimate value if you plan to sell.
What should I look for in a Steiff bear?
Here’s a comprehensive list of things to look for in an authentic Steiff Bear;
Are Steiff bears numbered?
Steiff Bears came with metal labels on their ears and later had yellow ribbons along the button attachment. According to Ashby Bears, the tags come in different colors, indicating the category of the individual bears.
There’s the classic orange on antique models, yellow ribbon on recent regular models, white for limited editions, and gray for 2019 bears. All labels are fastened on the left ear of the Steiff Bear.
See the table below for a comprehensive list.
White (Black Letters)
Limited Edition Replica
White (Red Letters)
Limited Edition for Collectors
Exclusive Steiff Club 2019 – present
Multicolor (Orange, Red)
Original Replica copying vintage or antique label
Steiff toy company attached metal labels with buttons on their teddy bear’s ears as a means of identification. The first models came and included an elephant sign on the Steiff button, although they evolved to a simple inscription of the company’s name.
One of the primary defining features of the Steiff Teddy Bear is its upright sitting structure, and this was only made possible by using metal rods. These rods formed a skeleton for the bear, making its body parts moveable like human joints.
You can use an x-ray scanner to detect the metallurgical skeleton in the bear, and if you see nothing, it’s probably a cardboard disc. From 1905, the company replaced its metal rods with pins on cardboards.
Steiff Bears reserved wood wool stuffing, a.k.a. excelsior, for its valuable models since the material was expensive. Three years later, the company switched to using kapok because it was softer, although it continued using the excelsior for the bear’s head.
Excelsior stuffing helped keep the Toy’s snout shapely regardless of the movement throughout playtime. Unfortunately, it’s uncharacteristic to rip open a stuffed toy when assessing its content, so you’ll have to rely on tactile abilities.
Squeeze the head of your Steiff Bear and feel the crunch to ascertain the contents. If the entire body is crunchy, then it has excelsior stuffing, but if it’s only the head, then the body is stuffed with kapok.
Apart from the stuffing, the outer material is the easiest way to identify a Steiff Bear. The German toymaker used mohair textile to cloth the filling because it felt like a real-life bear’s fur.
In addition to the furry mohair body, the bear also had felt patches sewn over the closure on its arms and legs to complete the life-like design. Please note the difference between Mohair and Plush, as many sellers use them interchangeably despite having different meanings.
PETA describes Mohair as a “long, smooth fiber,” while Plush is made of synthetic fibers like Polyester. Both fabrics have soft feels, but the former has longer hair.
Where to Sell a Teddy Bear (Steiff Bears)
Trading antique and vintage items are different from regular modern products because of acquired tastes. Therefore, you must first find the market for your article; in this case, “who wants an old teddy bear?”
A list of people who’ll be interested in Steiff Bears
- Nostalgic collectors– People who owned a model in childhood and want to relive old memories.
- Sentimental Collectors– People who search for Steiff Bears with provenance, especially those made for brand collaborations.
- Regular Collectors– This group generally includes new and random collectors interested in teddy bears or Steiff Animals.
Where to Sell Steiff Bears
Each of these groups shops in unique markets based on their interests, and you must know which audience suits your product.
Nostalgic and Regular collectors are most likely to shop in the general markets like Estate Sales, Garage Sales, and Online Retailers such as Live Auctioneers, eBay, Etsy, and Amazon.
Sentimental Collectors have a more eclectic taste, so you’d find them at auction houses. With big companies like Sotheby’s, Christie’s, The Smithsonian, and other private auction outfits, you’d get a wider audience and an opportunity to earn more through bids.
Knowing how to assess a Steiff Bear at face value is a great asset, and you’ve built that with this guide. However, hiring an accredited appraiser is best to make double assurance. One of the best in this field is Dr. Lori Verderame, who has a blog dedicated to her craft.
You can also visit YouTube channels by searching the keywords “Steiff Bear Appraisal” for the best videos. Finally, note that original bears are worth the most money. Read Steiff Bears Value: Identification and Price Guide for more information.
Q: Are Steiff bears still valuable?
Steiff Bears will always be valuable because of their historical significance as the pioneer teddy bears alongside Ideal Toy company bears. The difference is that the value is not set in stone and the price differs based on the current market and models.
Q: How do I know if my teddy bear is valuable?
You must’ve skipped the section above. Scroll up to read. However, to recap, there are certain factors and criteria your bear must fulfill, including age, condition, brand, historical significance, and rarity.
Q: Do Steiff bears go up in value?
A Steiff Bear’s value would increase in a bidding war and if new characteristics setting it apart as a rare model come to light. This applies to bears with factory errors and historical significance, as explained above.
Q: Which other antique teddy bear brands exist?
A: In 1906, Britain company J. K. Farnell brought the stuffed Toy to England, while the French joined in 1919 via the Le Jouet Champenois company. However, J.K. Farnell’s bears didn’t last past the 1960s when the company closed down per Mearto.
Q: How can you tell what year a Steiff bear is?
You can rely on the material texture, knowing that wood wool is older models made before 1950 while plush feathers came after.
Alternatively, you can decipher the age through its model, like how 28 P.B. was created in 1904 and the hot water bottle bears lasted between 907 – 1914.
Check the table above for more dates and models.