Courtesy of Krause publications
The world’s largest antique and collectibles show is conducting a global search for the rarest of all bears – - the Steiff String Teddy. If located, the elusive bear will become the star attraction in an enormous Atlantique City exhibition honoring the 100th Birthday of the teddy bear on March 23 and 24 in the Atlantic City Convention Center.
It was in 1902 that Teddy Roosevelt and the famous hunting incident took place in Mississippi. His refusal to shoot a defenseless bear cub garnered worldwide attention. Soon, bears began flooding the market.
The earliest teddy bear made by Steiff, its existence known to us only because of a museum photograph, was the “string” bear. Held together by heavy, knotted twine, dozens of these bears were shipped from Germany to Steiff’s New York showroom in early 1903.
The string teddies were labeled Bear 55 PB — the 55 indicating its size, 55 centimeters or 21.5 inches. The P stands for plush and the B for “beweglich” the German word for joined with string. Unfortunately, the teddies met with disfavor, buyers finding them too bulky and expensive.
No one knows what happened to these bears. Did they simply disappear or, did a lucky few find new owners?
Perhaps in a remote attic there resides a string bear in mint condition! According to Barbara Lauver, a well-known authority on teddy bears, and the keeper in charge of the special exhibition, if a string bear is discovered, its value would be upwards of $150,000!
To date the earliest known teddy is the 1904 Rod Bear, which has metal inside the body to enable its head, arms and legs to move. An X-ray of the bear clearly shows these rods. The bear came in two sizes, the largest at 20 inches being extremely rare, and a 16-inch size.
The rod bear has a sealing wax nose, a seam across the top of its head, the Steiff elephant button in the ear and pink thread for a mouth. Fewer than a hundred are known to exist.
Apricot, tan, white and a single cinnamon-colored rod bear have surfaced. A 16-inch rod bear in excellent condition recently sold for $35,000 and last year, one sold in Germany for $100,000!
Caution bear seekers: unless a bear is X-rayed there is no way of knowing if he is a string bear or a rod bear. Do not take your bear apart, we repeat, do not take your bear apart.
Call the Atlantique City Bureau of the International Bear Tracking Network at 1-800-526-2724. We will safely conduct a thorough medical examination.
The special teddy bear exhibition promises to include a priceless array of the earliest and rarest teddy bears in existence, as well as a display of rare Teddy Roosevelt memorabilia. Teddy, who was “bully on bears” became forever linked in the minds of the public with the lovable bears.
Atlantique City is a prime bear hunting preserve – - some 10 1/2 acres in all. The worlds leading bear dealers will be in attendance, offering fantastic teddies.
Atlantique City features dealers from 43 states plus Canada, Great Britain, Europe and the Orient. Show producers have developed easy access to the huge event with the help of the mayor of Atlantic City and the Convention and Visitors Authority.
Show hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 24 in the Center at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway. To order early entry discount tickets or for a free courtesy pack, hotel, motel and airline discounts, call 1-800-526-2724