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Collecting--Manufacturers
Petz : Germany

    The name Petz is not as familiar in the history of teddy bear manufacturing as some others but they too, produced quality, jointed mohair teddy bears starting around 19 15-1919. Founded in 1859 in Coberg, Germany, Petz created an excellent line of toys and added the teddy bear around the time of World War I. The company took a novel approach in the construction of their bears.  The jointing in smaller bears consisted of simple wiring that enabled arms and legs to move simultaneously. Larger bears can be found up to 36 - 40 inches tall that have the familiar five disc jointing. The ears were attached by inserting them through slits made in the top of the head. An unusual practice that’s easily identifiable. Petz bears will have a barrel chest, long arms with curving felted paw pads and at times pointed foot pads.
    The nose stitching is usually horizontal but in later bears, a triangle shape has been found.  Petz is known to have regularly used tipped mohair. Tan with dark brown tips is well known and long orange mohair tipped with white is a bit more unusual. A milk glass button with the PETZ name in red was attached to the bears’ chest but these were easily removed and are hard to find. Some bears were dressed with simple bows or vests but original accessories are easily lost. The Petz company went out of business in 1974.

Farnell: British

      J.K. Farnell was established in 1840 and produced natural animal skin toys. Agnes Farnell was assisted by her father and brother who helped run the business operations. Farnell is well known for their bears created in their Alpha Works Company built after WWI. Their first Alpha Bear was made exclusively for Harrods department store. It’s believed this Harrods bear was an Alpha Bear purchased for Christopher Robin and  became the first Winnie the Pooh in 1921.
    Older Farnell bears are of high quality but their seams were machine stitched. Faces, noses and paws were hand-embroidered. Other features to look for in a J.K. Farnell bear are  high quality, long, curly mohair with black button eyes on some bears. They’re jointed with excelsior stuffing and a woven label reading “Farnell’s Alpha Toys Made in England”. Arms on a Farnell bear are long with a graceful curve at the paw. Legs are long with large foot pads.
    Production of bears decreased in the final years and by 1964 when the company closed they were producing mostly dolls under different names including Alpha Cherbu and Joy Day.

Bing: German

The Bing Company, based in Nuremberg, Germany in the early 1860’s sold enameled kitchenware products. By the first of the 20th century they’d added enamel and tin toys. In 1907, after a shift in ownership and management the company began to produce soft toys. In 1912, after 5 years at Bing, Heinrich Muller left the company and founded Schuco.

Due to the company’s background in metal works Bing bears were known for their mechanical attributes. Somersaulting, dancing, climbing and walking bears are some of the most desirable and rarest bears to find. A key under the left arm was used to wind the toy. Bing’s clockwork bear moved it’s head from side to side when wound with the key. Having mechanical parts, these bears were usually dressed in splendid costumes made of silk or felt with mohair heads, paws and pads. Finding original costuming is unusual. Most of these mechanical bears were under 10” high. Remember, Bing and other bear manufactures made an entire line of stuffed toys. As you search out bears, you’ll find Bing, Merrythought, Schuco, Steiff and others made a menagerie of animals from rabbits, monkeys, dogs and cats to giraffes.

During the first years of production, the Bing ID tag was attached to the left ear, the same as Steiff. The first tags had the initials ‘G.B.N.” identifying Gebruder Bing Nurnberg. After WWI this was changed to “B.W” for Bing Werke. There was also controversy with Steiff over the original design of a somersaulting bear resulting is a law suite lasting until 1915. The small bear hung on chains between two wooden poles and would do a somersault when wound. It’s not unusual to find Bing bears that are similar in appearance to Steiff. However, when given a close look, ears are smaller and noses can be slightly flatter.

Chad Valley Bears: British

As with many early manufactures, bear companies began as different businesses.
Chad Valley for one, is an English company that began as a stationery business in the mid 1800’s. The name is derived from the stream that runs through the village of Harborne where Joseph Johnson and his son moved their stationary business in 1897. Though the stationary business was Johnson Bros. Ltd. The factory was known as the Chad Valley Works.

Over the years the company diversified its stationary business to include board games. In 1915, due to WWI and the ban on German imports, the first Chad Valley teddy bear was made. They patented a stuffing machine for soft toys in 1916. Stuffed toy production grew through the 20’s and 30’s and the company moved its toy division to a separate factory, the Wrekin Toy Works in Wellington.

In the 1920’s Chad Valley expand. In 1923 they registered the Acrolite trademark for the soft, light kapok stuffing they used in their bears. Muzzles were usually stuffed with excelsior. But, it is possible to find excelsior stuffing in Chad Valley bears.

During this time Chad Valley bears were identified by a printed, celluloid covered metal button and usually a woven label. Between 1920 and 1931 Chad Valley took over Isaac & Co and Peacock & Co. Ld, and in 1938, Chad Valley was awarded a British Royal Warrant of Appointment. This gave the company the distinction of displaying a square, woven label printed with blue text reading, “Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen”. They produced several well known character bears such as Winnie the Pooh, Cubby, Magna, Sooty and Toffee. In the late 1960’s Chad Valley was the largest soft toy manufacturer in Britain.

Some common characteristics found in most Chad Valley bears include:
• Short arms and legs.
• Usually a narrow oblong body.
• Relatively large, flat, slightly cupped ears.
• Shaved muzzle.
• Glass amber colored eyes. Sometimes clear glass eyes are painted on the back.
• Celluloid button in the right ear, chest or back.
• A stitched label on the foot pad. See labels below.
• A thickly stitched oval nose is most common but see other considerations below.

In 1978 after a couple acquisitions, Chad Valley was bought by the American company, Kenner Parker Co. By the end of the 1980’s Chad Valley began a new series of toys made in Asia. Over the years Chad Valley labels have changed but in general, have remained circular buttons:

• Between the 1920’s-1930’s, the metal celluloid covered button could be found in the right ear or located on the chest and at times on the upper back. They will say Chad Valley Hycineic Toys in reference to the Aerolite stuffing they had patented.
• In the 30’s a small white label with red embroidery was added and stitched to the foot pad or attached to the leg of smaller bears.
• Also in the 30’s bears sported an unusual white label with blue/green lettering identifying the Magna series. One identifying attribute of the Magna bears is the horizontal stitching of the nose.
• In 1938 after receiving the Royal Warrant, the new white label reads, “By Appointment Toy Makers of H.M. The Queen”, along with the royal crest. The next change to this label came in 1953 when the queen became “The Queen Mother”.
• In the 1950’s several swing tags appeared that identify the different plush toy series.

In the early 1950’s Chad Valley pioneered safety concerns when glass eyes were replaced with plastic eyes. These were eventually anchored with washers. At different times, nose stitching was modified, but the majority of quality Chad bears had thick vertical stitching with a single stitch across the top edge of the nose. It should be a thick bound oval shape. However, a rectangular, horizontally stitched nose and a triangular, vertically stitched nose can be found on earlier bears. Use a combination of facts when trying to identify a manufacture.

Hermann: German

      In the early 1900’s the rolling hills of the Sonneberg valley in Bavaria, Germany were considered the world center of toy manufacturing. Many high quality teddy bears were produced by several companies. To meet demand for teddy bears, manufactures used local cottage industry workers from Neustadt, Weidach and other towns in the valley. In 1907 Johann Hermann owned one of the larger toy factories near Heufang in the eastern part of the Sonneberg valley. Records show their first bear was produced in the fall of 1913. They were labeled with a BE-HA trademark for a period of time. These bears are very rare.   

hermann 1

 

   Johann Hermann ran part of his company from his home. There were several members of the Hermann family. Eventually over the years, his brothers and their wives started various related companies. As a result, Hermann bears have a varied history.

After WWI Artur Hermann, a son, started his own company named Artur Hermann, later renamed J.Hermann Nachf.Inh Atur Hermann. In the late 1920’s the company trademark became the familiar walking teddy bear leading a bear on all fours, carrying a monkey.
Still later, a crown with REX on the rim became a symbol for these Hermann bears.

      In the early 1920’s Max Hermann, a younger son founded another company in Neufang. Using the first two letters of his name and Sonneberg, he worked under the trademark “Maheso”. His logo was a triangle shape with a teddy bear and running dog. Over the years the triangle has changed shape. The oldest has rounded corners while later versions have more pointed corners.

     After WWII his son Rolf-Gerhard joined the company changing the name and location to Hermann & Co.KG in Coburg. In 1955 Max died and his son Rolf-Gerhard became the sole owner. The company went public in 1979 and became known as Hermann-Spielwaren GmbH. During these later years many of the Hermann bears were designed by Rolf-Gerhard’s wife Dora-Magot. Through a marriage connection with the Leven Company, Hermann made replicas of Leven toys also.

     Also after WWI Johann’s oldest son, Bernhard, joined his father and their renewed teddy bear and doll business began to grow. In the factory, they made the higher quality bears. The local cottage workers were given lesser quality materials to make economical versions of the expensive mohair bears. He and his wife had four sons who all became involved with the business in some way.

In the late 40’s the Sonneberg valley came under Russian occupation. Bernhard sent his son Werner to the US Zone where he established a new factory in Hirschaid. In the early 50’s the entire family and production were all relocated to Hirschaid. All four sons helped run the factory now operating as the Teddy Pluschspielwarenfabrik, Gebruder Hermann KG. This was shortened to Teddy-Hermann as the company is known today. The trademark became the familiar red seal with Hermann Teddy Original embossed in gold and attached to each bear and plush toy. In the mid 1990’s on bears over 10” (20cm) the company began attaching a second, smaller version of the seal at the back of the bear’s neck.

      In the mid 1980’s the management of the company was assumed by Bernhard’s granddaughters. The company once run by men is now run by their granddaughters who have continued to be successful in producing a variety of plush toys and quality bears for collectors around the world. 

     Bernhard’s sister Ida and Max Hermann married into the Baumann family. They  manufactured rocking horses and pull toys in a variety of sizes. Betwee1960-1965 the Baumann company made bears known as ‘Baki’ bears.  These bears were made of less expensive materials

Identifying characteristics:

  • Bears from 40’s-60’s had curved tapering paws. Older bears had short straight arms
  • Straight legs with small oval foot pads are consistent with most all Hermann bears.
  • Straight , tipped mohair not unusual in post WWII bears.
  • Contrasting set-in muzzle of shorter plush mohair pile.
  • Between 1948-1960 a thick, large barrel chest and body is common.
  • Large round head with broad forehead are common Hernann traits.
  • Black shoe button and glass eyes Glass eyes used more post WWII
  • Horizontally stitched nose in shield or oval shape

             At times horizontal stitch was covered by outer vertical stitching

  • Inverted Y-shaped mouth
  • Three stitched claws on paws and foot pads on earlier bears.
  • Arm joints attached high on the body.
  • Post WWII ID tags can be found attached to chest.

Other Hermann labels:

1980’s – 1990’s:

            
Printed                                    Printed                             Paper

Merrythought: British

Merrythought came into the bear making business later than other British companies. It was founded in 1919 when W.G. Holmes and G.H. Laxton began a spinning mill in Yorkshire. A year later they bought a mohair plush weaving factory, a natural customer for British toy manufactures. With the introduction of synthetic fibers in the 1920’s it became necessary for the partners to be creative. In 1930 Merrythought was established as a stuffed toy factory serving as an outlet for their mohair product. To expand the company further, they hired personnel from Chad Valley and J.K.Farnell to build the company’s production and sales operations

Merrythought was not a cottage industry. Located near the western boarder with Wales, the area had a history of ironworks and steel mills. The company grew to employ over 200 workers using modern machinery, large storage facilities and access to rail transportation. By 1935 it was one of the largest stuffed toy factories in England with 41,000 square feet of work space. During WWII the company wove textiles for the military and one facility was fitted to produce maps.

The earliest children’s bears Merrythought made were Tumpy and Chubby Bear. These had a strong resemblance to Chad Valley’s Cubby bear but later, Bobby Bruin and others began to emerge as Merrythought type bears. Their novelty bears came in a variety of colors besides browns including pink, blue and green. Some were poseable and others had sleeping eyes. By the mid 1930’s, the Bingie line of bears was one of Merrythought’s most popular introductions. It’s difficult to identify these unless the original tag is still attached. Only in the first year of production did the Merrythought label read, ‘Made in England by Merrythought, LTD. Later, the words ‘Hygienic Toys’ were added. Labels were woven and attached to the left foot.

Before WWII a clear, celluloid covered metal button was placed in the left ear for identification. It read, ‘Regd Tradmark, Hygienic Merrythought Toys made in England’.
This button caused years of litigation with Steiff. The button was removed and after the war labels were printed, no longer woven. A good way to help date Merrythought bears. Another early tag incorporated a wishbone in the logo as Merrythought is the old English word for wishbone. After 1950 the wording changed again to read ‘Merrythought, Ironbridge,Shrops. Made In England” A reference to the company’s location in Shropshire on the banks of the Severn river where the first iron bridge in England was built in 1779.

Tumpy was an early, popular bear that appeared in only the first two Merrythought catalogs and is a rare find. Bingies came in a variety of styles, fabrics, colors and sizes from Baby Bingie to Bingie Guardman. The use of kapok for stuffing made the bears soft. Over the years Merrythought introduced creative, quality bears of all kinds. In 1953 a red, white and blue mohair plush bear was made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
They made rayon bears and combined mohair, alpaca, velvet and other materials on different styles. After 1950 other well known Merrythought deigns included Punkinhead, made for a Canadian department store and Cheeky. He was a large bear with rounded head and velvet muzzle. He came in several sizes, shapes and materials. Originally he was made of gold plush mohair or art silk plush with bells in his ear. Cheeky became muffs, a glove puppet and was made with musical movements.

Some basic characteristics:
• Noses were usually large with vertical stitching. The outer edge stitches dropping downwards.
• Before 1960 most muzzles were shaved depending on the fabric used
• Early bears would have four stitched claws on pads and paws. Over the years some bears were made with no pads or paws.
• Legs and arms were shorter when materials were scarce as during WWII.
• Basic standard features until postwar production includes curved arms and thick thighs and big feet. Bodies were slender but round with straight backs.
• At times, feet were reinforced with cardboard as on Dutch Teddy from the late 1930’s
• Later bears are easily identified by large rounded heads with ears attached at the side.

Schuco: German

Schreyer & Company better known as Schuco, came into being on November 16, 1912 in Nuremberg, Germany. Herr Heinrich Muller was an ex-employee of the Gebruder Bing company and Heinrich Shreyer was an ex furniture salesman. Within a year (1913) they were one of the first companies to introduce wheeled toys that included a bear. One of the first advertisements shouted, “Tip-Tapp-Tiere” wheeled toys. The firm closed during WWI and thankfully both owners retuned from the war. Mr. Schreyer decided to leave so Herr Muller took on Adolph Kahn as a new partner.

With Herr Kahn on board, he and Herr Muller promoted innovative and unusual mechanisms to set their bears apart. In 1921 at the Leipzig Spring Toy Fair, Schuco presented its patented Yes/No bear for the first time. It came in six sizes from 25 cm to 60cm or 10-20 inches. If you find one, it should be made from shaggy, extra shaggy or short mohair. A smaller bear should have a squeaker while a larger bear would have a growler. If the metal rod is in working condition, the handle at the tail will move the head to nod yes or no.

In 1924, small compact plush animal toys ranging from 9cm-15 cm or 3 ½ -6 inches were introduced and named the Piccolo series. Most were jointed with an outside wire system and were made in a variety of different colors such as pink, mauve, green and blue to name a few. In the late 20’s a real novelty piece was the Puder-bar. The bear was engineered to fit in a woman’s purse and hold all her cosmetic needs that included lipstick, mirror, compact and a powder puff. Other styles included manicure sets and perfume bottles.

Miniature bear characteristics:

• Ears may be stiffened with cardboard.
• Small eyes are usually black painted metal beads.
• Paws and foot pad can be all felt or no felt.
• Noses are stitched horizontally with a few short black stitches,’
• The mouth is most always an inverted ‘Y’ shape.

Schuco also made the tumbling bear between the 20’s and 30’s and continued to manufacture a similar piece until 1965. These bears were metal frames covered in colorful felt to resemble a uniform or clown. Early bears would wind up with a key. The straight arms and legs would move simultaneously allowing the bear to tumble.
Schuco is well known for their messenger-bar/bell hop and the Yes/No clown.

Identification:

• Early Schuco bears were identified with a round cardboard tag usually pinned to the chest.
• After WWII when production resumed in 1949 a new red plastic disc was attached to the chest with a red ribbon. On the back ‘Made in the US Zone’ indicates it was made after the war and before 1953.
• In the 1960’s a printed label can be found attached to the back of the lower right leg.
• A red triangular cardboard tag edged in white was used for the Bigo Bello series.
On the back it should say “Original Schuco Bigo Bello DRGM”.

During the 1950’s the popular Yes/No bear was reintroduced as ‘Tricky”. He too wore the new plastic tag. At this time more novelty lines were developed that included the wind-up bear on roller skates and a dancing bear. There was also a line of poseable dressed bears with the Hegi label. ‘Janus’ bear was another favorite. It had two faces, one frowning, the other smiling. In the 1960’s ‘Big Bello’ was a talking bear that carried the Hegi label.

Through the 1950’s and 60’s the company sold toys made by Herta Girz & Co. (the Hegi label). After 1976 and with the competition from the Japanese market the company was sold to Dunbee-Combex-Max. The Schuco trademark was later sold and used for model cars.

Wendy Boston: British

During WWII, Wendy Williams and her husband Ken started their toy company, Wendy Boston, with the challenge to produce a children’s product in the face of war shortages and limited funds. After the war in 1945 they moved to larger facilities in South Wales near Abergavenny in the town of Crickhowell. In 1948 they established the Wendy Boston, “Playsafe” Toys Ltd. Their innovative approach to making bears changed the way bears were to be made for the rest of the century.

Toys produced by this company represented just over one fourth of British exported bears through the 60’s. Wendy Boston is not as well known in the U.S. as most exports went to Europe including, Belgim, Holland, Italy and Sweden.
By 1955, the company had become known for introducing the first safety screw-lock plastic eyes and the first washable nylon teddy bear with chip foam stuffing. At trade shows they actually put teddy’s ‘through the wringer’ to show they would ‘bounce back’.

In later years some manufacturers used cheap, chipped foam which in time breaks down and can cause discoloration to the outside of the animal.

Although the company produced a line of traditional, jointed mohair bears their new product was popular for being ‘cuddly’. Wendy Boston bears are easily distinguished by their large round heads with ears cut as an all-in-one pattern. One promotion was they could be washed and hung by their ears to line dry. Arms and legs are out stretched and not jointed. Their muzzles are usually short and inset with a small, tightly embroidered, triangular nose. Bears were made in a variety of colors and styles from pink and yellow to the traditional white, brown, gold and honey gold. The nylon plush is short to long. The majority of Wendy Boston bears range from 8”or 9” up to a special 6 ft. edition. They also created a complete line of dogs, cats, rabbits, farm animals, clowns and gollies.

The company continued strong until the end of the 60’s when Denys Fisher Toys began to run the company. This was later Palitoy and General Mills. Later, The House of Nisbet owned the name and reproduced a limited range of Wendy Boston ‘Playsafe’ teddies but due to stiff price competition during the 70’s quality was affected and production closed in May 1976.

Identifying Characteristics:

• Cloth labels can be found on the right foot pad or attached to the left leg seam.
• Head and ears made as an all-in-one pattern piece.
• Plastic black or amber eyes with black pupils. These should be a three part screw-lock type.
• Usually three black claws on pads but not always.
• Foot pads are usually oval with the body fabric clipped and shortened.
• Little to no foot or paw definition at the end of the legs and arms.
• Early 70’s produced a musical, two tone nylon bear with more defined foot pads.
• A series of all-in-one clothed bears was produced in the 60’s. Clothing is part of the construction. Only head, foot and paw pads are made of plush.

(C) Bluebonnet Bears, 2009
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