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Meet my teddy bear assistants...

PUBLISHED: 08:51 23 December 2017

Much-loved and much-cuddled: The bear assistants at Mike Hicks' Stalham business.

Much-loved and much-cuddled: The bear assistants at Mike Hicks' Stalham business.

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Mike Hicks on his collection of very friendly bears...

In my shop I have a collection of teddy bears, accumulated at odd times. They are scattered around on sofas and chairs, and they are there, principally, to show that we are children-friendly. I am quite happy for these to be played with.

I decided a very long time ago that is very important that you foster a good relationship with the tiny ones as well as the adults, because they will be the collectors, we hope, in years to come, so we keep one or two things about the place, which might catch the imagination of the children, while their parents are looking at “very boring” antique furniture – not necessarily what the parents are thinking!

It is amazing that the teddy bear still has this unique place in the social life and the social history of the family. Born out of, we are told, the name “Teddy”, relating to Teddy Roosevelt, the American President, and the wonderful family firm of Steiff in Germany, who allegedly produced the first bear.

It doesn’t have to be a famous bear or even an old bear to create the charm and desire to have one. I know people who can look at a range of brand-new teddy bears, all the same model, but one, just one, has a certain ‘look’, which says to them, “I’m the one you want”.

So, occasionally, you will find them coming up for sale, and I am amazed to look through and see that some of them still command a very healthy price, even if they may be a bit shabby.

I see one for sale, which is a growler, dating from about 1908 and made by Steiff. It is going to cost you about £1,000. One has to ask whether that one, or one for a modest £25 will give any less pleasure but, like so many other things in life, the ones that are the market leaders always seem to command the highest price.

I remember looking at a teddy bear once that was a little bit shabby. The stuffing was something like shredded wood or even straw, very occasionally kapok and, of course, they had to have no fixings that would be in any way be harmful to a child who was taking teddy to bed. The fur on this teddy, as I say, was looking decidedly worn but I had read a small poem about teddy bears, which said, “teddy bears like that, have had all their fur ‘loved off’” and I think that is the key. They are a comforting, loving article that are safe and equally loved by all.

Interestingly, when in the Teddy Bear Shop in Norwich on one occasion, I remember a lady who had travelled all the way from the south coast of England to come to the city, as she did every year, to buy herself a new teddy bear. Bears are very nostalgic, very loving, something you remember from childhood and will never forget.

Incidentally, we have to thank A A Milne an awful lot for continuing the love affair with teddy bears with his Winnie-the-Pooh stories, with E H Shepard’s illustrations.

While Germany may have dominated the market with their Steiff, we had other companies in this country producing equally fashionable and cuddly bears. We had the Chiltern firm, Chad Valley, Merrythought - all these people produced wonderful bears.

Incidentally, when looking through some of the bears for sale on websites, it was lovely to see how they had been named already. One I saw was called Harvey, and another one, Doris. I hope that, in your life, you still have your treasured teddy bear - and get a chance to enjoy (or give) a teddy this Christmas.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.

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