Why are beanie babies almost worthless now

Collectibles: Is your cuddly toy worth thousands of euros?

A teddy bear - there is hardly anyone who did not have one as a child. The bear goes to bed and travels with you, it serves as a good friend and comforts the child when it is sad. That is over by the onset of puberty at the latest. Often the old cuddly toys slumber for decades forgotten in attics. Many of these animals are now rare and have become cult. Branded plush toys, especially from Steiff, are popular among collectors. Sometimes collectors are willing to put many thousands of euros on the table for rare specimens.

The older and rarer the cuddly toy, the more valuable it is

According to Margarete Steiff GmbH, the most important thing when determining the collector's value is how old and well-preserved the animal is and how many specimens exist. The condition of the stuffed animals in particular can be a problem with historical toys: “Many of the older specimens were in children's hands and are poorly preserved. Rare Steiff animals in good condition are all the more expensive, ”says Thomas Schmidtkonz, operator of the Collector.com portal. "The collector's value ranges from a few euros to many thousands of euros for particularly coveted, rare and old stuffed animals."

In 2002 it was the Steiff teddy bear "Happy" that set the cuddly toy record: the stuffed animal made in 1926 changed hands at an auction for a whopping 156,240 euros. But it's not just the bears that make collectors' hearts beat faster: Also in 2002, a stuffed dog - the Fox Terrier "Bonzo" manufactured by Steiff in 1927 - was worth 61,380 euros to a collector.

Bears from the time before 1970 are considered historical and valuable in collectors' circles. Collecting expert Schmidtkonz knows that the famous button in the ear of Steiff teddy bears can be used to determine the age. "The second typical feature, the so-called flag, is attached to the button." Both of these allow the approximate year of manufacture to be determined. There are four different types of buttons: Buttons with “Steiff” in capital letters were used until 1952. Then there was a nickel button with the Steiff lettering in cursive, which was fastened with two prongs attached to the back and bent over in the bear's ear. In 1969 the company introduced the lens button - a hollow rivet made of nickel with the word “Steiff” also embossed in cursive. A two-part brass button with the “Steiff” logo embossed on it has been in use since 1978.

When was the Steiff teddy produced? The button in the ear gives it away

In addition to the words “Steiff Original”, the flag also bears the words “Made in Germany” as well as material information and the item number. Paper flags come from the period between 1948 and 1950. After that, yellow linen flags were used until 1980. After that, the company used yellow fabric flags. White or yellow print tape has been used since 1986. If there is a white flag with the inscription "Made in US-Zone Germany", the teddy bear marked in this way comes from the period between 1947 and 1953.

The exact year of manufacture can sometimes be derived from the combination of features. However, "very often the Steiff trademarks have been lost" in older specimens, says collecting expert Schmidtkonz. “But there are still a number of clear identifying features that are based on the processing or manufacture.” A specialist should be consulted here.

If you want to buy old Steiff animals, you will find what you are looking for at auction houses. "Teddy bears and other antique cuddly toys have been auctioned at auctions for a long time," says toy collector Hans Hirling from Sindelfingen. "In addition, there are special collectors' fairs for plush toys that are held regularly in many regions of Germany." The Internet is also playing a growing role: some mail-order companies specialize in historical teddy bears and other plush toys, and with a little luck you can get hold of the online auction house Ebay get a bargain. But be careful: where a lot of money is involved, counterfeiters are not far away.

Found a cuddly toy? Auction houses and antique dealers are good contacts

Auction houses and antique dealers are also the first point of contact for anyone who wants to monetize old cuddly toys, for example from loft finds from parents or grandparents. Here you can have the value of the plush animals estimated for a small fee and thus find out whether a sale is worthwhile at all. Also, rush is a bad advisor. The first offer is rarely the best. Waiting, sounding out the market and waiting for various offers can definitely pay off.

Sometimes waiting doesn't help either. Because the laws of the market economy apply on the collector's market: supply and demand determine the price. In order to realize a collector's value, a buyer has to be found first. Otherwise there are still the children who can be given great joy with a cuddly companion.

Sometimes the bears also suffer a cruel fate: The Steiff bear "Mabel" once belonged to Elvis Presley and was supposed to be the highlight of an exhibition in Great Britain twelve years ago. A private collector bought the stuffed animal for the equivalent of around 45,000 euros and then loaned it to a museum. Seconds before the bear found its place in a display case, the watchdog of a security service broke free and tore it to pieces.