Provenance, Paws, and Personality: Sue Pearson’s Teddy Bear Collection Available in SAS Event

Rebekah Kaufman
Published on
Sue Pearson and her hug of teddy bears. Image from Special Auction Services.
Sue Pearson and her hug of teddy bears. Image from Special Auction Services.

There’s plenty of Teddy hugs to go around at Special Auction Services’ Dolls & Teddy Bears sale on June 8th, 2021. This event will be held in the company’s London area gallery and features the collection of Sue Pearson, one of Europe’s most beloved antique toy dealers for over half a century. We spoke with Daniel Agnew, SAS’ Doll and Teddy Bear Specialist Consultant, and the consignor, Sue Pearson, to learn more about this sale and some of the treasures it offers. 

Auction Daily: Sue, why did you select SAS to help rehome these items? As a collector, how did you decide what to keep and what to sell, and which of your items on offer will you miss the most? 

Sue Pearson: We chose Special Auction Services and Daniel Agnew because he has been a good friend and colleague since his days with Christie’s in London. I have a strong emotional attachment to these bears, and they represent a happy and important part of my life. As such, I felt I should put them in Danny’s capable hands. I have given him all my special bears to sell, as I am semi-retired now and wanted to see them go to good new homes. However, I have kept a small cabinet of miniature bears. I shall particularly miss H.E.S. Pricey, my Farnell bear, who has been a friend and companion for many years.

HES Pricey. Image from Special Auction Services.
HES Pricey. Image from Special Auction Services.

Auction Daily: Daniel, you’ve been in this industry for many years and have seen some amazing things. Is there any soft plush on offer in this sale that is a first for you… that is, it would be the first time you’ve handled or sold one of these items?

Daniel Agnew: The one item I have never sold before is a Steiff Humpty Dumpty, sold as The Man from Mars, as Humpty Dumpty was created by Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, so Steiff could not actually sell this with the name. I have sold felt examples of this toy before, but I have never handled the mohair example. I only remember seeing another one in a British museum a long time ago. He is very rare. The estimate is GBP2,000-3,000.

Mohair Steiff Humpty Dumpty. Image from Special Auction Services.
Mohair Steiff Humpty Dumpty. Image from Special Auction Services.

Auction Daily: Daniel, several of the bears and toys in this sale have complete provenance. Can you explain to us what provenance is, why it is appealing to some collectors, and if having provenance adds “value” in any way to an item? 

Daniel Agnew: A teddy bear, or a soft toy, is a very personal thing, often the first toy you are ever given and the last toy you ever part with, often at the end of your life. They are life companions. The bear’s history is very exciting to collectors, even if the owner is just a regular person and hasn’t done anything exciting in their lives; just the history of what their name was, where they grew up, when they were born – is just so lovely to keep with a bear. An original childhood photograph is also lovely to have, with the bear brilliant, without the bear is still good. Anything that relates to the bear’s first owner is exciting. The more you have with a bear, the better the photograph, the better the story, the more difference it makes to the value. Perhaps the bear survived a war? The sinking of the Titanic? Travelled the world? All this is great. 

Good examples of this are small English mascot bears from the World War I era. Without provenance, these usually value and sell around £300-400. However, one named Edwin – the mascot of a soldier who died during the war and was sent back to his fiancée – sold for £4,000. If you own a bear or buy a bear from the original owner, write down and keep as much information as you can. Collectors will be interested in this in 100-200 years’ time!

Chad Valley Winnie-the-Pooh and Friends set. Image from Special Auction Services.

Auction Daily: Daniel, tell us about this sale’s Chad Valley brand Winnie-the-Pooh and friends set. Why do you think soft toys based on literature characters continue to be so beloved and collected over time? 

Daniel Agnew: Winnie the Pooh is always popular. The Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition of this bear has just finished travelling the world. The famous books about Pooh are almost 100 years old now. Timeless and universally beloved by children, they are often re-read by adults too. This Chad Valley set is fairly rare; note it is “pre-Disneyfying” of this British literature superstar. There are a few missing characters from the set (Christopher Robin, Piglet, Owl, Kanga and Roo and Heffalump), and you could buy them all individually. Farnell and the Teddy Toy Company also made these Winnie the Pooh characters, but these sets are less well- documented.

Auction Daily: Finally, Daniel – given you are also a true toy collector at heart – which of the lots on offer personally catch your eye, and why?

Daniel Agnew: This auction is packed full of things in all price brackets, so I am sure something will tempt me. Sadly, the items I really want this time are out of my price bracket; I’ve always wanted a black Steiff bear, and the little one in the sale is about as affordable as it can be, as he needs a bit of TLC. I also love the Steiff hot-water bottle. Sue Pearson has a few little bears which are just charming. It would be lovely to own something from the collection of an antique teddy bear pioneer!

Steiff hot water bottle bear. Image from Special Auction Services.
Steiff hot water bottle bear. Image from Special Auction Services.

Special Auction Services’ Dolls & Teddy Bears sale will be held on June 8th, 2021. For more information, and bidding options, please see the company’s website.

Want to learn more about building your hug of teddy bears? We had another conversation with Daniel Agnew about the category last year.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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