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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 12:21 GMT
Teddy bear celebrates 100th birthday
A rare Steiff hotwater bottle teddy bear with original canister
The rare hotwater bottle bear has a secret canister
A childhood favourite has reached a ripe old age - the teddy bear is 100 years old, reports BBC News Online's Georgina Pattinson.

The toy was first created in 1902 and was named after the then president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

Now the teddy is big business: Hamleys toy shop in London expects to sell thousands before Christmas.

Christie's, the London auction house, has been holding a sale of teddy bears on Tuesday.

The bears on sale are a selection from the beginning of the 20th Century to the present day.

You can tell them your secrets and problems

Libby Baldry, Hamleys
Historians agree the teddy bear got its name when 'Teddy' Roosevelt, as the 26th president was nicknamed, was on a hunting trip in Mississippi.

The president failed to make a kill and so his hosts caught a bear, presenting it to him as a target.

He refused to shoot it, saying: "Spare the bear".

His action was immortalised in a Washington Post cartoon and, consequently, a pair of New York shopkeepers, Morris and Rose Michtom, made a soft toy bear they called Teddy's Bear.

A rare black Steiff teddy bear, circa 1913
Steiff produced black bears after the Titanic disaster

At the same time, a factory in Germany owned by seamstress Margarete Steiff began making a soft plush, jointed bear - with a trademark button in the left ear.

In 1903, the company exported 3,000 bears to America.

Daniel Agnew, a specialist from Christie's, said the bears on sale on Tuesday were more than childhood toys.

He explained the hobby of collecting bears had become more and more popular in recent years.

"In the 1970s and 80s, it became a big collecting subject," he said.

"Steiff was always the most expensive and is consequently the most valuable now."

Everyone has nostalgic memories about their bears

Daniel Agnew, Christie's

In fact, the jointed bear is not modelled on the grizzly - but on the barribal bear, a golden bear with long arms and pronounced snout.

The centenary sale at Christie's featured over 380 rare, unique and cuddly teddy bears from all over the world.

Faithful companion

Famous manufacturers also include Schuco, Farnell and Merrythought and estimates for the bears range from 150 to 30,000.

One bear - which sold for 28,200 - is a rare black Steiff teddy bear, one of only 600 ordered for England after the sinking of the Titanic on 14 April 1912.

Another rare example is a Steiff hot-water bottle bear - which sold for 32,900.

Edwin, a British 'soldier' teddy bear
Edwin sold for far more than experts predicted

The most poignant story behind the bears is that of 'Edwin' - a golden bear found in the breast pocket of soldier Percy Kynnersley-Baddlely, killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

The bear was sent back to the dead soldier's young widow, Verna, who placed it on a shelf next to her husband's photograph.

Edwin was expected to fetch a sum between 300 and 500 but was sold to a private collector for 4,230.

But why are bears still so appealing?

"That's a hard one to answer," said Mr Agnew.

"A child can play with a bear like a doll - but a lot of children are not keen on dolls and if you are a boy you can play with it because it's like a grizzly bear.

"Everyone has nostalgic memories about their bears."

Give love

Libby Baldry, a teddy bear consultant at the toy store Hamleys, said teddy bears were one of the most popular items in the run-up to Christmas.

"The most expensive one we've sold recently was for 975," she said.

"Everybody has to have a teddy bear.

"You can tell them your secrets and problems.

"You can tell them everything and they don't answer back - they give love."

See also:

18 Oct 02 | England
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27 May 02 | Business
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28 Dec 98 | Europe
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