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Steiff’s Jackie Bears Issued to Mark the Golden Anniversary of the Teddy Bear

by Rebekah Kaufman (01/03/13).

A 25-centimeter “big” Jackie Bear, made by Steiff between 1950 and 1953. The short production run makes Jackie very sought after by collectors.

Every enthusiast has extra-special items in their collections—certain items that just take a gold medal for their rarity, design or the story behind them. Here is one of those treasures from my hug of over 750 vintage Steiff collectibles.

The Items:

These two Steiff Teddy bears really do represent the “gold standard” of Steiff’s early post-World War Two collectibles!

What we have here are two Steiff “Jackie” bears, one in 17 centimeters and one in 25 cm. Both are five-ways jointed and made from blonde mohair. Their faces are detailed with brown-and-black pupil eyes and a brown hand-embroidered nose and mouth. These bears have peach-colored felt paw and foot pads, and a distinctly portly appearance—a short and stocky body, chunky, minimally curved limbs—and no breaks indicating their wrists. In terms of Steiff ID, every Jackie was labeled with a “raised script” style Steiff button, a yellow ear flag, a “made in the US Zone” tag, and special chest tag that read “Jackie Jubilee-Teddy 1903 – 50 – 1953.” Overall, this pattern was produced in 17, 25, 35 and 75 cm from 1953 through 1955 only.

Their History and Design Legacy:

Despite their modest appearance and quiet nature, original Jackie bears are all the rage with collectors these days. Jackie Teddy bears were designed and produced in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Teddy bear—specifically the 50th anniversary of the registration of 55PB (Steiff’s shorthand for a 55 cm plush, jointed bear) at the Heidenheim (Germany) district court in 1903.

Jackie bears have several design details that make them, well, Jackie bears. These include a light pink stitch across the nose, an airbrushed belly button, and lots of facial airbrushing. When Jackie bears left the factory in Giengen, Germany, they were finished with a pink silk ribbon and a small, full-color celebration booklet to mark the 50th anniversary of the Teddy bear.

A photo from Dare Wright’s “The Lovely Doll.” The b ear draws a striking resemblance to a Jackie Bear. (Photo: Dare Wright Estate/Fred Torres Collaberations)

Some people may recognize Steiff’s Jackie bear pattern as the “Little Bear” character from Dare Wright’s legendary series of children’s books from the late 1950s. Her first book, “The Lonely Doll,” made the New York Times children’s books bestseller list in 1957. In November 2010, The British Newspaper The Guardian named “The Lonely Doll” one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of all time.

Many people over time have wondered if Jackie is a girl or boy Teddy, and if in fact they are named after Jackie Kennedy Onassis. There are no definitive answers on either of these questions. However, it is interesting to note that Jacqueline Bouvier got engaged to, and married, John Kennedy in 1953. She was certainly a known and popular personality in 1953, at least in the United States. It is possible that Steiff could have named this new bear pattern after her, thinking that she, too, was emblematic of a new era and good times ahead. Regardless of their name origins and gender, Jackie bears’ extremely limited production time, iconoclastic design, and broad appeal makes them presidential caliber in the eyes of most collectors.

Why this set is so special to me:

This delightful pair of Steiff Jackie bears did not start out together. The larger one joined my hug first. I was contacted by an area collector who was moving and looking to downsize their collection. This Jackie bear was one of the cubs she was looking to re-home. These bears are so rare I was really quite surprised she was looking to move it along. But, I happily chose the adoption option here! The little one appeared a few weeks later. I was chatting online with a friend from Cologne, Germany. He is a collector and a dealer, and we often talk about Steiff items. He mentioned that he had something very special available, and was I interested in a tiny Jackie in excellent condition. Now that’s a silly question – and I am sure nothing got lost in translation here. A few weeks later, she arrived from overseas in all of her glory, and with a nice surprise to boot… her little belly squeaker still worked!

A small, full-color celebration booklet came with Jackie to mark the 50th anniversary of the Teddy bear.

This blonde 17-cm example in pristine condition with her celebration brochure for about $5,200 at the Steiff auction at Christie’s in London in 2010.

Their Value:

Jackie bears are a bit unusual on the Steiff valuation spectrum. Although considered relatively “recent” by vintage standards, ones in very good to excellent condition can achieve sale prices close to or equivalent to their antique cousins. This is most likely because relatively few were made over a short time frame, distribution was still somewhat recovering from wartime conditions and those people who own them seldom put them on the secondary market, given their appeal and rarity. For example, at the 2010 Steiff auction at Christie’s in London, three Jackies sold: an unusual 25-cm brown-toned example in good condition for about $2,000; a blonde 17-cm example in pristine condition with her celebration brochure for about $5,200; and a blonde 25-cm example in pristine condition without a celebration booklet for about $3,200.

As always, things are worth what someone will pay for them. It is my best guestimate that here in the United States, that 1950s-era smaller Steiff Jackie bears in good condition with at least one form of ID may value in the $800 to $1,500 range, and that 1950s-era medium-sized Steiff Jackie bears in good condition with at least one form of ID may value in the $600 to $1,200 range.

These values could easily triple or quadruple for vintage Jackie bears in excellent to pristine condition with all IDs and their special celebration booklets.

Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.

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