A large grizzly bear on wheels appears to be protectively watching over a group of more traditional stuffed bears, all of which will be auctioned on Sept. 19 by the Norman C. Heckler & Company. The bears, some 1,100 in all, come from the one-woman collection of Charlotte “Chotsie” Lefevre, so amassed them over a 50-year span.
WOODSTOCK VALLEY, Conn. – One woman’s collection of more than 1,100 toy bears—with more than 200 of them antique examples by early makers such as Steiff and Merrythought—will be sold at a public auction on Friday, Sept. 19th, by Norman C. Heckler & Company.
The bears were collected over the course of nearly 50 years by Charlotte “Chotsie” Lefevre, who passed away in January at age 96. Mrs. Lefevre had a few stuffed animals, but wasn’t a collector until someone gave her an antique Steiff bear he had found in an attic in 1968. Something in that bear resonated with her and a collection was born. She displayed the bears in her Vermont home.
The auction, which has a start time of noon Eastern time, will also feature dolls and miniature furniture, stoneware and Redware, early glass and bottles, lamps, Treenware bowls (to include four large and impressive burl wood bowls), Hummel figurines (which will be sold as a single lot), some American furniture pieces, a miniature stove, early iron and other antiques and collectibles.
The items will be available to preview in the firm’s barn auction venue at 79 Bradford Corner Road in Woodstock Valley from 10 a.m. until noon on the day of the sale, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Sept. 15 to the 18. Appointments are appreciated.
Bears mix and mingle with a leopard, two monkeys and a very early, six-way jointed cat, illustrating the diversity of Mrs. Lefevre;s massive collection.
It will be the bears that will command center stage, in part because of their sheer number (so many, in fact, that several bulk lots will also be sold), but also because a number of them will attract keen interest from serious collectors. Many of the Steiffs still have their identification (including their trademark “button in ear”), along with that “much-loved” smell that typically accompanies older teddy bears.
Not all the Steiffs are bears. Mrs. Lefevre also had other Steiff animals, particularly bunnies, in her collection and these, too, will be sold. Speaking of bunnies, Chotsie was a fan of bunnies before the bears took over and amassed a sizable collection of bunnies made from all manner of material, not just the stuffed variety. Unfortunately, these have been lost to time and only the stuffed bunnies will be part of the auction.
Mrs. Lefevre acquired some of her bears at auction; many others were given to her as gifts. She had an entire room in her house dedicated to the collection, which she proudly showed on glass-door shelves and on an open bookcase. At times her bears were exhibited at the local library and historical society, as well as at Hildene—Mary Todd Lincoln’s family home in Manchester, Vt.
One of the older Steiff bears is a charming 10-inch (25cm) bear with a blank button, circa 1905. It is expected to spark intense bidding, as will others of the much older, well-worn examples. In the world of collectible bears, being in good or like-new condition isn’t always a positive. To hold an antique bear and imagine the children from decades past who played with it is part of the fun.
A lone bear from Mrs. Lefevre’s collection seems to be admiring some of the other items slated to be auctioned.
Proceeds from the sale of the collection will go to benefit the Second Chance Animal Shelter of Shaftsbury, Vt. Chotsie sat on the board of the shelter and was a lifelong lover of live animals, not just stuffed ones. At the time of her passing, she owned four cats and a dog, but over the years an army of rescue animals was lucky enough to have been adopted by this kind soul.
Charlotte Lefevre was born in Carver, Mass., in 1917. After graduating from Stoneleigh College in 1936, she headed for New York City, where she became a nurses’ aid at Sloan Kettering and later worked for the Society for the Control of Cancer. She eventually left the medical field to work in the apparel industry. Mrs. Lefevre had two sons who survive her: Enrique (“Quique”) and Grant.
For more information about this auction, call 860.974.1634, email to email@example.com or visit the Norman C. Heckler & Company website.
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