Radar O’Reilly’s Teddy Bear from ‘M*A*S*H’ TV Show Hammers for $14,000

The Teddy bear owned by the Radar O’Reilly character (right) on the hit TV show “M*A*S*H” sold for more than $14,000 at auction on March 27.

When a “national treasure” prop or costume from an iconic Hollywood movie or television show becomes available at auction, it can make headlines, especially among auction watchers, memorabilia collectors, as well as those who follow celebrity related news. One of the most sentimental TV-related props—Radar O’Reilly’s Teddy bear from the hit show “M*A*S*H”—sold at One Of A Kind Collectibles Auctions on March 27, hammering for more than $14,000.

The bear, tagged as lot #197, “M*A*S*H Radar’s Iconic Teddy Bear,” was describes in the auction house catalog:

“Radar’s iconic teddy bear from the television series M*A*S*H. … This little teddy bear is virtually synonymous with the Radar O’Reilly character. The teddy bear does exhibit some soiling due to its age and production use. A great prop from this Emmy Award-winning series. The Teddy Bear does come with a notarized handwritten letter from Mr. (Gary) Burghoff stating the facts of where the bear has been the last 30 years and that it is in fact the Teddy Bear he used on set all those years.”

Radar’s Teddy bear was not in perfect condition, showing some soiling due to its age and production use. It appears to missing one of its plastic eyes.

The bear also came with a notarized, handwritten letter from actor Gary Burghoff, who played the Radar character, stating the facts of where the bear has been the last 30 years and that it is in fact the Teddy bear he used on set all those years.

This lot had an opening bid of $500. Overall, there were 19 total bids made on the bear, and it eventually sold for $14,307.50, including the buyer’s premium.

The Teddy bear—which never had a formal name on the show—had a quiet but important role on “M*A*S*H,” which ran from 1972 through 1983. He made his first appearance in the tenth episode of the first season and then became a “regular” on the program and was written into the plot in one way or another throughout the rest of the series. The bear served as a prominent symbol of Radar’s youth and naïveté, as well as a source of humor and an ongoing target for jokes throughout the series. After M*A*S*H ended, the set designer for the program apparently “adopted” the bear as a souvenir.

The bear later came up for auction in 2005 at a Profiles in History Hollywood Auction. The bear had a pre-auction estimate of $4,000 to $6,000 and eventually sold for $11,800, including the buyer’s premium, to a buyer who knew the bear well—Burghoff, who bought the bear with a friend. It appears that Burghoff was the seller in this most recent auction.

So, just who—or what, really—is Radar’s Teddy?

A 1950s-vintage Cubbi Gund Cuddle Bear. Considering the television show was set during the Korean War, the prop master of M*A*S*H chose a Teddy bear that would have been appropriate for the time period.

Although it is not stated in the catalog description, this bear appears to be a “Cubbi Gund Cuddle Bear,” made by GUND, a producer and manufacturer of soft toys founded by German immigrant Adolf Gund in Norwalk, Conn., in 1898. This company is one of the larger plush manufacturers today, and is now headquartered in Edison, N.J. Gund introduced this Cubbi Gund Cuddle Bear—with a vinyl face or muzzle and a rayon plush body—in 1952 and the designed proved to be extremely popular. Many other U.S. manufacturers—including Ideal and Character—soon copied this plush and rubber concept.

Given that M*A*S*H took place during the Korean War in the early 1950s, it would make perfect sense that the Teddy bear featured in the program would have been from that period as well. Radar’s Teddy is described as a “four circle” bear, given its round, contrasting paw pads. Overall, these cubs were unjointed, relatively flat, softly stuffed with foam rubber and had plastic eyes. They came in a variety of sizes and color combinations, including a panda version.

So how does this famous Teddy bear prop sale compare to others out there? Although $14,307.50 is a tremendous amount of money to most of us, it is but child’s play compared to the prices paid for other tangible bits of our star-studded popular culture. Consider these mind-blowing price tags associated with some other well-known bits of Hollywood history:

• The Aston Martin DB5 used by Sean Connery in the movie “Goldfinger” sold for $4.1 million in 2010;
• The Cowardly Lion costume from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” sold in 2006 for $826,000;
• A rare phaser rifle prop from the original “Star Trek” TV series sold for $231,000 in 2013.

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

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