Giant Steiff ‘Petsy’ Bear Could Demand $50,000 at July 28 Theriault’s Auction

Lot number 241, an “Extremely Rare Extra-Grand-Sized German Mohair “Petsy” Bear by Steiff with Family Provenance,” carries a presale estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It is expected to be the top lot in the July 28 “In the Company of the Gentleman Bespoken” auction hosted by Theriault’s.

Here’s one auction all vintage doll, toy, Teddy bear and miniature enthusiasts cannot miss: Theriault’s “In the Company of the Gentleman Bespoken,” which features 450 lots of the finest, museum-quality collectible playthings, including items from the Estelle Johnson collection. The auction is scheduled for Sunday, July 28, 2013.

The auction, which will be held at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC., begins with previews at 9 a.m. and the auction gets underway at 11 a.m. Johnson, a United Federation of Doll Clubs highlight lecturer and exhibit chairman, conservator at the Strong Museum, and frequent contributor to many doll publications, curated this collection over a period of more than 50 years. This grouping is remarkable for its originality of costume and artistic modeling of face and figure.

The auction will also feature: rare French bébé and German bisque characters from the private collection of Grace Pope of Fresno, Calif.; a one-owner private Connecticut collection of very rare Gebruder Heubach figures and piano babies; and other exceptional rarities. The entire catalog can be viewed on the Theriault’s website.

One lot that really stands out—due to its sheer size, impressive appearance and complete history—is number 241, “Extremely Rare Extra-Grand-Sized German Mohair Petsy Bear by Steiff with Family Provenance.” It carries a presale estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. Early and original Steiff Petsy bears are universally beloved by collectors and very seldom appear on the secondary market, so when they do, they always generate tremendous interest. This Petsy bear, however, which measures 75 centimeters sitting and 115 cm standing, is truly in a class by itself.

This bear’s size is only dwarfed by the comprehensive history and documentation that accompanies the lot. Because Petsy has lived with the same family for four generations, countless photographs were taken of him. Many originals are included with his purchase. According to his owners:

Petsy Bear with his first owner, who is now 91 years old. The never-before-seen Steiff bear, its grand exhibition size and complete family history associated it truly elevates this lot into the collector’s stratosphere.

“Our Teddy was given to my grandmother when she was a child; Grandma is now 91 years old. My great-grandmother was shopping during the Great Depression when she saw this huge Teddy Bear is a shopkeeper’s display window. She wanted to buy it for my grandmother who was her only child. She brought the Teddy Bear home on the bus; I guess it was quite a struggle. The Teddy took up a whole seat by himself! My great-grandmother lived way out in the country, so it was a long ride.”

From the historical and collector’s perspective, Petsy had a short but sweet appearance in the Steiff catalog, only appearing from 1928 through the very early 1930s. He was designed to have a baby-like look and personality, and was produced in brown-tipped mohair as well as brass-colored mohair. What made Petsy significantly different than past Steiff bear designs was his prominent middle facial seam, which ran vertically from his forehead across his snout, and his metal lined ears, which allowed them to be posed in many fun and comical ways. Steiff’s standard line brown-tipped mohair Petsy was produced in 10 sizes, ranging from 15 to 50 cm sitting (or 22 to 75 cm standing.)

So what about this exceptionally-sized, seemingly uncataloged big bruin? Even though he does not appear in commercially available Steiff documentation, there is precedent for 115-cm Steiff bears from the late 1920s and early 1930s. For example, the 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book (the gold standard of Steiff identification references) documents three 115-cm bears produced in the 1928 through 1935 time frame. Clearly, the company produced a 115-cm Petsy as well; perhaps so few were made, although the company did not keep a sample of one for the archives or just unintentionally omitted keeping a record of their manufacture.

The sale of this bear has the potential of joining an elite club of record-breaking Steiff Teddy bear hammer prices. Relatively recently, two Steiff dolls have reached high five-figure sales prices, including a black, 35-cm “Titanic Mourning Bear,” which sold for about $35,000 at the 2012 Steiff Sommer Teddy Dorado auction in Giengen, Germany, and a 35-cm red, gold and blue Harlequin-style bear which sold for almost $75,000 at Christie’s in London in 2010.

The size of Petsy—75-centimeters tall sitting and 115-cm standing—can only be appreciated by comparing him to Stuart Holbrook, president of Theriault’s, who is holding him.

It is interesting to note that although not a Teddy bear, Theriault’s sold a rare and almost pristine Steiff “school display vignette,” circa 1910, consisting of six felt student dolls and one teacher, for $50,000 in 2012. Other longstanding Steiff auction sales records include a Steiff bear with a full Louis Vuitton wardrobe that sold for £130,190 in October 2000 and “Teddy Girl,” a 1904 cinnamon Steiff bear with a richly documented history, which sold for £110,000 in December, 1994.

“It is not often in the world of fine collectibles that all the essential elements of a truly remarkable piece come together,” said Stuart Holbrook, president of Theriault’s, of the giant German bear. “In the case of the never-before-seen Steiff Petsy bear, one can witness the joining of the iconic name of Steiff along with a model never before found in such a grand exhibition size.

“But it is the complete family history associated with this treasure that truly elevates this lot into the collector’s stratosphere,” Holbrook added.

Theriault’s auction house, based in Annapolis, Md., specializes exclusively in the appraisal and auction of antique dolls and childhood playthings. It was founded in 1970 by Florence and George Theriault. The company holds more than 30 auctions per year in cities across the U.S. The firm and caters to a global clientele.

Interested parties can bid on this grand Steiff Petsy bear, or any of the lots in this auction, by calling Theriault’s and placing a bid, bidding live during the auction, or online at Proxibid. For more information about this auction, call 800.638.0422 or visit the Theriault’s website.

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