Antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at some cuddly offerings...
Following on from last week when I featured an old and rather tired looking Yogi bear, this week we’re bringing things right up to date with these modern collectables – Grey Bears.
Grey Bears are properly known as Tatty Teddies, which is the brand name for these lovable bears that are made by Carte Blanche Greetings Ltd. They are made here in England, the first one being made in Surrey. They are sold (first hand) in card shops and giftware shops.
They began life as a series of illustrations on greetings cards which were so popular that cuddly toys were made and snapped up by an eager public.
They were first created in 1987, but only appeared with the look you’d recognise in 1995.
The little teddies have short grey fur, tiny black eyes and a little blue nose. They have a bit of “stitching repair work” sewn into them – which explains where the name Tatty comes from.
Nowadays almost anything can be bought with the grey bears on them: mugs, coasters, socks, clothing, personalised products, bags and even chocolate bars.
The little teddies come with different accessories and many have messages, so they make ideal gifts. The birthday range bears carry little cakes, others carry roses or an “I love you” message. Limited editions and special releases are manufactured at the most popular gift giving times of year, such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Mother’s Day.
Whichever one you choose there is always something relevant that makes the ideal gift – whatever the celebration. In the early 2000s thousands of people gave the grey bears as gifts as it seemed so fitting to have something meaningful and personal and yet cute, and every occasion had been catered for. The target market was young women who saw the bears as romantic.
They are very popular and since 2000 there have been over 75 million sold. They are now collectors items and, whilst they don’t have the same monetary value, they hold a kudos amongst collectors akin to Steiff, Chad Valley or Beanie Babies.
Collectors are now buying them second hand and seeking out individual bears to complete their collection. For that reason we often have a
selection of bears in the centre, but they don’t hang around for long.