The World’s Oldest Teddy Bear
Teddy bears have come a long way from the first renditions that looked like and in fact were modelled after real bears to the plush and cuddly ones that we know and love today. While they have changed in size, shape, plush-ness and personality, the first teddy bears have a certain charm and most certainly a history that make them something collectors all over the world clamour for.
The world’s oldest teddy bear was first introduced back in 1904. His name is Albert and he is a classic PB Rod Bear. The P stands for plush and the B for beweglich, a German word meaning movable. The rod part in the name is because Albert is fashioned from metal rods that hold him together. This, along with the fact that he is stuffed very strongly with kapok and woodwool made him much less cuddly than bears that came after and also very heavy, not a good combination when you are marketing to children.
Albert was made in gold mohair plush and has a unique head seam that runs across his head from ear to ear. The head was stuffed from the top, the seam being hand sewn afterwards. His nose is made from sealing wax and his eyes are boot buttons. He has five claws on his paws and his feet which is a characteristic of the PB Rod bear series, and his arms are curved and long so he can stand on all fours, sit down and even stand up. He is posable thanks to the rods, but this design was only used for a few years before better jointing techniques were invented. Albert is a fair size, being 11” when sitting and 16” at full length and although today he is quite threadbare he has a sweet little face and old world charm.
Of course, teddy bears today go through a much more rigorous safety process than those manufactured at the beginning of the century. We wouldn’t dream of giving a bear like Albert to a baby or young child today, and not just because he is old and worth a lot of money. Techniques today have created better fabrics, more cuddly bears and bears that come in all shapes and sizes, all with standards in place so the consumer knows they are made with safety in mind. But, a bear like Albert is a great collector item as well as being a wonderful conversation piece, as he is the world’s oldest known teddy bear and is a testament to how far the business of stuffed animals has come.
Back in 1981 there were characters created for the American Greetings Corporation for use on birthday and other greeting cards. These characters were colourful teddy bears that had special pictures embroidered onto their tummies to depict their personality. Tenderheart Bear sports a heart on his tummy while Grumpy Bear has a rainy storm cloud on his. There was also Cheer Bear, and Bedtime Bear, Love a-Lot Bear and Funshine Bear, and many others and they were cute, colourful, different and made for great greeting cards.
As it usually goes, these things progress and soon Kenner, the toy company came out with a line of huggable Care Bears in 1983 where they made their debut at the New York City Toy Fair. At the time, the owners had already secured licensing rights with some twenty-six other companies, and because it was already big business spawning books, movies, and other items depicting them, Care Bears was known as the “biggest character launch in the history of retailing”. In fact, the owners of the Care Bears franchise had garnered a wholesale commitment worth $122.5 million US, with only a $5-6 Million US advertising budget.
All of this from a simple idea and a line of greeting cards. Today everyone knows about the Care Bears, they have been on television, they have movies and books depicting them and they can be found on everything from pillow cases to clothes and from lunch boxes to pencil cases.
Care Bears are cute because they can depict your mood. They are perfect for gifts, whether you have a happy or grumpy friend and they make great baby gifts, too, especially Funshine bear who is yellow with a big happy sun gracing her belly. Care Bears make it okay to have and depict different feelings, and they all got along with each other despite their differences. Each had a duty to fulfil and helped each other along the way, all great lessons for children which is why the movies and television shows were always so popular.
Today after a few re-launches Care Bears aren’t as prevalent as they once were although they are still about in their different forms. It just goes to show you what a great idea can bring. When you design a custom plush for your organization, team or event maybe you will be coming up with the ‘next big thing’ just like American Greetings did all those years ago.
The Cabbage Patch Kid Craze
If you were a kid in the 1980’s chances are you had one. If you were a mom or dad in the 1980’s chances are you stood in line for one, or maybe you were in one of the many riots for one. They weren’t particularly nice looking and they were made of a combination of stuffed parts with plastic faces, but they were the ‘it’ toy of the decade. They were called Cabbage Patch Kids and they came dressed in complete outfits, had yarn hair and painted on eyes and even had a birthmark on their backsides, so you knew they were the real deal. Each one came with a name, first and second if you please and an ‘adoption certificate’ that you filled out with your information and sent back to the company in return for the official ‘birth certificate’ of your new ‘baby’.
This Cabbage Patch craze was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. People would literally line up for days in some cases for the chance to purchase one and fights over specific ones would make the local news all the time. It was a doll, but it was the must have that swept a mania over the country. Stores had a hard time keeping them in stock as when they were expecting a shipment the customers were already in line to buy them right off of the truck. As crazes go, the more people couldn’t purchase the Cabbage Patch Kids, the more they wanted to and demand was certainly outpacing supply.
So where did these dolls come from? Xavier Roberts is the one credited with being the founder and ‘adoption agency head’ for the Cabbage Patch Kids. His is the signature featured on the bottoms of each doll and he is the one who made one heck of a lot of money off of the idea. In fact, he stole the idea from a Kentucky artisan named Martha Nelson Thomas who had been hand crafting the dolls since the early 1970’s. He saw her dolls in a show, bought them and then resold them in his store for a profit. Later he used the same idea and the needle molding technique and sculpting method that he had learned while a student at art school and Cabbage Patch Kids as we knew them in the 1980’s were born.
Over the years Cabbage Patch Kids have lessened in the crazy factor and have also undergone a few changes. Some later versions had brushable hair that was more like a Barbie doll’s in texture rather than the loopy yarn the older versions of the Kids had. Some came with teeth in a smile, some could actually ‘chew’ and of course the hair colours and fashion styles also changed with the times.
Their popularity may have waned today, but they are still available in one form or another in toy stores and of course popular auction sites have them readily available as well. Cabbage Patch Kids were something that made the 1980’s the 1980’s, ranking right up there with leg warmers and shoulder pads. They may have not been the cutest looking thing on the market, but for a time they certainly were the biggest.
The World’s Biggest Stuffed Animals
Custom stuffed teddy bears have been made in all sizes since they were first introduced in the early 1900’s. It seems all the major retailers now have huge bears for sale at all times throughout the year, you can win huge animals at carnivals and what makes a cuter picture than a newborn snuggled on the lap of a giant teddy bear? Stuffed teddy bears have been popular toys and collector items since they were first introduced and now come in an array of styles, colours and sizes. Who currently holds the record for the World’s Largest Teddy, and how the heck do they get him around?
The answer to that is CT Dreams, the largest stitched bear that there is currently on the planet, who is a whopping 55’ 4” in length (that’s 16.86m). He was completed in 2008 and was displayed at the Exploration Place in Kansas, USA. He isn’t light and can’t be easily carried from place to place and unlike the smallest bears there are–those being smaller than a fingernail, CT Dreams has to be carted around in a truck.
In 2005 a huge pink bunny was installed on an Italian mountainside. It was created by a Viennese art group and is 200 feet long making it the World’s Largest Plush Animal. He is supposed to stay there for the next twenty years and is named Gelatin. His whole reason for being there is to make visitors feel small. They can, if they wish, climb the 20ft high legs and sit awhile on Gelatin’s tummy, though that’s probably not a wise idea after it’s been raining! Otherwise, visitors can walk around Gelatin and marvel at his size while pondering their place in the world.
Other notable ‘big’ things to do with custom stuffed teddy bears is the largest teddy bear mosaic, which was created with thousands of teddy bears made into a replica of the World Wildlife Federation’s symbol. It was made for the 50th anniversary of the group, back in 2011 and people were asked to bring their own teddy to help make the mosaic.
And while it’s not plush, it is a bear, a gummy bear to be precise, and the world’s largest ones of them are available to purchase online. They weigh close to 5lbs each and are equal to 1,400 regular sized gummy bears each having 6,120 calories. They do come with a yearlong shelf life, though, so you don’t feel like you have to eat it all in one sitting.
They can be big, they can be enormous or they can be edible, heck, they don’t even have to resemble a bear, but custom stuffed teddy bears and plush toys in general are as popular now as they ever were.
The World’s Smallest Teddy Bears
We have all seen custom teddy bears of all descriptions. There are the traditional brown teddies whose arms and legs can be positioned and there are the fluffy white teddy bears that children like to cuddle. They come in all sizes and shapes and of course, stuffies aren’t exclusive to bears, as there are all sorts of stuffed animals on the market today with everything from aardvarks to zebras created in plush form. They can be collected, they can be night time protectors from the boogey man and they can be loved; they are teddy bears and they have a rich history, but what about the record holder bears? The largest ones, the smallest ones, the largest collections, etc.? They are special too, and it turns out they are quite popular.
There are three ‘smallest teddy bears in the world’ designates at the moment, with people clamouring to make even smaller custom teddy bears for the next round of record achievements. Today, Tiny Ted is the official World’s Smallest because he is a miniscule 4.5mm (that’s 0.17”) tall. He is sewn just like any other teddy bear would be and is fully jointed. His head, arms and legs can all be positioned and repositioned if you have a small enough set of tweezers to do it of course! He was made in 2006 and today resides in a Teddy Bear Museum in South Korea where he is exhibited under a magnifying glass.
The second smallest bear is Mini the Pooh who stands just 5mm tall. He was made in 2001 and resides at a museum called A World in Miniature in England. He comfortably sits on a fingernail with room to spare, and although he is tiny, he is brown and fluffy, just like his larger cousins.
The world’s third smallest bear is named Wee Bear and he stands just 6.5mm tall. He was made back in 1998 and today makes Puppenhausmuseum in Switzerland home.
People will always try to better a record, but it’s hard to conceive of a bear being any smaller than Tiny Ted. Will this record stand? I guess we have to stay tuned.
If you are planning on creating your own custom teddy bears, the friendly folks at Custom Plush Innovations are always ready, willing and able to assist you. You don’t have to make the world’s smallest bear to make an impact, just take your idea, drawing or sketch to them and let them help you come up with your own amazing soft, fun and friendly custom teddy bears!