Steiff Harlequin Bear At Auction
The £1.2m teddy auction: Shamed hedge fund manager sells record-breaking Steiff bears at auction.
One of the world’s most valuable collections of teddy bears is being sold by a disgraced hedge fund manager in London next week.
The incredible hoard of shamed financier Paul Greenwood, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges last year, is expected to fetch a minimum of £1.2 million when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s.
Mr Greenwood’s lawyer said the sale of the collection of more than 1,300 cuddly toys – of which 10 per cent are highly prized Steiff teddy bears ‘had been approved by the receiver and would be taking place shortly’.
Mr Greenwood was charged in February 2009, along with his colleague Steven Walsh, with engaging in ‘egregious’ investment fraud and using funds invested by clients as a ‘personal piggy bank’.
Multi-million pound properties, a horse farm, cars and the Steiff teddy bears were among items bought by the duo.
One of the bears going under the hammer next week is estimated to be worth £80,000 alone.
Mr Greenwood pleaded guilty to the charges last July and agreed to forfeit US$331 million.
He is due to be sentenced in December and faces up to 85 years in prison.
However, his collection of Steiff stuffed toys, which are made from mole hair and known for their durability, is thought to be among the world’s most extensive and spans the German company’s 107-year history.
It contains the only remaining 1925 Harlequin Teddy bear, which is expected to fetch between £50,000 and £80,000 and other notable bears, such as the black ‘Titanic’ Steiff bear.
The hedge fund manager is understood to have amassed his collection from auctions and dealers around the world over 15 years and is not expected to make back the value on his original investment, thought to be about US$3 million.
Christie’s is expected bidders to fly into London from all over the world, including the United States an Asia, for the auction on Wednesday.
The auction house also said Mr Greenwood’s collection was the largest it had ever dealt with and, it suspected, the most valuable.
It includes toys dating back as far as 1890 and Steiff is widely recognized as the most collectable soft toy brand manufacturer.
The most expensive teddy bear in the amazing collection is a one-of-a-kind red and blue mohair Harlequin bear.
Teddy specialist at Christie’s, Daniel Agnew, said that it was made as a sample and it is the only one in the world.
He expects a toy museum or a ‘very serious collector’ to snap it up for between £50,000 and £80,000.
Mr Agnew said: ‘It’s very exciting as this is the biggest collection that has ever come up for auction and certainly the most minted in condition.
‘The Harlequin is extremely rare and was never produced commercially – similar to a lot of the collection which makes them so much more valuable to collectors.
‘It dates from the 1920s and the type of person to buy something like this would have to be a very serious collector – or from a toy museum.
‘We are expecting the auction, of which about 10 per cent comprises of teddy bears, to be an international affair as there is a lot of interest in stuffed toys abroad – especially from America and Germany – because Steiff is a German company.’
The oldest toy in the collection is an elephant pin cushion, which was made by seamstress Margarete Steiff.
She founded the company in 1880 in Giengen and was wheelchair-bound after contracting polio as a baby. The tiny blue cushion is expected to fetch up to £15,000.
Mr Agnew said that while Steiff is associated with teddy bears, they also produced many other stuffed animals, such as rabbits, dinosaurs, cats and donkeys.
He said the reason they are so coveted is down to their meticulous detail and top quality material.
Mr Agnew added: ‘The Steiff teddy bears are very humanized but also true to the bear, which make them valuable.
‘They have the long nose, long arms, big ears and humped backs as well as the joint and limb movement.
‘A teddy is not a teddy bear unless its limbs are moveable, otherwise it’s just a plain toy bear.
‘The teddy bear is also not as old as people may think. It dates from around the early 20th century when, simultaneously, one of the Steiff brothers saw dancing bears at a circus and decided to reproduce them, and Teddy Roosevelt in America refused to shoot a bear cub while hunting so had a ‘teddy’ bear named after him.’
Other lots among the collection include a Steiff 9cm miniature teddy expected to fetch around £3,000 and two Rod bears from 1904 which should go for between £7,000 and £15,000.
Mr Agnew added: ‘What makes this collection stand out is that it’s in such good condition.
‘The owner accumulated the lot over a 15 year period, which isn’t very long. A lot of it came from Steiff workers and are samples.
‘It’s going to be a very busy day. The auction starts at 10am and will go on until about 7pm. About 400 people are expected to show up.’
The first Steiff teddy bear was made in Germany in 1903. The firm says that the value of its bears has not fallen during the economic downturn and that their ability to last generations would ensure demand continued.