'Lost! Rare Steiff teddy bear - more than $295,000 on offer if found...'



An original 1903 Steiff bear would now be worth in excess of £180,000, a leading teddy bear expert has stated.

But there is a problem, for the whereabouts of the 3,000 bulk order bears produced in 1903 by Margarete Steiff in Germany are unknown.

The PB 55s, as they are known, were ordered for the US market by Hermann Berg, a buyer for New York's Borgfeldt company, who attended the 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair where the fledgling bear company was displaying its wares.

It is thought that the PB 55s were the first teddy bears ever produced.

Early Steiff bears are highly sought after among collectors and are well-known for growing in value. A 1925 Steiff Harlequin bear made £46,850 at Christie's in 2010.


Steiff bears are highly sought after by collectors


Although there are rumours that the shipment was lost at sea, most experts are in agreement that the 3,000 bears made it to the US.

"If a PB 55 is discovered, he would completely crash and break all existing world records without question," Manuela Fustig, from the Steiff Museum in Giengen, Germany, told the BBC.

"There isn't anything more important than PB 55. The current world record is over £180,000 but he would easily break that."

When considering why none of the 3,000 bears has yet been unearthed, Fustig states that their construction, which involved jointing the limbs to the body with string, may have resulted in a number of broken and discarded animals.

So what should you be on the look out for?

"He is very dark in colour - he hasn't the cute charming look of a typical Steiff teddy bear, he has no button in his ear," states Fustig.

Steiff continues to manufacture bears to this day at its factory in Giengen, with a staff of around 600.


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