War time teddy bears up for auction in Shrewsbury
A trio of bears who went off to war and returned to safety with their owners will go under the hammer in Shrewsbury next month.
The teddy bears were made by the very first British toy company to manufacture teddy bears, J K Farnell & Co, which today is almost forgotten to everyone except teddy bear collectors.
World War One Farnell ‘Soldier’ Bears, which were officially known as ‘Campbell’ Bears, were manufactured between 1914 and 1920 and were often given by wives and girlfriends to soldiers when they went to war.
Instantly recognisable because of their red, white or blue mohair fur, each little 3.5 inch bear had an upturned nose that would stick out of the soldier’s breast pocket as a good luck charm and reminder of sweethearts at home.
David Lewis, Toys and Models Specialist at Halls Auctioneers said: “Many of these little bears were bought by Leanda Harwood from Sotheby's in May 1999, who went on to make 81 numbered sets of three, and put them in mini suitcases with little booklets about their history.
“The set we have coming up for auction on December 11 were originally part of a very large collection owned by twins David and Guy Campbell who were born in Devon in 1910. Despite costing a shilling each in 1924 their aunt bought them 50 for Christmas. As other boys played with toy soldiers these two had serried ranks of miniature teddy bears.
"Thankfully both survived their time as soldiers during WWII but they are known to have taken one of the bears with them.
“Looking well loved, these little bears make a super collector’s item for anyone interested in commemorating our teddy bear or military history and are worth upwards of £1,000.”
J K Farnell & Co were eventually taken over by Merrythought in Ironbridge who continued to manufacture their most famous bear, the ‘Alpha’, said to be the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.