Boyds Bears Value: Your Guide to Collecting These Beloved Plush Toys

For over three decades, Boyds Bears delighted children and adults with their charming, handcrafted teddy bears and animal friends. While the company sadly closed in 2014, Boyds Bears remain highly sought after collectibles on the secondary market. If you held onto a childhood bear or are looking to start collecting, you may wonder what your Boyds Bears could be worth.

As an antique appraiser specializing in toys and collectibles, I‘ve witnessed the Boyds Bear market evolve in recent years. Values range widely from just a few dollars for common 2000s era bears to hundreds or even thousands for rarer editions. Let‘s take an in-depth look at the factors that determine Boyds Bears values and how you can spot the most valuable ones.

The Rise and Fall of Boyds Bears

Boyds Bears have a unique origin story, beginning humbly in 1979 at the Maryland antique shop of Gary and Justina Lowenthal. To pass time between helping customers, Gary hand-sewed a fully jointed teddy bear he named "Matthew" after their son. Little did they know this first bear would launch a teddy bear empire.

Requests for Gary‘s bears grew, prompting the couple to design more characters. By 1984 they hired their first employee to help hand-cut and sew bears to meet demand. Boyds Bears incorporated in 1989 and relocated to a historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania farm in 1993 to expand operations.

The 1990s marked a boom for Boyds. Bolstered by a growing collector community, Boyds issued special edition and holiday themed bears, started its "Loyal Order of Friends of Boyds" club, and even launched a line of resin animal figurines. By 1998, the company had over $20 million in annual sales. The 2001 15" Anniversary bear sold for $900 at the annual Boyds Jamboree collector event.

Sadly, the 2000s brought challenges. Boyds Bears was sold to giftware company Enesco during the Great Recession in 2008. The new owners cut costs, switched to overseas manufacturing, and reduced the special collector offerings. Annual revenue fell to just $7 million by 2013, prompting the difficult decision to discontinue Boyds Bears in 2014.

While no longer in production, Boyds Bears maintain an avid following. Nostalgia for these lovable toys drives demand, as adults who grew up with Boyds seek out pieces to reclaim a part of their childhood. As supply dwindles and the earliest bears age, values for rare Boyds Bears are on the rise.

What Makes Boyds Bears Collectible?

Several key factors make certain Boyds Bears stand out to collectors and fetch higher values on the secondary market:

Age: As a general rule, older Boyds Bears tend to be more valuable. Earliest releases from the 1980s are especially prized. According to Boyds collector Kimberly Smith, "Most 80s era Boyds will sell for $50 to $200 depending on condition. The very first bears are hardest to find and most expensive."

Edition Size: Boyds released many limited edition bears only available to club members or at special events. Highly limited issues of less than 50 pieces can command over $500 to the right buyer. For example, a #1/10 sample prototype sold for $1200 in 2020.

Popularity: Some Boyds characters and lines were simply more popular and thus more collectible. Boyds received licensing to produce special Disney character bears in the late 90s through early 2000s. These sets with iconic characters like Mickey Mouse remain in demand, often going for $100-400 on eBay.

Materials: In the company‘s early years, most Boyds were made from high-quality German mohair or alpaca fur. These plush, fuzzy bears have a distinct look and feel prized by collectors. Later, Boyds switched to synthetic "faux mohair" to cut costs. Mohair bears generally sell for more.

Condition: Boyds Bears values are heavily impacted by condition. Bears in pristine condition with all original tags, ribbons, and accessories will sell for exponentially more than a played-with bear. Seriously collectors prefer items in like-new condition with no dirt, odors, missing fur, or repairs.

By understanding these factors, you can better assess if you have a valuable Boyds Bear on your hands. However, bear collecting is highly nuanced, with many variations and special editions to consider. Let‘s break down how to identify and value Boyds Bears further.

Identifying & Valuing Boyds Bears

Boyds Bears come tagged with helpful information to determine their identity and production history. Two main tags to inspect are:

Hang Tag: This tag is attached to the bear, usually around its neck or ear. Hang tags list the Boyds name, style number, edition size, and copyright year. Special occasion bears may have tags shaped like a star, heart, or other symbols.

Tush Tag: Sewn into the bear‘s bottom seam, tush tags also have copyright info and may say "Made in USA" on vintage pre-2008 bears.

Consulting a collectors guide like The Boyds Collection Collector‘s Value Guide can help you match a bear‘s tags to its official identifying info. However, some early 1980s bears have very minimal tags or no tags if they‘ve come off over time. In these cases, material and stylistic clues are used to authenticate and value them.

Boyds Bears Price Guide

Below is a table of real recent selling prices for various types of Boyds Bears and animals. Keep in mind condition heavily impacts value:

Boyds Bear Type Era Value Range
Common Plush Bear 2000s $5-20
Momma Bear Plush Early 90s $50-150
Mohair Bear 1980s-90s $100-500
Disney Collection Late 90s-2000s $75-400
Sample/Prototype Bear Varies $300-1500
Resin Figurine 1990s-2000s $10-100

Condition is key – a rare bear in played with condition may only sell for 20-30% the value of the same bear in mint condition. Boyds collector and appraiser Louise Henry advises, "Focus on bears in immaculate shape with tags first. A slightly more common bear in great shape usually beats out a rarer bear in bad shape."

Resources:
Several online resources can help you dig deeper into your bear‘s history and value:

  • Boyds Collector – info on retired bears and secondary market values
  • Boyds Bear Guide – database of Boyds characters and editions
  • Worthpoint – price guide based on actual past sales

Tips for Buying Boyds Bears

Thinking of starting a Boyds Bears collection? The secondary market is currently flooded with Boyds being sold by aging original collectors. "It‘s a buyer‘s market," notes dealer Shawn Leavitt. "You can amass a big collection of 90s and 2000s bears for relatively low prices. Now is the time to collect."

Some tips for Boyds Bear buyers:

  • Start with a few high-quality, mint condition bears vs a lot of worn ones
  • Older bears (pre-2000) tend to appreciate more in value over time
  • Limited editions of 1,000 pieces or less are most likely to gain value
  • Focus on bears in original packaging – this really impacts future value
  • Check estate sales, eBay, and collector swap meets for deals
  • Avoid mass-produced Boyds from the 2008-2014 period, quality was lower

Tips for Selling Boyds Bears

If you‘re looking to sell off Boyds Bears, value expectations are key. "Don‘t assume your bear is worth hundreds because it feels special to you," cautions seller Jessica Martz. "Do your research on past sold prices for the same or similar bears first." Some tips:

  • Sell rarer bears individually, but consider lotting up common ones
  • Take clear photos showing condition and any flaws, plus any tags
  • Note the edition size, year, and other key details in your description
  • Price a bit high to leave wiggle room, many buyers expect to negotiate
  • Consider specialty marketplaces like Ruby Lane in addition to eBay

While only the rarest Boyds Bears sell for high values currently, collector interest is growing. "We‘re seeing a renewed appreciation for Boyds as the kids who grew up with them become adults with collecting budgets," notes appraiser Louise Henry. "The most exceptional bears have certainly risen in value in recent years, and I expect that trend to continue as they age into vintage and antique status."

The Future of Boyds Bears Collecting

Boyds Bears only ceased production less than a decade ago. From an antiques and collectibles perspective, these toys are still quite young. However, with dwindling supply and growing nostalgic demand from adults who grew up in their heyday, Boyds Bears are a category to watch.

Drawing comparisons to other toy crazes like Beanie Babies, some collectors speculate that rare Boyds Bears could see significant future appreciation. "When you look at a beloved brand like Steiff, whose teddy bears from the early 1900s now sell for thousands, you can imagine the trajectory for the oldest and rarest Boyds," says Kimberly Smith.

However, Smith cautions that not all Boyds will be slam dunk investments. Late 2000s era mass-produced bears in particular should be collected for love, not money. "Stick to pre-2000 bears in mint condition, especially very limited editions. Those are the ones with the most promise," she advises.

No matter their future value, Boyds Bears remain beloved symbols of childhood for a generation. Collectors are drawn as much to their nostalgic appeal as their potential for financial returns. In the words of lifelong collector Dan Nolan, "Boyds speak to the kid in all of us. These bears aren‘t just objects to accumulate, they‘re a connection to the joy and magic of youth."

Whether you‘re reigniting your own childhood love of Boyds Bears or newly discovering their delightful world, it‘s an exciting time to collect these charming toys. By focusing on quality, rarity, and condition, you can build a collection that brings both personal fulfillment and holds its value for years to come. Happy collecting!

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