I posted a photo on my Facebook timeline of a lovely 16” Steiff bear I named Marion. He is a new addition to my teddy bear family. The story of how I came to purchase him is one of those once in a lifetime tales.
About a month ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning at 3:30 a.m. to the sounds of distant rumbles of thunder, flashes of lightning and rain on the roof. It was not possible to get back to sleep, so I got up and started searching Craigslist on my phone. I’m always on the lookout for great old items for the antique market I have with my sister. I posted a search for ‘antique table’ and was mindlessly flipping through the photos when suddenly there appeared this beautiful Steiff bear. It was listed in an estate farm sale and was one of several photos (including an antique table) of miscellaneous items. I read the description and he was described as an old button eye bear. OH MY! I never see antique Steiff bears for sale on Craigslist. This particular sale was 2 ½ hours away and started at 9:00. I weighed the pros and cons, as at this point it was pouring down rain, there was NO address listed for this sale and I had no idea what the asking price would be. The only location given was Highway 13 but I assumed by the flagged spot on the map that I could find the approximate location and then start scanning for signs. I decided this cutie was worth the trip. Not wanting to waste any more time and hoping to get there early enough to be one of the first in line, I got dressed, gassed up the SUV, grabbed a latte from Starbucks and hit the road by 6:00. It poured down rain with thunder and lightning the whole trip there.
My mind raced the entire trip as I assumed there would be at least 100 people already in line at the sale, when and if I got there, all waiting to purchase the beautiful Steiff teddy bear. Finally it started to get light out, I am heading north on Hwy 13 and the rain has stopped. I spot a yard with a couple of cars up ahead and see a small sign which says “Moving Sale.” I continued to drive to see if there were any other signs further north. After ten miles, not spotting any Estate Sale signs, I turned around and went back to the moving sale. Approximately seven cars were parked on the lawn. I could see a barn about 300 feet away and a canopy where people were setting up. There were several tables on the lawn covered with tarps. Two men were out walking about the yard as lightning streaks shot all the way to the ground off in the distance. I parked my car and got out. Everybody else was sitting in their car and I heard one man shout to the two who were outside walking around, “You know that even lightning that looks like it is in the distance can strike you?” One of the guys said, “Yeah,” and continued to walk around. The first guy then yells, “Is that how you want to die?” Second man shrugs his shoulder and says, “Why not?” I was riding his train and defiantly strode up to the barricade to be first in line. The two guys worked their way back to the barricade where I stood and informed me that they were told the sale would not open before 9:00. We began to chat about tag sales and such to pass the time.
It was now 8:30. More people were parking on the lawn and getting into line. At 8:50 it started to sprinkle and the two guys headed toward the barn. I said, “Maybe if we all walk down there, they will let us in.” The whole line started to move and I
walked briskly approached the table under the canopy at the
entrance to the barn, leaned down to one of the women sitting there and in a
hushed voice said, “Where’s the teddy bear?”
She stood up, pointed and said it was at the back of the barn in a trunk. I took a step to head in that direction but she
immediately sprung in front of me to show the way. Yes, I have to admit, for a moment I
contemplated whether or not to get in front of her so I could hit a dead
run. I didn’t. We walked halfway to the back and I could see
him sitting there in the trunk with two dolls and a pile of old doll
clothes. I said thank you and could not
move fast enough. Even as I stretched
out my arm to snag him, I imagined another arm reaching past mine to
snatch him up. I grabbed him and, yes, I
was shaking. He was beautiful. And then I spotted his price written on blue
painters tape and attached to his collar.
I almost cried thinking, “I cannot afford this bear!” His price was $950.00…..too high for me but
yet still a great price for this beauty. My mind was racing and I was trying to figure
out what I could give up to claim him as mine. If I didn’t eat for a month…… if I sold some
items on ebay…. if I sold a kidney……. He was perfect and dressed in a darling
outfit….had wear on a couple of paws, but all of his mohair was beautiful and he
had no holes. He was missing his Steiff
button but it was not necessary to discern his pedigree, and that
face…oh my, that face. I kept looking at
the price, trying to justify buying him. Finally, I looked a bit closer at the
price and realized that what I thought was the curve of the dreaded number 9
was actually a dollar sign. The lovely
creature I held so tightly in my hands was priced at $150.00. I could not believe
it. I stared at the number for the
longest time and it did not change. When I looked around, nobody else seemed
even remotely interested in the trunk or its contents. I turned to go purchase him and then spotted a
box top full of vintage Christmas ornaments…..my second favorite thing next to
precious antique teddy bears. The tag
sale lady came up and asked if I wanted her to take my items back to the table
to hold for me. I handed her the box of
ornaments, but told her the bear would stay with me. This warrior was taking no chances. I looked around the rest of the barn and the
tables on the lawn and ended up purchasing about 4 more items. My total came to $200.00.
There was no rhyme or reason to the pricing and a great many items were way overpriced. I was glad the Steiff did not have his button. Then they might have known what they had, done some research and given him a $950.00 price tag….. or more! As I was checking out, a lady came up to the table and asked another lady sitting there if the teddy bear was still available. That lady looked at the lady who was helping me and she was told that I had just purchased it. The lady asking the question asked me if she could see him so I held him out. She let out a moan and told me how wonderful he was. I actually felt bad for her, as I have been in that position before. I named him Marion after the community he was purchased in. He sat on my lap the whole trip home. I have had some great stories involving Steiff bears, but never an adventure like this!
When my parents both retired, they occasionally stopped at garage sales. My Mother once told me that my Dad told her, on several occasions, that he wished he could find an old Steiff bear for me for $5.00. That statement really touched me. My Father has been deceased for 12 years and I like to think that he leads me to my wonderful finds. That statement of finding a perfect old Steiff bear for $5.00 has been a goal in my life. When I told my sister & antique business partner, Becky, about my most recent tag sale find, she stated, “I think that’s the closest you will ever come to a $5.00 Steiff bear!” I would have to agree. Thanks Dad for leading the way to some really great finds! Love you & miss you. By the way, my son-in-law, Michael, told me he thinks I need to write a book about my great teddy bear finds and title it, “Bear With Me.”