Each year during the run up to Christmas I make a special trip to London and head straight for the prestigious department store Harrods. The purpose of this annual adventure is not to admire the festive window displays or even take in the electric atmosphere as people frantically cram their baskets full of Christmas goodies. For me this special journey is so that I can purchase that particular years exclusive Harrods Christmas bear to add to my growing collection.
Pictured right: Harrord Christmas Bear 1986
The tradition of Harrods celebrating each Christmas with a specially designed teddy bear began in 1986 with ‘Snow Bear.’ This 13” snowy white plush bear appeared in the Christmas catalogue wearing a green and red knitted hat on his head which was decorated with Christmas designs and the word ‘Harrods’ in white across the front. He also had a removable matching scarf around his neck but unlike the bears which followed he was not graced with the Harrods logo and was not foot dated on his left paw.
An extremely rare and sought after bear the mere fact that he was not foot dated does cause confusion with collectors as a full set of anniversary replica bears were produced in 1995 and this included the replica of the 1986 bear. The differences between the original bear and the replica are that the second issue bear does have the 1986 date and Harrods logo on his left paw and his knitted hat and scarf have a slight variation to the pattern. The Harrods archive department informed me that generally collectors check the ‘tush tag’ – but of course a collector needs to know what the authentic ‘tush tag’ looks like in order to tell if the bear is the genuine original 1986 bear, the 1995 replica or even a copy. In fact even the Harrods archive department are not in possession of the original as the archiving didn’t begin until 1989. Although they have acquired the other early bears this elusive 1986 example is proving almost impossible to find as they seldom appear on the open market and when they do can sell for in excess of £600 – a vast improvement of its original £14.95 retail price tag.
This first bear proved such a success that Harrods made the decision to produce an exclusive Christmas bear for each year thereafter which people could only buy during the holiday season. They also decided that the bears would carry the year date and Harrods logo on the left paw. 1987 saw the release of the first foot dated bear, made with beautiful soft brown plush again he wore a festive knitted hat with a green bobble on top and a matching scarf with green bobbles on each end. This bear is also desirable with collectors and some are prepared to pay over £100 to own him.
Pictured left: Harrods 1993 Christmas Panda bear
In 1988 a cream plush bear – very much along the same design theme as the earlier two – was released however, in 1989 Harrods produced their exclusive bear in the form of a simple white plush polar bear as it tied in with the store’s theme of ‘White Christmas.’ In 1990 Harrods went back to producing the more traditional looking bear until 1992 when a grizzly was released, again to tie in with an American theme. The following year their Christmas bear was a plush panda.
During the 1990s the Harrods Christmas bears had become increasingly popular especially with the Japanese collectors. However, these collectors wanted to know more about the bears themselves, whether each had an individual name and what were the stories behind the bears? So in 2003 wearing a bright red duffel coat, ‘William’ was released as the first ever named Christmas bear and in 2004 ‘Thomas’ arrived.
However, in order to satisfy the curiosity of the collectors and to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Christmas bears in 2005, Harrods produced a special booklet for the Japanese market in which all the bears up to that date were retrospectively given names and background stories. The 2005 Christmas bear, ‘Nicolas’ also had ‘20th Anniversary’ embroidered on his right paw and his tag contained his Christmas story which read that ‘Nicolas had grown up in the Scottish highlands of the Harrods Balnagown Estate and it had become a tradition for all his friends, the other Harrods bears, to spend the winter months together in the old mill of the Balnagown Estate by the stream. Here they would celebrate the holiday season, trimming the old mill with Christmas decorations, enjoying a feast of Christmas treats and playing in the snow.’
2009 sees the newest Christmas bear ‘Maxwell’ join the twenty-four strong hug of furry friends. Made with a super soft caramel coat he has warm chocolate brown eyes and is snugly wrapped up in a cherry red hooded jumper which has embroidered Christmassy items such as a festive tree, gingerbread man and Christmas pudding around the bottom. Maxwell is a friendly little soul and loves shopping at Harrods. His tag says that ‘he buys lots of gifts to make his family and friends smile but because he is so special he is even invited into Father Christmas’s secret Harrods workshop, a place where only select toys are allowed. Together with his friend George (another plush Harrods bear released this year) the two bears travel around the store with their favourite place being the Candy room where they eat lots of colourful sweets and plan their next exciting adventure!”
Pictured right: Maxwell the Harrods 2009 Christmas Bear
Priced at just £19.95 Maxwell is a definite must-have for any collector of bears. In fact this is one of the reasons that Harrods Christmas bears are so appealing, they tick all the right boxes where collecting is concerned as only one is released each year, they are easy to obtain, are more than affordable for every pocket and aside from being delightful have the probability of exceeding in value over the years.
Me personally, well I love all the bears and will certainly be making my annual visit to Harrods this year for Maxwell but I do have one particular favourite in ‘Benjamin’ the 2007 Christmas teddy. He apparently just can’t stop smiling and the broad grin on his muzzle shows he is one happy bear. In fact this is what I find most appealing about these gorgeous bears as there is just something about their faces that makes me smile aside from the fact that each is also incredibly huggable.
DID YOU KNOW?
AA Milne’s wife Daphne purchased the original Winnie-the-Pooh bear at Harrods in the 1920s and ever since bears have made a regular and welcome appearance at the store.
All Images Copyright Harrods