Steiffgal: What was your first reaction when Jena contacted you about selling the bears?
Daniel Agnew: I have known Jena and his wonderful collection for a number of years, almost as long as he has been collecting. I thought he was joking when he asked me to come and see the bears again for a potential sale. How could anyone part with these bears? He had to keep reminding me to come and see him. I eventually went down and then we discussed his collection, and the logistics of the auction process, and I was back a few days later picking them up!
Steiffgal: What was the process to get the bears from Jena's collection to your business? How long in advance before the auction did you need them in-house?
Daniel: This was a very unusual circumstance, once Jena had decided to sell, he wanted an auction this year. I was virtually on deadline for my 6th November auction, so after some pondering we decided to do a double catalogue, with the 6th November one half and Jena's auction the other. I literally had to collect and catalogue the sale in a few weeks. Normally we close 8 weeks before the auction. I live an hour south of London, Jena lives an hour to the east of London and Special Auction Services is about an hour west of London, so it took some managing to get it collected.
Steiffgal: Cataloging is a really important part of the auction process. How did you (and your team, if that was the case) go about cataloging the bears? How long did it take? Where was it done?
Daniel: I catalogue on my own; this is done at SAS in Newbury. I also had Jena's insurance valuation document which we had prepared a few years ago. So I could pad out the antique bear descriptions in the comfort of home, also Jena had extra information that he prepared. It was fun to put it together, but would have been a bit less stressful if we had a bit longer than a couple of weeks to get it all done.
Steiffgal: Getting the photography right is key for creating a memorable auction catalog. Can you explain to the Steifflife readers how you go about photographing the bears for the catalog?
Daniel: We have a new photographer and I am a very fussy specialist when it comes to bear photography. So, we did several test shots and then I have to set the bear up, so we get that important eye contact. The bear has to speak to you from the pages of the catalogue. That bear needs to be saying, "please, take me home." And, the image has to be suitable for the printed catalogue and the on-line catalogue.
Steiffgal: You have been in the auction and vintage toy world for many years. How is this auction similar, and atypical, to other toy and plush auctions you have conducted in the past?
Daniel: It's a fairly unique auction. Jena's collection has at its core 27 exceptional Steiff Teddy Bears, then there are a few other antique bears by different makers. Jena also had a selection of artist bears and limited edition collectors bears, which makes up the rest of the auction. It's a total of 102 lots, which is small for one of my auctions, but it's perfectly formed and we will be all home in good time for dinner!
Steiffgal: Of the bears up for offer, which are your top three favorites, and why?
Daniel: How can you ask me to choose three! I want them all. OK, after looking through the catalogue again, and again. I can easily chose my favourite; Lot 1014, Constantine. When I first saw this bear, he simply took my breath away. A huge, chunky, centre-seam, blank button, 1905, 28 inches, and a stunner. For a bear which is almost 110 years old, he is in exception condition. If I had a spare £10,000 lying around, I would snap him up.
I have about five second favourites, but I think I'm going to plump for Lot 1016, Winston Howitz. I like this bear because he is a cinnamon, I have a white and a golden mohair Steiff bear, which are smaller than this one, so he would be a nice addition to my collection, but the most intriguing thing about Winston, is that he has a 'Howitz' name tag under his arm, the sort of tag that is sewn into your school clothes (does/did this use to happen in US?). When Jena bought this bear, nobody had realised this was there, but I find it fascinating to think who this person was, that owned this beautiful bear.
For my final choice, I could chose any of the other antique Steiff bears, but I'm going to go for something different and completely different to my normal taste. Lot 1091, a Stier Bear made by artist Kathleen Wallace, he is called Harmony and is a Pierrot/clown bear. I just love his colours.
Steiffgal: Thank you so much for giving us a peek at the inner workings of this great upcoming Steiff sales event! Best of luck you!
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