Boyds Bears started almost three decades ago in Maryland. Some people believe they got their name from the creator of the bears, but that’s not the case. Boyds Bears are named after the town in Maryland where they began their upward road to becoming some of the most sought after Teddy Bears in the world.
Gary Lowenthal and his wife Justine left their high pressure jobs in order to pursue their interests. They started out with a business that dealt in antiques. While the Lowenthals were selling antique reproductions wholesale, Gary made his first fully-jointed Teddy Bear, “Matthew.” Matthew was the name of the Lowenthal’s son, as well as the name of their first official Boyds Bear. (Not to worry, they also have Bailey Bears named after their daughter!)
Boyds Bears moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania as the Boyds Collection Ltd. ® grew. Gary added resin figurines to the already expanding plush animals collection. The resin collection of Boyds Bears is called the Boyds Bearstone Collection.
Who would have thought that Boyds Bears would become such highly collectible stuffed toys and resin figurines? There are actually fan clubs for these adorable little bears (and other animals and dolls.) Perhaps a reason for all of the fanfare is that each individual Boyds Bear has a personality of her own. The Boyds Bears come in their own little outfits and some of them come with their own little accessories.
Gary later went on to add other lines to the Boyds Bears collection: Folkstones, Wee Folkstones, and even a Dollstone Collection (dolls that come with either small dolls or bears for them to play with!) Boyds even offers garden statues in their line. And what bear would be complete without her very own chair? The Bear Necessities is a line of little furniture that is made for the plush animals and dolls.
The Head Bean (Gary Lowenthal) decided against marketing his collections in large discount-type stores. Instead, he chose to market his line in high scale gift shop settings. He felt that this way, he could get a better grasp of what the Boyds Bear collectors wanted. This proved to be a successful choice for the Lowenthals… they had a personal relationship with the small retailers and got to know exactly what sold and what didn’t.
Another deciding point on the huge success of Boyds Bears was that Gary insisted that each item be hand cut, hand sewn, and all embroidery was done by hand also. The Boyds Bear items were inspected by at least three people before they were packed up and shipped to the gift shops.
A lot of collectors wanted Gary to increase the price of his Boyds Bears because they (erroneously) believed that if the bears (and other animals) were more expensive, then they would be more collectible. Gary refused to do this, and insisted that the more affordable his items were, the more likely that children would be able to play with them. So, rather than increase the price for the collectors, he retired almost half of the lines each year so that they would be limited editions, making them more collectible.
The year 1998 marked a big change for the Boyds Bear collections. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts firm bought over half of the interest in the Boyds Bear company, and in 1999 Boyds Bears’ stock was publicly traded. Gary Lowenthal issued a public statement assuring his loyal Boyds Bear fans that he would continue to be involved in the production of the Boyds Bear collections.
There are many collectors of Boyds Bears who buy, trade, and seek-out the limited editions of these whimsical little Teddy Bears (and other plush animals) regardless of the fact that Gary and Justine Lowenthal are no longer the active force behind the business. The Head Bean is sorely missed by all of his loyal fans out there in bearsville!