Merrythought Bears Cheeky Bear

What a Cheeky Chap!

What a Cheeky Chap, is probably what went through the designer Jean Barber's mind at Merrythought when they caught sight of her new prototype for this little bear. It is said that this new Merrythought bear was called Cheeky after his smile that gave him this mischievous look. The first reaction from the public came at the 1956 British Toy Fair and thankfully for Merrythought, the response was a positive one.

The design was unlike any other bear and was obviously very innovative for the late 1950's and I understand that this unusual design was registered and appeared first in the 1957 Merrythought catalogue. Some of the tell tale features of these little Merrythought bears are the beak like velveteen muzzle, amber safety eyes made of plastic with black pupils (these have often faded), large ears that are placed on the side of the bears head and they contain a bell in each ear.

This little bear also had unusual round felt paw pads and a large round head that looks to big for his body and was fully stuffed with kapok.

The cheeky bear was originally produces in gold mohair and a fine beige artificial silk plush but in the early 1960's he was produced in a nylon plush that give a sheepskin look to him and also in a whole range of pastel and more traditional colours. While the majority of bears were produced five way jointed there were some fixed limb examples where the body was made of cotton fabric to look as if the bear was dressed.

One of the fixed limbed Cheeky's was bendable, he also had a wife and they were dressed in red and blue, this couple are called Mr & Mrs Twisty Cheeky.

While Cheeky teddy grew in popularity Merrythought produced variations on the theme with a pyjama case Cheeky, the children's muff Cheeky and the open mouthed Cheeky. In the Christies Auction June 2002 one of the rare open mouthed Cheeky Merrythought bears fetched in excess of £2000 which astonished everyone but proved that there is a strong following of collectors for this little character.

The early Merrythought Cheeky bears will have a white printed label with the wording Merrythought Ironbridge Shropshire Made in England often with REG DESIGN on it also. If you have one of these early white labels on your Cheeky then you can be sure that he was one produced in the early years as Merrythought introduced a yellow printed label in the late 1950's. The label on Cheeky bears is always placed on the foot pad and it is rectangular in shape. As the yellow printed label was used up until the early 1990's and replaced with a yellow woven label it is very difficult to age Cheeky bears from this period.

This little mouse like Merrythought bear found his way into many toy cupboards in the 1960/70's and came in a variety of sizes I currently have one 8" tall (which I think is the smallest of the early bears) up to a 26" example and have many other sizes in between.

Because the Cheeky is a relative newcomer to the teddy bear world people often think that they have no value but this is not true. Be prepared to pay £250 upwards for a yellow label 1960/70's bear in good condition and much more if coloured, large or unusual. If you manage to find one with a white label then expect to pay even more than this. You often hear of people picking up a Cheeky from a car boot sale or charity shop as they look relatively modern and people have no idea of their value.

One things for sure love him or hate him but this little fellow is here to stay as Merrythought continues to manufacture Cheeky's today in limited editions of many colours and guises. But for me, the early ones will always be my favourite!