Online Monthly Teddy Bear Magazine


I Need New Batteries!

January 2013                                        by Terry & Doris Michaud

If you were a child of the 50’s, chances are you found one or more battery operated toys under the tree at Christmas time.

Following World War II the Japanese toy makers came up with a line of battery operated toys that quickly became the hit of the market here in the USA because it opened up a whole world of creative action for toys and they were affordable for most every budget with many priced in the $2.00 to $5.00 range ($18.00 to $48.00 in today’s dollars).

What does all this have to do with Teddy Bears?

A great deal, actually and we’ll get to that shortly.

Doris and I were buying and selling toys and dolls long before teddy bears came into our lives and it was right at the height of the golden age for battery toys.

You could buy them right off the shelf at toy stores everywhere but being blessed with hindsight and not foresight, we gave little thought to buying them in quantity and just putting them away for the future. My crystal ball failed to tell me that the day would come when we could actually sell them for 10 times, 20 times and yes, even 100 times the retail price!

This great Barber bear was produced by the T.N. Company, in Japan during the 1950s.

Smoky Bear was a product of San Company, Japan.

The A-1 company of Japan created this Blacksmith bear.


This great teddy gets plenty of exercise and goes by the name Mighty Mike, a product of the K Company, Japan.

As time went on and the toys disappeared from toy stores, the collector market bloomed and these creative toys became a hit with the kids of the 50’s who were now adults and delighted to find toys of their youth.

Now to the teddy bear connection with battery toys.

I recently pulled a book from my library shelf looking for inspiration for a story theme, and there it was!

The book is a Collector’s Guide to Battery Toys by Don Hultzman, published by the now defunct Collector Books.

As I paged through Don’s informative chapters and noticed the occasional battery toy in a teddy bear theme, I decided to check a bit closer and see just how many of these toys were based on teddy bears.

I was a bit taken back to discover that 20 to 25 percent of the toys in his book were teddy bears in one form or another. Keep in mind that this was long before the teddy bear craze came into our lives.


While most of us are drawn primarily to teddy bears of the mohair and plush variety, it is OK to add a few mechanical teddies to the collection, whether they be antique bears from the 20s and 30s that operated from internal springs or flywheels, or some of the cheerful teddies that performed under battery power.

If you are new to the world of battery toys, we have some suggestions on what to look for and more importantly, what to avoid.

First, be aware that the box the toy comes in can actually double the secondary market value, that is, if the box is in pristine condition. Even an original box with a crease or two, or some vintage stains can increase the value somewhat, so always ask if the original box comes with the toy.

I got in the habit many years ago of carrying along a packet of C and B cell batteries in the car, because it is imperative to know if the battery toy actually works.

If it is not in working order, the value plummets dramatically.

A busy bear answering his telephone. Made by Cragstan, Japan.


Teddy is all packed and ready to go;

a traveler bear by the K Company.


Pick up the toy and open up the battery compartment. If there is rust or corrosion, set the toy back and the shelf and pass on it.

Be aware that it might be a simple matter of removing some slight age corrosion (not visible) on the battery contacts. This can be done simply by scraping lightly with a pocket knife, or on rare occasion it could be a loose wire that needs to be soldered, but while there are a number of places to get battery toys repaired, that work is not likely to come at a low cost.

It was not uncommon for children (or parents) to put the toy away with the batteries still in it and in most cases this led to extreme corrosion. If you open a battery case and the batteries are still in it, you are likely to see a green moldy condition, in which case this toy is now just a shelf sitter.

Never leave batteries in their compartment for any long period of time! In many of these toys, the battery provided power for more than one action, so before you lay down your cash, be sure that all actions are working.

This Coca Cola bear is highly prized by bear, toy and Coca Cola collectors. The bear was produced in both black and white colors.

Photo courtesy

The Shoe Shine bear has two actions; smoking his pipe and shining his shoes. Photo courtesy


What should you expect to pay for a 1950s era battery toy today?

We did a check with a dealer that specializes in them, and his prices with a list

of 14 toys varied from $85.00 to $375.00, with an average of $230.00.

Rarity and popular demand will dramatically affect the secondary market price.

For example, he listed a rare robot toy at $895.00, and there are some rare battery toys that can command prices in the four figure range. Be aware that if the battery toy features a teddy bear in action, it will have appeal to bear collectors and toy collectors, so there will be competition for it, often reflected in the price.

There are any number of places to find these wonderful teddy bear battery toys, including flea markets, garage sales, antique shops and toy shows. They are sold regularly on Ebay, but I would stress the importance of seeing the toy before you buy it. A well meaning seller on ebay may write a good description, but may be overlooking a missing part, and their pictures are usually shot to display the best angle and not showing wear or damage. It is absolutely essential to see a battery toy in action before your purchase.

Now get out there and discover the world of battery operated teddy bears in action.


Terry & Doris Michaud


Members since March 2009

All photos from the book Battery Toys by Don Hultzman, published by Collector Books, unless otherwise indicated.


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