Thursday, December 4, 2014

Polar Bears, Polar Brrrrs!

It's freezing cold right now where I live, so there's no better time to write about those ursine neighbors of Santa Claus, the polar bears.

Wagner made a lot of variations on the polar bear, just as they crafted a wide array of brown bears. Many of the same molds were used for both groups, though the workshop did make some subtle adjustments for some versions of the Arctic bruin.

Here's your basic standard-issue Wagner bear, in the about-3-inches-or-so size that describes so many Wagner animals. This same mold was used to make brown and black bears--it's all in the flocking, after all!

Here's a sitting-down polar bear made from a mold also used to make brown, black, and panda sitting-down bears:

Wagner also made more teddy-bear-like bears and flocked them in white, brown, black, and a pale tan or champagne color. They are posed standing,  sitting up in a begging-dog sort of posture, and sitting down. Yeah, I know the fellow at the far left wearing a bow tie is not a polar bear, but I don't have the standing polar polar, so his cousin has shown up to represent him in this pose.

But the typical bears and the teddy bears were preceded by some early bears wearing the M.C. Originals label, such as the one below. They aren't quite as "sweet" as the later bears, but they have a bit more detail, which often seems to be the case with a variety of Wagner species. To my mind, it doesn't make either one better or worse--just interestingly different. This bear below, for example, has more contours in his body. It's not the same mold, either--you can see his legs are in a different position. The ears are also added separately.

Here's another MC Original polar bear, though this one looks as if it's made from a mold similar to the one used to make bears crafted from the 1960s up until the workshop closed. He's also rather dirty. White flocked animals usually get pretty grubby looking over time. They're an absolute mess if they've been played with, but even the dust seems seems to get deep into the flocking of ones that have been displayed on a shelf in the open. Shelved behind glass, they can stay nice and white--though some seem to yellow with age. I think this one's suffering from both yellowing and grime.

Back in the early to mid-1900s and most likely beyond, various German workshops also made little animals out of fur. These ones often suffer quite badly from decay--the leather dries up and curls, the glue gives way, the fur falls off. I've seen some poor little beasts that are really nothing more than a handful of wizened strips of leather and fur. This little polar bear, however, has survived rather well. His label names no maker, only that  he was made in Germany.

Wagner also made a very tiny version of the polar bear, seen below posed with the standard bear. The same mold was used to make brown and black bear cubs.

Wagner also made BIG versions of the polar bear. Here is the large sitting-down polar bear, posed with a standard one; the same mold was used to make--you guessed it--brown and panda bears, and probably black ones, though I've never seen one.

The biggest bear of all is a large standing polar bear. His flocking isn't as dense as the smaller bears' flocking, but his body is sculpted in great detail. You can even feel the ribs in his sides.

What I find particularly cool about this biggest polar bear is that the crafters took the time to give him the distinctive Roman-nose profile of a real polar bear--he looks quite different from the same-sized version of a brown bear made by Wagner.

OK, enough with the ice and the snow and the land of Arctic bears. I'm off to get another hot cup of coffee.


  1. Very interesting informative post. I love the bears, and the polar bear is my favorite. I still haven't taken photos of the small Christmas tree that we decorated with the Wagner animals. (Haven't gotten it out for several years.) I don't think we have any animals that are rare, but it was such a cute tree and the kids really enjoyed it. I shall work on that for a post this month & let you know. You have inspired me!

    1. Thanks, Sherri! I haven't gotten a single speck of Christmas decor up, so you're probably ahead of me in that department just the same...

  2. I finally did my post. I would love to run across a polar bear, as we don't have one, I see these little animals on e-bay, and some of them go high. I sure wish we'd purchased more of them. Here's the link

  3. Christina, I was looking around E-bay today and saw this. Have you ever seen these?

    1. Yes! I actually still have mine from childhood. This dapper guy had 5 friends and a big blue and yellow car.

    2. Yes! I actually still have mine from childhood. This dapper guy had 5 friends and a big blue and yellow car.