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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Fraud charges lead to $1.9M teddy bear sale

    Dating from about 1925, a Steiff "Harlequin" teddy bear is the most highly estimated of more than 1,300 bears, valued at as much as $1.9 million, that will be sold at auction by a hedge-fund manager who has pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

    A collection of teddy bears valued at as much as $1.9 million will be sold at a London auction by a hedge-fund manager who has pleaded guilty to fraud charges, art dealers said.

    Paul Greenwood, the former general partner in WG Trading Co., is the seller of 1,300 vintage Steiff teddy bears and soft toys at Christie's International Wednesday.

    "Greenwood's collection is of extraordinary quality," said Jasper Pearson, partner in the British-based antique teddy-bear dealers Sue Pearson. "He only bought museum-grade pieces in mint condition."

    Christie's does not publicly comment on the identities of sellers. "The vendor is anonymous," spokesman Matthew Paton said.

    Greenwood and Steve Walsh, his fellow manager of WG Trading and WG Investors, were indicted in July 2009 on charges that they conspired to defraud investors of $554 million. Greenwood told U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum in Manhattan in July that he had surrendered his assets to the government, saying they would be auctioned off.

    The hedge-fund manager bought from auctions and dealers that were able to offer rare and unique pieces by Steiff, the world's oldest and most avidly collected manufacturer of soft toys, said Pearson. The German maker, founded in 1880 near Ulm, created the "teddy" bear in 1902, following its adoption as a political mascot by President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. Then, as now, Steiff toys are distinguished by the presence of a trademark metal stud in the ear.

    Christie's sale includes a Steiff "Harlequin" bear, dating from about 1925, featuring alternating halves of red and blue plush. Acquired in June 1999 at the German company's annual auction of toys, it is "possibly unique" and is estimated to fetch up to $127,000, Christie's said.

    Greenwood said in July that he had taken in excess of $75 million from clients. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in a release on July 29, said the money taken was used "to purchase multimillion dollar homes, a horse farm and horses, luxury cars, and rare collectibles such as Steiff teddy bears."

    A lace-up teddy bear with a hot-water bottle carries a high estimate of $47,000 at the auction. Just 90 examples of the Hot-Water Bottle Bear were made by Steiff between 1907 and 1914, said Christie's.

    "I'd be surprised if there were more than 10 of these left in the world," Daniel Agnew, Christie's specialist consultant for the sale, said. "The collector specialized in the more unusual things, oddities that were never factory- produced. The majority of the lots date from before World War II, which is the stronger collecting market."

    - With reporting by Edvard Pettersson and Patricia Hurtado in New York.

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