The Cooperstown Catalog
Catalogs are an editor’s stock-in-trade, so a company has to work fairly hard to impress one of us with one of them. When I first saw Cooperstown Bears’ new catalog, I was prepared to smile at the pretty pictures and move on. But once I opened the 220-page tome and started reading, I realized that it was no ordinary product catalog. For one thing, it contains bears the company didn’t make. Huh? A bunch of questions immediately sprang to mind. I sent them to Cooperstown’s president, Robert Kronenberger, who was kind enough to share with me the thinking behind the catalog and the origins of the unusual products it contains. And with his permission, I’m sharing it with you.
TBF: It’s fairly standard for manufacturers to issue catalogs. What makes this one different?
Robert Kronenberger: We have been collecting teddy bears for many years and feel very passionate about the progression of collecting, artistry, and manufacturing of the teddy bear. Since our beginnings, Cooperstown Bears has tried to give our bears maximum exposure. This year by expanding our collection to include artist bears and antique bears we have strengthened, even further, our commitment to the teddy bear industry.
We’ve also tried to present our bears in a manner that captures the unique personality of each bear. We absolutely love every bear in this catalog; each is our favorite, which is why they are there.
TBF: Please explain the various Cooperstown brands and differentiate between them.
RK: When we first began making teddy bears, we undertook the most difficult artistic approach; to make a teddy bear look like a specific historical icon while maintaining the traditional “teddy bear charm.” This premise is the foundation for our “Teddy Legends” brand. It is very difficult to design a bear that resembles a person, but still retains its special teddy bear appeal.
This exceptional design challenge is why we chose this genre. We love to see these historical figures as brought to life in the form of a teddy bear. The collectors and artists recognize the level of skill and imagination that this requires. The Teddy Legend Limited Editions have become truly sought after collectible pieces.
Cooperstown Bears Vintage Teddies are our traditional old-style teddy bears that pay homage to the wonderful rich history of the teddy bear. So many of the people we talk to have vivid memories of bears from their childhoods. We try to recapture some of those memories with our Vintage Teddies. These bears are made of the finest materials available and are extremely well designed and sculpted.
Bear Brand was created for the novice collector who is just starting their collection. By creating quality handcrafted bears that capture the essential spirit of the teddy bear, we think that these bears will appeal to new and veteran collectors alike.
TBF: The catalog features antique and artist bears. Why?
RK: “Ars Gratia Artis” (art for art’s sake). The wonderfully creative artists throughout the world truly capture the joyful spirit of the teddy bear. We are very happy to be able to present these individual artists to the worldwide audience that they so richly deserve. We also wanted to preserve some of the rich history of the teddy bear and we think that we have done so with our antique bears.
TBF: Tell me about the antique bears in the catalog. Who found them, and where? How were they identified? Who cleaned and restored them? Are the bears one-of-a-kind, or do you have more than one each?
RK: For years we have been collectors of rarities and antiquities and have procured many unique pieces from a variety of countries. Many of the pieces are one-of-a-kind antiques. We select our antique bears based on the following criteria:
The physical characteristics and overall appearance.
The value to collectors.
We avoid most of the predictable brands of antique teddy bears because we feel the look and creativity is too commercialized; the brand is over-saturated and, in many cases, over-priced.
Our experienced staff conducts research on every piece and all of our antique bears go through many stages of inspection and, in some cases, restoration.
TBF: What about the artist bears? Who chose them? Do you have the bears in stock, or do collectors have to wait for the artists to make them? How have artists reacted to being in your catalog?
RK: Because we are collectors, we are familiar with many artists. Although we had a preconceived idea of whose bears we wanted to feature, we were very pleased to become acquainted with many new extremely talented artists. We worked closely with each artist to communicate our vision. Each artist had to meet our requirements and must always be willing to creatively re-invent themselves. We believe that this is the true measure of success for an artist.
All of the bears that are featured in our catalog are in stock. Our commitment to our customer is, if they want to open their homes to one of our teddy bears, then they should be able to do so right away.
We fully commit to our artists by supporting their entire editions, and we work very hard to build long and lasting relationships with them.
TBF: You’re sending the catalog to your collectors and selling retail. That’s a bit of a departure for a manufacturer. What is your plan?
RK: We don’t feel it is a departure. If you look at most of the luxury brands in Europe, they have their own stores and Internet sites as well as maintaining a relationship with their retailers. Following these examples allows us to make a complete presentation of all of our products to the consumer where as before this was rarely possible.
TBF: With this catalog, you are competing with not only your own dealers but basically all types of teddy bear retailers. How is that affecting your relationship with retailers?
RK: We are still maintaining our relationships with the finest teddy bear retailers, who are very pleased with the increased exposure of the Cooperstown Bears brand through out the world. By getting more people to view a broader spectrum of our products we are creating a greater demand, which benefits the retailers. We feel that most retailers recognize this fundamental change in teddy bear marketing.
TBF: You’ve mentioned that Cooperstown is trying to develop its brand. Describe the company’s vision for itself. What do you want the brand to mean for collectors and consumers?
RK: Cooperstown Bears wants to enhance and expand all facets of our company. We think people recognize us for our extremely creative and well-produced limited editions; now the next level for us is to be the quintessential purveyor of teddy bears. Through the years, if people equivocate the Cooperstown Bears’ brand as a symbol of those who have consistently showcased the best bears, then we will have successfully reached our goal.
TBF: For that matter, what is the company’s view of the bear world in general?
RK: We have all been hearing the pessimism regarding the economy. Certainly the current status of the world economy has curtailed collectors’ activities and, as a result, collectibles have been diminished.
However, in our viewpoint, teddy bears supersede all of this! Currently there are not as many high-end teddy bears being sold, but the major point to recognize is that they are still greatly sought after and desired. With a collector base that is so feverish, there will always be a strong demand for teddy bears. When a collector sees that “face,” a face that he or she must have, they manage to find a way to add it to their family.
So even though the economics of the bear market may be temporarily ebbing, the emotion and desire is and always will be there. As long as people feel this way, we remain optimistic about the future of our industry.
For more information about Cooperstown Bears or to locate a retailer, please visit www.cooperstown bears.com.
Copyright Ashton International Media, Inc. Jan/Feb 2004
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.