IN WHICH our search begins for Pooh and his friends

Long before Walt Disney reimagined the occupants of the Hundred Acre Wood for feature films and television and, in the process, altered the images of Ernest H. Shepard’s timeless illustrations, there was Agnes Brush. Mrs. Brush’s stuffed animals paid homage to the Milne and Shepard world of Pooh—the original and, to all of us who have read the books, the real Hundred Acre Wood. Her toys are now rightfully classics—a part of Baby Boomer Americana—and highly collectible, with individual figures in mint or near mint condition selling for hundreds to over a thousand dollars when they can even be found.

Pooh and Piglet were and are, naturally, the most popular and desired of the set. While they are the ones to appear most frequently on internet sale sites like eBay and Ruby Lane, they are very rarely found in mint or even near mint condition, and understandably so. Most were stained and soiled by the children who adored them. Also, Pooh’s red shirt seems to have been a magnet for hungry moths and is seldom seen without holes. Locating these characters with the Agnes Brush string tags still attached is akin to unearthing hidden treasure.

Eeyore, Tigger, and Kanga and Roo are less common, presumably because the demand for them was not as great and, correspondingly, fewer were made. Additionally, the designs for Tigger and Kanga make them difficult to find in collectible condition. Tigger’s long tail and Kanga’s thin neck had a hard time bearing up to a child’s play.

The scarcest characters seem to be Rabbit, Owl, and particularly the elusive Heffalump. Rabbit and Owl were minor characters in the books and never engendered a great deal of affection. Rabbit was brusque and bossy. Owl was a pontificating windbag. The Heffalump was not even a true character but a somewhat fearsome creature that haunted Pooh’s and Piglet’s dreams after hearing of it from Christopher Robin. Few children were anxious to add this disquieting figure to their toy chest, which makes it exceedingly rare.

If you are interested in collecting Agnes Brush’s creations, keep your eyes first and foremost on eBay where most sellers go. Ruby Lane is also worth checking out, and it has the benefit of offering a fixed price by the seller as opposed to the auction atmosphere of eBay. Occasionally, the stuffed animals appear at auction houses like Morphy’s Auctions or Noel Barrett Antique Toy Auctions.

As in all collecting, condition is everything. Be prepared to spend between $200 and $500 for a collectible Pooh or Piglet in near mint to mint condition. If they have an Agnes Brush tag, you will almost certainly have to go higher. Heffalumps have been known to sell for over $1,000, not surprising given their rarity. But sometimes, there are bargains to be had. One in mint condition with a tag sold on eBay in November 2010 for only $399.

If you are searching for a slice of the Hundred Acre Wood, good luck in your quest. If you already own one of these specially crafted figures, go and give it a hug.