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History of the Boyds Collection

The Boyds Collection Ltd. is the leading designer, importer, and distributor of the 'Bears and Hares You Can Trust' and other specialty giftware. Boyds was founded in 1979 and sells its products through a large and diverse network of independent retailers, selected catalogue retailers and other electronic and retail channels. Boyds distinguishes itself from similar giftware companies through its whimsical and folksy old-world attitude.


The history of the Boyds Collection begins with its founder, Gary Lowenthal, who is referred to as 'the Head Bean Hisself'.

Gary grew up in Manhattan, the son of a New York City butcher. His college days were spent at Alfred University in upstate New York, where he earned a degree in biology. After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and taught a range of subjects in the Fiji Islands, including biology, history, chemistry, New Zealand history, rugby, and music . Upon his return, he joined Bloomingdales in Manhattan as a buyer and merchandise manager, honing his skills in purchasing, design and merchandising.

In the late 1970s Gary and his partner, Justina Unger, decided to escape the rat race and moved to the rural town of Boyds, Maryland. It was there that Gary fulfilled his lifelong ambition to own an antique store. Gary and Tina soon found that true antiques are expensive and carrying a large inventory of them requires significant resources. As a result they began to search out and sell more affordable reproductions. The business of reproductions was a huge success for them and soon overshadowed the antique business. By 1982 they began to wholesale their top-selling reproductions, including their hand-carved reproduction duck decoys, and the wholesale business flourished. Their expanding wholesale product line soon grew to encompass wool Teddy Bears imported from China and resin-sculpted miniature houses, known as "The Gnomes Homes".

A significant breakthrough came in 1984 when Gary designed a fully jointed 100% merino wool Teddy Bear, which he and Tina called Matthew, after their newborn son. This was the beginning of what has become the most beloved part of The Boyds Collection Ltd. - the Plush designs known worldwide simply as "Boyds Bears". Boyds Bears were designed in the old-world teddy-making tradition, each with its own character, evoking memories of more easy-going times past.

The continued growth in popularity of Boyd's products led to expansion of the business and the Lowenthal's home, together with the old Sunday school building they were using, was simply not large enough for the operation. In 1987 the firm was relocated to larger premises in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In 1992, Gary began a new product line called the Bearstone Collection, combining key elements of his past works. This collection was an interpretation of his popular plush bears made in the same cold cast resin as the earlier Gnome Homes. Cleverly, Gary retained and reinforced the style, attitude and traditions of his plush line by adding famous quotations to this new line of resin bears from the likes of Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson and many more. The branding and presentation was clearly, like the plush counterparts, reminiscent of a past age of slower-paced country-style wisdom.

The Boyds range of resin teddy bear figurines proved to be as popular as the plush bears, leading to the introduction of several new series of branded resin figurines from 1994, including the Folkstone collection (a line of "pencil-style" hares, mooses, santas, snowpeople, angels and faeries), Ribbit & Co. (a group of small frogs), the Tuxedo Gang (Boyds penguins), the Garden Gang (bears and hares gardeners and other outdoor types) and Yesterdays' Child... The Dollstone Collection (little girls with their doll or teddy bear companions).

Gary has been active throughout the company history, attending many collector shows and getting to know the collectors firsthand. He has very much been the public face of Boyds and been honored by the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers (NALED) as well as receiving TOBY and Golden Teddy awards. In the fall of 2000 however, Gary decided to retire from public appearances to spend more time with his wife Justina and children, Bailey and Matthew.

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