What was the first Care Bear? Toy collecting

A little bit of Care Bears history from my toy collection

picture of four toy bears

In the years that I've been collecting toys from time to time, I run across Care Bears toys. There are all kinds and many different iterations have been made over the years since they were first introduced in the 1980s.

I've had to learn how to tell which ones are older and which ones are reboots and additions to the original characters.

I've never really been a huge fan of The Care Bears in the past. But I understand the appeal; truthfully, they are kind of neat once you get a whole group of them. 

I wanted to go over what I've learned to look for when collecting these bears.

The first thing I wanted to do is find out who really was the first Care Bear?


What was the first Care Bear?

The answer to who the first Care Bear was is not that simple. Because there were 10 Care Bears when they were first created.

The whole line of Care Bears characters was originally created by the American Greeting Company as characters for birthday cards and such.

Vintage Care Bears American Greetings Card from 1983

Here is one of the original greeting cards by American Greetings from 1983 featuring Wish Bear

picture of greeting card with illustration of bear and star

Fun fact: Wish Bear is colored green on the card, but Wish Bear is usually blue.

So to answer the question who was the first Care Bear? They were created as a group by the card company's creative team.

Here is one of the first American Greetings commercials for the Care Bears cards.

How many care bears are there?

The artist who conceptualized the original Care Bears created them as a group. There were 10 characters total

  • Bedtime bear
  • Birthday bear
  • Cheer bear
  • Friend bear
  • Funshine bear
  • Good Luck bear
  • Grumpy bear
  • Love-A-Lot bear
  • Tender Heart bear
  • Wish bear. 

The Care Bears were eventually turned into a cartoon series and a line of dolls. And to keep the market growing they added new characters to these bears. 

As they grew the concept of each bear having a personality grew and the identities had to be marked in different ways.

How do you identify a Care Bear?

So how do you identify a care bear? The original theory since there were only 10 was just by the emblem on its tummy.

I'm not entirely sure they were planning ahead for this to be a huge hit that they would expand on with more characters.

Some of the bear's names were plays on words like Funshine bear.

picture of yellow toy bear
Vintage Funshine Bear Doll

You would think it should be "Sunshine" bear since it has a drawing of the sun on its belly but they added "Fun" for…fun! 

Then of course Bedtime bear.

picture of blue toy bear
Vintage Bedtime Bear Doll

Bedtime bear not only has a crest moon with a star hanging from it on its tummy but the bear has droopy sleepy eyes as well.

Good Luck Bear is as simple as a four-leaf clover on its tummy.

picture of green bear toy
Vintage Good Luck Bear Doll

And another one is Tenderheart Bear.

picture of an orange bear toy with heart on it
Vintage Tenderheart Bear Doll

Tenderheart has a big heart that is also outlined with a pink border on the tummy. 

And truthfully I have gotten this one confused with Love-A-Lot bear in the past. They both have hearts on their tummies but Love-A-Lot bear has two different colored hearts, whereas Tenderheart bear has only one. 

I don't know why they couldn't have made a more distinct emblem for both? 

Now, back to what I was saying about how I feel like they didn't plan ahead for building on these characters. 

Let me show you an example of how they added Care Bears later on just to expand the line.

What Care Bear has a star and a rainbow in red, white, and blue on it?

This question has several answers. The same Care Bear with the stars and red, white and blue on it's tummy was rebooted several times. 

This was one of the extensions of the Care Bear family. A lot of the time would be referred to as cousins not to get confused with the original product line.

picture of white bear toy with stars and stripes
America Cares/Proud Heart Bear

They did a similar design of Wish bear for this Care Bear but made it more patriotic. 

This Care Bear was called the "America Cares" bear.

But it was also known as "Proud Heart" bear, a toy exclusive Care Bear that was first sold as a very limited series released in 2003.

But the design even goes further back debuting shortly as an environmentally aware bear in 1991 in a short-lived environment campaign to raise environmental awareness for children.

In conclusion

So for the most part when I want to find the first Care Bears? I try to collect them as a group. 

I try to keep an eye out for the original 10 Care Bears when I'm collecting them. 

Even though I do feel like the "America Cares" bear is an exciting find, it's just not something that's very recognizable or memorable to others. I think the emotional connection people have with the original ones is more valuable.

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