So what is your favorite Christmas carol? For many people, that just might be “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the cumulative-style song first published in England in 1780. Did you know that the 12 days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day and last through Jan. 5? This special time is also known as Christmastide, and includes a great number of animal references.
This got me thinking, what would a Steiff “Christmastide” look like? Everyone may have their own interpretation, but here is one encompassing wonderful “button in ear” items from the mid-1920s onward. So crank up the carols, grab yourself a handful of Christmas cookies and a mug of eggnog, and let’s get started!
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree: Steiff’s standing Franzi parakeet.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree. Although Steiff has made just about every animal you can name, it is surprising to note that Steiff never commercially produced a partridge bird. In keeping with a colorful celebration, how about substituting this gloriously hued Parakeet instead? Here we have Steiff’s standing Franzi parakeet. She is 13 centimeters, unjointed and made from lovely blue-green airbrushed velvet. She has black button eyes and tan rubber beak and feet. Franzi has blue-stenciled tail feathers and amazing airbrushing details on her velvet wings and on her head. This singing sweetie was manufactured in this size only from 1967 through 2003.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… two turtle doves. Steiff’s Taube.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… two turtle doves. Interestingly, the German word for dove and pigeon is the same… Taube. The first taube appeared in the Steiff line in 1894—just two years after the debut catalog of 1892—as a white felt bird on an elastic string. Fast-forward almost three-quarters of a century and this marvelous taube takes flight! He is 25 cm and has a pure white dralon body and felt tail feathers and wings. His beak and feet are made from plastic. He was produced in white or grey overall from 1969 through 1973.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me… three French hens. Steiff’s Hen.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me… three French hens. Although I am not sure if this beauty has spent any time in the City of Lights, I am most certain that she has a delightful sense of the aesthetic. Hen is 17 cm, standing, unjointed and made from mohair that has been gloriously hand airbrushed in yellows, oranges, browns and black. Her feet are oversized and made from peach-colored felt. She sports an airbrushed orange felt tail, as well as a red felt comb, face, and waddle. Her face is detailed with black button eyes. Hen was produced in 10 and 17cm from 1953 through 1974.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… four calling birds. Steiff’s Lora Parrot.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… four calling birds. There is no better bird-buddy to have on the phone than a parrot! This is Papagei Lora, or Lora Parrot. She is 12 cm, is made from brightly colored mohair, has felt feet, a delicately detailed facial mask, a rubber beak and piercing, green-pupil eyes. She appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1962 through 1976. She was also produced in 22 cm from 1962 through 1974. The first Steiff parrot was appeared in the catalog in 1892 and was made from felt; she was available with or without a wire swing for display.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… five golden rings. Steiff’s 125 Carat Teddy Bear.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… five golden rings. Well, if there ever were a Steiff golden cub, this would be it. Here we have the company’s 125 Carat Teddy Bear. His is 50-cm tall and made of gold-blond silk mohair, which is woven with real gold fibers. His eyes are made of deep blue sapphires—which are about six carats each—and set off with a circle of real diamonds. His mouth and nose are embroidered in pure 24k fibers. He wears a jubilee medal made of 24k fine gold. The 125 Carat Teddy bear is accompanied by a 14-cm wool felt elephant, which is also first-class all the way. He is detailed with tusks made of prehistoric mammoth and a saddlecloth decorated with white gold and black onyx balls. Both Ted and his elephant friend have a 24k gold “button in ear.” This golden duo was produced in a limited edition of 125 pieces worldwide, in honor of the company’s 125 anniversary in 2005.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… six geese a-laying. Steiff’s Kuschi goose.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… six geese a-laying. To mark the halfway point in our Steiff 12 days of Christmas review, let’s keep things light as a feather—literally! Here we have Kuschi Gans, or Kuschi goose. Kuschi is made from white mohair and has delightfully playful orange felt webbed feet and beak. She has a little feather on her forehead and fanny. Kuschi was produced in 12 cm from 1962 through 1970 as a “customer special” promotional item for a feather bedding company. Kuschi is based on the company’s standard line Tulla goose, who was made from 1952 through 1974 in 12, 17 and 28 cm. The only difference between Tulla and Kuschi—besides the names imprinted on their chest tags—is that Kuschi is detailed with white feathers on her tail and head, while Tulla has none.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… seven swans a-swimming. Steiff’s Woolen Swan.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… seven swans a-swimming. The first Steiff swan appeared in the 1892 debut catalog; according to the 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book, she was described as “felt, white, lying in a nest of knitted moss, colorful felt pad, painted, also usable as an ink wiper.” Boy, how times have changed! Today, size defies when it comes to Steiff’s swans—and I happen to think this bitty-bird represents the finest vintage swan in the line. Here we have Steiff’s tiny pom-pom Wool-Schwan or Woolen Swan. He is 8-cm tall, lying, and made from pure white woolen yarn. He has an orange felt beak and adorable tiny black button eyes. His wings are made from longer white yarn while his feet are made from double thick black felt. This swan design was produced overall from 1964 through 1969 in this size only. He is considered quite rare and hard to find based on his limited time in the line.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… eight maids a-milking. Steiff’s Bessy cow.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… eight maids a-milking. Steiff has always had a magical, as well as playful touch when it comes to farm animals. That is probably because the Steiff company is located in pastoral Germany, surrounded by farmland. Steiff’s Bessy cow is one of the most beloved barnyard buddies, and for good reason—she is simply irresistibly adorable! Bessie is made from mohair, standing and unjointed. Her body is tan with brown spots, with a few yellow highlights on her feet and forehead. She has fantastic detailing for her size, including curved felt horns, mohair ears, a peach velvet dewlap, a 3D udder and comical, black and white google eyes. She wears a leather collar and cowbell. Bessie was manufactured in 12, 17 and 22 cm between 1958 and 1973.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… nine ladies dancing. Steiff’s “The Bears’ Wedding” dancing couple.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… nine ladies dancing. Although Steiff never actually made nine dancing ladies, they did make a series of dancing bear couples for a large window display called “The Bears’ Wedding” in the mid-1920s. This display included at least at least six well-dressed bear pairs dancing in a village square; nearby, a wedding party departed from a church. The pairs were made from standard line Steiff bears in festive, authentic German clothing; they were posed in “slow dancing” positions. These dancing pairs are so beloved that Steiff created a replica set consisting of a white mohair girl and a blonde mohair boy dancing on a musical rotating platform in an edition size of 2,500 pieces in 2006.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… ten lords a-leaping. Steiff’s Froggy Frog.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… ten lords a-leaping. So how do you feel about princes-a-jumping instead? If this substitution works for you, I would suggest these marvelous velvet frogs fit the bill perfectly. Here we have Steiff’s Frosch Froggy or Froggy Frog. Froggy is sitting, unjointed and made from green and yellow velvet. He looks as if he is about to hop away, given his lifelike body position. He is delicately and realistically detailed with black airbrushing all over his back and limbs. He has pert brown and black pupil eyes. Froggy was made in 8 and 10 cm (measured sitting) from 1952 through 1986.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… eleven pipers piping. Steiff’s Movi Seagull.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… eleven pipers piping. Hum, I’m a bit stymied here… as there aren’t any actual pipers—or sandpipers—in the Steiff catalog. However, there is a great seagull who is happy to stand in for his beach neighbor in this case. And some of us may be lucky to be celebrating this holiday season by the seashore, so why not? Here we have Movi Moewe, or Movi Seagull. This beach buddy is 28 centimeters long, unjointed and made from white, black and grey woven fur. He has black felt “feathers” on the tips of his wings and is standing on large, posable yellow velvet-and-felt webbed feet, with a yellow trivera velvet peak. It is interesting to note that Steiff refers to Movi as a “studio,” or life-sized animal, despite his relatively diminutive size. Movi has black eyes that are backed by red felt. Steiff uses this unique eye treatment to give the face more detail and depth; Steiff tends to use it on birds and rabbits. Movi was produced from 1979 through 1981.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… twelve drummers drumming. Steiff’s Circus Band Set.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… twelve drummers drumming. But why just stick with drums when the whole band is available to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas? Here we have Steiff’s wonderful and highly collectible Circus Band Set from 1988 and 1989. The set, which was made in an edition size of 5,000 for the U .S. consists of five fabulous musicians, including a Teddy bandmaster, a dog trombone player, a cat with a drum, a lion with a tuba, and a crocodile with a trumpet. Each player is 19 cm, fully jointed, dressed to the nines in their marching attire and made from mohair. These jolly players were part of the larger Steiff “Golden Age of the Circus” series, which included clowns, acrobats, balloon sellers, a fat lady, fire eaters, strong men and other traditional “big top” entertainers.
In terms of value, as always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. Many factors determine final selling prices for Steiff collectibles, including condition, presence of IDs, rarity, size and the elusive “appeal” factor. Given that items are in very good to excellent condition, with at least one form of ID and no structural or aesthetic issues, items mentioned above may sell in the following ranges at auction in the United States:
• Day 1, Steiff’s Franzi parakeet: $100-$250;
• Day 2, Steiff’s dove: $100-$200;
• Day 3, Steiff’s hen: $100-$175;
• Day 4, Steiff’s parrot: $75-$150;
• Day 5, Steiff’s 125 Carat Bear: $50,000-plus;
• Day 6, Steiff’s Kuschi goose: $125-$200;
• Day 7, Steiff’s woolen miniature swan: $50-$100;
• Day 8, Steiff’s Bessie cow: $125-$200;
• Day 9, Steiff’s dancing bear couple: Occasionally, an original dancing bear couple appears on the secondary market; the pair shown above was sold for $20,900 at Bertie Auctions in Vineland, N.J. in 2006;
• Day 10, Steiff’s Froggy frog: $50-$90;
• Day 11, Steiff’s Movi seagull: $125-$225;
• Day 12, Steiff’s Circus Band Set: $400-$600.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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