The 1944 Saturday Evening Post cover debut of Butch. Steiff entered into a licensing agreement with the Saturday Evening Post and produced Butch for a very short time period.
Every enthusiast has extra-special items in their collections—certain items that just take a gold medal for their rarity, design or the story behind them. Here is one of those treasures from my hug of over 700 vintage Steiff collectibles.
It’s easy see things in black and white when it comes to this remarkable—and perhaps one of a kind—Steiff cocker spaniel, designed in the likeness of a beloved 1940s-era American icon.
You may not recognize this precious pup, but your grandparents will certainly know him as the Saturday Evening Post’s “Butch the Cover Dog” mascot. Butch is standing, 22 centimeters tall, and head-jointed. He is hard-stuffed with excelsior and has a squeaker in his belly. His body and face are made from short white mohair, which has been carefully airbrushed with black highlights on his back and head. His ears, tail, and feet are made from very long black shaggy mohair. It almost appears that Butch is wearing fuzzy slippers, based on his foot construction, and has long white mohair “feathers” on the back seams of each of his front and back legs. His face is detailed with very large round black, brown, and white spherical eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, and a touch of pink highlighting around his lips.
Butch wears his original red leather collar, which is complemented with a small brass bell, and although he has lost his IDs over time, when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany, he would have had a special named Steiff chest tag, a yellow ear flag, and a small silver-colored “raised script” style Steiff button.
The oversized 22-cm Butch from the front.
Butch from the back.
According to company records, a 17-cm version of Butch was made in 1958. He was also produced in an almost life-sized 31-cm sitting version that same year. These huge versions are extremely rare; one sold in 2010 for almost $3,400!
His History and Design Legacy:
Steiff is well known for partnering with successful brands and interpreting their logos and mascots into delightful—and highly sought-after—Steiff collectibles. For example, Steiff started working with the Walt Disney Company in the early 1930s to produce their rising star, Mickey Mouse, as a toy for enthusiasts all around the world. Steiff made Mickey Mouse from 1931 through 1936 in 11, 16, 23, 30, 36 and 48 cm. A tail moves head and a 24 cm puppet version were also produced in the same time frame.
Animal artist Albert Staehle posing with his star model.
Butch enjoyed many of his adventures…
…while others were not as much fun.
Butch the cover dog made his debut on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on Feb. 19, 1944. This beloved magazine, which traces its origins back to 1728 and is still being published today, was the first ever to reach a circulation of one million readers. Butch was the brainchild of artist Albert Staehle, one of the most popular commercial illustrators of the 1930s through the 1950s. Staehle, who was known for his charming and realistic drawings of animals, was invited by the publisher to illustrate a dog cover for the magazine. Staehle’s first canine cover featured Butch chewing up a book of wartime rationing stamps. This illustration was incredibly popular and received enormous positive feedback from the readers. Over time, Staehle’s Butch appeared on 25 Saturday Evening Post covers. It is interesting to note that Butch also appeared as a mascot for the American Kennel Club and the U.S. Navy, and on the covers of numerous other national and international publications.
Knowing a “sure thing” when they saw it, Steiff entered into a licensing agreement with the Saturday Evening Post and produced Butch for a very short time period. Butch’s design is based on Steiff’s black-and-white “Cockie” cocker spaniel pattern of the same time period, but with just a few subtle design modifications on his coloring, feet and eyes.
Why He’s so Special to Me:
Like most collectibles, the interest and value an item garners is based on condition, rarity, and association. This Butch has all of the above—and more—in spades. Overall, Butch was made for one year only and is based on a beloved cultural icon. That in itself makes this dog one of the most desirable post-World War II items in the Steiff repertoire. This particular example is in very good to excellent condition overall, which also increases his appeal.
But here’s the big thing, literally: Butch is cataloged in company records at 17 cm. This particular Butch is a whopping 22 cm and does not appear in any company literature of which I am aware. It is quite possible that he is a sample, special order or a one-of-a-kind Steiff design experiment.
This most-exceptional dog entered my collection in a really routine way. I had nonchalantly won Butch in an online auction. I did not think too much about the purchase, as I was intending to rehome it to a fellow Steiff collector, and I already had the 17-cm version in my hug. However, as a collector of Steiff rarities, this piece literally took my breath away when I opened his shipping box and realized “the scale” of the treasure inside.
Butch examples in both 22-cm and 17-cm sizes, for comparison.
Steiff items that are interpretations of cultural icons or logos tend to be of interest both to Steiff collectors as well as enthusiasts of the brands represented. In addition, Steiff items from the late 1940s through the early 1960s are gaining additional popularity and value, as they are still somewhat available and at reasonable price points for collectors. This particular design is of special interest due to its age, quality and ties to a beloved all-American dog; its unique size ups its appeal to the next level of magnitude.
As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and Steiff rarities in unusual sizes with cultural significance will always generate interest and will without a doubt appreciate over time. It is my best guestimate that this uncataloged 22-cm Steiff Butch the Cover Dog in the United States today, in very good to excellent condition, values in the $900 to $1,200 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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