This Giant Steiff Poodle Wins the Best of Show Award for Rarity and Looks
This Steiff poodle named Snobby is 43 centimeters tall, five-ways jointed, made from grey wool plush and features a very unusual nose made out of very thin and sculpted black leather.
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 more than 800 vintage Steiff collectibles.
Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you planned, but in this case it’s all good with this enormous vintage Steiff poodle!
Here we a great Steiff poodle named Snobby. She is 43 centimeters tall, five-ways jointed and made from grey wool plush. She has brown- and black-pupil eyes and a very unusual nose made out of very thin and sculpted black leather. Her mouth and claws are defined by black airbrushing and her coat is in the “French” cut—but in this case, perhaps an “extreme” French cut, as her fluffy areas are really fluffy!
According to company records, this Snobby pattern was produced from 1962 through 1968 in 28 and 35 cm as an exclusive item for the high-end toy retailer FAO Schwarz in the United States.
Her history and design legacy:
Of course, Steiff is best known for its wonderful bears, but dogs have traditionally ranked a close second in terms of popularity and sales for over a century. As such, poodles are a legacy breed for Steiff, so much so that at least two of these standing, curly-coated cuties appeared in the debut catalog of 1892. Soon after, in 1894, Steiff introduced a sitting model that was produced through 1905. In 1908, Steiff gave their poodles a makeover, giving them a more toy-like look in appearance and configuring them in a playful, begging position. It was about this time that FAO Schwarz began carrying Steiff items, and it is most likely that the store carried examples of this model. Fast-forward a few years and begging poodles were reintroduced in 1929 after a few years’ break and remained in the line until 1935.
Right after the Second World War was a very dynamic time for Steiff, both in terms of its emphasis on innovative product development, as well as its relationships with special retail partners including FAO Schwarz in America.
In terms of design, it was during this period that the company started producing a huge number of new small dog designs—including poodles—to keep up with collectors’ interest and demands. These patterns included Tosi, a wool plush poodle who was introduced in 1950 and had a Karakul trim. Other early post war poodles included Snobby, a wool plush model with a French trim who was introduced in 1952, and Maidy, a black poodle with a distinctive Persian lamb-style mohair coat who was introduced in 1959. Steiff introduced its most popular poodle, also named Snobby, in 1956. She was mohair, jointed and had a little round red felt tongue. Over time, she appeared in white, gray and black. Her coat was cut in what Steiff refers to as the “modern trim,” meaning that her limbs, face, tail tip and head crown were long mohair, while her body and neck were short mohair. Standard-line Snobby appeared in the line through 1974.
The relatively hard-to-find 43-centimeter FAO Swartz version Snobby standing beside a more common 28-cm Snobby.
In terms of its relationship with FAO Schwarz, Steiff really started to put the pedal to the metal with the famous toy retailer in the early 1950s. It was at this time that Steiff began creating custom-designed pieces exclusively for this store. These designs were sometimes modifications of main line Steiff items (for example, a dog pattern usually produced sitting would be produced standing for FAO Schwarz) or they would be entirely new designs. In the case of the poodle under discussion here, this Snobby was designed from scratch for FAO Schwarz. New and interesting detailing included her leather nose, gray wool plush materials and plump proportions. FAO Schwarz’s Snobby also left the factory in Giengen adorned with ribbons on the top of her head and around her neck; traditionally, Steiff put collars on their poodle dogs.
As mentioned above, gray wool plush Snobby was produced and cataloged for FAO Schwarz in 28 and 35 cm from 1962 through 1968. So this 43-cm size is quite the collector’s find!
Why she’s so special to me:
As long as I have loved Steiff, I have also loved exclusive items from FAO Schwarz. So this particular poodle model, in a rare unreferenced size, is exceptionally special to me.
Because of their limited production and distribution, as well as appeal and collectability, these FAO Schwarz/Steiff items come on the secondary market very infrequently. I noticed that an FAO Schwarz Snobby was listed to come up for auction at a relatively small auction house in New England. Her cataloging was thin, and only gave the basics on her condition, but did not include her height or size. I called the auction house and placed a bid on her, not really caring if she was the 28 or 35 cm cataloged version. A few weeks later, I received a call that I had won her. I arranged for shipping and awaited her arrival.
Days later, a box—a rather big box—was delivered to my landing. I opened it with great anticipation. And, as Shaquille O’Neal is famous for saying in his Buick commercials, “Wow, that’s a lot more than I expected!” I could not believe my eyes; it was a supersized gray FAO Schwarz Snobby poodle in like-new condition with all identification. Even her eartag, with the numbers “5543” (indicating jointed, wool plush, and 43 cm), confirmed her 43-cm status. I truly hit the jackpot here.
The supersized gray FAO Schwarz Snobby poodle came with all her identification, including the eartag, with the numbers “5543” (indicating jointed, wool plush, and 43 cm).
Steiff products made exclusively for FAO Schwarz tend to be of interest both to Steiff collectors as well as enthusiasts of the famous toy store. In addition, Steiff items from early 1950s are gaining additional popularity, and value, as they are part of the legacy of many collectors who have the desire as well as the means to procure the playthings from their youth. This particular design is of special interest due to its truly unique looks, absolute scarcity and quality of materials and construction. And on top of all that, this 43-cm version does not appear in Steiff’s comprehensive reference books, further increasing its appeal.
As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and Steiff rarities in unusual sizes with ties to FAO Schwarz will always generate interest and will without a doubt appreciate over time. It is my best guestimate that this 43-cm Snobby the Poodle FAO Schwarz exclusive in the United States today, in very good to excellent condition, values in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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