Three Mollys from 1926-1931. Note the white circular chest tag, which only appeared on Steiff items from 1926-1928. The larger Molly is the extremely rare Musical Molly from 1928-1931; only 328 of these pieces were produced.
The Margarete Steiff Company is known all around the world for producing some of most delightful, enduring and beloved soft toys for children of all ages. Without a doubt, Teddy bears are the company’s most legendary and high volume items. However, in addition to Teddy bears, the company also has a very special touch with dogs. There are many collectors who only collect, or truly specialize in Steiff canines. Since dogs have appeared in the Steiff line since the debut catalog of 1892, enthusiasts have more than a century of treasures to enjoy, study and seek for their collectors.
One of the most important—and still influential—Steiff dog designs debuted in 1925. This pattern was called “Molly,” and she truly is the grand-matriarch of Steiff’s vast dog world. The original Molly was sitting, made from long white- and brown-tipped mohair plush, had a swivel head, proportionally large brown and black pupil eyes, and a hand-embroidered black nose and mouth. She left the factory in Giengen wearing a red ribbon and jingle bell. Pre-war, this model was produced in 12 sizes ranging from 7 through 80 centimeters. She was one of the very first models reintroduced post war, reappearing again in 1949 in five sizes through 1969.
Steiff occasionally produces a Molly replica in its annual lines; most recently Molly appeared as a 10 cm 1927 Worldwide Limited Edition replica for collectors in 2006.
One of the things that is extremely interesting about Molly is that she is one of the very few Steiff dogs that doesn’t have a “breed” associated with her. For example, Terry is the Steiff Airedale, Foxy is the Steiff Fox Terrier, and Snobby is the Steiff Poodle. This model is simply known as Molly the Puppy.
Molly is very important from the Steiff product development evolutionary perspective for two reasons:
First, the 1925 introduction of Molly proved so popular that she is credited for opening the floodgates to a huge influx of Steiff dog designs. Between 1925 and 1938, close to 40 new canine species were noted in the Steiff catalogs after her debut. These included the now classic Bully Bulldog, Arco the German Shepherd, and Peky the Pekinese, as well as some lesser-known designs including Cheerio, the laughing dog, Putzi, a caricatured standing dog, and Lord the Great Dane.
Second, Molly also proved to be a great source for highly successful “theme and variation” product introductions. Until the early 1940s, Molly appeared in numerous color combinations, including red and white, green and white and blue and white. She appeared standing, on wheels, as a puppet, purse, pincushion, music box, and Charleston animal, among other products. Steiff used her basic appealing, endearing “young dog” pattern on other little known dogs of the 1920s and 1930s, including Trolly (a white, yellow, and brown St. Bernhard puppy), Flock (a blonde and white puppy), Zotty (a white puppy) and Fellow (a black and white puppy).
Three Mollys from 1949-1953. Each has her bear faced chest tag with a red imprint and a small “US Zone” tag sew into her hind leg seam.
Molly is certainly one of Steiff’s all-time top dogs. Her wide-eyed, innocent looks, coupled with her well-proportioned design, add up to best of show status. And for some reason, collectors seem to favor the smaller versions over the larger ones, further proof of her puppy-like appeal! Because of her early popularity, many Mollys have been produced over the years, meaning that collectors should be able to find one of these precious pups to add to their Steiff pack.
Older Mollys from the late 1920s through the mid 1940s, depending on size and condition, usually value in the $200 to $800 range. Brightly colored Mollys, novelties and ones on colorful mohair pincushions may value even higher. Those from the early 1950s onward usually value in the $50 to $250 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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