A modern replica of the pre-war Steiff Bully. Like the original, this Bully has large ears, basic coloring, and a timeless, endearing facial expression.
One of the most interesting things about following a company and its products over time is watching how its items change and modernize over the years. It is easy to trace the remarkable evolution of offerings from larger, well-established brands like Ford, AT&T and even McDonald’s. Many people are aware that the Steiff Company from Germany invented the Teddy bear more than 100 years ago, and is still responsible for designing and producing many of today’s modern Teds. The company’s role in the history of this still popular plaything is undeniable. But the company also has other “legacy” designs as well—those that were introduced almost a century ago but are still relevant today. Let’s take a look at one of these classic patterns—Steiff bulldogs—and see what makes them so interesting.
The first Steiff bulldog was introduced to the world in 1927. His name was “Bully” and he was an instant sensation with both children (as a plaything) and adults (as a collectible and an accessory). He was modeled on the French Bulldog—the “it” companion of those in the know all across Europe at the time. All Bullies were head jointed, had large brown and black pupil eyes, a hand-embroidered black nose and a simple snout and jaw constructed to give him his requisite jowls. Most were black and white or orange and white, but a rare blue-and-white version was also produced. Bully was made in velvet and mohair, as well as sitting and standing, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 centimeters. Most Bullies came detailed with a horsehair ruff or leather collar.
Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Steiff also produced this early Bully on wheels (with a tail-turns-head mechanism), as a pincushion, as a puppet (with a music box), and as a handbag, among other designs. Believe it or not, Bully’s design was modified slightly and produced as a cleaner for gramophone records in 1932! The original Bully appeared in the Steiff catalog through 1939; today, this precious pooch is one of the most universally desirable and sought-after pre-war Steiff designs among collectors.
An early 1950s-era Steiff Bully. Although the body shape and coloring has evolved from the original pattern, the snout construction has remained almost identical.
Quite soon after the Steiff factory reopened for business after World War II, the company’s designers gave Bully a makeover and launched his new design in 1951. This new Bully was made from tan mohair, was standing and its head was jointed. Bully now had an elaborately hand-painted head, body spots and tail, unlike his predecessor, whose coloring was more basic. One commonality between the old Bully and the new Bully design was his nose and snout construction, which were almost identical between the generations. New Bully came with a red leather color and was produced in 10, 17 and 22 cm. Bully was also produced as a 17-cm hand puppet from 1952 through 1963 and as a 10-cm model on wheels from 1954 through 1960.
This third and final Steiff bulldog is another blue-ribbon prize amongst most collectors.
Here we have Steiff’s “Englische Bulldogge” or the English Bulldog. This dramatic Steiff Bulldog is very rare. This model is standing on all fours, is head jointed, and is 18-cm tall. He is made from tan mohair that has been detailed with black airbrushing, has googly eyes, a squeaker and an open pink felt lined mouth with two pointy wooden “canine” teeth. And, perhaps as a nod back to his 1920s era Bully grandfather, this dandy dog also sports a horsehair ruff. This highly sought after Steiff collectible is a U.S. exclusive and was produced from 1956 through 1961 only.
Steiff’s rare English Bulldog, one of the earliest United States exclusive items. Note his highly detailed jowls, pointy canine teeth, and horsehair collar.
Steiff’s bulldogs have always been favorites among collectors, and they translate beautifully from real-life into mohair and velvet works of art! Like Molly, their puppy cousin—introduced around the same time—collectors seem to favor the older, smaller Bullies over the larger ones, perhaps touching back to their lap dog appeal. Pre-war Bullies are hard to find in good or better condition and are a real treasure. Early post-war Bullies are easier to locate and are a great way for collector’s to add this legacy design to their growing hug. The English Bulldog is a needle in the collector’s haystack world; I have only seen three of these come up for sale over the last 15 years.
Older Bully Bulldogs from the late 1920s through the late 1930s, depending on size and condition, usually value in the $500 to $2,000 range. Post war Bullies can value in the $50 to $200 range, while the English Bulldog—in pristine condition—usually values in the $900 to $1,500 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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