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It’s not Easy Being Green, even for Steiff’s Endearing Emerald Creations

by Rebekah Kaufman (03/11/13).

This majorly-toothed Martian is Steiff’s Gruenes Maennchen, or Little Green Man, is built much like Steiff’s iconic “lulac” animals, with their long torsos and dangling limbs.

It’s easy to be thinking “green” this time of year. Spring, for us folks in the northern hemisphere is showing signs of emerging, and St. Patrick’s Day—which inspires a universal “wearing of the green”—is right around the corner, wherever you live. But to borrow Kermit the Frog’s beloved lyrics, “it’s not easy being green,” especially when it comes to Steiff button-in-ear creations.

Sure, the German stuffed-creature company has made green (or greenish) frogs, turtles, dinosaurs, chameleons and the like. But those are supposed to be green. What about other fun, playful or just plain goofy green items? These are few and far between and, as a matter of fact, I could only find a handful in my collection of more than 800 Steiff treasures. So, in honor of the arrival of daylight savings time, the brave crocus buds popping up on my front lawn and hearty servings of corned beef and cabbage on and around March 17, let’s take a look at some of Steiff’s most unusual green items.

This first green rarity is truly out of this world. This majorly-toothed Martian is Steiff’s Gruenes Maennchen, or Little Green Man. He is 35 centimeters tall and made from green-colored trevira velvet. His proportions are much like Steiff’s iconic “lulac” animals, with their long torsos and dangling limbs. His arms and legs have wire armature so they can be posed in playful ways. His face is utterly charming, with enormous black and white googly eyes, one thick black strand of “hair” on his forehead, pert ears, a prominent bulbous nose, and an open-mouthed, ear-to-ear grin. And, of course, a huge set of white felt buck teeth. Little Green Man was designed for Steiff by the Belgian artist Mallet and was in the line from 1982 through 1984. It is most unusual for Steiff to produce items designed by people outside the company, so his pedigree, in combination with his limited time of production, puts him on the “wish list” of many collectors.

The mascot for Frankfurt, Germany’s, “green belt” landscape conservation and recreation area is known as the Frankfurt Green Armadillo, a cross between perhaps a pig, armadillo and dragon, and was designed by the Frankfurt writer, poet, painter and draftsman Robert Gernhardt.

The Frankfurt Green Belt Monster statue in Frankfurt, Germany, looks like the Steiff version … sort of.

This next item is a bit more grounded, given that it was designed as the logo mascot for the city of Frankfurt, Germany’s, “green belt” landscape conservation and recreation area. Known as the Frankfurt Green Armadillo, this cross between perhaps a pig, armadillo and dragon was designed by the Frankfurt writer, poet, painter and draftsman Robert Gernhardt. Steiff’s version of this otherworldly creature is 28 cm, standing and unjointed. He is made from short green mohair. His paw pads and snout-nose are made from mustard-colored felt, while his “wings” are made from green felt. His face is detailed with blue- and black-pupil eyes over white felt triangles; his mouth is indicated by black airbrushing. He was produced in an edition size of 1,500 pieces in 2002.

Steiff’s handy “Humanitas Heimchen” house cricket is holding a miniature soft pillow, white woolen blanket and Humanitas-branded white ceramic water pitcher. He was made in an edition size of 1,500 pieces in 2001 as a promotional item for German nursing service provider Humanitas.

Most collectors would give an arm and a leg for this next green Steiff goody. Here we have Steiff’s handy “Humanitas Heimchen” house cricket. Yes, a house cricket. This insect is 27 cm tall, standing, and made from green mohair. His flat-bottomed, oversized feet are made from green velvet. Cricket has four arms and all of his limbs are lined in wire and are posable. His face is detailed with pert blue- and black-pupil eyes, which are backed in white and green felt circles, thin black antennae and a black, hand-embroidered mouth. Cricket is holding a miniature soft pillow, white woolen blanket and Humanitas-branded white ceramic water pitcher. He was made in an edition size of 1,500 pieces in 2001 as a promotional item for German nursing service provider Humanitas.

We’re rolling towards the end of this discussion on green themed Steiff rarities with this mostly green Steiff Nachziehraupe or caterpillar pull toy. This basically beautiful bug is 43 cm and made from black and green, knitted fur. She has a yellow ear tag sewn into the seam of her head, but interestingly was not produced with a Steiff button. Her face is very simple and basically consists of two side patches of tan nylon material, each with a hand painted black and white eye on it. She doesnit have a mouth or a nose. She has two black “antenna” on the top of her head that are made from long black acrylic fibers, and she had a pull string attached to her front roller when she left the factory in Germany many years ago. This colorful caterpillar rocks and rolls (literally) on four pairs of large off-center red wooden rollers, each wheel is about the size of a golf ball. This off-axis roller style is called “eccentric wheels” and was actually discovered by accident by Steiff around 1910—and has been used regularly by the company on rolling toys since. The company even owns a patent on the concept! Pull toy caterpillar was produced from 1980 through 1983 and despite her relative “newness,” is seldom seen on the secondary markets and is in relatively high demand with collectors.

Steiff’s Nachziehraupe or caterpillar pull toy was produced from 1980 through 1983 and despite her relative “newness,” is seldom seen on the secondary markets and is in relatively high demand with collectors.

In terms of value, as always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. But fortunately for collectors, these goofy green Steiff items won’t set you back too many greenbacks, if past sales figures somewhat reflect the marketplace today. Here in the United States, the Gruenes Maennchen may value in the $200 to $400 range while the Frankfurt Green Armadillo, “Humanitas Heimchen” house cricket and caterpillar pull toy may value in the $150 to $250 range each. This assumes each item is in very good to excellent condition with at least one form of ID.

Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.

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