This pair of Stieff characters from the 1950s sings a happy tune, or two. The squeeze-style musical animals are named Music Jocko and Music Teddy, respectively.
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.
Singing a happy tune—or two—over these two Steiff singing sweethearts! What we have here are two of Steiff’s rarer 1950s-era treasures: squeeze-style musical animals.
The bear is simply called Music Teddy, and he was produced only from 1951 through 1957. He is 35 centimeters, five-ways jointed and made from caramel-colored mohair. His hand and foot pads are made from tannish, peach-colored felt. His face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a brown hand-embroidered nose and mouth. Smack dab in the middle of his belly is a red felt circle; when he was new, it had the word “music” in printed in white on it. When this spot is squeezed and released, it plays a sweet lullaby.
The second item is named Music Jocko. Music Jocko appeared in the line from 1951 through 1957. Jocko is 35 cm, five-ways jointed, made from long brown mohair and has peach-colored felt hands and feet. His face is also very lifelike and is detailed with pert, brown and black pupil eyes set into felt eye pockets, a smiling, open mouth, and a white mohair chin. And, like Music Teddy, he also has a red felt circle on his belly indicating that he also features a squeeze-style music box.
Their History and Design Legacy:
Both Music Teddy and Jocko are based on perhaps the most beloved and popular items in Steiff’s 1950-era catalog. Teddy is, of course, Steiff’s “Original Teddy” design, launched in 1950. This now-classic and highly sought after pattern was produced in gold, blond, caramel, brown and white mohair in the 1950-through-1966 time frame in lengths of 10, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 28, 35, 40, 43, 50, 65 and 75 centimeters. And the chimp—who has actually been in the line since 1909 but only received his formal name, “Jocko,” in 1929—was produced in 15 sizes, ranging from 10 to 90 cm, at various times from 1909 through 1943, and then again from 1949 through 1990.
Music Teddy, and he was produced only from 1951 through 1957. He is 35 centimeters, five-ways jointed and made from caramel-colored mohair.
Steiff has had a long, albeit inconsistent, history of producing musical items. Traditionally, it has indeed been modifications of best-selling product designs, much like Musical Teddy and Jocko from the Baby Boomer era. Music box items made their first appearance in the Steiff catalog in 1928. According to Cieslik’s comprehensive Steiff history book, “Button in Ear: The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends”:
“The ‘Music-Animals’ of 1928 were introduced for ‘cuddling and snuggling-up-to before falling asleep.’ Each was fitted with a Swiss music box hidden within the body cavity. These were activated by pressing the animal’s body to play the melody. Other models were activated by turning an animal’s tail to start the music. Early Steiff music boxes included a clown doll, Teddy bears, and several popular dog and cat designs.
“However, sales of these animals were minimal—perhaps because of their associated higher costs—so they were all removed from the line by 1931. Fast forward to the 1970s, Steiff again began producing musical items, but more so as hanging mobiles and soft playthings for babies. These in general had removable musical features and were made from washable fabrics including plush and velour. Today, Steiff continues to make soft plush musical items for babies, and very occasionally includes wind up musical features in special edition or Christmas themed mohair collector’s items.”
Why these Items are so Special to Me:
Both of these rare and special musical items had been on my wish list for decades. It is not terribly uncommon to find either one for sale or at auction, but it is most unusual to find them in working condition. And why is this? These items were designed to be played with, and that they were! The squeeze music box mechanism, although built for durability, was easily damaged or silenced by an enthusiastic and heavy handed child.
A few months ago, I was utterly delighted to find the bear in working condition listed on an online auction here in the United States. Coincidentally, within a week or so, I also discovered the Jocko in working condition listed on an online auction in Europe. Talk about flood or famine! I put in healthy bids for each, recognizing how rarely these do come up for sale on the secondary market. I crossed my fingers for good luck, and tried not to think too much about the sales. Fortunately, the stars aligned, and I won both!
Music Jocko appeared in the line from 1951 through 1957. Jocko is 35 cm, five-ways jointed, made from long brown mohair and has peach-colored felt hands and feet.
Steiff’s early musical items in good or better condition with working music boxes make infrequent appearances on the secondary market, so comps—or comparable items—are somewhat challenging to locate. A 1950s-era Steiff cat in very good condition with a tail-winding music box sold for almost $1,300 on eBay in 2011, while a musical Jocko in excellent condition sold a Christie’s auction in 2010 for about $700.
Over the past three years or so, prices realized for Music Teddies on various online auction channels have ranged significantly from around $400 to $1,200, depending on the item’s condition.
That all being said, things are worth what someone will pay for them. It is my best guestimate that here in the United States, the Music Teddy in good or better condition, with at least one form of ID and a working music box, may value in the $500 to $1,000 range. Meanwhile, the Music Jocko in good or better condition with at least one form of ID and a working music box may value in the $400 to $800 range. These values most likely would go up at least 50-percent for 1950s-era musical items in excellent to pristine condition with all IDs.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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