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A Mysterious, Uncataloged Black, Begging Steiff Poodle

by Rebekah Kaufman (01/24/12).

Steiff’s “article number 4328,” also known as Snobby Poodle, has become one of Worthologist and Steiff collector Rebekah Kaufman’s greatest treasures.

Every enthusiast has extra-special items in their collections—a certain piece that just take a Gold Medal for its rarity, design or simply the story behind the piece. Here is one of those treasures from my hug of more than 700 vintage Steiff collectibles.

The item:
One thing that all enthusiasts share—regardless of specific passion—is the utter and sheer delight of coming across something incredibly rare and unexpected. Something so out of this world that once it lands with you, it just brings your collection, and your enthusiasm for collecting, to the next level. Such is the case with the most boringly named Steiff “article number 4328,” also known as Snobby Poodle.

What we have here, besides a series of numbers, is Steiff’s 28-centimeter, three-ways jointed (head and arms) black mohair poodle named Snobby. She is in the “begging” position, meaning that she is looking at you in such a way to suggest that you should share whatever you are eating with her. This poodle has longish mohair on her legs, arms, ears and muzzle, and short mohair on her body trunk and head. Her face is detailed with lovely, hand-blown tri-colored (white, brown and black) almond-shaped glass eyes, a black hand-embroidered nose, an open peach felt-lined mouth, and a dark pink felt tongue.

Her history and design legacy:
Very little is known about this particular poodle design, as she does not appear in any standard reference books. Clearly, she is based somewhat on Steiff’s classic “Snobby Poodle” design that was introduced in 1953 and appeared in the line through 1974 in 10, 14, 22, 35 and 43 cm. Classic Snobby was produced in gray, black or white mohair, was five-ways jointed, and had a little, round red felt tongue. 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. Classic Snobby proved so popular that she was soon being produced in as a riding toy, a puppet and as a soft, curled up resting animal. However, “Classic” Snobby did not have a distinctive, open mouth or a long, protruding tongue.

Why she’s so special to me:
Back in the summer of 2005, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the 9th annual Festival of Steiff Auction, an event that is held annually in Giengen, Germany—the hometown for the Steiff Company. This auction—a paradise for vintage Steiff enthusiasts—features rare and sometimes never-before- seen Steiff treasures from around the world; all for sale to the highest bidder. One of the lots, #035, was particularly appealing to me, as I had never seen this Steiff dog before. The catalog read:

“Snobby Poodle (1956-57) Item no. 4328, this begging poodle is 28 cm tall. It was manufactured for only two years as an exclusive item and this is the first and only sample we know of. Head and forelegs are jointed, open mouth with felt tongue. Very good, unplayed with condition, with button, minimal remains of the ear tag, and chest tag “Snobby.”

Of course, it was love at first sight and I thought with her €250 estimate, I might have a shot at bringing her home without having to declare bankruptcy. I guess a few other people felt the same way, as this superb Snobby sold for close to €1,700 that evening! I left the auction a little heartbroken but determined to add this blue-ribbon beauty to my collection at some point, someday.

Fast-forward six years. I was browsing an online sales portal and looking for unusual Steiff treasures when I came across a listing for a black, sitting “Steiff looking” poodle with an open mouth and almond eyes. Could this be the elusive Snobby from the auction? After a few e-mail exchanges with a photo or two—my deepest hopes were realized! Here was another one of Steiff’s Snobby 4328 models, albeit in somewhat less pristine condition. I made an offer, it was accepted, and I was on cloud nine! When she arrived, I noticed that she was missing her original red leather collar, didn’t have any ID, and both ears needed to be restitched to her head. But no worries, dog-gonnit, I had indeed scored this most unusual Steiff rarity from the 1950s!

A close-up of Snobby Poodle’s hand-blown tri-colored (white, brown and black) almond-shaped glass eyes, a black hand-embroidered nose, an open peach felt-lined mouth, and a dark pink felt tongue.

Her value:
It is most challenging to value items that have limited comparisons or are rarely seen on the collector’s marketplace. So many things go into the actual “value” of an item: general global economic conditions; the number of people vying for the item at any given time; the condition of the item relative to others like it; what else is on the market at the same time; where it is being offered for sale, etc. Clearly, a Steiff auction in Germany during robust economic times calls for high prices. On the other side of the coin, one of these standing Steiff Snobby poodles was offered as part of a lot of four Steiff dogs at the 2010 Steiff Christie’s Auction. Including the buyer’s premium, the quartet brought in a relatively modest $1,286.

That all being said, something is worth what someone will pay for it. Steiff rarities will always generate interest and will without a doubt appreciate over time. It is my best guestimate that this dog today values in the $400 to $600 range.

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

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2 Responses to “A Mysterious, Uncataloged Black, Begging Steiff Poodle”

  1. tinfoilhat says:

    What an awesome piece – congrats on finding her!

  2. Regina Gabrielson says:

    The thrill of the hunt, the heart stopping find, what fun! Congrats on finding this little treasure!

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