It’s Rabbit Time: Steiff’s Bitty Baby Easter Bunnies
There are so many reasons to love Easter—the family gatherings, traditional brunches, spirit of the holiday, lovely seasonal flowers, baskets full of candy—the list could go on and on. For most people all over the world, Easter is synonymous with rabbits. And why is that? For many centuries, rabbits have been equated with high fertility, making them the perfect “representative” of all the new life associated with the spring season.
“NIki” and “Manni,” two classic standing styled Steiff rabbits.
Rabbits first were mentioned along with Easter in German literature from the 1500s. Fast-forward to the 1800s, and rabbits as celebratory holiday sweets started making their appearance across Europe. And when German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Counties a few years later, the Easter bunny craze started sweeping the U.S. as well.
Besides sweets, many Easter baskets also contain plush or toy rabbits as a way to welcome the new season. And what could be better than a vintage Steiff bunny as the “piece de resistance” in a collector’s basket? Steiff rabbits are among the company’s top categories of products sold overall, behind only bears and somewhat on par with dogs and cats. Their popularity is evident, as bunnies have their very own chapters in Gunter Pfeiffer’s “Sortiment Books,” the gold-standard identification and reference tomes for Steiff collectors worldwide. Let’s take a look at five palm-sized Steiff vintage rabbits that might even outrank jellybeans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies in the eyes of Easter-appreciating Steiff collectors. Which is your favorite?
OK, so let’s hop to it! Take a look at perhaps the most beloved Steiff rabbit pattern of all time, made all that much cuter due to her pocket-sized scale here! Just in the nick of time for Easter, we have the smallest version of Steiff’s Niki Rabbit. She is 14 centimeters, five-ways jointed, and made from tan colored mohair. Niki has peach felt footpads, velvet lined ears, brown and black pupil eyes, and a pink hand embroidered nose. Her little cottontail is made from slightly longer tan mohair. Of all the Steiff rabbits, this particular pattern most reminds me of a playful toddler with her mischievous expression, round belly and proportionally big head. This spring harbinger was manufactured in 14, 17, 22, 28 and 35 cm from 1951 through 1964.
Man-o-man, what’s not to love about this next bitty bunny? Here we have Steiff’s precious Manni Rabbit in the smallest size: 10 cm. She is made from tan mohair, which is detailed with light brown hand airbrushing on her face, ears, back and sides. She has brown and white pupil eyes, a red embroidered nose and mouth, and pink felt lined ears—which have distinctive black outline to them. Manni is head-jointed and is in the begging position, meaning she’s just waiting for something delicious to fall off your Easter brunch table into her mouth. She was made in 10, 20, 30, 40 and 55 cm from 1961 through 1976.
Steiff’s totally relaxed “Lying rabbit.”
It’s easy to feel a little at ease with our next tiny treasure. Her we have Steiff’s 6-cm Lieg Hase, or Lying Rabbit. And by “lying,” Steiff means “outstretched,” not “dishonest.” This rabbit is reclining and made from mohair. She is head jointed and has quite a prominent “tail end.” Her ears are lined in pink velvet and he has a pink, hand-embroidered nose, black lips and clear monofilament whiskers. Probably her most eye-catching feature is her outstanding black and white google-style peepers! This basking bunny was made in 6, 9 and 12 cm from 1953 through 1970.
Steiff’s running styled “Hoppy rabbit.”
Let’s go from zero to 60 with our next Steiff Easter bunny candidate. We’re off to the races with Hoppy Hase or Hoppy Rabbit. Hoppy is in a running position, meaning that he is on all fours and about to spring into action. This rabbit is 8 cm, unjointed, and made from dark tan colored mohair. He has darker tan airbrushing on his back and legs, and black airbrushing on his tail area and the tips of his ears—which are lined in pink felt. Hoppy has a simple red hand-embroidered mouth and nose, brown and black pupil eyes, and clear monofilament whiskers. He left the factory with a silk ribbon and a small brass bell. Hoppy was made in 8, 14 and 17 cm from 1950 through 1976.
Steiff’s Bugs Bunny ornament, produced as a limited edition for Warner Brothers.
Finally… er, what’s up, Doc? This well-known cartoon classic is our last petite treat? Here we have Steiff’s version of the beloved Looney Tunes character, Bugs Bunny. Bugs is 15 cm, five-ways jointed, and made from grey and white mohair. Bugs has long tan trivera velvet-lined ears, huge black and white oval eyes, a pink hand-stitched nose, black monofilament whiskers, and white felt buck teeth. He dons his traditional white cotton gloves. Originally produced as a hanging holiday ornament exclusively for Warner Brothers, he was produced in a limited edition run of 2,500 in 1999.
All of these tiny treasures would be certainly welcome in any Steiff collector’s den. Their charming proportions, cheerful dispositions and springtime connotations help to explain their ongoing global popularity. And the fact that they last a lot longer than Easter lilies, honey-baked hams, hot cross buns and other holiday traditions make them sweet souvenirs of a wonderful day.
Assuming very good to excellent condition, with at least one form of Steiff ID, the rabbits noted above value as follows:
• Niki rabbits can value in the $200 to $500 range;
• Manni rabbits can value in the $150 to $400 range;
• Lying rabbits can value in the $75 to $150 range;
• Hoppy rabbits can value in the $200 to $400 range;
• The Bugs Bunny ornament can value in the $150 to $300 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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