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As Rare as a Real Dinosaur Find: Steiff’s Baby Stegosaurus

by Rebekah Kaufman (03/12/12).

Dino’s light and playful google-style eyes were used as a way of saying these beasts were created to inspire fun—not fear—into the hearts of their lucky recipients.

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:
Here we have Steiff’s 12-centimeter baby Dinos Stegosaurus dinosaur. He is unjointed and standing on all fours, made from tan-colored mohair that has been painstakingly hand airbrushed in a full spectrum of greens, blues, purples and browns. Dinos has a matching felt fin along his back and a sweet, baby-like face. His head is detailed with an open, pink lined felt mouth; green and black google style eyes; and little yellow felt ears. Dinos was produced in 12 and 42 cm as a U.S. exclusive from 1958-59 only. This Dinos is in excellent condition, with no structural issues whatsoever. He retains his complete set of ID that includes a named chest tag, raised script button, and crisp, fully legible yellow ear tag.

His history and Design Legacy:
Although Steiff has produced several different dinosaur models in the past few decades, the real finds are those gentle giants produced in the late 1950s. Steiff’s first, and arguably best, dinosaurs debuted in the catalog in 1958 and only stuck around through 1959. Steiff produced three models: Tysus, the T-Rex; Brosus, the Brontosaurus; and Dinos, the Stegosaurus. Tysus stood upright on two legs and had movable arms, while Brosus and Dinos were unjointed and stood on all fours. Each dinosaur model was made in two sizes, a larger “mother” version (which ranged from 45 to 60 cm) and a smaller “baby” version (which ranged from 12 to 17 cm). Like Dinos mentioned above, each was made from mohair, had an open felt lined mouth, felt detailing, and remarkable, colorful airbrushing.

Besides their gorgeous construction and design, one of the features that make Steiff dinosaurs so endearing are their eyes. Steiff has a tradition of using eye treatments to convey emotions behind many of their designs. For example, oversized eyes suggest youth and innocence, while eyes in eye pockets hint of soulfulness and depth. To keep things light and playful, Steiff used rounded, green and black or white and black glass google-style eyes on their original mohair dinosaurs. It is pretty safe to say that from the design perspective, this is one way of saying these beasts were created to inspire fun—not fear—into the hearts of their lucky recipients.

Steiff dinosaurs actually are in part the product of a friendly business competition. In the 1950s and 1960s, there were two companies that distributed Steiff here in the United States—Loucap and Reeves. In order to gain a bit of a competitive advantage, both companies had “exclusives” produced just for their customers. These mother-baby pairs of dinosaurs were manufactured for Loucap. Other well-known Loucap-Steiff designs included their silly and playful Basset Hounds with their famous eye-popping peepers. Fast-forward a few years, and Reeves became the exclusive distributor of Steiff in America in the mid-1960s.

Steiff’s 12-centimeter baby Dinos Stegosaurus dinosaur is unjointed and standing on all fours, made from tan-colored mohair that has been painstakingly hand airbrushed in a full spectrum of greens, blues, purples and browns.

Why He’s So Special to Me:
Like most vintage Steiff enthusiasts, I have always loved Steiff’s early dinosaurs for their rarity and beauty. But I never dreamed that I would actually find and own such a lovely example!

As the fates would have it, my baby Dinos actually found me. I received an e-mail from a woman in the northeast United States who works professionally with empty nesters to help them downsize (or “rightsize”) their living quarters. She was helping a couple relocate to a smaller home. The pair was deciding what to take along, what to give away, and what to toss. Shockingly, the couple put this Dinos in the “throw away” pile! Luckily, my contact recognized Dino’s Steiff IDs and realized that he was truly quite the collectible. A quick Google search connected us. A week or so later, this baby Dinos joined my hug—and he felt right at home with a few other fellow Steiff dinosaurs from the same era already residing under my roof.

His Value:
Early, original Steiff mohair dinosaurs in very good to excellent condition are quite the find—given how few were made over such a short time period. At the Christie’s Steiff Auction in London in 2010, a set of three pristine, “like new” baby-sized Steiff dinosaurs had a hammer price of £1,600, while a set of three mama-sized Steiff dinosaurs in the same condition sold for £1,300 pounds! Here in the United States, over the past five or so years, sales of individual Steiff baby dinosaurs have been all over the map, ranging in general from around $100 to $500, depending on condition (and number of interested bidders, of course!)

As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and Steiff rarities such as vintage dinosaurs, will always be collector’s favorites and appreciate over time. It is my best guestimate that baby Dinos in very good to excellent condition with at least two forms of ID in the United States today most likely value in the $250 to $450 range.

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

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