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Sniffing Out an Obscure Steiff Pup: Treff the Bloodhound

by Rebekah Kaufman (01/19/11).

This 10-centimeter Steiff Treff the Bloodhound is in very good condition and retains her Steiff button and early “watermelon style” chest tag. Her provenance reveals that she was the prize given for the first place entry in the March 8, 1930 Doll Fiesta and Parade, presented by Long Beach Amusement League and Long Beach Sun.

Steiff brand Teddy bears, dolls and animals have been collectors’ favorites for more than 100 years. Their quality of manufacturing, attention to detail and outstanding designs all contribute to their universal appeal. Although Steiff has created almost every animal species you can imagine—including rarities like armadillos, yaks, okapis and kudus—its most popular creations from the beginning have always been bears, dogs, cats and rabbits. Let’s take a look at a lesser known, but utterly charming dog from the late 1920s that has a very interesting history and background.

The “eyes” win the vote on Steiff’s classic “Treff the bloodhound.” This feminine, droopy-eyed dog design was introduced to the world in 1928. The first Treff examples were sitting, head jointed and made in light brown mohair or velvet. They all have long, floppy ears, brown and black pupil eyes—which are set in eye pockets— hand embroidered black noses and dainty muzzle “freckles.” Every Treff left the Giengen factory adorned with a large pastel-colored silk ribbon. Early sitting Treffs were produced in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43 and 50 centimeters.

Treff’s popularity certainly lived up to her blue-ribbon looks and personality. As a result, Steiff quickly expanded her role in the product line. She was soon manufactured in a standing position, as a large ride-on toy, a side-squeeze musical animal, a pin cushion, a dressed dog-doll toy, a child-sized purse, a tail-turns-head model, and as a long-limbed “Charleston” animal. It is interesting to note that she was also manufactured in a less-expensive coat-plush material from 1932 through 1937. Politics and the world economic situation during this time frame greatly limited both Steiff’s ability to obtain high-quality materials and its customer’s ability to afford such “luxuries.” Overall, Treff appeared in the Steiff catalog through 1938.

Interestingly, Treff did not begin life as a female bloodhound. The design was based on the male English Dalmatian, “Dismal Desmond”, manufactured by Deans Rag Book Co. of London. Paul Steiff, one of Margarete Steiff’s nephews, modified the design to match the company’ style, manufacturing and marketing needs. Treff’s eye design was actually legally patented; the eyeball is embedded in the eye socket and surrounded by fabric eyelids, not just sewn on, giving the bloodhound his distinctive expression. Collectors may recognize a similar eye construction in Steiff’s chimp, Jocko.

In an exchange between the Steiff Company in Germany and its U.S. distributors—the George Borgfeldt & Company (which were in business from 1881 through 1959) —representatives from Borgfeldt wrote:

This 14-cm Steiff Treff Bloodhound is in good condition and retains her Steiff button. An example like this can still be found for between $200 and $400.

“We are holding the first delivery of ‘Treff’ until the patent has been applied for. In the meantime, however, we shall stamp the pager tag on ‘Treff’ with the words ‘patent pending’ . . . We should also patent the dog’s head, with its typical and appropriate eyes; the slanting, half-covered eyeball, which gives this dog’s face a particularly thoughtful, intelligent expression.”

It doesn’t take much sniffing around to understand why Treff is a top dog find for vintage Steiff enthusiasts. She is relatively difficult to find on the market today; even more so in very good to excellent condition. Given her unique looks and history, what collector would want to move this precious pup along from their Steiff hug?

Values for Steiff Treff dogs range dramatically and are influenced by size, condition, materials and presence or absence of identification. At one end of the spectrum, at the recent Steiff auction at Christie’s in London, six lots of “like new” Treffs were sold; prices realized ranged from about $600 to $4,800! Novelty style Treffs—items like purses, musical items and dog-dolls—in very good and excellent condition are extremely rare and may value in the low to mid five-figures. However, collectors should be able to find Treffs in fair to good condition in the $200 to $400 range, and those in very good to excellent condition in the $500 to $750 range, in less prestigious markets.

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

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