Steiff’s “Spotty Dotty”—Dally the Dalmatian. This Dally was produced from 1953-69 in 10, 17 and 28 centimeters.
Now that the dog days of summer are upon us, it is the perfect time to explore the dog days of Steiff! Throughout the history of the company, specific eras are known for the iconic products introduced during those periods. For example, it would be appropriate to call the turn of last century the “Teddy bear times,” as the company introduced everyone’s favorite bruin to the world in 1902. The 1920s could be nicknamed Steiff’s “playful presence,” as the company focused on charming, playful novelties that were often brightly colored and/or produced in collaboration with popular cultural characters of the time.
I like to think of the early 1950s as the “dog days of Steiff.” A little after the end of the Second World War, Steiff started to produce a large number of smaller, beautifully detailed animals for export. Many of these were dogs, as canines have always been one of the top product categories for the company. These new patterns helped build Steiff’s popularity worldwide as soldiers returning home from the war in Europe often brought these “toys” back home as gifts and souvenirs of their time abroad. After all, they didn’t take up too much room in standard issue G.I. duffle bag—most even could fit in a coat pocket.
Let’s take a look at three of these beloved “pocket pups” that made their grand debut in 1953—the same year as the introduction of the color television, TV Guide, the Corvette and the discovery of the structure of DNA:
It’s not hard to connect the dots and see why this first dog is a collector’s favorite. Dally Dalmatian appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1953 to 1969. Dally—the first Dalmatian ever produced by Steiff—is sitting, made from white mohair that has been airbrushed with black spots, and is head-jointed. She has perk brown and black-pupil eyes, a black-hand embroidered nose, and an open, felt-lined mouth. When she left the factory in Germany, she had a red leather collar. This particular Dally was made in three sizes: 10, 17 and 28 centimeters. In the standard line, Dally’s pattern was also produced as a 17-cm hand-puppet from 1955 to 1956 and as a larger 28-cm puppet from 1958 to 1959.
It is interesting to note that several additional variations of Dally, including a standing version, a family of Dalmatians, and a large lying-down model were produced as very limited editions for FAO Schwarz in the 1953 through 1956 time period. These collectibles, due to their limited distribution and manufacturing time, are “top dog” treasures to most vintage Steiff enthusiasts.
Steiff’s Peky Pekingese, produced from 1953-77 in 8, 10, 14 and 22 cm , and rare 18-cm Peky hand puppet from 1963-64.
Now take a peek at this second petite pooch. Here we have Peky the Pekingese. Like Dally, Peky also debuted in 1953. Steiff had produced a version of Peky before the war, but she was dramatically different in appearance from the updated, post-war version. Peky is standing, made from light brown mohair, has a detailed black muzzle (mostly velvet in the smaller sizes; mohair in the larger ones), and a darling, pouty mouth. This pattern was also produced as an 18-cm hand puppet from 1963 through 1964. Because this design is so expressive, it remains an enthusiast’s favorite to this day—as each Peky truly has her own look and personality . . . plus, she doesn’t take up too much room! Peky was produced in 8-, 10-, 14- and 22-cm sizes though 1977.
Don’t think I’m being stuck up by introducing you to this third and final curly coated cutie from 1953. This is Snobby the Poodle. Snobby appeared in the line through 1974 in 10, 14, 22, 35 and 43 cm. Snobby was produced in gray or black mohair, was 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. This Snobby pattern proved so popular that she was soon being produced as a riding toy, a 17-cm hand puppet, a life-sized or “studio” piece, a floppy bedtime toy, and as a soft, curled-up resting animal in the standard product line.
Steiff’s Snobby poodle, produced in grey and black from 1953-74 in 10, 14, 22, 35 and 43 cm.
Like Dally, Snobby was also produced as a special exclusive for FAO Schwarz; she appeared with three or four family members on a pillow-lined wicker basket as a play set in the famous toy store’s catalog in 1962 and 1963.
Standard-line Dally, Peky and Snobby dogs are all iconic, period Steiff designs that continue to fascinate and delight collectors today. And even though all three have been out of production for more than 30 years, their timeless charm makes them all blue-ribbon worthy. Fortunately for collectors, all are not particularly hard to find today; they key is finding examples in excellent condition . . . which is more challenging, given the playful qualities of these dogs.
Dallys, Pekys and Snobbys from the 1950s onward, depending on size and condition, usually value in the $30 to $120 range. Dallys and Snobbys produced as FAO Schwarz exclusives, condition dependent, can value in the $200 to $500 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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