Steiff’s classic and beloved Mecki and Micki hedgehog dolls in 17 and 28 cm.
Steiff has a long and interesting history of partnering with other companies and organizations to produce logos and mascots as collectibles. For example, way back at the turn of last century, Steiff worked closely with the Michelin Tire Company to produce their “Tire Man” in felt. Another famous—and beloved—collaboration is that between Steiff and the Walt Disney Company. This partnership began in the very early 1930s with the production of Mickey and Minnie Mouse and continues to this day with special projects and limited editions.
Perhaps one of the most consistent partnerships in the Steiff portfolio goes back to 1951. It was at this time that Steiff made the brilliant business decision to obtain the exclusive rights to produce soon-to-be German superstars in the form of hedgehogs! Mecki, and his wife Micki, are as well-known in Germany as say commercial icons Ronald McDonald or the Pillsbury Doughboy here in the U.S. Let’s take a look at these beloved characters, their histories, and what makes them so special from the Steiff collector’s perspective:
Mecki and Micki could be considered the “royal couple” for Steiff and are old friends to many Germans who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. Mecki is the gentleman hedgehog; he is standing and head- and arm-jointed. His body is solidly stuffed; his legs, arms and torso are made from felt and his head is made from plastic or PVC, depending on the year of production. Mecki has a patch of long tipped mohair on his chest (how macho!) and very long, spikey mohair as his hair. His shoes are black felt and his pants are grey canvas. He wears a red plaid shirt and brown felt vest. His charming details include red and blue felt patches on his pants, a rope belt and leather vest buttons. Larger Meckis came with a wooden pipe, tucked into his trousers’ beltline.
Micki is the lady hedgehog and Mecki’s faithful companion. Like Mecki, she is standing and head- and arm-jointed; she has the same material construction as her beloved, including her hair and chest-patch. Her shoes are black felt and she dons a somewhat traditional “working” frock: a red-and-black checked cotton skirt, a blue-and-black checkered blouse, a “dirty” apron and a red-and-white polka-dotted bandana. Larger Mickis came with a large wooden soupspoon tucked into her aprons.
Mecki’s bold, playful chest-tag lettering.
Micki’s delicate, feminine style chest-tag lettering.
So what is the story behind this dusty duo? Mecki and Micki were first designed in Germany by the artist Ferdinand Diehl. Mr. Diehl was born in 1901. He and his brother ran Germany’s most prominent studio for puppet films from 1929 to 1970; the studio was located in Munich. Diehl created Mecki and Micki as the mascots for a very popular magazine for consumers called HorZu, which covered radio and television news. The magazine is still in business today and mostly covers TV news; it is somewhat like People Magazine here in the U.S. HorZu began publishing in 1946; the hedgehogs made their debut in 1949. Knowing a good thing when it saw it, Steiff approached the Diehl Film Company about Mecki and Micki. Diehl granted Steiff the exclusive licensing rights to produce the dolls in 1951, and they have been a mainstay in the line to this day.
Both Mecki and Micki have unusual Steiff identification that makes them very interesting to collectors. As for their button-in-ear and ear tag, well, these are actually in the form of a red rubber bangle-style bracelet that can be found around the left wrist of these dolls. The little button and yellow ear flag are suspended off of the bracelet, like a charm. The dolls also have unusual chest tags. The front of the tag has the dolls name in a distinctive typestyle; “Mecki” is in a bold, almost cartoonish font, while “Micki” is in a very light, feminine, script font. Under the name are the words “nach Diehl-Film,” which translates to “from the Diehl film.” The back of the tag reads “Redaktionsigel von HorZu,” which this translates to “the hedgehog editor of HorZu.”
Reverse side of chest-tag with special HorZu branding imprint.
The red rubber bangle style bracelet with its button and yellow flag.
Finally, both Mecki and Micki came with a little passport case around their waists; inside was a little identification paper. Roughly translated, Micki’s read:
“Name: Micki. Profession: Wife of Mecki, editorial hedgehog of HorZu, the largest German magazine! Residence: Everywhere, but especially in the heart of the readers!”
The look and feel of these hedgehog dolls has only changed slightly over their 60-year relationship with Steiff. Originally, the dolls’ heads were made from a rubber-like latex. This proved to be a delicate material, so in 1961 Steiff began making the heads from vinyl, which lasted much longer. The earliest dolls had straight hairlines, although by 1952 they were being produced with a pointed hairline. The clothing details have also changed slightly over time, mostly with the fabrics used (for example, very early Meckis can be found with red, white and blue shirts, or red and white striped shirts). But the clothing has since been standardized from the late 1950s onward, and has always had a “dirty” look to it, implying that these little critters are hard at work.
Details of Micki’s passport ID.
Steiff took good advantage of these production rights and have produced the hedgehog dolls in many sizes and configurations over time. Both Mecki and Micki have been produced in 9, 10, 17, 28, and 50 centimeters over time from 1952 onward; a 100-cm Mecki was produced in 1967, perhaps as a special window display. Not surprisingly, the couple has children and relatives, but they are lesser known. The children have been produced in 12 cm from 1953 onward. Their little boy is named Macki—he wears grey shorts, a red-checkered shirt, and a brown felt vest. His sister, Mucki, wears a simple red dress and a red plaid apron. Hedgehog “cousins” include Alpo and Alpa (10-cm hedgehog dolls dressed in traditional Alpine style clothing), Monti (a 10-cm hedgehog doll dressed as a handyman), and Fuba (a 10-cm hedgehog doll dressed as a soccer player); all have similar branded chest tags, indicating their origins with the Diehl studio. These cousins were produced in the mid-1960s only for a very limited time and are considered quite rare.
This hedgehog family remains popular to this day, with Mecki fan clubs and merchandise available across Germany. Many German families have Steiff Mecki and Micki dolls in their homes, even if they are not Steiff collectors, due to their beloved nostalgia status.
In terms of value, Mecki and Micki are one of the most successful items in the post war Steiff line, and in turn, are relatively common. However, finding them in good shape, with all ID and accessories, is a different story. Early Mecki and Mickis, in solid condition with straight hairlines and early style clothing may value north of $500 each. Mecki, Micki, Macki, and Muckis from the 1960s onward—in very good to excellent condition with all IDs and accessories—may value in the $100 to $300 each. Those in poor condition and lacking ID and accessories may value in the $30 to $75 range. Alpo, Alpa, Monti and Fuba with all IDs and accessories may value in the $200 to $300-plus range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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