Steiff Find of the Week – Jocko the Chimp

Two Steiff Jocko the Chimps from the 1910-1920 time frame; The one on the left is a dark brown fellow in absolute pristine condition (sitting on a modern-day Steiff play block) while the other is a very loved, but still proud, Jocko puppet.

Two Steiff Jocko the Chimps from the 1910-1920 time frame; The one on the left is a dark brown fellow in absolute pristine condition (sitting on a modern-day Steiff play block) while the other is a very loved, but still proud, Jocko puppet.

The Steiff Company of Germany is probably best known for creating the first Teddy bear in 1902. For many people, giving or receiving a Steiff Teddy bear is more than just a generous act; it’s the kind of exchange that says, “this moment, and you, are extraordinarily special.” Besides Teddy bears, however, Steiff also has a history of creating other species that are so unique that enthusiasts may collect them exclusively. One of these species is Jocko the Chimpanzee. This playful, joyous primate first made his appearance in the Steiff line in 1909. Let’s take a look at Jocko’s history and what makes him such a Steiff celebrity.

Monkeys are a legacy item for Steiff, so much so that they are featured in the debut Steiff catalog of 1892. This first monkey, like most in the early line, was made from felt. He was quite primitive looking and came in 18 and 24 centimeter sizes. He was suspended on an elastic cord, so he could be bounced around like an action toy. Fast forward to 1903; in that year Steiff introduced a larger, more realistic looking string-jointed monkey to the world. His head, torso and lanky arms and legs were made from brown short-pile plush while his simple face, hands and feet were made from brown felt. He had black shoe button eyes and a folksy, pleasant expression. This basic model was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 120 cm over the 1903-through-1928 time frame in a few colors and materials. These early long-limbed Steiff primates remain the “Holy Grail” for many vintage Steiff enthusiasts.

The year 1909 was an important time in the evolution of monkeys at Steiff and when the history of “Jocko” truly began. It was in this year that Steiff updated a version of their basic 1903 model monkey towards an even more lifelike appearance. This new chimp design featured natural body proportions, as well as detailed felt hands, feet and facial features. One key design element on larger models of the new chimp was in the inclusion of felt eye pockets. This meant that his glass pupil eyes were surrounded by raised felt eyelids; they were not simply sewn onto his face as before. Additionally, larger sized chimps also sported a white mohair chin. The updated pattern was produced in 15 sizes, ranging from 10 to 90 cm, at various times from 1909 through 1943. It was in 1929 that this ace ape was finally given his “official” Steiff name, Jocko. Post war, Jocko was one of the very first items produced; this model appeared in the line continuously again from 1948 through 1990.

Over the years since his introduction, Jocko has been produced as a pull toy on wheels, a somersaulting chimp, a stringed marionette, a hand puppet and even a child’s handbag, among other treasured items.

A collection of Steiff Jockos, ranging from the very early 1950s though the 1970s. Note how alike—and how different—their faces, coloring and expressions are!

A collection of Steiff Jockos, ranging from the very early 1950s though the 1970s. Note how alike—and how different—their faces, coloring and expressions are!

Jockos have several features that make them so universally beloved and collectible. The first must be their absolutely irresistible—and completely unique—facial expressions. Unlike other more “uniformly” produced Steiff animals, each Jocko truly has a look and feel all to himself—in part to his ingenious ocular structure. It is possible to bundle a dozen or more Jockos together and each one to have a distinctly different look from any other in the grouping. The second is their color. Despite all coming from the factory in Giengen, and from the same mohair fabrics, each ages to a slightly different color, ranging from light brown, to dark brown, to almost greenish, to copper. Each is beautiful in its own way. And finally, the third has to be how “human” and friendly they truly are. As a lifelong Steiff enthusiast, I have used Jockos as “official” guest greeters at parties, props for Christmas card (and other “lifecycle”) photos, and centerpieces at formal dinners. When my husband was not available, I even brought a 90-cm one with me to an event as my “date”!

It is easy to understand why Steiff fans have always been a little ape over this top banana. The good news for collectors is that Jocko is one of the most prevalent Steiff creations, as he was produced in vast quantities for over 80 years. This means that even beginners should be able to find –and afford—a Jocko to add to their collections! But be warned, most enthusiasts can’t stop at just one . . . or two . . . or three . . .

Older Jockos from the late 1920s through the early 1950s, depending on size and condition, usually value in the $100 (really tiny) to $750 (life-sized) range. Those from the mid 1950s onward usually value in the $50 to $400 range.

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

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No Comments

  1. Rebekah
    Another wonderful article. It is just jam packed with information. And the pictures!! You are so right, although alike, each has their own adorable monkey face!! Thank you very much for sharing your extensive knowledge.

  2. Leon Noble says:

    I have a finger hand held puppet, with JOCKO and Trademark
    imprinted on the back of the head. The hand part seems to
    be made of cotton and is the color brown with white hand
    parts. The head seems to be made of a plaster of some type.
    It is painted brown with a white face.
    I can remember my dad entertaining me with it on his hand
    back in the 1940s.
    Would like to find out more about it and what it would be worth and would it be a collectible.
    LN>

    • Hi Leon,

      I’m disappointed no one responded to your question here… I have the same Jocko with the plaster head. It belonged to my dad who was born in 1931, so I assume it is, like yours, from the late 30s. I can’t find anything ref a Jocko like this, only the soft material headed guys. I don’t want to sell him, but was curious how much the little guy is worth. He’s entertained 3 generations of my family & since my dad died in 1974 he’s utterly priceless to me. But still it’d be fun to know.

  3. Steiffgal says:

    Hi all,

    In regards to the puppet you discuss above, it is easy to see why you might think he was made by Steiff, given his name and his monkey design!

    However, Glenda and Leon’s puppet, which has a solid brown composition head, simple face with black eyes, glove like tan hands, and a soft brown cloth body, was made by a different company and is actually called JOCK-O, which is probably how his manufacturer avoided trademark infringement. He came in a small brown box, which was labeled “The Genuine JOCK-O The Life Of The Party.” This JOCK-O puppet was produced around 1938, so the timeline that Glenda and Leon share with it makes perfect sense.

    Thank you for your comments and visiting Worthpoint!

    Best,
    Rebekah Kaufman
    Steiff Worthologist

  4. Vincent says:

    Is there a way to date my Jocko?

    My grandmother was a doll collector but her house was ransacked after she died and the only thing I have now is a Jocko hand puppet. He still has the ear button and the paper tag hooked by thread just under his neck. he’s in great shape but there’s no date that I can see. I saw a photo online of one that had what looked like a plastic or ceramic finger hollow inside the head but mine has a cardboard tube if that helps.

    • Steiffgal says:

      I am sorry to hear that the house was violated. That’s awful.

      As for the puppet, if you describe what the button and the chest tag look like, I can give you somewhat of a range of his production timeline.

      Go here to get some general guidelines for your description. http://www.steiffnews.com/history_steiff_button.htm

      Best, Steiffgal

      • Vincent says:

        Thanks. I’m moving soon and have him packed already, but going by my memory, the tag looks like the one on the 1960-1972 elephant on the link you posted (except it says Jocko instead of Jumbo). I did not realize the button was supposed to hold a yellow tag. The button is just a round silver ear tag with the Steiff name in script, far as I recall. Thanks for the help.

  5. Barbara Riggs says:

    I have been looking for a Jocko Chimp from the 50’s for 45 yrs. I had one as a child and when I had my tonsils removed, my mother threw him away because he had blood on him. I lost my best friend that day. I’ve never found another like him and have searched high and los. Is it possible to purchase a 1950’s Jocko from someone. The one in the above picture shows one just like mine. It’s the middle chimp on the right side. The medium size. He looks just like my Jocko and I would love to have him.

  6. Barbara says:

    Is it possible to purchase a Jocko chimp from the 1950’s? The picture posted shows one like I had as a child. He was with me when I had my tonsils removed at the age of 5. He got blood on him, so my mom threw him away. I’ve been looking for another one to purchase since my first job. I am 60 yrs. old and still looking. Does anyone know where I can find one? Thanks!