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Steiff by the Sea: Cute Crustaceans & Fashionable Fish

by Rebekah Kaufman (05/03/11).

Steiff’s 28 cm Movi Seagull from 1979 through 1981.

As the calendar turns to warmer days, many of us are starting to make plans for upcoming summer vacations. Some of us will head to the mountains, others to far away cities to explore these destinations with friends or family. But, as the mercury rises, who could argue with the restorative powers of a few days by the sea for some rest and relaxation? To get you in the mood for a possible ocean-side getaway, take a look at some of Steiff’s finest beach beauties and see what makes them so interesting from the collector’s perspective.

They’re up in sky, bobbing in the waves, and trolling for food in the sand. It just wouldn’t be the sea without, well, seagulls! Here we have Movi Moewe, or Movi Seagull. This beach buddy is 28 centimeters long, unjointed, and made from white, black and grey woven fur. He has black felt “feathers” on the tips of his wings and is standing on large, posable yellow velvet-and-felt webbed feet, with a yellow trivera velvet peak. It is interesting to note that Steiff refers to Movi as a “studio,” or life-sized animal, despite his relatively diminutive size. (Click here to learn more about Steiff’s Studio series). Most unusual or all, Movi has black eyes that are backed by red felt. Steiff uses this unique eye treatment to give the face more detail and depth; Steiff tends to use it on birds and rabbits. Movi was produced from 1979 through 1981.

Seagulls are relatively rare in the Steiff catalog; the first appeared as a 10-cm white felt bird on an elastic cord in 1913. Since then, they have mostly been produced as woolen miniatures. These include a 9-cm standing woolie (available from 1936-40); an 8-cm standing woolie (1954-63); and an 8-cm resting woolie (1976-79). Perhaps the most sought-after Steiff seagull item is the Woll Moewen Mobile, or Woolen Seagull Mobile, a hanging mobile made of three, 3-cm-by-3-cm woolie seagulls with spread felt wings. This rarity was only produced from 1974 through 1976.

Steiff’s 13 cm Flossy fish from 1960 through 1981.

Hope you brought your fishing rod on this virtual vacation, because there’s something definitely fishy about our next Steiff sea-friend. Here we have Steiff’s beloved “Flossy” fish design. Although Steiff featured a fish as a hanging pram toy in 1916, it wasn’t until almost 50 years later when fish as a species became a regular feature in the Steiff product line. Flossy was the initial fish design launched post war in 1960. She was made from mohair and colored either in the blues, reds or yellows in 13, 28 and 66 cm. All Flossies were joyously airbrushed by hand, perhaps to give the impression of swirling color under water. They also all had peach-colored felt lips and larger-than-life brown-and-black-pupil eyes. Depending on their size, each had mohair or felt fins and tail fins. Flossy remained in the Steiff catalog through 1981. She was also produced as a large, 55-cm ride-on model from 1965 to 1974.

Steiff’s 50 cm plush octopus from 1995 through 1996.

It just might be arm-our when you meet the next beach buddy on our warm weather tour. Here we have Steiff’s sweet, funny and wacky tintenfisch, or octopus. This ocho-armed creature is 50 cm across and made from woven fur, which is mottled red on one size and tawny beige on the other. For some reason, and unlike his real life counterpart, he is reversible, meaning that he has large brown and black pupil eyes on both sides of his body. He also has a hollow pocket sewn in this belly which closes with Velcro. Perhaps he is a secret pajama bag? Octopus was only in the line in 1995-96. Despite his relative newness, he is quite rare and seldom seen in very good to excellent condition on the secondary market. As far as I can tell, this is the first and only octopus ever in the Steiff line.

I hope that you are in a good mood at this point in the discussion, as these last two ocean-oddities under review might just make you feel a bit crabby.

Steiff’s 10 cm Cosy Clippy Crabs from 1995 through 1996.

This first crusty critter should really pinch your interest. Here we have Cosy Clippy Crab. Clippy is 10 cm, made from two colors of woven fur, and has felt claws and feet. His eyes are tiny and set deeply into his face. Clippy was produced in 1995 and1996 in six—yes six—colors: violet, yellow, red, olive green, eggplant and raspberry. If a crab could be cute, then Clippy is adorable—even more so when several are stacked together!

Steiff’s 10 and 28 cm Crabby Lobster from 1963 through 1966.

The second shelled sweetie is none other than Steiff’s Crabby Hummer or Crabby Lobster. This particular item appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1963 through 1966, and like its live counterpart, is quite the delicacy in the eyes of most Steiff collectors. He was produced in 10, 17, and 28 cm; the two smaller sizes were made from felt and the largest version was made from mohair. All were very intricately designed and featured extensive hand stenciling and airbrushing on their outer back shells and long red string antennas. It is quite challenging to find Crabby in pristine form, as his legs were made from pipe cleaners, which tended to snap off rather easily.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that crustaceans are relatively rare in the Steiff catalog; as a matter of fact, Crabby and Clippy are the only lobsters and crabs to have appeared in the line to date.

The good thing about these wonderful Steiff beach finds is that you don’t need to find a buried treasure chest on your beach trip to bring a few into your own cabana. Assuming very good to excellent condition, with at least one form of Steiff ID, the items discussed and pictured above value as follows:

• Movi seagulls can value in the $125 to $175 range;
• Flossy fish can value in the $50 to $150 range;
• The plush octopus can value in the $150 to $225 range;
• Clippy crabs can value in the $25 to $50 range; and
• Crabby lobsters can value in the $100 to $300 range.

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

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