A Valentine’s Love Story Through Steiff Dolls
It took a while, but this matched pair of Steiff Bazi dolls finally found each other—proving good things come with patience.
Every enthusiast has extra-special items in his or her collection—certain items that just take a gold medal for their rarity, design or the story behind them. In keeping with the theme of Valentine’s Day, there are two of those treasures from my collection of more than 800 vintage Steiff collectibles that stand out as the perfect “love story.”
You can call it puppy love when it comes to these two darling and impeccably dressed Steiff dachshunds.
The male dog-doll is called Pupp-Bazi Bube or Bazi Doll Boy. This sweet hunter is standing, head-jointed and 25 centimeters tall. He wears an orange scarf and a little green felt suit and hat, and he carries a wooden rifle suspended from a leather cord. His jacket is decorated with four leather buttons. His Tyrolean-styled hat is detailed with a hatband and a “brush” at the side of the crown. Traditionally, this brush is made of the tail of the chamois goat.
This hunter’s head, the tops of his hands and flat cardboard-lined feet are mohair, and his body and limbs are made from peach colored felt-like material. He retains his linen “U.S. zone” tag, raised script button and crisp and fully legible ear tag as his Steiff IDs.
The female dog doll is called Pupp-Bazi Maedel or Bazi Doll Girl. This delightful doxie is standing, head-jointed and 25 centimeters tall. She shares the same physical materials and construction as her mate. She wears a typical German-style green-and-black-checkered dress with a black felt neckline. Her blouse and apron are made from very fine, almost sheer, off-white cotton material; the apron is trimmed in lace. She wears thick, tan cotton underpants and has her original paper flowers. She also dons a green felt Tyrolean-styled hat; hers is detailed with a hatband and a big flower. She retains her linen U.S. zone tag, raised trailing “F” button and crisp and fully legible ear tag as her Steiff IDs.
It does not appear that either the boy or girl model ever had chest tags. Both Pupp-Bazi Bube and Pupp-Bazi Maedel appeared in the line in this size only from 1950 through 1954; this model was called Bazili in 1954.
There are two interesting factors concerning the history and design of this terrific twosome.
The first is their breed. Collectors will recognize this pair as based on the beloved Steiff dachshund “Bazi.” Dachshunds have been an important part of the Steiff line since the 1890s. However, Bazi the shorthaired dachshund pattern did not appear until 1949—one of the early and incredibly popular “pocket pet” items designed to match worldwide demand and collector’s needs and interest right after World War II.
Bazi was a home run in terms of collector appeal. So much so that, from the late 1940s through the mid 1970s and in addition to the dolls noted in this discussion, Steiff offered Bazi designs sitting, standing, on wheels and as a music box and in sizes ranging from 10 to 25 centimeters overall.
The Bazi line first appeared in 1949 in response to consumer demand for “pocket pets.”
The second interesting feature of the Bazi dolls is their configuration. These dog-dolls have roots in the early 1930s. Starting in 1932, Steiff produced a series of flat-footed, standing rabbit-pair dolls that were available in a variety of well-tailored, matching outfits. These included everyday wear, pajamas, swimwear, traditional German peasant wear (analogous to the outfits seen here) and winter wear. These sets were produced in maize or white plush in 14, 22 and 28 centimeters through 1943.
Early postwar, Steiff continued the production of these rabbit pairs, but it also extended this doll-animal line to include two additional models of rabbit pairs: a fox doll boy-and-girl set and this dachshund doll boy-and-girl set. Overall, all of these sets were discontinued by the early 1960s, probably due to their highly detailed, labor-intensive—thus costly—production requirements.
Why are these items so special to me?
I have always loved Steiff’s dressed animals, and items from the early 1950s hold particular interest to me. These boy-girl pairs were made for such a short time, and during a time of emerging distribution and logistics, that they are truly a challenge to find. It is also difficult to locate them in very good to excellent condition these days, as they were designed for fun and play. Time and love tend to take their toll on heavily accessorized items like these.
A few years ago, I received an email from a gentleman who was looking to sell a few prized pieces from his toy collection. One of these items was the boy dog-doll. He was moving and downsizing and wanted to sell his precious keepsake to another collector who could love him well into the future. I was delighted to oblige and happily adopted him into my Steiff collection. But that invited new challenges. Could I find him his long-lost ladylove?
Fast forward a few years, and I still could not locate just the right girl dog-doll for my lonely boy dog-doll. Then, one random Sunday afternoon, a dear fellow collector shot me an email about something she had spotted on eBay—what appeared to be a perfect Pupp-Bazi Maedel! She was a buy-it-now item, so my heart was racing, as time was of the essence. I immediately emailed my friend back, checking in on her interest.
To make a long story short, I purchased the dog doll at a reasonable cost, given her condition and rarity. When she arrived a few days later, she was even better than I expected. I guess good—or in this case, great—things come to those who wait!
Crisp, clear tags are a telltale sign of a good piece. This U.S.-zone tag on these Bazi dolls is a perfect example of what to look for when collecting.
What are they worth?
Steiff’s early dressed animal dolls in good or better condition with all of their correct clothing and accessories do not appear frequently on the secondary market, so “comps,” or comparable items, are somewhat challenging to locate. The rabbit dolls are the most common, as more of those were made for a longer period of time. The fox dolls, and these doxie dolls, are somewhat rarer overall. And, for some reason, the female fox and dog versions seem to be the most challenging of all to find.
Once in awhile, you may see a pair of good to very-good post-war dressed rabbit dolls on eBay in the $400-to-$600 range.
That all being said, things are worth what someone will pay for them. It is my best guestimate that, here in the United States, this pair of rare, complete dog dolls, with all of their ID and original clothing and in excellent condition, may value in the $750-to-$1,000 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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