Santa Claus, who made his grand debut in the Steiff catalog in 1953, was produced as a five-ways jointed 31-cm doll with a rubber head.
Christmas and Steiff really do go hand in hand and for many families all over the world, it simply would not be the holidays without a little something “Steiff-y” under the Christmas tree and a happy display of Steiff holiday themed treasures as a dining table centerpiece or focal point on the fireplace mantle.
The earliest references to Christmas in Steiff’s collateral start in the early nineteen-teens, when the company produced seasonal advertising featuring standard line items under Christmas trees and used as ornaments. However, it is curious to note that none of the items in these ads were actually specifically made for Christmas. The earliest Christmas-specific Steiff item produced by the company was a brightly painted 20-centimeter wooden Santa Claus toy on a rocking base; this item was featured in the catalog from 1923 through 1927.
Today, the company has a large and dynamic Christmas-themed presence. Since the 1980s, the company has produced a regular series of Christmas items, including Santa- and elf-dressed bears, ornaments, soft baby toys, musical items and even nutcrackers, smokers and festive candelabras. However, many enthusiasts who came of age with Steiff consider the company’s vintage, winter-themed items to be the best representation of the Steiff holiday spirit. Let’s take a look at some of these very special older treasures to understand why they have many Steiff collectors “walking in a winter wonderland.”
Santa was also made as a 21-cm hand puppet from 1954 through 1961. This puppet had a molded plastic head with a white full mohair beard and hair.
It goes without saying that this discussion must start with Santa Claus, who made his grand debut in the Steiff catalog in 1953. That year, he was produced as a five-ways jointed 31-cm doll with a rubber head, felt body, bright red felt suit and cap trimmed in white wool plush, and a white fluffy mohair beard. By 1955, this design was also being produced in 13- and 18-cm versions. These standard-line Santa dolls appeared in the line through 1963. This model was also made as a special-order 150-cm display piece in 1960 and again in 1967.
Due to his popularity, Santa was also made as a 21-cm hand puppet from 1954 through 1961. This puppet had a molded plastic head with a white full mohair beard and hair, detailed felt hands and a felt body. He was a little larger in scale than other hand puppets of the time, which generally measured 17 cm. He was dressed in a handsome red felt jacket and hat. His outfit, like the doll from which he was based, was detailed with real white mohair trim down the front of his coat, around his hat, and around his cuffs; his hat was “topped off” with a white wooly pom pom.
Today, vintage Steiff Santa Claus dolls remain in great demand, especially during the holiday season. Value is based on the condition of the doll, his outfit and accessories, as well as the presence of IDs. Because these dolls were made in part from rubber, they tend to dry out over time, so examples without this damage and cracking are few and far between. An early standard-line Steiff Santa doll, with all his accessories and IDs, in very good to excellent condition, usually values in the $175 to $350 range today. The puppets, also in very good to excellent condition with all IDs, may value in the $150 to $250 range.
Everyone needs their friends, and Santa and reindeer go together like Christmas cookies and a cold glass of milk! The best-known vintage Steiff reindeer is Renny Rentier or Renny Reindeer. This handsome item was produced in 14 and 22 cm from 1956 through 1970. The pattern was standing and unjointed. Renny’s body and head were made from short tan mohair that was highlighted here and there with brown airbrushed spots. His neck area was made from really long and lovely tan mohair. His felt antlers were quite fantastic and also had a touch of airbrushing. Renny’s face was detailed with black and brown pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.
Renny Reindeer was produced in 14 and 22 cm from 1956 through 1970.
Polar Bear was produced from 1950 through 1972 in 12, 17 and 25 cm.
Moosy was produced in 14 and 25 cm in 1960 as a U.S. exclusive, and then in 1963 through 1964 in the general line.
Polar bears also are frequently included in winter seasonal decorations, and it is easy to understand why—being neighbors with Santa certainly has its perks! Perhaps the most collectible, and charming, vintage Steiff polar bear is simply called Eisbaer or Polar Bear. Eisbaer was produced from 1950 through 1972 in 12, 17 and 25 cm. All sizes were standing, unjointed, made from pure white mohair and had peach colored felt paw pads. Their simple but gentle faces were detailed with black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth; their lips were highlighted with a touch of red. Each also left the factory in Giengen, Germany, wearing a little leather collar with a jingle bell.
Another Christmas themed favorite, who harks from the wintery fields and forests, must be Steiff’s Moosy Elch or Moosy Moose. Moosy was produced in 14 and 25 cm in 1960 as a U.S. exclusive, and then in 1963 through 1964 in the general line. The only real difference between the U.S. exclusive version and the general line version is that the 25-cm version made as an exclusive had 3D “puffy” style antlers, while the general line version had antlers made out of double-thick felt. Moosy was made from short tan and brown mohair. His felt antlers—regardless of size or year of production—were quite fantastic and also had touch of airbrushing. Moosy’s face was detailed with black button eyes and a black airbrushed nose and mouth.
Today, Renny reindeer, Eisbaer and Moosy moose are popular year-round collectibles favored by enthusiasts for their quality construction, excellent designs and sense of nostalgia. Given that the items are in very good to excellent condition, with all IDs, Renny reindeers may value in the $150 to $300 range, Eisbaers in the $100 to $250 range, and Moosy Moose in the $200 to $400 range.
Vintage Steiff penguins are always attired in their “formal wear,” making them the perfect and proper holiday guests.
Vintage Steiff penguins add a great dash of color and humor to all things Christmas. And, they are always attired in their “formal wear,” making them the perfect and proper holiday guests. The most beloved Steiff penguin would have to be the earliest version of Peggy, who was produced from 1952 through 1956 in 10, 14 and 22 cm. These comical little birds were unjointed and made from short white and black mohair. All had adorable black velvet arms and chubby, oversized red felt feet. Their faces were detailed with black and brown pupil eyes button eyes and a proportionally large red felt beak. They had an innocent, childlike look to them. Peggy received a “makeover” in 1956; the updated Peggy was thinner and had more realistic coloring and proportions, as well as grey felt feet. New Peggy was produced in 10, 14, 22, 35 and 50 cm from 1956 through 1975.
In very good to excellent condition, with all IDs, early Peggy penguins in the $100 to $250 range.
Many collectors would agree that the finest post war vintage Steiff dove was actually a woolen miniature!
Peace on Earth
Finally, it is important to realize that the winter holidays have a greater purpose, and that is to remind people of all backgrounds and nationalities of the importance of brotherhood and peace. And there is no greater universal symbol of that than the dove. Interestingly, many collectors would agree that the finest post war vintage Steiff dove was actually a woolen miniature! Steiff produced a woolen miniature dove in 6 cm from 1953 through 1977; this model makes for a charming spot of color and visual interest in a vintage Steiff Christmas display. This dove pattern was standing, head jointed, and made from white, light blue, and tan woolen yarns. He had a yellow felt beak, glorious felt tail feathers that were airbrushed in blue and brown, and adorable tiny black button eyes. He wore his Steiff button on his yellow flag that was wrapped around his leg like an anklet; this model never had a chest tag for logistical and spatial reasons. From 1953 through 1963, his legs and feet were made from metal; from 1964 through 1977 they were made from tan colored plastic.
Although peace is priceless, it is possible to value this dear symbol of this elusive concept! Today, an earlier model in very good to excellent condition with all IDs and metal legs may value in the $75 to $125 range; the later version, also in very good to excellent condition with all IDs and plastic legs, may value in the $50 to $90 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth