Find of the Week: Steiff Easter Rabbit
As the season has turn from winter to spring, it’s time to start thinking about Easter and all of the wonderful traditions that come along with it. For many people, the Easter Rabbit is practically synonymous with the holiday of Easter itself. As a matter of fact, the concept of an “Easter Rabbit” has its first origins in Germany around 1687. Given its Germanic roots, it comes as no surprise that the German toy manufacturer Steiff has featured rabbits in its product line for almost 120 years!
This 18-centemeter maize mohair Easter Rabbit was only produced in 1949 and was one of the very first Steiff items produced after the Giengen factory reopened after the Second World War.
Of course, history dictates that the Easter Rabbit is supposed to deliver sweets and brightly colored eggs to children in celebration of the arrival of spring and the resurrection of Jesus. But, as a collector, wouldn’t it be even more delightful if the most perfect Steiff Easter Rabbit just magically appeared to mark the holiday? Believe it or not, that happened to me one year with this marvelous Steiff find.
Here’s her story…
A few Saturdays before Easter, I was browsing through my favorite antique mall. The mall has five floors and over time, I have figured out which vendors are more likely to have Steiff items for sale. Having found nothing on the first three floors, I headed up to the fourth, hoping for better luck. I headed over to the corner case, where I had purchased a few items in the past . . . and there I spotted her! It would be hard to miss this amazing Steiff treasure.
The attendant handed the rabbit to me, and I started to conduct my usual identification and quality assessment routine (albeit with trembling hands this time):
• First the big sniff test, to make sure the find doesn’t have a foul or rotting smell, which can be indicative of overall problems. No smells. Check.
• Second, the body inspection of the materials, jointing and condition of the stuffing, to make sure the piece has structural integrity. Good as new. Check.
• Third, a review of the item’s detailing, including the eyes, mouth, facial and claw/paw stitching, to help identify the period of the piece. All there and pointing towards the 1940s or ’50s. Check.
• And finally, the identification test; checking for a “button in ear,” chest tag, and/or other Steiff markers to confirm authenticity. Check and Bingo!
Much to my surprise, my find had a very unique combination of IDs: a US Zone tag sewn into her hind seam and a blank steel button. This post-war blank button first appeared 1947 and was used for just a handful of years. Sometimes the blank button was painted blue, but not in this case. And just how rare is the post war blank button? In my collection of 500-plus vintage Steiff items, this is the only one that sports this marker. Needless to say, I was so excited when I discovered her and her unusual credentials that I actually started doing the bunny hop in the store aisle!
So, who exactly is this rare rabbit? This 18-centemeter maize mohair hare was only produced in 1949 and was one of the very first Steiff items produced after the Giengen factory reopened after the Second World War. She was also manufactured in a 15-cm size and in white. She is head jointed and retains her original red silk ribbon, and has glass pupil eyes and a red floss nose and mouth. Her ears are lined in light pink felt.
From the historical perspective, rabbits are a really popular Steiff item, perhaps because Easter is such a traditionally prominent holiday in Germany—second only to Christmas in importance. Rabbits are so critical to Steiff that they have their own chapter in the Steiff Sortiment books, the gold standard reference books for collectors around the globe. Rabbits have been a presence in the Steiff catalog since its debut in 1892; as a matter of fact at least eight different rabbit models appeared in this first publication alone.
As for value, Steiff rabbits in very good to excellent condition from the later 1940s and early 1950s, with the rare and unusual blank button, may bring in north of $300. Now that’s what I call a “Money Bunny!”
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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