Find of the Week: Steiff Teddy Baby
This precious 9-cm Teddy Baby is from my personal collection; he is five ways jointed, deep chocolate brown, and has his signature tan velvet muzzle with a closed mouth and flat, broad feet. The 9-cm did not have the red leather collar. He is in excellent condition with his Steiff “raised script button” or RSB, crisp chest tag, and even his white linen “US Zone” tag stitched into his back seam. He dates from the very early 1950s.
The Margarete Steiff GmbH Company in Germany invented the Teddy bear in 1902. Designed by Steiff family member Richard Steiff, the first mohair Teddy was called PB55 (company shorthand for plush, jointed, and 55 centimeters). This Teddy was deep chocolate brown, chubby, heavy (due to its size and wood-wool stuffing), and loosely jointed by simple strings at the arms, legs and head. Although this design was a good first attempt at an entirely new plaything for children, its clumsy proportions and delicate construction ultimately made it unsuccessful in the marketplace.
Steiff has been instrumental in the evolution of the Teddy bear since it introduced the rudimentary PB55 to the world over 100 years ago. Using lessons learned in PB55’s development, the company went on to produce lighter, sturdier and more playful models. Many of these century-old standards and production techniques are still being used today. Steiff has produced hundreds of Teddy bear designs since PB55, but most collectors would agree that one that really stands out for his adorably good looks and just plain cheekiness is Teddy Baby.
Teddy Baby has been produced in a number of slightly varying designs over the years. However, all Steiff Teddy Baby bears have three things in common: a distinctive, well defined muzzle; flat, broad, clawed feet made for standing; and sweet, toddler-like features. The Teddy Baby pattern debuted in 1929—a very creative, prolific period at Steiff when several of their most recognizable and classic designs (including Molly puppy and Bully bulldog) were also introduced. Pre-World War II, Teddy Baby was made in 9-, 12-, 13-, 15-, 20-, 22-, 25-, 30-, 35-, 38-, 40-, 45-, and 65-cm sizes.
It is interesting to note that Teddy Baby was one of the very first items Steiff started producing when the factory in Germany opened after the war. Due to limited supplies and logistical complications, he was made in artificial silk plush (a transitional, lower quality material) in 1948. Then, once supplies and operations were back in order, he was produced in blonde or brown mohair in 9, 22, 28, 30, and 40 cm in the identical pattern made before the war. All sizes over 9 cm came with a leather collar with a bell. Teddy Baby remained in the Steiff line from 1949 to 1957, although due to his popularity with collectors, has been replicated many times in numerous limited edition series.
As most readers can imagine, both pre- and post-war Steiff Teddy Baby bears are of great interest to collectors. Prewar Steiff Teddy Baby bears, depending on their condition, can easily value north of $1,000; those produced after the war in very good to excellent condition can bring in $400 plus at auction.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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