Long-Legged Lovelies: Steiff’s Iconic Lulac-Style Animals
This 35-centimeter Steiff donkey from the 1950s shows the lulac style well, with its elongated legs. Steiff lulac animals from the ’50s are fairly rare, and can sell for more than $1,000.
The Steiff Company has always been a pioneer in the toy industry. Steiff is best known for creating the first jointed Teddy bear in 1902, but the company’s list of other achievements is quite long and impressive. For example, did you know that the company produced and sold nearly one million Teddy bears in 1907, a whopping achievement given the fact that a large share of those bears were produced by local seamstresses working at home? Or, that given an absolute dearth of materials right after the First World War, Steiff created a line of play products made from plush literally woven from paper and wood fibers?
Steiff’s creativity also extends to its designs, with the company still producing some models originally drafted more than 100 years ago, while also designing and producing at least three robust collections of new products every year.
There are certain Steiff patterns that are so original and so distinctive to the company that most collectors could recognize them a mile away. One of these, the “lulac” design, was introduced in the early 1950s, a period of great “thinking outside the box” for the company. Lulac animals have comically long arms, legs and torsos. They are long and lanky, usually five-ways jointed, and have a very playful air about them. It is interesting to note that the German verb “to laugh” is lachen, and the word for smile is lächeln, suggesting that this style was designed to have a comical appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner.
The first lulac animal produced was called Lulac Floppy Rabbit. He debuted in 1952 and measured 43 centimeters. This rabbit was made from caramel-colored mohair and his hands and feet were detailed with especially shaggy mohair. Lulac Floppy Rabbit’s mouth was open and lined in peach colored felt; his little pink triangular nose was hand embroidered. He had blue and black googly style eyes. The original Lulac Floppy Rabbit pattern was also produced in 60 cm; the 43-cm version was in the line from 1952 through 1974, while the larger size made a more limited appearance from 1964 through 1966. Although early Lulac Floppy Rabbits are of interest to collectors, the 60-cm version is extremely sought after due to its limited time in the line. On the other side of the coin, the original 43-cm lulac rabbits are not hard to find on the vintage secondary market because many more were produced over a longer time period.
A lulac bear, dog and cat from the 1960s.
The success of Floppy Lulac Rabbit really got the Steiff design team to shake a leg and create many more lulac-styled products. Other early 1950s lulac items included a 35-cm donkey, a 40-cm elephant, a 90-cm tiger, an 80-cm poodle, and an 80-cm lion. All of these models were produced exclusively for the United States market and only for a year or so. These odd mohair treasures are extremely rare and collectible; if in good condition, they can value north of $1,000 each.
The lulac invasion continued into the 1960s—with a twist. Steiff began “marrying” some of its most popular traditional animal patterns with the lulac “leggy” design. As a result, collectors were treated to Zolac, a lulac version of Zotty Bear; Sulac, a lulac version of Susi Spaniel; and Kalac, a lulac version of the black Tom Cat. All were 40 cm and produced in the 1964-through-1966 time frame. Like their older cousins from the 1950s, these hybrid lulacs also have quite the following; if in good condition, they can sell for $500 or more.
Lulac animals are still an integral and important part of the Steiff product line today. The lulac-style rabbits are a regular staple in Steiff’s springtime catalog; at least one has appeared in the line every year since the 1970s. Over the years, Steiff has produced numerous lulac-inspired plush frogs, dogs, cats, tigers, birds, foxes and even a rat! These more modern “long-limbed lovelies” won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and are a great way to begin a collection of these really fantastic and unique Steiff items.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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