Going Out Like a Lamb: Steiff’s Sheep Collectibles
Perhaps the best-known Steiff lamb of all is Steiff’s Lamby lamb. This pattern is standing, unjointed and made from white wool plush. This pattern was produced as “Lamb” from 1949 to 1954 and as “Lamby” from 1954 through 1976.
As the end of March quickly approaches, it’s hard not to think of the old adage about the month: In like a lion, out like a lamb. However, most people could rightfully argue that this year it feels like a lion at both ends! The good news is that there are hopeful signs that spring is on the way, and Easter—thankfully—is less than a month away. In celebration of the end of March and anticipation of the upcoming and beloved spring holidays, let’s take a look at some of Steiff’s most precious and collectible vintage lambs and see what makes them so interesting from the design and product development perspectives.
How about starting this discussion on a soft and fluffy note? Perhaps the best-known Steiff lamb of all is Steiff’s Lamby lamb. This pattern is standing, unjointed and made from white wool plush. She has green and black glass pupil eyes, a red hand-embroidered nose and mouth, and gentle airbrushing on her feet and face. She is designed to look young and sweet. All Lambys left the Steiff factory wearing a silk ribbon and little bell. This pattern was produced from 1948 through 1976 in 10, 14, 17, 22, 28 and 35 centimeters. She was called “Lamb” from 1949 to 1954 and “Lamby” from 1954 through 1976.
The Lamb/Lamby design was extremely popular and became a line standard and best-seller for the company for more than two decades. This might have been because her design is so synonymous with Easter (which is an extremely popular and beloved holiday in Germany.) As a result, she was also made as a life-sized standing display animal in a whopping 55 cm in 1966 and 1967.
Steiff’s postwar lamb pattern was based on a very popular lamb pattern that the company introduced in the late 1920s. This early lamb, like Lamb/Lamby, was also standing and unjointed. The pre-Second World War pattern was made in 14, 17, 22 and 28 cm from 1928 through 1943. This early design was also produced in a lying position, on wheels, as a music box, and as a ride on animal.
Floppy Lamby was produced overall from 1953 through 1977. The bigger Lambys had a little bell/rattler imbedded in their front paw.
Lying Lamb was produced in 1954 and 1955 and then was updated slightly, renamed Lamby, and produced from 1966 through 1972.
The next Steiff lamb under review takes everything lying down. Here we have Steiff’s lamb named Floppy Lamby. This sleeping sweetie is unjointed, prone and made from soft white wool plush that has been highlighted with light brown airbrushing on his face and feet. He is exceptionally soft and cuddly. His nose is hand embroidered in dark pink; his sleeping eyes are hand embroidered in black. Both are highlighted with a touch of pink airbrushing. Lamby has felt lined ears and a very sweet dangling tail. Floppy Lamby was produced overall from 1953 through 1977 in 17 and 28 cm. The bigger Lambys had a little bell/rattler imbedded in their front paw.
Floppy Lamby is a great example of one of Steiff’s “sleeping” style animals from the 1950s through 1970s timeframe. These included a Zotty Teddy and panda bear, fox, Cocker Spaniel, Siamese cat, tabby cat, elephant, a Leo, and others. They were lying down and called “floppy” or “cosy” animals. Most were made in two standard sizes—17 and 28 cm—and all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal had “sleeping eyes.” All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known Steiff animal designs.
Easter is an extremely popular and beloved holiday in Germany. As a result, Lamby was also made as a life-sized standing display animal in a whopping 55 cm in 1966 and 1967.
Wouldn’t ewe just love to curl up with this next sweet barnyard buddy? Here we have Steiff’s relatively rare lying Lamb. She is curled up, unjointed and made from white wool plush. She has green and black glass pupil eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. She has a distinctly kind, gentle, old fashioned look to her. This pattern was called Lamb and made in 10 and 14 cm in 1954 and 1955. It was then updated slightly, renamed Lamby, and produced in 25 cm from 1966 through 1972.
There’s a black sheep in every family, and there should be one in every Steiff collection, too! To make that happen, Steiff had a series of lovely and collectible black sheep in their line through the mid-1960s.
The first and somewhat lesser-known black sheep is, not surprisingly, named Lamby. Lamby’s body is made from black wool plush. Her forehead, face and tail are made from white wool plush. Her face is detailed with stunning green and black pupil eyes, a touch of black airbrushing, a dark pink hand-embroidered nose and mouth, and black felt ears. This lovely lamb was officially produced in 10, 14 and 22 cm between 1954 and 1956 only, and is considered quite rare from the collector’s perspective.
Steiff’s lesser-known black sheep is named Lamby and featured stunning green and black-pupil eyesIt was produced between 1954 and 1956 only, and is considered quite rare from the collector’s perspective.
The second Steiff black sheep, which was introduced right after Lamby was discontinued, is called Swapl. This lovely lamb was produced between 1957 and 1964, and remains a collector’s favorite today.
The second Steiff black sheep, which was introduced right after Lamby was discontinued, is called Swapl. His name is probably a play on the word “Schwarz” which means black in German. Swapl’s body is made from black wool plush that has a “Persian lamb” bumpy texture to it. Larger versions have foreheads made from black airbrushed white mohair, and pink velvet-lined ears and open mouths. All Swapls have stunning large cobalt blue eyes, a pink hand-embroidered nose and mouth, and black ears. This lovely lamb was produced in 10, 14, 22, 28 and 35 cm between 1957 and 1964, and remains a collector’s favorite today.
In terms of value, as always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. But, fortunately for Steiff collectors, baa- baa- bargains can be found on Steiff’s lambs if you look in the right places and negotiate wisely! Here in the United States:
• a postwar Lamb/Lamby may value in the $75 to $150 range;
• a postwar display lamb may value in the $250 to $500 range;
• a prewar Lamb may value in the $300 to $600-plus range;
• a Floppy or Cosy sleeping lamb may value in the $75 to $150 range;
• a lying lamb may value in the $100 to $300 range;
• a green eyed Lamby may value in the $125 to $400 range, and;
• a blue eyed Swapl may value in the $100 to $250 range.
This assumes each item is in very good to excellent condition with at least two forms of ID.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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