It’s Always Naptime with Steiff’s Vintage Sleeping Style Animals

If you are ready to snuggle up with a friend for a nice winter’s nap, a Steiff “floppy” or “cosy” style animal pal, such as this elephant, would be a good choice.

I don’t know about you, but after a month of a few too many parties, second helpings, special holiday desserts and celebratory beverages—combined with bitter cold temperatures and early sunsets—I’m ready for a long winter’s nap… maybe through March!

Of course, family and work obligations make that all but impossible for most people. But not for a very select group of vintage Steiff animals who seem to have been produced for this exact time of year. Let’s take a look at an unusual limb on the Steiff product family tree and see what makes these “sleeping” style animals so interesting from the collector and design development perspectives.

For Steiff enthusiasts, it’s like a slumber party when it comes to the company’s beloved shut-eye sweethearts. Steiff produced a great number of these dozing designs during the 1950s through the 1970s. Technically, they were referred to as “floppy” or “cosy” style animals. Patterns included a Zotty Teddy and panda bear, a fox, a rabbit, a Cocker Spaniel, a tabby cat, and a Siamese cat as well as a seal, poodle, doxie, lamb, hen, elephant, lion, tiger and others. All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known and popular Steiff animal designs of the time.

In terms of design and structure, they were all unjointed, prone (i.e. lying on their belly) and stuffed with very soft foam; most were made in two standard sizes: 17 and 28 centimeters.

The tiger features simple line stitching without eyelashes.

The rabbit features features more dramatic stitching with eyelashes.

Try to find the sleeping doy’s eyes. Can you spot them?

Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of Steiff’s floppy or cosy style animals were, well, their fantastic and distinct closed peepers! Each animal had one of three “sleeping eyes” designs. The first was a simple line stitching with or without a few eyelashes, like the rabbit or elephant. The second was a felt disk with an inverted “V” stitched across it, like the panda or the doxie. And the third, which was a bit more dramatic and feminine, was simple stitched closed eyes with huge “Tammy Faye Baker” style felt eyelashes, like the poodle.

It is interesting to note that although Steiff has been producing toys for children since the turn of last century—and a big part of childhood is naptime—it has made very few sleeping style products over the history of the company. In 1928, the company produced a series of musical animals based on early friends including a Petsy the Baby Bear, Molly the Puppy and Bully the Bulldog, among others. According to company records, these items were introduced for “cuddling and snuggling-up-to before falling asleep” but they didn’t actually have sleeping style eyes. It appears that the introduction of this floppy or cosy series of animals in the 1950s was most likely Steiff’s first foray into this line of design.

The ’50s era was a breakout period of creativity at Steiff, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that a whole new style of toy would be launched during this time. Prior to the Second World War, and most likely reflecting the international socio-political climate, many of Steiff’s designs were stern and serious looking, and truly lacked a playful nature to them. Once the factory reopened for business following the war, and as supply and distribution chains were up and running smoothly again in the early 1950s, the company designed and produced a surge of products that were softer, more childlike and universally acknowledged as charming and utterly appealing—items including the Jackie and Zotty Teddy bears, the fully jointed Niki rabbit, and a family of dinosaurs. The floppy or cosy style sleeping animals were a natural product line extension to these introductions and they proved wildly successful, with the most popular patterns notably Zotty, Cockie the Cocker Spaniel and the tiger.

Steiff’s sleeping cat.

Steiff’s sleeping cat.

Steiff’s sleeping hen.

Steiff’s sleeping Siamese cat.

Steiff’s sleeping panda.

Today, Steiff occasionally makes soft plush sleeping style animals for babies and children, but they have yet to catch on with adult Steiff enthusiasts. From a collector’s perspective, Steiff’s original sleeping animals are old enough to reflect a distant childhood, but new enough that they are somewhat regularly seen on the secondary marketplace at reasonable costs. As always, something is worth what someone will pay, and it is impossible to value any one specific item based on a category. In addition, condition and the presence or absence of IDs can make a huge difference in the final price tag of any given item. That all being said, assuming a Steiff sleeping animal is in very good to excellent condition with at least two IDs, it may value as follows:

• Zotty Teddy bear, rabbit, tabby cat, seal, lamb, elephant, doxie, and lion in the $60-125 range;
• Cocker Spaniel, Panda, tiger and poodle in the $100-150 range;
• Fox, hen and Siamese cat in the $125-200 range.

Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.

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