Steiff’s Fabulous Felines are the Cat’s Meow
Steiff's Susi cat.
For many Steiff enthusiasts, the company’s dear kittens are the cat’s meow in their collections. As a matter of fact, some Steiff collectors just collect Steiff cats, and it is understandable why; their precious expressions, range of body positions and exquisite quality all but speak for themselves. Let’s take a brief look at the history of Steiff cats and kittens, and then highlight some of the more popular and collectible mohair models from the very late 1940s through the 1950s—the era of Steiff’s most fabulous felines.
Cats are a very important species for Steiff. They are in the top four of all animals historically produced by Steiff; the others include bears, dogs and rabbits. Cats and kittens have been featured in the Steiff catalog since it was first published in 1892. As a matter of fact, at least six cat designs were featured in the charter edition. These were simple in pattern and made from felt. As time went on, cats began to appear in wool plush, velvet and mohair around the turn of the 20th century. In addition to traditional toys, they were also featured as hand puppets, pincushions, musical animals, cat-dolls and even pajama bags up through the early 1940s. People just couldn’t seem to get enough of Steiff’s cats at that time.
After the Second World War, Steiff began including more petite-scale mohair animals to its product line. This was done in part because around this time, collecting Steiff in the U.S.—a key target market—really started to become popular and the smaller items were more affordable and easier to display. The FAO Schwarz toy store catalog often dedicated a full page, or more, to these palm-sized treasures, which listed in the $2- to $6-range at the time. Cats, of course, played a big role in this expansion and Steiff introduced many new models to keep up with demand.
The first new cat design launched in the late 1940s was “Susi.” Susi is sitting, head jointed, and made from white mohair that has been carefully hand-airbrushed with black stripes. Her little tail wraps around her rear. She has green and black-pupil eyes, a pink or red embroidered nose and clear monofilament whiskers. The smallest Susi cats have felt ears, while the larger ones have mohair ears. She left the factory wearing a silk ribbon and bow. Overall, she was produced from 1948 through 1978 in 10, 12, 14, 17 and 22 centimeters and remains a classic favorite, even today.
Steiff's Kitty cat.
Following on Susi’s success, Steiff introduced “Kitty.” Unlike Susi, who is only head-jointed, Kitty is fully five-ways jointed. As a result, she can be posed in a number of fun and different ways. Kitty is made from white mohair with black striping on her back, legs, tail and head. She has green and black-pupil eyes, a pink hand-embroidered nose and clear monofilament whiskers. One of the more charming features of this design is her muzzle; on the smaller, earlier models, it is made from white velvet. Kitty was in the line from 1949 through 1970 and was produced in 10, 17 and 22 cm.
Steiff's Tabby cat.
Steiff introduced its “Tabby” cat design the same year as Kitty. She is most similar in looks to Kitty, but with one big difference: she is unjointed. From a manufacturing standpoint, Tabby’s design is much easier—and therefore less expensive—to produce. As a product line extension, Tabby was produced as a rolling animal on rolling red wooden wheels from 1949 through 1969. Overall, Tabby was produced from 1949 through 1977 in 7, 10, 14 and 17 cm. The 7-cm size is one of the smallest mohair cats Steiff ever produced and is of particular interest to collectors, given its relative rarity and precious, petite appearance.
Steiff's Young Kitty Gussy.
The early 1950s brought with them another fantastic feline, this time “Young Kitty Gussy.” Gussy is head-jointed and made from mohair. Her four paws, tail and ears are black, while her body is primarily white with a few black airbrushed spots. She has piercing green-pupil eyes and a pink embroidered nose and mouth. One of the features about Gussy that makes her so lovely, and in-demand with collectors, is her very light-pink velvet muzzle. Gussy was produced from 1952 through 1969 in two sizes, 12 and 17 cm. The 17 cm Gussy features an open mouth, which is unusual for Steiff cats.
Steiff's Siamy cat.
What is old is new again with this next “famous ‘50s feline.” In 1953, Steiff re-introduced its beloved “Siamy” Siamese cat design, which originally appeared in the line from 1930 through 1933. Siamy is sitting and head-jointed. She is made from tan mohair that is gently airbrushed with brown highlights on her tail, back, legs and face. Like Susi, her tail gently raps around her backside. Smaller Siamys have closed mouths and felt ears; the larger versions have open mouths and mohair ears that are lined in peach felt. All sizes have brown, hand-embroidered noses, clear monofilament whiskers and striking cobalt blue and black-pupil eyes. Overall, Siamy appeared in the early post war Steiff catalog from 1953 through 1954 and was produced in 11, 15 and 23 cm.
Steiff's Fiffy cat.
The last marvelous meow under review today is “Fiffy.” Best noted as sleeping companion, this curled up kitten gives new meaning to the expression “cat nap.” Fiffy is made from mohair, head jointed, and curled up just the way a real cat would on your couch. She has pert mohair ears, green and black-pupil eyes, a pink, hand-embroidered nose and mouth and clear monofilament whiskers. Fiffy was made from 1955 through 1962 in 12, 17 and 25 cm. Despite the fact she was produced as a lying animal—which are in general less interesting to collectors—Fiffy is always in demand and demands a pretty penny when she occasionally appears on the secondary market.
These lovely vintage Steiff kittens are purr-fect collectibles and are considered cornerstone to a well rounded post war Steiff collection. Fortunately, not all come with “purebred” price tags and can therefore come into most hugs on little cat’s feet. Assuming very good to excellent condition, with at least one form of Steiff ID, the items discussed and pictured above value as follows:
• Susi can value in the $75 to $200 range;
• Kitty can value in the $100 to $200 range;
• Tabby can value in the $75 to $150 range;
• Gussy can value in the $125 to $250 range;
• Siamy can value in the $200 to $500 range;
• Fiffy can value in the $125 to $200 range.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.
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