All Ears Over This Vintage Tipped Mohair Steiff Rabbit
Vintage Steiff items made from tipped mohair have always captured the imagination – and the purse strings – of button-in-ear enthusiasts worldwide.
Looking for a hot tip? Well, if you are a Steiff collector, you probably are already aware of this one! Tipped mohair, which is made from woolen fibers that have been dyed just on their ends with another color, was an extremely popular fabric in the Steiff product line of the 1920’s and early 1930’s. If you are having trouble envisioning what tipped mohair looks like, just picture a brunette getting a Mohawk haircut and dying her very short remaining hair entirely blonde. As her hair grows back a bit over a week or two, the ends of her hair are blonde, but the base is brown. The effect can be visually stunning. Vintage Steiff items made from tipped mohair have always captured the imagination – and the purse strings – of button-in-ear enthusiasts worldwide.
Steiff used a variety of tipped mohair colors and lengths on its wildly popular pre-war bears, dogs, cats, and rabbits in order to give these items an especially youthful, playful, and endearing appearance. Novelty Teddy bear patterns, including Teddy Clown and Petsy, featured rich and appealing dark brown tipped tan mohair. Standard line dog designs, including Molly the Puppy and Charly the King Charles Spaniel, were produced with “natural” looking brown tipped fabrics. These charming canines were also made for a few years in small quantities in more unconventional, eye-popping versions that included bright orange, red, or green tipped mohair fabric as part of their designs. Fluffy the Cat is famous for her bluish-purple tipping. And several Steiff rabbit patterns were produced in vibrantly colored tipped mohair fabrics during and just after the “roaring 20’s” era. Only a handful of Steiff items from the mid-1930’s through the 1980’s featured tipped mohair. Today, Steiff sometimes uses tipped mohair fabrics on special editions as well as replicas based on pre-war designs.
A wonderful example of Steiff’s 1920’s tipped mohair designs is this delightful rabbit in the photo at the top of the article. This particular bunny measures 11 inches from head to toe, and his ears add another 5.5 inches to his stature. He is begging (meaning up on his rear, with his two front arms reaching out to catch any loose treats), head jointed, and made from tan and brown tipped mohair. He has large feet, a pert tail, and a nonworking squeaker in his belly. Rabbit’s endearing face comes to life with oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes, a hand embroidered pink triangular shaped nose and a black mouth, and clear, monofilament whiskers. His fabulous, oversized ears are lined in wires and are posable. He retains his long trailing “F” button and bits of his red ear tag as his Steiff IDs. This begging pattern was produced in a number of pastel colors, this tipped version, and a white version in 9 sizes ranging from about 4 to 28 inches from 1926 through 1941 overall. These measurements, like for Steiff rabbits, DO NOT include the ears, so add about 50% to these heights. The white versions were produced with outstanding pink and red albino eyes; all of these happy hoppers left the Steiff factory in Germany with a big bow and a brass bell.
Shown here are his brown and black glass pupil eyes, his hand embroidered pink triangular shaped nose and a black mouth, and clear, monofilament whiskers. His fabulous, oversized ears are wired and posable.
Most collectors would agree that there’s not a hare out of place when it comes to the brown tipped Steiff rabbit under discussion here today. And given their rarity, popularity, and appeal, similar rabbits seem to champion 14 carrot prices at auction as well.
As always, something is worth what someone will pay, and timing, condition, the number of bidders, and that mysterious “X” factor all come into play when trying to assess value on any given item. In 2017, the German auction house Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion sold a very similar but slightly larger brown tipped mohair begging Steiff rabbit from the 1927-1937 time frame. Their example was in excellent condition and had its long trailing “F” Steiff button. According to Liveauctioneers, Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion’s rabbit was estimated at 300 to 600 euro, received 8 total bids, and hammered at 2,000 euro. Adding in the sale’s 21% buyer’s premium, his final price was 2,420 euro or about $2,563 at the time. Auction prices for fine Steiff items seem to be somewhat higher in Europe than in the United States. Taking that, his condition, and his slightly smaller statue all into consideration, the rabbit under discussion today most likely values in the $800-1,600 range here in North America in 2018.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles. You can follow her blog, which focuses on vintage Steiff finds, Steiff antiquing and travel adventures, international Steiff happenings, and the legacy and history of the Steiff company at http://mysteifflife.blogspot.com. Sign up for her Steiff newsletter by contacting her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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