Curly-Coated Canine Collectibles
Since being featured in the company’s debut catalog in the early 1890’s, Poodles have appeared almost continuously in the Steiff line to this day. Here we have Steiff’s adorable woolen miniature Poodle, made from 1955-1978.
Poodles are amongst the most popular dog breeds all over the world and are regularly celebrated for their distinctive good looks, superior intelligence, and fun-loving personalities. As a matter of fact, Standard, Miniature, and Toy Poodles together have won Best of Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Show a combined total of nine times since the event debuted at the turn of last century! These wonderful dogs, often sporting fantastic hair-dos, are so important to Steiff that several were featured in the company’s debut catalog in the early 1890’s! Since then, Poodles have appeared almost continuously in the Steiff line to this day. Let’s take a look at the history of Steiff Poodles over the past century and see why collectors simply can’t get enough of these curly-coated canines.
The earliest Steiff Poodle, introduced in 1892, was produced standing and unjointed. He came in sizes ranging from 12 to 60 cm, and was made in materials including brown, black, or grey curled wool plush and real white fur. He came with optional wheels or a cart. The 12 cm size was made as a Poodle ink wiper; the dog was mounted on a colored felt pad and came with desk accessories including a pen and pencil holder and a paper knife. Clearly, this was designed as a desk accessory for an adult and not a toy for a child! Two years after this successful standing Poodle launch, Steiff introduced a sitting Poodle that was produced through 1905; it was made in black or grey curled wool plush in sizes ranging from 14 to 35 cm.
Three years later, in 1908, Steiff took another look at their Poodle offering and decided to give the breed a “makeover.” This resulted in the Poodles having a more toy-like appearance and configuring them in a playful, begging position. Mohair became available on a commercial scale around 1903 and Steiff immediately embraced this warm, lifelike, and durable fabric into many of its designs, including this updated Poodle design. This style was produced in white mohair in four sizes ranging from 17 to 35 cm through 1919. Begging Poodles were reintroduced in 1929 after a few years break; they again were updated to a more “feminine” appearance and remained in the line until 1935. Steiff also offered an adorable tail-turns-head begging Poodle in the early 1930’s in four sizes ranging from 18 to 36 cm. These “upscale” mechanical line items – including rabbits, cats, dogs, bears, elephants, and monkeys – appeared in the line through the very early 1940’s.
The first new post-WWII Steiff Poodle was Tosi. She was standing and unjointed, and relatively simple in design.
Given their popularity, Steiff immediately started manufacturing Poodles once the factory reopened for toy making business after the conclusion of WWII. The first new postwar Steiff Poodle was Tosi. She was standing and unjointed, and relatively simple in design. Because mohair fabrics during this early postwar period were still scarce and expensive, this model was made from black or white wool plush. Her face was detailed with a black glass button nose and soulful, almond shaped white, brown, and black eyes. She wore a red leather collar and her coat was in what was referred to as a “Karakul” trim, meaning that it was fluffy but uniformly the same length all over her body. This gave her a sweet and youthful appearance. Tosi was produced in four sizes ranging from 14 to 28 cm from 1950 through 1953. Because of her time of manufacturer, Tosi would have left the factory with a red-imprinted chest tag and a cloth US Zone tag in her leg seam.
Embracing their inner curl, Steiff designed and launched its second original postwar Poodle pattern in 1952. This pooch was named Snobby. She was standing and made from white or black wool plush.
Embracing their inner curl, Steiff designed and launched its second original postwar Poodle pattern in 1952. This pooch was named Snobby. She was standing and made from white or black wool plush. Like Tosi, her face was detailed with a black glass button nose, but Snobby had round brown and black glass pupil eyes. Her hairstyle was in what Steiff called the “French trim,” meaning that it was fluffy basically from the waist area up; her lower torso and backside were more closely cropped. Early Snobby also had longer tufts of fur around her knees, elbows, and the tip of her tail. Early Snobby was produced for the standard line in 17 or 22 cm in 1952 only. A very special white plush 50 cm version was made as an exclusive for the upscale toy store FAO Schwarz in 1951.
The company’s early and original Snobby Poodle was updated in 1953 and quickly became one of Steiff’s most beloved and popular postwar dog designs.
The company’s early and original Snobby Poodle was updated in 1953 and quickly became one of Steiff’s most beloved and popular postwar dog designs. She appeared in the line through 1974 in 5 sizes ranging from 10 to 43 in gray or black mohair. By the early 1950’s, Steiff’s mohair suppliers were back on line and this fabric became accessible and affordable. Snobby was jointed, and had a little round red felt tongue. Her coat was cut in what Steiff refers to as the “modern trim,” meaning that her limbs, face, tail tip, and head crown were long mohair, while her body and neck were short mohair. This Snobby pattern proved so popular that she was soon being produced as a woolen miniature, as a riding toy, a puppet, and other soft playthings. A particularly adorable version of Snobby was Steiff’s Floppy Snobby Poodle, one of Steiff’s beloved “sleeping style” animals from the 1950’s onward. This pup was lying down, and made from lovely, thick mohair. Floppy Snobby had a black hand embroidered nose, a pink airbrushed smile, and mile-long black felt eyelashes. Floppy Snobby was made from 1959 through 1963 in 17 and 28 cm.
Steiff created several novelty Poodles during the late 1950’s through the late 1960’s, including an 80 cm life-sized version shown here.
Due to the ongoing popularity of the breed, Steiff created several novelty Poodles during the late 1950’s through the late 1960’s, including 80 cm life-sized, or display models. All featured interesting fabrics, unusual body proportions, and/or elaborate detailing.
Perhaps the most eye-catching Steiff novelty Poodle was the company’s “Snobbylac.” This very tall, thin dog measured 80 cm standing, with most of that height coming from her remarkably long legs!
Perhaps the most eye-catching Steiff novelty Poodle was the company’s “Snobbylac.” This very tall, thin dog measured 80 cm standing, with most of that height coming from her remarkably long legs! Of course, her “proportions” were consistent with the company’s legacy “lulac” style animals, famous for their mile-long limbs and torsos. The German verb “to laugh” is lachen, and the word for smile is Lächeln; suggesting that this style was designed to have a goofy appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner. Snobbylac was made from short grey wool plush and five ways jointed. Her feet, hands, ears, and forehead were particularly puffy. She had brown and black pupil eyes and her floppy ears were lined in grey felt. Her face was detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black leather nose. She was produced in 1958 only as a United States exclusive.
Here we have “Maidy,” who appeared in the Steiff catalog in 25 and 30 cm in 1959 only.
The next Steiff novelty poodle of interest was “Maidy,” who appeared in the Steiff catalog in 25 and 30 cm in 1959 only. She was standing and unjointed, with a slightly longer mohair “beard” around her chin. She was made from a most unique black “Persian lamb” style tightly curled mohair – a fabric also used on the company’s larger black “Swapl” black lambs of the era. Maidy’s mouth and claw stitching was done in mauve colored embroidery floss and she had stunning tri-colored almond shaped glass eyes. Maidy was produced in 25 and 30 cm.
The third and final Steiff mid-20th century novelty Poodle of note was also named Snobby, and was produced from 1962 through 1968 as an exclusive item for FAO Schwarz in the United States.
The third and final Steiff mid-20th century novelty Poodle of note was also named Snobby. This particular Snobby was produced from 1962 through 1968 in 28 and 35 cm as an exclusive item for FAO Schwarz in the United States. This Snobby was five ways jointed, and made from the same wool plush as Snobbylac from a few years before. She had brown and black pupil eyes and a black leather nose. Her mouth and claws were defined by black airbrushing. Her coat was in the “French” cut – but in this case, an “extreme” French cut, as her fluffy areas were REALLY fluffy! She was ready to hit 5th Avenue with her pink or red ribbons around her neck and topknot.
Although Steiff stopped producing collectible mohair Poodles in the 1970’s, they remain committed to the breed. The company continues to manufacture mostly soft plush play poodles, with a new version or two introduced to the world every few years.
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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