Steiff Valentine’s Day Selections
Do you want to get on your Steiff-loving sweetie’s good list? I mean REALLY good list? Then consider a little Valentine’s Day splurge that is all but guaranteed to melt their heart. Steiff has been creating the world’s best toys since the late 1880’s. But a handful of their vintage button-in-ear designs still have bewitching effects on collectors that last far longer than the finest champagne, chocolates, or roses. How about aiming Cupid’s arrow at any of these universally treasured Steiff collectibles for your Valentine? Teddy hugs of thanks are guaranteed to follow!
Over time, Steiff has produced many distinctive bear designs, but there are two that stand out as ideal Valentine’s day gifts.
Teddy Baby was one of the first items Steiff started producing when the factory opened after the war.
The first is the company’s Teddy Baby. Teddy Baby has been produced in a number of varying designs over the years. However, all Teddy Babies have three things in common: a distinctive, well defined muzzle; flat, broad feet made for standing; and sweet, toddler-like features. The Teddy Baby pattern debuted in 1929; pre-World War II, Teddy Baby was made in 13 sizes ranging from 9 to 65 cm. Teddy Baby was one of the first items Steiff started producing when the factory opened after the war. Once supplies and operations were back in order, he was produced in mohair in five sizes ranging from 9 to 40 cm in the identical pattern made before the war. Post war, Teddy Baby appeared in the line from 1949 to 1957, although due to his popularity, has been replicated many times in newer limited edition series.
Look for vintage Teddy Babies in clean, very good to excellent condition with at least one ID. Brown versions left the factory wearing red collars while blonde versions had blue collars. Those with felt or linen pads are older while those with leatherette pads were produced in the mid to late 1950’s.
Everyone simply adores Steiff’s midcentury, fully jointed mohair Pandas.
There’s no black or white when it comes to the second Teddy heart-throb. Everyone simply adores Steiff’s midcentury, fully jointed mohair Pandas. Each has a smiling, open, peach fabric lined mouth. Their faces come to life with brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose; the black circles around their eyes are airbrushed. This great design was made in six sizes ranging from 15 to 50 cm from 1951 through 1961. The 15 cm version has a black mohair upper back area, while the larger sizes all have upper back areas that are made from white mohair that has been airbrushed black.
This 22 cm Steiff panda from the late 1950’s with all IDs and in excellent condition sold for $597.76 in July 2017.
Look for vintage Pandas in clean, very good to excellent condition with at least one ID. All left the factory with a stitched-on silk neck ribbon. Steiff’s Pandas were produced with grey felt paw pads from 1951 through 1956 and suede-like grey rubber material paw pads from 1956 onward.
Many people consider the 1920’s Steiff’s most interesting period of dog production. Two pups introduced during this period always get collector’s tails-awagging. As such, they are the top gift picks in this competitive category.
French Bulldogs were the “it” dogs in Europe during the 1920’s. Sensing this trend, Steiff launched “Bully” the Bulldog.
French Bulldogs were the “it” dogs in Europe during the 1920’s. The arm ornaments to society women, “Frenchies” made themselves at home in the stores, cafes, and parlors frequented by their owners. Sensing this trend, Steiff launched “Bully” the Bulldog. Standard line examples were made either sitting or standing in velvet and mohair or all velvet, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 cm from 1927 to 1939 overall. All featured prominent jowls, expressive brown and black glass pupil eyes, and a hand-embroidered nose. This popular pattern was also produced as a pincushion, music box, dog-doll, nightdress bag, and a puppet.
Look for vintage Bully dogs in clean, very good to excellent condition with at least one ID. All left the factory with a collar; these included horsehair collars, button-studded collars, or plain leather collars. The horsehair versions are considered the most desirable due to their ephemeral nature. Black and white examples are seen with the most frequency; orange and white or other color combinations are less common.
Molly the Puppy was introduced in 1925, and is directly responsible for catalyzing dozens of dog designs through the early 1940’s.
Steiff’s Molly the Puppy is another top-dog pick in this canine category. Molly was introduced in 1925, and is directly responsible for catalyzing dozens of dog designs through the early 1940’s. Prewar, she was produced either sitting or standing in sizes ranging from 7 through 80 cm overall. All Molly dogs feature distinctive folded-over style ears, oversized eyes, and a hand embroidered nose and mouth. Molly was one of the very first models reintroduced post war, reappearing again in 1949 in five sizes ranging from 10 to 22 cm through 1969. It is interesting to note that Molly, unlike most of Steiff’s dogs of the period, is simply identified as a “puppy” and not as representing any specific breed.
In October 2017, this 10 cm Steiff Molly from the mid 1920’s with IDs in good condition sold for $430.
Look for vintage Molly dogs in clean, unfaded, very good to excellent condition with at least one ID. Standing Molly dogs are rarer as fewer were made and only through 1936. It can be difficult to tell if a Molly retains her button given the shape of her ear. It is easier to feel for it with your hand than to see it with your eyes. Early Molly dogs with metal rimmed chest tags are especially coveted.
It’s time to add a great cat into this Valentine’s Day meow mix. Starting in the mid 1920’s, Steiff’s cats took on a distinctly sweet and feminine look, often featuring childlike expressions and plump proportions. No cat better exemplifies that than the company’s beloved “Fluffy.”
Starting in the mid 1920’s, Steiff’s cats took on a distinctly sweet and feminine look, often featuring childlike expressions and plump proportions. No cat better exemplifies that than the company’s beloved “Fluffy.”
Introduced in 1926, Fluffy was the cat’s meow. This sitting sweetie is made from distinctively long, soft, bluish tipped mohair. Her little tail wraps gently around her body and is secured with a stitch or two. Fluffy’s face is detailed with large deep turquoise green and black eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. Fluffy was such a collector’s favorite that she was produced over time in nine standard sizes, as well as on a pincushion, as a music box, and as a tail-turns-head model through 1950.
In October 2017, this 10 cm Steiff Fluffy from the mid 1920’s with ID in good condition sold for $456.
Look for vintage Steiff Fluffy cats in very good to excellent condition with at least one form of Steiff ID. Like Molly, all Fluffy cats left the factory with a colorful silk bow. Fluffy has “slit” style glass eyes, meaning her black pupils are shaped more like thin almonds than circles – much like real cats. Smaller sized Fluffy cats that retain their blue tipping and their early metal rimmed chest tags always catch the eye, heart, and wallets of collectors.
This final Steiff Valentine’s recommendation is certain to put a spring in your step. Rabbits have always been a pride point for Steiff, given how important Easter celebrations are in Germany. It is interesting to note that all Steiff rabbits were called “hase” (German for rabbit) through the late 1930’s; the company’s first named rabbit pattern, Ossi, appeared in the line in five sizes ranging from 4 to 15 cm from 1938 to 1943 overall.
Rabbits have always been a pride point for Steiff, given how important Easter celebrations are in Germany. The company’s first named rabbit pattern, Ossi, appeared in the line in five sizes ranging from 4 to 15 cm from 1938 to 1943 overall.
Perhaps Steiff’s most beloved rabbit patterns of all time is the company’s Niki. This spring harbinger was manufactured in five sizes ranging from 14 to 35 cm from 1951 through 1964. Niki is five ways jointed and made from mohair. He is detailed with peach felt footpads, floppy ears, brown and black pupil eyes, and a light pink hand embroidered nose. His little cotton tail is made from slightly longer mohair. The smallest version of Niki has velvet lined ears and a closed mouth, while the larger sizes have mohair lined ears and happy, open, smiling mouths.
This adorable 25 cm Steiff Niki from the mid early 1950’s in excellent condition with all IDs sold for $215 in July 2017. For reference, Steiff’s rabbits are measured from the top of their heads to their toes – without ears.
Look for vintage Steiff Niki rabbits in excellent condition with at least two forms of ID. Most standard line Niki rabbits are tan and white mohair but a few were made in grey and white; these are considered especially collectible among enthusiasts. Early Nikis often have a linen “US Zone tag” sewn into the seam of one of their limbs, adding to their desirability. Niki’s distinctive playfulness and charming presentation is quite reflective of the era in which he was designed – the very early 1950’s.
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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