Steiff’s Fabulous Finds: A Pink 1920’s-Era Mohair Steiff Rabbit
Despite being rather old, this pink Steiff rabbit is still in good condition and is estimated to be worth between $300 and $600.
What it is: It’s hard not to be tickled pink by today’s fabulous find. Here we have a 1920’s era Steiff rabbit. That in itself is not terribly exciting – but it’s his color that would give any vintage collector a serious plush crush! Rabbit measures 11 cm from head to toe, and 15 cm from the tip of his ears to toe. (Sitting Steiff rabbits are “officially” measured height-wise without including their ears.) Rabbit is sitting and head jointed. His chest, undercarriage, and the front lining of his ears are made from white mohair. His body and head are made from light pink mohair. His face comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a dark pink embroidered nose, a simple black mouth, and a few remaining clear, monofilament whiskers. His big ears are lined in wire and are poseable. This pattern was produced overall in 11, 15, 18, and 23 cm in brown, pink, blue, lilac, gold and white, white, and maize mohair from 1926 through 1932. This honey-bunny retains his large, trailing “F” button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff IDs.
Historical context: The mid to late 1920’s was a time of great innovation at Steiff. Having survived World War I and its very tough aftermath, the company began making some fundamental design and business decisions that would further elevate its status to one of the most elite toy manufacturers in the world. The company had been making only incremental changes to its designs and production methods from around 1905 through the early 1920’s. As such, for example, the company’s bears made in 1906 looked quite similar to those made in 1920. In 1923, Richard Steiff – the inventor of the fully jointed Teddy bear as we know it today – and his family emigrated to the United States. He made this move in order to take the leadership role in growing Steiff’s North American business. In a 1925 memo to the company’s German headquarters, he noted, “…Our teddies, in the show room here in New York, appear colorless, sober, and insipid. I feel inclined to decorate all the teddies we have left with huge, colorful silk ribbons; only then can we ask a slightly higher price.” Other memos from the same time period document his requests for updated patterns, more colorful examples, and irresistible novelties that better reflected the culture of “the roaring 20’s.”
A fully-body view of the little cutie called Teddy Rose. His body is predominately made with pink mohair, but the ears and undercarriage contain white mohair.
Just a few months after this exchange, Steiff debuted the first of several new, innovative toy designs. This new bear was called “Teddy Rose.” As his name suggests, he was a lovely, soft pink color – a first for the company. His pattern truly reflected Richard’s “fluffy, fat, and feminine” dictate. Other new, named, and irresistible bear, dog, and cat patterns quickly appeared through the early 1930’s. For the most part, they were all “childlike” in appearance. These plumper designs included features like wide, prominent foreheads; proportionally large, round, symmetrical heads; big eyes placed low on the face; and soft textures and fabrics.
In the same mid-1920’s timeframe, Steiff also started producing several other beloved and popular animal species, such as elephants, rabbits, and ducks, in pastel and other “jelly bean” colors. Examples were made in velvet and mohair. The pink rabbit under discussion here is a perfect example of an animal from this marvelous menagerie. All of these new, joyful, and colorful characters were enormously successful at their time of introduction, and remain collector’s favorites today.
Here you can see the rabbit’s light pink fur, which is reminiscent of a pink jelly bean. The fur color gives the little rabbit a cute, whimsical disposition.
Why he’s fabulous: The rabbit under discussion here is the best of all worlds, given his petite stature, rare and fantastic pink coloration, IDs, and charming presentation. For the most part, Steiff collectors have a particular affinity for the smallest models of items produced. This may be for space and display reasons, but it may also have to do with rarity. Small items frequently started out life as toys. Naturally, over time, they experienced wear and tear and many were lost to time. As such, Steiff’s smallest pre-war novelties in very good to excellent condition are seldom seen on the secondary market and are quite desirable. His pink coloration is also outstanding. Steiff did make pink mohair pigs as early as 1908, but they were pink because that is how they appeared in real life. This rabbit was produced in pink specifically to be playful and novel, in response to Richard Steiff’s design decree. And the fact that he retains his Steiff button, as well as has an utterly heartwarming presentation, only adds to his appeal.
Even after all these years, the bunny still retains its Steiff button.
His story: A lucky colleague of mine purchased a bundle of vintage Steiff at a yard sale for less than $100. She contacted me to see if I would be willing to review the items. I was delighted to help out. She stopped by the next day with her stash. Each item she pulled out of the bag was more exciting than the previous one. This particular rabbit caught my eye – specifically for its size and color. However, at the time, he had some condition issues. He was very dirty, his eyes were poor replacements, and he was missing most of his facial stitching. I gave him a gentle cleaning, which caused his somewhat faded pink color to pop a little more. I then replaced his eyes with size and era-appropriate ones and restitched his nose and mouth with embroidery floss. I used another 1920’s era rabbit from my collection to make sure I had the size, scale, and placement of these new facial features in place before getting to work on him.
Most of the facial elements had to be reconstructed, and the fur had to be cleaned. But even after some wear-and-tear, the bunny still has such a charming face.
Value: As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. Steiff’s 1920-era youthful, colorful rabbits are cherished rarities for vintage Steiff collectors worldwide. Extraordinary examples have sold at auction for thousands of dollars in the past. The most outstanding one in memory is perhaps a large, all original begging lilac mohair rabbit with IDs that sold for over $7,000 in 2014 through James D. Julia Auctioneers in Fairfield, Maine. But condition plays a huge role in valuing items such as these, and it is critical to reveal all restorations and factor them into any value estimate. Given that this Steiff pink mohair rabbit is in good condition with generalized playwear and light fading and has replacement eyes and restitched facial features, he most likely values in the $300-600 range today.
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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