Steiff’s Very Rare and Early Cinnamon Colored Teddy Bear
An all original Steiff Teddy bear from around 1907. This particular cub is remarkable in many ways.
What it is: Today’s star of the show is an all original Steiff Teddy bear from around 1907. That in itself is not all that unusual. But this particular cub is remarkable in many ways – with more on that later! He measures approximately 16 inches tall standing and 11 inches tall sitting. This is important to note because at the time of his production, his sizing would have been cataloged in the sitting position. It was not until the early 1930’s that Steiff began listing their bear’s measurements in the standing position. Ted is fully jointed, made of soft woolen mohair, and has his original felt paw pads. He is solidly stuffed with excelsior. His body proportions and pronounced back hump are typical to Steiff’s early bear production. He has 4 black hand embroidered claws on each of his four paws. His face comes to life with black wooden shoe button eyes, a black (now faded a bit to dark brown) hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a gently shorn muzzle. The bear retains his original short “trailing f” button and traces of his original white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. He truly has the look that calls to the heart of vintage Steiff collectors.
A close-up of the adorable features of the teddy bear’s face. These bears proved so successful that by 1907, nearly one million were produced and sold!
Historical context: Steiff’s five ways jointed or fully jointed bears with the company’s legacy cardboard disk jointing system were introduced on a commercial scale in 1905, replacing the company’s earlier string then rod jointed models. These bears proved so successful that by 1907, nearly one million were produced and sold. This is astonishing, given Steiff’s rural German location, manufacturing scale and bandwidth, and available workforce at the time. The vast majority of these early bears were produced in blonde or white mohair. Far fewer were produced in dark brown. This remarkable cub is produced in what is called “cinnamon” mohair – an extremely rare and eye-catching color which really does match the deep orange-brown glow of a cinnamon stick! Turn of last century Steiff cinnamon colored bears, like their equally rare and more light orange-ish “apricot” mohair bear cousins, have always topped the “bucket list” of vintage Steiff collectors.
Why he’s fantastic: In addition to his remarkable color, almost like-new condition, and particularly endearing expression, this cinnamon bear also has full provenance and has been with one family his entire existence. He belonged to a little girl who was born in 1903 in central Wisconsin. Her parents were German immigrants who found great economic success in the USA. The family lived in a six bedroom house which they built and owned. It was one of the largest in their village. The little girl was the youngest of eleven children and was a bit spoiled. In addition to this fantastic bear, she also had numerous other expensive toys, including dolls and a crystal punch bowl set designed for children’s tea parties! It is clear from his fine condition today that she treated this bear with kid gloves.
Of course, who wouldn’t treat such an adorable teddy bear with delicate hands?
After she grew up, she wrapped up the bear and put him in a cedar closet to preserve him. Her children knew of her childhood bear, but were not allowed to play with him. When her children were adults, they re-discovered the bear and noted that he was made by Steiff because of his tiny silver button in ear. They recall being disappointed as children not being able to play with the bear then – but now are thrilled, given how well his treatment has allowed him to withstand the challenges of time!
This silver button is proof that the bear was manufactured by Steiff.
Collector’s Tips: It is always so exciting to come across antique bears such as this one. But how can you identify a turn of last century Steiff bear if he no longer retains his trademark “button in ear?” It is wise to check with an expert, especially if you are considering making a significant financial investment in any vintage toy or collectible. One thing that is relatively consistent with Steiff’s early bears are their proportions. As such, checking for certain measurements is one way to start evaluating a vintage bear find. For the most part, Steiff’s early 1900’s bears have torsos (measured from neck to crotch) that are twice as long as their heads (measured from crown of head to neck.) They have long limbs with their arms extending to their “knees” when standing. And Steiff bears from this era have long and narrow feet, in a ratio of 1:5 to the bear’s height, measured standing.
Genuine Steiff bears from the early 1900’s tend to have elongated proportions.
Value: As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. Steiff’s c. 1906-1912 cinnamon mohair Teddy bears are treasured rarities that always catch the eye of Steiff enthusiasts. They are also willing to pay a premium for their fantastic and unusual coloring, especially for those with provenance and in outstanding condition with ID such as this one. In March, 2017, Bertoia Auctions of Vineland, NJ sold a larger and earlier Steiff cinnamon Teddy bear with full provenance and a blank button for $9,000; it was estimated at $4,000-5,000. Given that this Steiff cinnamon Teddy bear is smaller and newer (having the long trailing F button instead of the earlier blank button), he most likely values in the $6,000-8,000 range.
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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