Collecting is a passion that many of us share. But what makes certain things more collectible than others? The reasons are as numerous as there are collectors. The thrill of locating, and owning, a scarce item is a feeling that keeps most collectors, well, collecting. Steiff items are inherently collectible. But one reason why some vintage pieces are considered “blue ribbon” finds is that they were made for a short period of time, no more than a year or two. They are truly “One-derful” treasures! Let’s take a look at some of Steiff’s especially wonderful “One-derfuls” from the 1950’s and 1960’s… two decades of noteworthy “one hit wonders” in the Steiff line.
The 1950’s produced a number of “One-derful” rarities. These included items like Maidy, the black poodle with a “Persian lamb” style coat, and Cosy Sigi Seahorse, a dralon “Loch Ness Monster” looking toy with fabulous airbrush detailing. However, many people would consider Siamy, the Siamese cat, and a family of Steiff dinosaurs the true “one-derfuls” of the 1950’s for Steiff.
Siamy, the Siamese cat, an exotic mohair feline with piercing blue eyes, made her brief appearance in 1953-1954 in three sizes – 11, 15, and 23cm. She originally appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1930-1942. In good condition today, the 1950’s version can garner $425-600 at auction.
Dinosaurs were a truly “one-derful” highlight of the late 1950’s. Tysus, the t-rex, Brosus, the brontosaurus, and Dinos, the stegosaurus, walked among us only in 1958 and 1959. These mohair rarities were majestically airbrushed in realistic colors. All were available in two sizes – a 12-17cm “baby” and a 42-60cm “mama”. In good condition today, a collector can expect to pay at least $400 for an original 1950’s dinosaur.
Just how sought after are these 1950’s era treasures? Steiff produced Siamy as a replica twice– in 1994 and again in 2006. Both Dinos and Tyros were produced as replicas in the early 1990’s.
The 1960’s were quite the heyday for creativity at Steiff. Lucky for collectors, this resulted in a significant number of unique designs, many which are “One-derfuls."
Throughout the 1960’s, Steiff added a number of unusual breeds to its catalog. These include Corso the Afghan hound, Luxy lynx, Loopy wolf, Pandy the Indian panda, and a realistic bison. In tandem, Steiff also began producing items in unusual sizes and others with unique details, including a 50cm studio Hexie dachshund and Zooby, a bear with distinctive felt claws. Today, collectors pay around $500 for a Zooby in good condition. All of these treasures were produced for a year or so, and have become “One-derfuls” and highly collectible in their own right.
In 1960-1961, Steiff produced a series of “ball” animals; Mopsy (a pug), Sula (a cat), and a rabbit. Each of these big-bottomed dralon collectibles is 16cm, has a jointed head, front facing limbs, and a squeaker. These items are hard to find, especially in good condition—because they were designed to be used as playthings and stuffed with foam, which deteriorates over time. A collector may expect to pay around $150 or so for a 1960’s ball model in good condition.
Steiff has a century plus long history of producing rounded products, including roly-polys (weighted ball shaped items without legs) and tumblers (felt or mohair items on a bowl base, designed to wobble about). It is possible that some design inspiration behind the 1960-1961 ball animals came from a series of Steiff rounded, legged novelties produced from 1932 to 1943. This collection included a teddy, puppy, cat, rabbit, duck, elephant, and lion; most were available in 9cm or 15cm. The larger size came with a ruffled rubber band so the owner could play “catch” with the toy.
Many collectors are familiar with Steiff’s cartoonish “lulac” creatures—animals with exaggeratedly 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. The first lulac animal, a rabbit, appeared in 1952, and is still being produced in modified form today. A large menagerie of species have been produced in the lulac style over the years, including frogs, dogs, tigers, and cats.
Many vintage lulac style animals have earned the title of “One-derful”. In 1954, Steiff made a lulac donkey, and followed up in 1958 with a lulac elephant, tiger, poodle, and a lion. In 1964 and again in 1966, a lulac version of the Zotty bear, Zolac, was produced as well as a Kalac, or tomcat lulac. In 1964, a 40cm Sulac the spaniel lulac, made her brief appearance in the Steiff catalog. All of these long limbed lovelies are highly coveted by collectors; an aficionado recently paid $650 at auction for a Zolac in good condition.
Like the ball animals of the early 1960’s, the lulac animals might also have been inspired by a popular Steiff product line from an earlier era. From 1927-1932, Steiff produced a series of tall toys based on popular characters of the time. It’s been suggested that the idea behind these was the Charleston dance crazy of the 1920’s, with its dramatic and fast moving arm and leg movements. Called “play and car dolls”, these collectibles included Bulliette, the bulldog, Molliette the puppy, Fluffiette, the cat, and Rabbiette, the rabbit. Each had the head of the character, mohair paws, feet, and tail, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several colors and in 20, 30, and 43cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker.
From one lulac lover to another, I hope this article has given you a “leg up” on the wonderful world of Steiff “One-derfuls”, and thank you for “hanging around” ‘till the end. According to a popular song from the late 1960’s, “One is the Loneliest Number”. But it’s fair to say that you are in very good company if you are a fan of these Steiff “One-derfuls”!
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