Monday, July 27, 2009

The Mane Event

Steiffgal's not lyin' when she says she roared with excitement over this inquiry from a northern neighbor. Take a look at this note from Sarah, who writes about a century-old family heirloom.


I'm writing from Canada's far east: Newfoundland. I have a Steiff lion that belonged to my dad in 1908. It's not in great condition: it's old.... he’s about 9 3/4 inches high, and between 12-13 inches stem to stern (excluding his tail). He has a little Steiff button in his left ear, which is so small I can barely see the writing even with a magnifying glass. His front paws have become disjointed from the wheels. Still, it's a dear piece.

I have to sell many of my things and was wondering if you could give me some guidance. Our family originated in the Niagara peninsula, and in that area is where the lion was likely purchased.

Thanks, Sarah"

This is a lovely Steiff Loewe, or Lion on wheels from the early part of last century. Lion is unjointed; his body is constructed from light brown short mohair while his mane and the tip of his tail are made from longer wavy tipped mohair. He rides on metal wheels. This design has (or had, when new…) many details that make him “king of the jungle”: a pink vertically stitched nose, brown glass pupil eyes, black embroidered claws, and precise airbrushing around his eyes and nose. This particular model was produced from about 1909 through 1921 in eight sizes, ranging from 22 through 120 cm. The smaller sizes were pull toys while the larger sizes (50 cm plus) were ride-on animals that came with sturdier carriages and a steering option.

Lions, both on and off wheels, are legacy products for Steiff. The first Steiff lions, both with and without wheels, made their debut in the 1894 Steiff catalog. These had bodies made from felt but are remarkably similar otherwise in appearance to Sarah’s mohair lion. Felt lions were produced through 1907. In terms of product evolution timelines, Steiff began using mohair in addition to felt as a standard material in 1903 so it makes perfect sense that this item transitioned from felt to mohair in the early 1900’s.

The reader mentions a “little Steiff button in his left ear which is so small I can barely see the writing even with a magnifying glass.” Based on the dating of the item, this would be the 1909 though 1936 version of the Steiff button, which has the word “Steiff” in capital letters with the last “F” extended into a long arc. Here on the left is a close up of what this button most likely looks like from another Steiff item of the same generation. The button is really tiny… about 3 or 4 millimeters and is pewter-colored.

As for the value of this lovely lion... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. Poor economic times tend to favor buyers over sellers; so don’t sell unless you really have to! On the other hand, legacy wheeled items like this lion that have their pre-war button are always in demand by collectors. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen an almost identical item in similar condition sell on an online auction for close to $600.

Sarah, it gives Steiffgal great pride to provide you with the mane background concerning your family’s lion!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.


  1. Would love know what you think this is possibly worth:

    Thanks and love the blog!

  2. Very nice job. I like this animal :)


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