Monday, October 5, 2009

Both Sides of The Aisle Vote In Favor of Steiff

No debate here, this Steiff Life reader has a great question! Check out this inquiry from John, who writes from Horseheads, NY.

"Hi Steiffgal,


I was going through some of my late mother's collection of Steiff and found two animals - a donkey and an elephant - that aren't tagged or marked as Steiff in any way (though the donkey's ear appears to have had something poked through it).

My mom was a pretty savvy Steiff buyer and these so much have the look and feel of some of her older items that I just can't decide.

Have you ever heard of anything like these being made by Steiff? (Or anywhere else for that matter.) Any thoughts at all about them?
The Democratic donkey measures 6" long by 5" tall while the Republican elephant is 5.5" long by 4" tall.

Thanks in advance!"


John, Steiffgal's gonna march right up to the podium a
nd give you the party line on these great items!

First the donkey... Steif
fgal is 100% confident that this farm friend is made by Steiff. This dapper donkey is 12 cm and made from grey velvet. He has airbrushed details on his snout, eyes, and feet. His tail is made from grey cord. He is dolled up with a red leather harness and a blue felt blanket with the letters "DEM" (for democratic) on each side. This specific item was made from 1956 through 1959 as an early special edition for the US market.

But there is much more to his story.
This "democratically detailed" donkey is actually a modification of a c
ore Steiff line item, a 12 cm velvet donkey that was produced from 1950 through 1969. The identical pattern was also produced in mohair in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1950 through 1961. And, to truly leverage this popular and beloved pattern, the Steiff designers also converted this basic 12 cm velvet donkey into the mascot of the US Army by giving him a blue and white velvet saddle blanket with a very large capital "A" (for Army) on it. This little fighter was manufactured in 1957 only.

Now onto a more ju
mbo Steiff mystery. This little grey mohair elephant is the 10 cm version of a delightful and endearing Steiff pattern which was produced from 1950 through 1978. This design was also produced in 7, 17, 22, and 35 cm. Core commonalities between the sizes include black and white "googly" eyes and a red felt saddle cloth. The larger sizes have tusks and mohair ears; the smaller versions have felt ears. However, Steiffgal has never seen this particular elephant detailed with the blue GOP (Grand Old Party) saddle blanket... and this does not appear in Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment Book, the "grand-daddy" of Steiff references.

So just what is going on here?
It is entirely possible that t
he GOP elephant was a "customer special" for a company or organization (in this case, the United States Republican party) and produced in a very limited number. By "customer special", Steiffgal mean an unusual custom ribbon, a felt accessory, a unique tag, or other small differentiator added to an otherwise standard item in the line. When this happened, especially in the past, Steiff did not separately catalog the item. These finds are exciting, as well as frustrating, to collectors, who always want to know the full story behind unusual Steiff items. As the color, material, printing style, and font of the elephant's blanket is similar to the one worn by the donkey, it seems pretty safe to assume that they were produced around the same time frame.

Here is another example of a Steiff "customer special". On the left, check out this Steiff beaver holding a gorgeous airbrushed felt maple leaf. This charming collectible was was manufactured for a promotion for a Canadian company or organization. The leaf accessory is an "add on" to Steiff's standard beaver "Nagy". Nagy was produced from 1958 through 1978 in three sizes: 10, 17, and 25 cm. Nagy is cataloged, but Nagy with the leaf is not. It is Steiffgal's best guess that it is a similar situation with your elephant and its custom blue felt saddle blanket.

John, Your mom had great taste in Steiff and really knew collectible items when she saw them.
All of us, whether elephants OR donkeys, can certainly agree to that!

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

2 comments:

  1. Steiffgal,
    Great Blog! Excellent way to share information - nice job!!
    ~Vintageshopgirl

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agreed. I had looked for something on a particular Steiff for years; Steiffgal helped me out in minutes. Great resource, nicely executed.

    ReplyDelete

The teddy bear search engine