Friday, October 16, 2009

Getting "Rowdy" With Steiff

Steiffgal's not gonna take this inquiry lying down! Take a look at this note from a reader about this half-century old family treasure. Steven from Arlington, Massachusetts writes:

"Dear Steiffgal:

Please evaluate this mohair lying down bear. My wife received it as a birthday present from her mother in the 1950's. Her mother insists that it is a Steiff but has no identifying insignias on it.

The bear is in excellent condition and measures 20" from front paw to the rear paw.

Thank you, Steve"

This old friend is an unusual design of a familiar Steiff pattern, and that's no fib! What you have here is what Steiff calls Racker Zotty-Baer or Racker Zotty Bear. Zotty is 45 cm and lying down, but not "sleeping". He is softly stuffed, unjointed, and made from caramel colored tipped mohair. He has an open felt lined mouth and pert brown pupil eyes. Steiff produced Racker Zotty in 1960 through 1961 only, making him a hard-to-find treasure. And yes, he is part of the beloved "Zotty" family of Teddies which Steiff introduced in 1951.

And what exactly is a "Racker"? Glad you asked. "Racker" roughly translates from the German to "varmint" or "rascal". Because Steiff specifically describes this model as "to sit on or play", Steiffgal thinks this pattern was created for fun and play, and Steiff intended the word "Racker" to be tongue-in-cheek for a rowdy playmate. In addition to Racker Zotty, Steiff also produced a Racker St. Bernard named Berni and a Racker Tiger; each of these was also 45 cm, mohair, lying down, and produced from 1960 through 1961.

It is easy to see how these Racker playmates could be confused with another beloved Steiff pattern from around the same time, the prone "Floppy" models. Steiff produced a great number of these adorable “sleeping” style animals during the 1950’s through the 1970’s, including a Zotty, panda, fox, Cocker Spaniel, Siamese cat, tabby cat, seal, and elephant, among others. They were lying down on their bellies and stuffed with soft foam - really designed as bedtime companions. However, there are two main differences between the Racker and Floppy lines. First is size: the Rackers are 45 cm while the Floppies were produced in two standard smaller sizes, 17 and 28 cm. Second is state of consciousness: Rackers have a wide-awake, playful facial expression while the Floppies all have closed “sleeping eyes” designs.

As for the value of this "little rascal"... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. And the economic situation, although improving, still seems to favor Steiff buyers over sellers price wise. From a pure collector's investment perspective, in general, "play" toys (things like baby items, puppets, Floppies, everyday companions) are slightly less desirable than fully jointed, lifelike, excelsior stuffed Teddies and animals. However, this Racker appears to be in good condition, and its limited production and rarity add to its appeal and desirability. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen similar items sell in the $100 -150 range.

Steve, Steiffgal hopes that this feisty description of your Racker Zotty was helpful in explaining the history and legacy behind your family heirloom.

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