Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Born In The 50's, Steiff Style

The 1950s were a time of great creativity and energy at Steiff. As a matter of fact, many of Steiffgal's favorite Steiff collectibles are from this highly innovative decade. Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about a wonderful collection of period items from this time frame - and perhaps you'll feel the same way, too! Kevin from Chicago writes...

"I have inherited several Steiff animals from my father. He grew up in southern California in the 1940s and 1950s and was given these animals by his German aunt who fancied Steiffs. I believe the animals are no newer than the early 1950s, but I’m guessing that most are older, perhaps from the 1940s or earlier. I’m sure you can confirm and/or advise.

I remember my father mentioning that his aunt would often travel to Germany before the war and bring items back home. I am not sure if that info applies to any of these Steiffs, but figure it worth mentioning.

The only animals that have the metal Steiff button in ear are the cat and the tiger.

Thanks so much for your time and knowledge.

Kind regards, Kevin"


Like Super Glue, the hula-hoop, Saran Wrap, and White Out, all of these Steiff items were "born in the '50s". Let's take a look at each one.

This scruffy Teddy, as his chest tag suggests, is named Zotty. Zotty was one of the first new bear designs introduced post war, in 1951. Upon his debut, Zotty was produced in nine sizes, ranging from 17 through 100 cm, in brown tipped mohair. Kevin's Teddy is 17 cm. As Zotty's popularity grew, so did his range in the line; he has appeared as a sleeping animal, a play bear, as a lulac style Teddy, and a pajama bag among other items. In 1960 a white mohair version was introduced; Zotty has also been produced in several different forms of plush over the years. The word "Zotty" is from the German word "Zottel", which means shaggy.

To "qualify" as a Zotty, a Teddy must have these three things: an open felt lined mouth, a front insert bib made of a comp
lementary colored mohair to his body, and of course, be made from very shaggy material!

One of the things that makes this Zotty so interesting is his chest tag.
Note that the name "Zotty" is in red. Steiff used this particular chest tag - which was a slightly updated version of the one used pre-war - for only a few
years in the early 1950s. This helps to date Kevin's Teddy to the very beginning of the "Zotty years"! It is very likely that this Teddy has (or had when he left the factory almost 60 years ago) a small white fabric US Zone tag sewn into the seam of his right arm or leg.

It probably would be wise to move onto this owl now. This brainy bird is called Uhu Wittie, or Wittie Owl. Wittie as a plaything or collectible was produced from 1954 through 1977 in four sizes: 10, 14, 22, and 35 cm. Kevin's Wittie is the 14 cm version. Wittie's body and wings are mohair and his feathers are designed from carefully cut and detailed felt. He is unjointed, has marvelous airbrushed detailing on his body, huge green pupil eyes, and charming tufts of black hair on his forehead. One of the things that is quite remarkable about this piece in any size is his enormous felt feet.

Wittie made a few appearances throughout the Steiff catalog over the years.
He was produced as a popular hand pu
ppet from 1955 through 1978. He was also made in blue in 10 cm as a promotional item for a German company in 1960. This blue version of Wittie is exceptionally rare and sought out by vintage Steiff collectors worldwide.

Steiffgal will try and stay between the lines on this next item. Here we have a tiny 14 cm Steiff mohair tiger. He is gorgeously hand airbrushed and sports the famous Steiff green "glowing eyes". This particular model was produced from 1952 through 1959 in 8, 10, and 14 cm. The 8 cm version has a cotton cord tail while his larger siblings have stuffed mohair tails.

This fabulous feline is particularly interesting and desirable to vintage collectors as he is five ways jointed, meaning his head, arms, and legs all move.
This is rare and unusual for Steiff tigers. Adding to his appeal, this particular design was only available in the US - making him an early "country exclusive".


This next item is truly in a "cat"-a-gory all on her own. Here we have Siamy, the Siamese cat. Siamy is 15 cm, sitting, head jointed, and is made from light and dark chocolate brown mohair. She has a pink stitched nose and riveting cobalt blue glass pupil eyes. Both her ears and open mouth are lined in pink felt. She has her raised script ear button and what appears to be her original ribbon. Siamy was manufactured in 11, 15, and 23 cm from 1953 through 1954 only.

Siamy has had nine lives with Steiff.
She was originally produced by Steiff in the 1930's and early 1940's in an almost identical pattern; pre-war she also appeared as a hand puppet and a pajama bag. From her introduction almost 80 years ago, Siamy has always been an absolute crowd favorite. From her adorable facial expression, endearing pose, and magnificent eyes, it is easy to see how she leads the pack on the Steiff catwalk!


As for the value of these finds from the fabulous fifties... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. And although the economy is finally showing some signs of life, times still favor Steiff buyers over sellers pricewise. However, Kevin's items overall are from an era of increasing interest to collectors and are also in very good to excellent condition. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen comparable early post-war Zottys sell in the $175 to $250 range; Witties sell in the $25 to $80 range, comparable early post-war five ways jointed animals sell in the $75 to $200 range; and comparable Siamy cats sell in the $100 to $250 range.

Kevin, Steiffgal hopes that this overview of the history behind your Father's menagerie helps confirm your Aunt's fine taste in Steiff collectibles!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, obtained via family or flea market? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

1 comment:

  1. Siamy is cutest thing I have ever seen, my niece have a similar, but not as cute at this one.

    ReplyDelete

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