Monday, February 22, 2010

A Steiff Hare-binger of Spring

Steiffgal sees this note from reader as a sign that spring, and the arrival of the Easter Bunny, are at least on horizon. Could this inquiry be the "hare-binger" of warmer weather and all the lovely things it brings about around these parts? Check it out and decide for yourself! Through a series of correspondences, Billee writes:

"Hello Steiffgal,

I have
a very old Steiff rabbit that was my father's and remember hearing stories that they were inseparable. He was born in 1924 so I'm sure that the rabbit is probably pre-1930. Needless to say, it is worn, but still contains the Steiff button in his left ear. There are no labels.

The rabbit is approximately 10" tall from the tip of the ears to his seat. He is light tan in color and has very small feet and arms that are permanently bent downward.
The fabric is a fur but somewhat sparse - probably due to being worn. It just feels old. He has tan stitching for his nose and mouth, but they are the same color as the fur and are therefore hard to see.

The rabbit is very firm to the feel. He
doesn't stand alone so I have to prop him up.

The ra
bbit is missing one eye but the one that remains appears to be very dark brown. I do think the one remaining eye is original. There is a very faint small circle of pink fabric - maybe felt - behind the remaining eye - probably the reason for the pinkish-red area that looks like it bled. His ears are lined in velvet.

Can you tell me anything about this rabbit and its approximate value, even though it is lovingly worn?

Thanks,
Billee"

Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, hopping down the bunny trail, hippety hoppety Easter's on its way... Yes! I think most readers will agree that Billee's bunny very well could be one of spring's most anticipated visitors! What we have here is what Steiff calls Hase or rabbit. This particular rabbit was made from 1907 through 1926 in 22, 28, and 35 cm. His body position is called "begging", probably meaning that he'd like to sample anything you are enjoying for lunch!


Hase was originally made from white (which has turned tan over time) mohair plush fur. He has, or had, pink felt lined ears which have turned tan as well. His eyes are backed in red felt. Steiffgal thinks the felt has "bled" causing the red stain on his face. When he was new, he had a simple pink nose and mouth made from hand stitched pink floss. He left the factory in Giengen, Germany donned with a crisp pink silk ribbon. This picture, taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892 - 1943 Steiff Sortiment book, shows what Billee's father's rabbit looked like when new.

This hase pattern was really popular at the turn of last century. It debuted in the 1894 catalog (not bad, given the catalog debuted in 1892!) The pattern was made in all sorts of materials, including felt, mohair, wool plush, and short pile plush in sizes ranging from 10 to 35 cm. Perhaps the most "famous" hase in this almost exact pattern was Steiff's version of Peter Rabbit, which was in production from about 1904 though 1919. Steiff introduced a more "modern" begging rabbit pattern in the mid 1920's; this rabbit had larger, more prominently detailed legs and knees, a shapelier body, and a more detailed face with a fully embroidered nose.

Billee's Hase is really lovely and a truly classic piece. And the family history behind him really makes him an heirloom!

So for his value... well, that is always a tricky question. The fact that this rabbit is missing an eye, for many collectors, is significant. It has been Steiffgal's experience that traditionally, collectors have had a thing with Steiff faces. So if there is a problem with the face, the item is less desirable in general. If this hase were Steiffgal's, she would send it to her to a professional restorer for cleaning and an eye repair right away. In general, certain types of PROFESSIONALLY executed cleanings and repairs stabilize or even improve the collectibility of items for future value. However, good restorations can be expensive so consider all of your choices. Steiffgal has had amazing results from Martha Anderson here in the USA, check out her work at www.teddybearrepair.com.

Without the eye repair and cleaning, this rabbit is PROBABLY in the $150-300 range. With the eye repair and a good cleaning, he may value more at $400+.

Steiffgal hopes this information is helpful to you and that we all are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the spring weather we all look forward to.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, whether it be a family heirloom or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

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