Steiffgal felt as if she had reached new heights when she received this tall order from a reader from the country's heartland. Miriam from Kansas City, Missouri asks about her recent Steiff find, a very vertical giraffe. Through a series of correspondences she writes:
I just purchased an 8 to 9 foot Steiff studio giraffe from a school sale in Kansas City. They were asking $875; I paid $500.
We used to have an FAO Schwarz store here (about .5 miles from where I purchased the giraffe.)
The giraffe has a yellow tag that I think has the number 0759124 on one side and 57/49 on the other side. She has a raised script style button in ear.
I love Steiff animals. They were part of my childhood; I spent my girlhood in Austria during the early to mid 1960s. I am a collector but not as a serious collector; I love them with or without tags and my husband calls me "Steiffwife."
What do you know about the giraffe? How can I find out more about it? Any sources to direct me toward?
It is no stretch to say that Miriam's giraffe is a timeless treasure! What she has here is a Steiff Studio giraffe. She is standing, made from hand-stenciled mohair, and had delightful facial features including dramatic, lifelike eyes with mile long eyelashes; realistic horns, pert ears; and a open, felt lined mouth with a dimensional tongue. The article number of this giraffe is actually #0759/24; this particular model was made from 1968 through 1990. Her script button in ear indicates she would have been actually made between 1953 and 1969. So, if you overlay her production dates and button dates it appears that she was exactly made in the 1968 through 1969 time frame.
Giraffes are a legacy species for Steiff. As a matter of fact, a handsome felt giraffe - available with or without metal wheels - appeared in the debut catalog of 1892 in 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm. In 1909, this model was updated a bit - and grew in size as well as popularity! He was available in 28, 35, 50, 80, 100, 110, 120, and a whopping 260 cm over the 1909 through 1941 time frame. The larger sizes were reinforced with a metal interior skeleton for strength, and also were available with a steering feature, leather saddles, and foot rests. Interestingly, these pre-war life sized giraffes were frequently sold to shoe stores, where they were used for sizing and fitting children's shoes. The company also produced a charming, wool-plush giraffe in 28 and 35 cm from 1936 through 1943.
Right after the factory reopened after the war, Steiff began producing these long legged lovelies again. The company reintroduced the pre-war wool plush giraffe model in 1949, and had him in the line through 1953 in 28, 35, and 50 cm. This design was updated in 1953 and produced in mohair in 14, 28, 35, 50, and 70 cm though 1974. Since then, giraffes have been a mainstay in the Steiff catalog; in the past four decades or so they have been produced in trevira velvet, mohair, woven fur, and microfiber fleece.
On a bigger scale, Steiff starting producing life sized giraffes again in their annual line in 1960. Over the past 50 years, Steiff has made mohair life-sized, or studio giraffes in 110, 150, 240, and 255 cm on and off from 1960-2003. Today, Steiff offers a 110 cm soft woven fur Studio giraffe in the line for enthusiasts who want to add a little altitude - and attitude! - to their Steiff collection. This gentle giant is pictured here on the left.
So, you might just be wondering... what exactly is a Steiff "studio" item? Well, technically, a Steiff studio item has to meet two key requirements. First, it is either "life sized" (like Miriam's giraffe) or a special, large size designed for display (like this Hush Puppy Basset Hound) or authenticity (like this gorilla). Second, it needs to be manufactured in a special area of the factory, a building towards the back of the campus where these spectacular showpieces are assembled and detailed one by one. Often times, vintage Steiff studio animals have unusual hand written ear tags due to the rarity of their production. All in all, studio animals are unique, hand made treasures that truly are iconic to Steiff.
Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff giraffes has given you the long view on why these collectibles are so spectacular!
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