Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Braying Over This Exciting Steiff Donkey Find!

C'mon, don't be stubborn like a mule here!  Take a good look at this note from a reader who asks about his recent Steiff find, a large gray donkey.  Through a series of correspondences, Brian writes...

"Hello Steiffgal, 

Recently I bought a Steiff donkey that is almost identical to the Grissy you show on your blog.  Mine is showing a little more of its age.  It seems to have straw like material on the inside.  He still has the button in the ear, but most of the yellow tag is gone, but still visible.  He has brown glass-like eyes and an open mouth.  His dimensions are 16 inches from head to butt; 13 inches from foot to head; and 9 inches from foot to back. To me he is a great find. 

Does the straw-like material on the inside make it earlier? I know very little about Steiff animals. Should I clean this donkey or will it lose its value if I do?  I know you don't do values, but I have no idea how to value this.  Your help and time would be greatly appreciated! Looking forward to hearing from you soon.   


Brian, great job in identifying your newest Steiff farmyard friend! Yes, what you have here is what Steiff calls Grissy Esel or Grissy Donkey.  She is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from gray dralon (an acrylic, highly durable plush-like material).  She is stuffed with excelsior, or wood-wool; this gives her the "straw" feeling and sound you describe above.

Grissy is quite detailed from head to toe.  Her muzzle is made from short dralon that has been airbrushed in black, tan, and grey to give this area more texture. She has an open, reddish-orange felt lined mouth.  Her posable ears are trimmed in stiff, straight black fur.  Grissy's hooves are constructed from brown leather-like material, while her mane and the tip of her tail are made from long black mohair.   Grissy was manufactured from 1960 through 1976 in 14, 22, 35, and 50 cm.  Given the measurements provided, it appears that Brian's Grissy is most likely the 35 cm version.

Donkeys are, and have always been, prominent in the Steiff line. They were featured in the debut Steiff catalog of 1892; these earliest models were made from felt, sported a red saddle cloth, and were available with and without wheels. Steiff has produced donkeys as puppets, pull toys, rocking animals, sleeping animals, studio animals, lulac style characters, and even as the logo of the Democratic party here in the USA! Steiffgal's favorite Steiff donkey is a sweet little 14 cm foal made from 1977 through 1985 named "Assy Esel" - really.  Just goes to show that sometimes getting "lost in translation" can be a very funny thing. (Assy is pictured here to the left adjacent to his favorite bedside reading material!) 

Cleaning is usually recommended, as it both improves the appearance as well as "shelf life" of most vintage Steiff collectibles.  In terms of cleaning excelsior stuffed dralon items, like this Grissy donkey, it is not all that different than the process behind cleaning mohair items.  Again, here's Steiffgal's recommended cleaning process:

  • First, remove as much surface dirt and dust as possible by shaking your item vigorously and then vacuuming it very gently and at a distance.
  • Second, clean your item's surface with a very weak solution of water and gentle dish detergent - just very sparingly moisten a washcloth and rub it down with the damp cloth. You'll be surprised what comes off!  Do not soak or drench the fabric here, it is truly a SURFACE cleaning.
  • Third, let the item naturally air dry away from the sun and heat sources.
  • Lastly, gently fluff up the item with a brush or comb.
Steiffgal doesn't mean to be a pain in the... ahem... backside here - but as always - something is worth what someone else will pay for it.  Factors including structural integrity, odors, rips, presence of identification, and other details can make all the difference in the world in terms of appeal, and in turn, value.  For this particular item, in the broadest terms, Steiffgal has seen Steiff Grissy donkeys sell in the $50 to $350 range, depending on their condition and their sales channel.   

According to an old Indian proverb..."To carry his load without resting, not to be bothered by heat or cold and always be content: these three things we can learn from a donkey."  Steiffgal hopes this column on Steiff donkeys has been an enjoyable teaching moment for you!   

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


  1. SG
    Your blog is so educational. I learn something new every time..Your articles are so well written and they entertain. I have a lot more respect for my Steiff finds when they happen my way. The donkeys are adorable. Mine found a happy home on a donkey farm...Thank you again and again for all the information.

  2. Good Morning - Great Blog - If any of you know of someone interested in a life size Steiff Donkey, let me know. My sister was a distributor and has fallen ill. She needs to move as many items as she can. Roughly 25 years old - was delivered tractor trailer truck with a stall and hay - NO lie! He is gorgeous.
    Feel free to email me at Lauren@fullcirclecoupons.com


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