Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcoming 2011 With A Parade of Steiff Studio Animals!

Hey, baby New Year is knocking on the door, but you still have a little time to make big plans to celebrate the arrival of 2011. This year, Steiffgal had the pleasure of meeting a collector who specializes in Steiff’s largest treasures, their studio items. Needless to say, this Steiff enthusiast doesn’t need to leave his home to celebrate this new decade in a “larger than life” way! Please meet Denis, a lifelong Steiff collector who lives with a Steiff – and real! – menagerie of “friends for life!"

Steiffgal: Hello Denis and thank you for sharing your story and breathtaking Steiff collection with us. Tell us a little about yourself.

Denis: I am 51 years old, live in California, and am an animation director by profession. I have 3 dogs; a lab/pit mix who looks like a Dingo; a Border collie mix named Frieda; and a Chihuahua names Elroy. I also have 4 miniature goats and 6 chickens. All of these “pets” are named after friends and family, meaning that they'll never be eaten!

Steiffgal: Please tell us about your overall interest in Steiff. How many items do you currently own, and what got you interested in the brand?

Denis: I started collecting Steiff around 20 years ago. When I was a kid, I had a white Pieps mouse, a small kangaroo, and a small Jocko. Pieps and Jocko are long gone but I managed to hang onto my kangaroo. I'd scour the thrift stores, sidewalk sales, and flea markets for Steiff and ended up with a small collection to keep my kangaroo company. I think the first one I ever found was a little velvet pink pig. Then I found a small Rocky mountain goat, a swimming duck, a larger sized Leo lion and a handful of animals that I had "thought" might be Steiffs. These were the early years of collecting and there were few books about Steiff for identification. Once I found out about the elusive "exotics", including bats, spiders, lobsters, lizards, snails, etc. - I became hooked. It was those pieces specifically that pushed me over the edge and deep in the hunt. I always thought it to be very odd that they made toys like this for kids at that time.

That small group of childhood Steiff items has grown to around 500 of them, give or take 50 or so; an actual number is a little tricky to pinpoint.

Steiffgal: Tell us about your studio collection. How did you get interested specifically in Steiff’s lifesized items?

Denis: I think a lot of Steiff collectors my age remember going to FAO Schwarz and other fancy stores that sold Steiff studio pieces when they were kids. It was kind of an unobtainable fantasy for most of us to have such a thing as an 8 foot tall giraffe. To me, the BIG Steiff animals were like having a "real" live exotic pet. Of course, I had to settle for Pieps, who spent a lot of time in my pocket. Once I became an adult, I realized that these were "sometimes" obtainable and they weren't always outrageously priced.

Today, my studio collection includes a bison, standing, jumping, and sitting tigers, an oryx, a zebra, a giraffe, a sitting lion (in the picture on the left), an owl, an alligator (in the picture on the left), a two humped camel, a one humped camel, a goose, a rabbit, a penguin, a German Shepherd, a golden pheasant (in the picture on the left), a hen, a baby wild boar, a coco monkey, a Xorry fox, a reindeer, and many other larger, but not technically “studio” items including a very large Jocko monkey and the the “snuggy” (i.e., footrest) versions of Steiff’s elephant, starfish, and frog. 

Steiffgal: What is your most favorite studio item in your collection?

Denis: I think my absolute favorite studio (and possibly all-time favorite Steiff) is the FAO exclusive, standing Xorry fox. He's just beautiful, the expression, the posing, the color - an all around amazing design - in my opinion. My other favorites include the studio snake, which is pretty great too, with his purple and gold airbrushing and creepy yellow eyes. The only problem with him is that he can be a bit hard to display. He's usually around my studio giraffe's neck, strangling him.  He is pictured here on the left doing just that. Another favorite is my studio owl, which needed a few repairs when I got him but is now in great shape.

Steiffgal: Give us a “blue ribbon” example on how you find these Steiff rarities to add to your collection.

Denis: My biggest prize was finding out about an auction of studio animals that were in an old hotel or casino back east. I bid over the phone and the auction house told me flat out that it wasn't highly publicized and I'd probably get a pretty good deal. The auction house was located near where some of my family lives and they picked the items up for me on site and shipped them out here to me in California. My brother-in-law worked for an airline at the time, so that made things VERY convenient. In that auction I got the giraffe, standing tiger, and zebra (with all id, including a BIG chest tag) and they were all in great condition. You can see a few of these treasure in the picture on the left.

Steiffgal: What would you consider the “rarest” Steiff studio item you have ever owned?

Denis: The rarest Studio animal I ever had was the Studio Tysus tyrannosaurus. My sister found him at a sidewalk sale - sort of. I think he originally came Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. I wanted him very badly but he was very expensive at the time. I took out a small loan to get him. A Steiff representative told me there had been only 5 of them ever made! I believe he now lives in that toy museum in Basel Switzerland. Years ago, he was featured in an article in Teddy Bear and Friends. He is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal: I hear you have a very special Steiff studio bison in your collection. Tell us a little about it.

Denis: Though not necessarily my favorite, the bison is probably the most impressive of my studio animals. He is pictured here on the left with my studio Renny reindeer. When the seller told me over the phone that he was 8 feet long and 6 feet high, I really couldn't grasp how big he was. I had to borrow a friends hefty truck since he wouldn't fit in my Toyota pickup.

Years ago I had seen him in a local toy store. He was up on a wall overlooking the shoppers. I inquired about the possibility of a purchase. They said he wasn't for sale and probably would never be. Many years later, a friend told me that the store was going out of business and I should contact them about adopting their bison. But I was too late and he had already been donated to a children's museum.

Fast forward almost a decade later, I found him listed for sale on Craigslist! He was VERY reasonable priced but the ad had been up for 3 days. I was nervous that he was no longer available. A few days later the phone rang and it was the curator of the museum who said that he would be delighted for me to have him. At that point I thought, he is really meant to be with me after all these years!

When I got him home, he was dusty so I stood him on my front lawn and vacuumed him off. Thankfully, his head comes off. It's hinged to sway back and forth. His head was lying in the corner of the yard while I vacuumed his body and I notice large shadows on the ground. I look up and there are two turkey vultures circling looking for a quick bite!

Steiffgal: Clearly good (Steiff) things come to those who wait! The readers and I appreciate you sharing your wonderful world of studio animals with us!

Steiffgal wishes you a very Happy New Year and hopes that your big dreams for 2011 all come true!

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


  1. Many wishes for a Happy New Year from me....


  2. Thank you for this great post of Studio Animals of Steiff. Happy New Steiff Year 2011. Regards Juergen

  3. I have a 1950's Studio Giraffe....he is about 8 feet tall.....have not been able to find out much about him

  4. I have a Studio size 6 foot Steiff Oryx (gemsbok antelope) on ebay located in NY.


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