Friday, July 29, 2011

Just Who Is This Early 1950's Steiff "Mystery Mutt?"

There's nothing Steiffgal likes more than a good Steiff mystery, and this one really deserves a blue ribbon!  Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about a Steiff "mystery mutt" she is trying to identify - without much luck!  Through a series of correspondences, Holly from Hawaii shares....

"Hi Steiffgal...

Could you please take a look at this Steiff dog which I am having trouble identifying.  Is he a Chow?  A Pomeranian?  A Spitz?  As for his details,  he has a raised script button and a remnant of the white linen US Zone tag.  Overall, he measures 6" tall by 6" long.

He has a wonderful smile, and original nose, mouth, and and claw stitching. His fur is made of a woolly plush, which is pinky cream color.  He has a cute curly tail and a very perky upward gaze.
Thanks for your help! 
Aloha,  Holly"

Steiffgal has given this dog-years of thought and here is her best conclusion. What Holly has here is a an unusual wool plush standing Chow Chow, one that to Steiffgal's best knowledge did not appear in the standard line or was pictured in any of the traditional Steiff reference tomes, including the Sortiment books by Gunther Pfeiffer.   Steiffgal does not think he is a Pom or a Spitz for three reasons:
  1. There were no Poms or Spitzes produced in the regular line immediately post WWII.
  2. The pre-WWII war Poms and Spitzes don't look anything like Holly's pup, and...
  3. Traditionally, Steiff Poms and Spitzes have their entire faces in short material, the chows have just their muzzles in short material and their eyes on the border of the long and short hair part of the face. 
Let's feast on what is known about early 1950's Steiff Chow Chow dogs.  Steiff made two models of Chow Chows starting in 1951 - one sitting and one standing.  The sitting one, pictured on the left, only came in pure white wool plush in 10 cm; he was in the line through 1957.  The standing one, pictured on the right) only came in yellow corn colored wool plush in 12, 17 and 25 cm; he was in the line through 1959.  Both patterns had tiny red dots on their lips - most likely as a nod to a tongue.  Holly's Chow has this detail as well.

Let's talk about two other features which separate this dog from the rest of the pack.  First is size:  Holly's dog is 6 inches, which is about is 15 cm.  This measurement is not really anywhere close to the standard line item - either 12 or 17 cm.  Second is color:  he is pinky cream, which may be a variation on the white model, but this lighter shade was ONLY made in a sitting position.
So just what is this curious canine companion?  Given the above history, Steiffgal believes he is an uncatalogued, 15 cm wool plush standing Chow Chow from around 1952.  The dating is based on the combination of his Steiff raised script button and US Zone tag.   His original color may have been white which has darkened slightly over time; it is hard to tell.  He may have been a prototype or sample of a Chow Chow that never went into production - a theme and variation on the two models that did make the line in the 1950's.   You can see a few basic traces of this early post war Chow Chow design in Steiff's famous and more sophisticated "Laika the Space Dog" pattern which appeared in the line a few years later, in 1958 through 1959. 

Steiffgal hopes this chow-fest has satisfied your hunger to learn more about rare and unusual Steiff dogs!
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

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