Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seeing Stripes Over Steiff's Unusual Pint Sized Tigers

It's easy to understand why so many collectors see stripes when it comes to Steiff's terrific tigers.  Although a "relative" latecomer to the Steiff line (they first appeared in the company's catalog in 1915, about 23 years after it was first published in 1892), they were an instant hit.  Today they remain one of the company's most beloved patterns, and some enthusiasts specialize in them alone.  Over the years, Steiff has manufactured tigers in just about every size and configuration you can imagine, raging from a 6 cm sitting Nomotta "woolen miniature" version to a Studio, or life sized, 160 cm model.  

One of the things Steiff has been able to do so successfully with tigers is to design them with unique features - whether lifelike, playful, or just plain adorable - regardless of their size.   Let's take a look at three very different styles of rare, handful-sized tigers Steiff created in the 1950's through the early 1970's and see what makes them so interesting from the collector's perspective. 

Our first pint sized sweetie should have you moving and grooving if nothing else.  This is Steiff's 14 cm,  five ways jointed tiger cub. He is standing on all fours, and made from tan mohair that has been airbrushed with a base of orange with black striped details all over his head, back, and tops of his limbs. Tiger's rather serious looking face is detailed with green and black slit pupil eyes, pert mohair ears, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and mono filament whiskers. He has a little red highlighting around his lips and eyes.  Tiger was produced in 8, 10, and 14 cm from 1952 through 1959. The 8 cm version had a cord tail and was a US exclusive product.  

(It is interesting to note that five ways jointed animals are labor intensive and expensive to produce, and Steiff produced fewer and fewer of them over time; by the late 1960's most previously five ways jointed designs had been converted to just head jointed (or none at all) to keep expenses under control.) 

This second Steiff tiger is anything but a "tiny terror!"  Here we have the smallest version of Steiff's distinctive and rare Bengal tiger. He is 14 cm, sitting, unjointed, and made from beautifully hand airbrushed mohair. He has green and black pupil eyes, a pink and black embroidered nose, and black airbrushed claws. You can't help but crack a smile in reference to his most distinctive feature:  his open mouth,  which is lined in peach colored felt; it looks like he is grinning broadly (or yawning, your choice!) This brave baby was made in 14, 22, and 43 cm from 1959 through 1961 only.  His older brothers come four pointy teeth:  two on the top and two on the bottom.  It is quite rare to find the larger sizes in good condition with all of their teeth remaining. 
X marks the spot of our final Steiff tiger under discussion today.  Here we have Steiff's "Ponx."  He is 17 cm, sitting, unjointed, and made from dralon.  His belly and undersides, as well as his sideburns and the linings of his ears are pure white, while his back, sides, and face are orange with black hand applied airbrushing.  His face is detailed with green and black slit pupil eyes, clear mono filament whiskers, a pink embroidered nose, and a black mouth.  If Shere Khan (the tiger from the movie The Jungle Book, produced by Steiff in 35 cm from 1968 through 1975) had a son, he probably would look alot like Ponx!  Ponx was made from 1971 through 1974 as part of a series called "der kleine tierversand" - which roughly translates into "the little animal series."  Each item in this series came in a special display box and was accompanied by a little blue booklet which told the story about the animal; the booklet included translations in German, English, and French. Details of Ponx's booklet can be found right below.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on interesting little vintage Steiff tigers has been the cat's meow for you.  

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

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