Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lassie Come Home With The Answer To This Steiff Mystery!

Steiffgal's a bit of a sassy Lassie when it comes to Steiff riddles about dogs, and this one really merits a pat on the head.  Check out this note from a reader who asks about her adorable Collie with somewhat of a mysterious ear tag number.  Joan writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

I am hoping you can solve this Steiff mystery.  No doubt you can. ;o)

Please see the attached photos of my dear Steiff lying collie.  What's puzzling is the number 2325,90 on his eartag.  Is this simply a misprint? Or? 

I date this 1960-67.  Is that correct or does that strange "9" mean something else?


Any light you could shed would be much appreciated as always!!  Thank you!!

Regards,
Joan"

Let's not take this challenge lying down!  What Joan has here is Steiff's simply marvelous lying Collie.  He is unjointed and in a very comfortable, lying down (but still somewhat attentive) position.  His facial mask, ears, arms, legs, and underside are made from short tan mohair.  His back, chest, and tail are made from very long mohair which has been gloriously and realistically airbrushed with black, tan, and grey highlights.  Collie's face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, an open, pink felt lined mouth, and a bright red tongue.  This item was produced in 25 and 43 cm from 1960 through 1975.  

The real mystery, as Joan points out, is the number on his yellow ear tag.  The  number is 2325,90. There is no reference to this product with this number in the Steiff Sortiment Book, the gold standard reference on vintage Steiff products.    Before the comma, this number translates to 2 = lying, 3 = mohair, and 25 = 25 cm.  After the comma, this number means 9 = "display animal or special edition" and 0 = "normal color".  What could this all mean?

Let's play by the numbers.  The ,90 means "special edition", and in many cases, that means that the item was produced for a certain period of time for a very specific market or sales channel.   Then it may have been produced and distributed on a much wider scale after that specific time frame.  A very good example of that is Steiff's bisons.  This pattern, available in 12, 17, and 30 cm, was produced as a United States exclusive in 1960.  A few years later, in 1962 and 1963, this identical design was produced in the same three sizes for worldwide distribution. (Bison with “90” as the last digits of their ear tag article numbers are from 1960; while those from 1962 and 1963 sport “00” as their last digits.)  The 17 cm bison with the ,90 ear tag detail is pictured here on the left. 

Doggonit, let's figure out what we can about Joan's confounded Collie.  As Steiffgal has mentioned many times before, Steiff is an art, not a science, and there are times that it may be impossible to figure out exactly the back story behind something.  But here are a few possible ideas:

1.  Yup, it could be something as simple as a typo on the eartag.  Steiffgal has several items in her collection where the numbering system on the ear tag, which should reflect the make-up of the animal at the time, just doesn't match up.  

2.  It could also be something as simple as an omission in the Steiff Sortiment Books. For better or worse, this does happen as it would be all but impossible to capture the thousands and thousands of distinctive Steiff products in the Steiff archives. 

3. It is very interesting to note that Joan's Collie was also produced in a sitting up pattern in 12 and 22 cm from 1960 through 1969.  These are pictured here on the left.  And, like the bison mentioned above, in 1960 both the 12 and 22 cm sitting Collies were United States exclusives.  These sitting up Steiff Collies produced in 1960 collies each have the ,90 as part of their yellow ear tag identification number.  

Given all of that background, it is Steiffgal's best guess that Joan's Collie was produced in 1960, based on his identification, design, and other things happening with Steiff's product distribution around that time.  It is possible that he was also a United States exclusive in 1960, and that information was just not captured in the publicly available records.  Or, it is also possible that he was just about to be an exclusive, and for some reason the company changed its mind at the last minute, but did not change his eartag to reflect this. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion concerning Joan's cryptic Collie has been a real mind bender for you!

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

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for all the information! I found it to be interesting and very informative. I have purchased all my Steiffs in Germany.
    I do have a question... Last year I was thrilled to see Steiffs in add for a store here in San Antonio called Tuesday Morning. I rushed over to see and hopefully purchase some. To my dismay when I got there, I looked at their tag and they said Made in CHINA!!! I was shocked that my beloved Steiffs are now being made in China. What is this about??? Can you explain???

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  2. Hi I have a steiff chimpanzee with red hat red ribbon on his neck . light brown fir brown glass eyes felt ears .hands and feet.part of his face is also felt .....He was my moms...she was born 1915...I think he is from when she was a tot...do you have any idea what he could be worth or where I can go to find out ? thanks

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