Friday, March 16, 2012

A Larger Than Life Steiff Teddy Baby

Well, it goes without saying that Steiffgal went a little ga-ga when she received this note about one of her favorite Steiff designs, Steiff's classic and delightful "Teddy Baby."  And talk about one heck of a big baby!  Check out this question from Tush, who writes from Austria...

"Hi Steiffgal,

I need your help! I'm on the verge of buying this large Teddy Baby. He's in "all original" condition, and has no holes or tears. As you can see from the photos, his mohair has faded and thinned on the front. He has a button dating him to the fifties, but has lost all his other IDs.

Would you say he's a Schautier (i.e., a "Studio" item)? Apparently the seller had him valued at an auction house here in Austria, and they classified him as a "display animal."  In the Steiff Sortiment Book 1947 - 2003 there is a Teddy Baby display animal, although he's 150  cm. 

Have you ever seen or heard of a Teddy Baby being 80 cm tall? The largest produced Teddy Babies were 65 cm tall.

I find him adorable - but would like to know how "rare" he really is.

Thanks in advance for your help and greetings from Austria,

Tush"


Oh baby, what a great question!  First of all, let's take a look at his wonderful design to understand his legacy in the Steiff line.  Teddy Baby has been produced in a number of slightly varying designs over the years. However, all Steiff Teddy Baby bears have three things in common: 1.  a distinctive, well defined muzzle;  2.  flat, broad, clawed feet made for standing; and 3.  sweet, toddler-like features. The Teddy Baby pattern debuted in 1929—a very creative, prolific period at Steiff when several of their most recognizable and classic designs (including Molly puppy and Bully bulldog) were also introduced. Pre-World War II, Teddy Baby was made in 13 sizes ranging from 9 to 65 cm.


It is interesting to note that Teddy Baby was one of the very first items Steiff started producing when the factory in Germany opened after the war. Due to limited supplies and logistical complications, he was made in artificial silk plush (a transitional, lower quality material) in 1948. Then, once supplies and operations were back in order, he was produced in blond or brown mohair in 9, 22, 28, 30, and 40 cm in the identical pattern made before the war. All sizes over 9 cm came with a leather collar with a bell. Teddy Baby remained in the Steiff line from 1949 to 1957, although due to his popularity with collectors, has been replicated many times in numerous limited edition series.

Now to his distinctively un-baby like proportions.  As Tush noted, the largest "official" standard line sized Teddy baby was produced was 65 cm, but that was in the 1940's.  And this bear dates from the 1950's.  So why is this brown beauty 80 cm?  And does he qualify as a "Studio" item?   

As with most things Steiff, the understanding the history of a special item relies both on art and science.  In reality, it is impossible to tell with certainty how Steiff would have cataloged this uniquely sized Teddy Baby.  It is entirely possible that he could have been a special customer order, or part of a window display, or a sample.  Here are two mini-clues that MAY shed some light on his past.  

  • First, he has brown feet.  As far as Steiffgal can find and research, brown Teddy Babies traditionally have light feet, so this may suggest that he was created as a sample or customer special order.
  • Second, he has worn areas on his head and chest.  That may suggest that he was part of a display in a store that catered to children.  Why?  Because the wear is at the height where young people would pet and cuddle him.

And what's in a name - especially the name "Studio?"  In general, a Steiff Studio item is life-sized, or designed specifically for display purposes. So in the case of “life-sized” animals, if in nature a tiger is almost 6 feet long, then the Steiff Studio tiger would be almost 6 feet long. In the case of a display product, an item may be produced in exceptionally large proportions in order to make a statement in a window vignette.  Since the early 1900s, Studio items have been produced in a special, high-ceiling building on the Steiff campus.  There is precedence for "Studio" sized versions of classic Steiff Teddy bear designs.  For example, in 1967, Steiff made 80 and 100 cm version of their Zotty Bears, and did call those "Studio items" in the Sortiment books; a picture of a gynormous 80 cm Zotty is pictured here on the left.  

Given that Tush's Teddy Baby was also made in the "studio" building on the Steiff campus... Steiffgal would think that this big bruin would also qualify for studio-status.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Teddy Baby has been as peaceful as a lullaby to you.

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

2 comments:

  1. I have a Steiff Teddy Baby from the 1950s I believe and am wondering what he is worth?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have a 2001 Steiff Teddy Baby 1949 replica 0097 of 1500 tag number 408272 sold by FAO Schwarz that is 75 cm tall.

    ReplyDelete

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