Saturday, March 24, 2012

There's A Mystery Bruin' With These Steiff-Like Bears

It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and that seems to be the case with classic Steiff designs as well.  Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about two of her family's legacy treasures.  Through a series of emails, Lizzy writes...

"Hello,

I have two Steiff bears, one is 12 inches and the other 8 inches tall.   They are mohair and most likely from the early twenties as they were my Grandfather's.  They are very well loved, as you can see by the photos.  Both bears have amber glass eyes and have a velvety padded feet and paws.  

What can you tell me about them?

I appreciate your help!

Best, 
Lizzy"


There is certainly a mystery bruin' with these cubs. They are Steiff-like in some respects, but not actually made by Steiff.  They do share many of the basic proportions and design elements of Steiff's classic Teddy Baby design - pictured here on the left - including flat feet (made of velvet or mohair, depending on their size), a prominent muzzle (also (made of velvet or mohair, depending on their size), down-turned front paws, and an overall chubby, toddler-like appearance.  However, Lizzy's bears also have several facial features that are definitely not original to the Steiff Teddy Baby design, including grey felt lined eyes and little red velvet tongues. 

This darling duo was actually made by another German toy company called Moritz Pappe.  This company was located in Liegnitz, Germany and was founded back in 1869.   They specialized in dolls, bears, and other stuffed animal designs.  Definitely a competitor of Steiff, their product lines often featured similar items to Steiff, such as "traditional" Teddy bears, somersaulting items, and even this Teddy Baby design.  They also made musical Teddy bears.  However, unlike Steiff which had a wide range of international sales partners, including offices in the United States, Pappe's distribution was more regional, apparently only reaching throughout northern and western Europe.  Steiff and Pappe publicly "introduced" the Teddy Baby pattern around the same time, as reference books seem to indicate that design patents for both were filed in 1928 and versions from both companies hit the shelves a few months later.  This competitive spirit over a great new design was very, very common (and still seems to be...) in the toy industry.  

Pappe Teddy Babies appear far less frequently on the secondary market than those made by Steiff.  Pappe produced their Teddy Babies in blonde and brown in 20, 26, 33, 39, and 50 cm. When they were new, they featured a small square shaped tag on their left ear with the letters "MP" in a circle, and the words "made in Germany" below. According to Pappe company documents about this design... 

"The young standing bear with its juvenile facial expression is an animal figure which has movable joints and which expresses its young age by the physical structure of its body, as well as through its facial expression, the form of its head, and its eyes.  In line with the young age of the bear an appropriate plush cloth material was used, which underlines the softness and plumpness of the animal... This article is designed as a toy."   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff and Pappe Teddy Babies has put a little competitive spirit into you collecting interests.

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

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