Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Hair-Raising Steiff Coco Baboon

It's easy to go ape over Steiff's wonderful monkeys, especially their distinctive and delightful baboons!  Take a look at this note from a reader, who had the recent good fortune of welcoming a rather distinctive Steiff primate to his collection.  Rod from Oregon writes...


I’ve recently acquired this Steiff “Coco” the baboon, from the estate of a collector of vintage toys. I have been unable to find this larger (sitting 10” tall) Coco anywhere on the Internet. 

If you can share any information on rarity or value, I’d greatly appreciate your time. 

I’ve included several pictures so you can evaluate condition. It’s in rough condition but still has the original tag. I can tell it’s stuffed with straw because it’s visible through some holes in the right hand. 

Let me know what you think.


It's easy to go loco over this Steiff Coco! What we have here is Steiff’s Pavian Coco or Coco Baboon. In good condition, this mighty monkey is one of them most sought after early post war items in the Steiff catalog. Coco is 35 cm, sitting, five ways jointed, and made from very thick silver mohair. He has a long bendable tail and very realistic grey felt hands and feet – with each toe and finger clearly defined. Like his distant cousin Jocko the Chimpanzee, Coco has a peach colored felt face and ears, as well as expressive deep-set eyes in felt pockets. However, unlike Jocko, Coco has a huge, expressive, oversized, open felt mouth.  Overall, this Coco was produced from 1951 through 1958 and then again in 1961.  The red imprinted chest tag on Rod's Coco - pictured above - suggests that he was made in the very early 1950's. 

Now for a holler about Coco's hair collar.  Each 35 cm Coco that left the Steiff factory in Giengen, Germany, had a remarkable hair collar.  This fabulous accessory was made from mohair strands that were about 5 inches long! These tended to get a bit unruly (much like Steiffgal's ringlets once in awhile) and needed somewhat regular attention to keep them presentable. When Steiffgal got her Coco (pictured here on the left) at the Festival of Steiff back in 2005, it took her about two hours to smooth out and de-tangle his hair collar.   But doesn't he look so handsome as a result?!

Now for the question that drives Steiffgal bananas - his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and sincerely believes that something is worth what someone will pay.  This particular Steiff design was made for a relatively short time in a period - the 1950's - that is becoming more and more interesting to collectors.  However, the condition of Rod's particular Coco is only fair, given his overall presentation, bare mohair patches, felt challenged hands, and lack of his traditional hair collar.  Given all of the above, Steiffgal's best guesstimate is that he values in the $75 to $150 range.  If he were in very good to excellent condition, with a hair collar, he may value in the $250 to $500+ range.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Rod's Coco has been a hair-raising experience for you. 

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One Awesome Steiff Opossum

Every hear of an awesome 'possum?  Well, you're about to!  Check out this inquiry about a most unusual Steiff rarity - a vintage Steiff opossum!  Through a series of communications, MaryPat from New England writes...

"Hi Steiffgal...

I am hoping you can shed some light on... the history of an opossum that my Great Aunt Ruth gave to my brother when we were children.  She was born in the late 1800's. ...the opossum looks like it is lying/squatting down on all four legs which are not jointed.  Pictures are forthcoming.  

Thank you for any help you can provide. I am cc'ing my sister and brother as well as I know they will be interested in any information you can provide.  

I look forward to hearing from you. 


O-my.  What we have here is one of the most rare and elusive non-bear Steiff items from the turn of last century.  Here is the story behind this incredibly special find.  

When William Taft, whose nickname was “Billy Possum,” became president in 1909, many people thought that the opossum would take the place of the Teddy bear as a beloved plaything and become a nationwide mascot of good will. In response to the news from Washington, Steiff produced two mohair opossums. The first was a lying, unjointed version in 12, 14 and 17 cm; it was in the line from 1909 through 1913. The second was a jointed, begging version in 17, 22 and 28 cm; it was in the line from 1909 through 1914. Both had black bead eyes, a pink nose, felt ears and a long skinny tail.  Steiffgal believes MaryPat's brother's opossum is the smaller unjointed version. 

It should come as no shock to readers and collectors that an opossum just didn’t have the charm and appeal of the Teddy bear. In general, efforts to produce and distribute opossum-themed playthings failed miserably.  As a result, these early, vintage Steiff opossums are extraordinarily rare and usually generate huge interest and hammer prices when they do come on the market - of course, assuming that the pieces themselves are in very good condition with no unpleasant aesthetic or structural issues.  

Now the question that makes Steiffgal want to "play 'possum"... his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and something is worth what someone will pay at any given time.  It is really difficult to give a hard and fast value range on him, because Steiffgal has not seen him in person, and the only three comps she knows are of the larger, jointed models. The most recent larger jointed Steiff opossum sold in February, 2012 in a lot of otherwise uninteresting Steiff items for $6,000 - Steiffgal is certain that 99.9% of the interest in this lot was focused on the opossum.  At the 2010 Steiff Auction at Christie's in London, a really nice larger jointed version sold for close to $15,000 - he is pictured right here on the left.  And a third jointed version sold at auction in 2006 for a little over $5,000.  Again, these are not exactly the same items as the one under discussion, but are certainly first cousins.   

Given all of that, It would Steiffgal's best guesstimate, given he is in very good or better condition, that he probably could sell in the $5,000 to $6,000+ range, given the right buyer, seller, and situation.   

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Steiff's "Billy Possum" wins your vote of approval.

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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Golden Highlights From the April, 2012 Teddy Dorado Auction

Auctions can be a collector's best friend.  Think about it... they are the perfect place to discover treasures, learn about new finds, meet friends and fellow enthusiasts, and sometimes even score a fantastic item at an unbelievable price.  And in many cases, auction houses produce sale catalogs which can be a great reference for identification and valuation for future finds.    For Steiff collectors in particular, such is the case for the upcoming April 28, 2012 Teddy Dorado auction.  Although the physical event takes place in Germany, bids are welcome from all over the world!  Here's a few precious items up for offer that really caught Steiffgal's eye... and why!

These first two finds make Steiffgal feel like floating on air!  Here we have two marvelous Steiff mobiles, both from the 1974 through 1976 time period.  The first is a seagull mobile (on the left), which consists of three miniature black, white, and gray seagulls.  Each 3 x 3 cm bird has a woolie pompom body and head, orange beak, red feet, and a felt tail and wings.  The second is a raven mobile (on the right) which also consists of three tiny black birds. Each 3 x 3 cm raven has a black and blue woolie pompom body and head, an orange mouth, red feet, and black felt tail and wings.  

Good things come in threes - and such are the similarities between these two unusual collectibles.  First, it is interesting to note that in both cases, the only Steiff button and tag on the item is located at the top of the mobile; none of the animals have any specific Steiff branding on them at all.  Secondly,  the animals in both mobiles are modifications of standard line woolen miniatures with legs.  Steiff has produced a standing woolie seagull and a raven, but neither has outspread wings.  And finally, both models are packed in clear plastic tubes and have their animals suspended at different lengths from clear nylon string.  Due to their delicate construction and packaging, this makes both examples quite rare today.

This next lot really got Steiffgal's mouth watering!  Here we have a collection of items from the Steiff cafeteria dating in the 1954 through 1964 period.  The lot includes a white coffee cup, plate, and saucer; a teaspoon; blocks of sugar; and a server's pad to record a guest's order.  

These items each have a tasty background to them.  The cup and saucer were made by Bauscher Weiden, a well known German porcelain manufacturer that has been in business since 1881. The word "fabrikdekoriert" on the bottom of the cup, plate, and saucer means "factory decorated" and implys that these items were produced as a special order for the Steiff company.  The spoon is marked with "Cromargan Germany", suggesting that it was made by the Wurttembergische Metallwarenfabrik or WMF company, a German company that can trace its origins to 1853.  During the second half of the 20th century, this company focused its production on home and lifestyle products, including stainless flatware.  The sugar cubes are wrapped in white paper and bear the Steiff logo in blue, and the words "Südzucker cube Raffinade" and/or " Hellma Ernst Zuckerwürfel Stuttgart" on the sides.  "Zucker" means sugar, and "zuckerwürfel" means sugar cube, in German.  The imprint probably is the name of the sugar cube manufacturer or supplier who was located in Stuttgart, which is located about 75 miles from Giegnen.   (Part of Steiffgal's family from Stuttgart as well!) And finally, the server's pad hints that in 1954, in terms of beverages, the cafeteria was serving beer, lemonade, Coca Cola, milk, buttermilk, yogurt, cocoa, and chocolate milk, among other refreshments.   

Of course, Steiffgal is very intrigued that "bier" or beer is the first option - and the list is clearly not in alphabetical order!!

This final Teddy Dorado auction highlight is just about purrr-fect in every way.  Here we have Steiff's teeny-tiny 7 cm Fluffy cat from around 1927 through 1943.  She is sitting, unjointed, and made in part from bluish tipped mohair, which is just spectacular.  Her little tail wraps sweetly around her body.  Fluffy's face is detailed with tiny deep green and black pupil eyes and a simple hand embroidered red nose and mouth.  

The hugely popular Fluffy design was introduced in 1926.  Her details are quite typical of other products Steiff created during "the roaring 20's" - items tended to have large, childlike eyes, bright colors, playful textures, and a distinctly feminine touch to them.  Fluffy was such a favorite that she was produced in nine standard sizes, as well as on a pincushion, as a music box, and as a tail turns head model.  She appeared in the line through 1950.  Her design was slowly replaced by Susi, another favorite sitting style cat, who was a line standard through 1978.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on auction finds has you going once, going twice, going three times to discover the treasures that live sales events can offer. 

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Healing The World Through The Power Of Steiff

As the holidays of Easter and Passover are upon us, many people are focusing on new beginnings and their part in healing the world. As such, Steiffgal thought this would be a good time to share a wonderful story about the power of Steiff, but even more so, the power we all have in making a difference in the lives of others through philanthropy and genuine caring. 

Here is the story of the "Monkey Man."

A few months ago, Steiffgal was contacted by a family living just outside of New York City for some help in identifying and locating a vintage childhood treasure.  Their youngest sister, GT, a woman in her mid-40's, was having some terrible and unexpected health complications.  The family desperately wanted to reunite her with her beloved "Monkey Man" - a very large mohair chimp that was her constant companion through most of her early years - as a way to bring her comfort and some semblance of joy during these challenging times.  After carefully examining some old family photographs (pictured above...), Steiffgal determined that GT's dear friend was indeed a 1960's-era Steiff Jocko.

GT clearly loved her Jocko and called him her "Monkey Man."  Here in her own words is a poem that she wrote about him:


"I once had a monkey who always kept me company
He was to me what Teddy bears are to little girls and boys.
I don’t remember when
Or the exact time and place
But my little monkey man had an unforgettable face.

Like a security blanket should be
He’ll always be a special part of me.
My little monkey man,
I’d bring him back if I can.
My family did not know that someday I’d miss him so.
In a trash can with old toys
Without my knowing
And not by choice.
Taken from me when I had put him aside.
But really whose place was it to decide?

My little monkey man
With his unforgettable face
Sometimes I wonder why
I hadn’t kept him in a safe place.

Although he was old and worn.
And one of his arms had torn.
I’ll never forget my favorite little monkey man.
Cause he’ll always be a part of my childhood memory.

In my mind and in my heart."

Knowing the healing power of beloved button-in-ear companions, Steiffgal immediately sprang into action. She started to search worldwide for a 60 cm Jocko in very good to excellent condition for GT.  As many collectors are aware, these "big boys" are somewhat harder to find in this larger size, as fewer were made, and the available ones tend to have damage on their felt hands, feet, and faces.  Luckily, Steiffgal found one on an eBay auction that appeared to be in pretty nice shape and dated from the mid-1960's - the same time frame as GT's original "Monkey Man." She bid on it and won, and then had it shipped directly to GT's family.  This actual Jocko is pictured here on the left.  

The family planned a special dinner for GT, in order to reunite her with her new "Monkey Man" in the most delightful and memorable way possible.  Steiffgal prepared a little note to accompany the presentation, which read in part...

"I understand that you are having some health issues and that this childhood toy was a great source of love. My thoughts and prayers are with you. The hope is that this "Monkey Man" will provide some comfort and strength for you as the original one did. I am certain he is at least a "cousin" of your original companion... It was my pleasure to assist in this family project and I do hope we can stay in touch."

Clearly the surprise worked in the best ways possible.  GT wrote back in part...

"I just would like to thank you... for working with my sister in doing such a special search for a replica of the monkey I remember having as a child. It was a great surprise to actually see the same monkey once again and it did stir up some fun wonderful old memories of when I was a child. As I am going through cancer treatments at the moment, it did bring a sense of calm and a large smile that I have not felt or done in a few months. 

There really are no words to describe how a wonderful childhood memory is brought back to life at a time when you least expect it and most need it...

...Once again, I am grateful for the time you put into searching and communicating back and forth. It is a wonderful thing that you do. You are very kind and it is obvious you love what you do and you do it with a gentle heart and as a passionate Steiff enthusiast.

Thanks again and keep up all your good work locating family treasures and keeping the history of the Steiff monkey going."

Steiffgal hopes the story of GT and her wonderful "Monkey Man" inspires you to make a difference in the life of a friend - or a stranger - and to pay forward any kindnesses that have been extended to you. Doing good feels so good.

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