Monday, August 27, 2012

This Vintage Steiff Elephant Has Wheel Appeal!

It's certainly easy to be on a roll when it comes to delightful vintage Steiff collectibles!  It just seems that things on moving carriages have "wheel appeal" to most Steiff collectors all over the world.  And such is the case here with this half-century plus old family heirloom.  Take a note from this reader who asks about her newly acquired plush pachyderm.  Anita writes in part...

"Hi Steiff Gal! 

I am interested in learning more about  a Steiff elephant on wheels I inherited. Based on my own detective work and help from others, I believe he is a 1950 pull toy, Steiff Sortiment serial number 1335.  I was hoping you might be able to confirm this or advise if you think he could be something different.  

I am attaching several pictures including the button, the tag, and the wheel markings.  The button has block lettering and no trailing line on the F.  He has a chest tag that is half gone but what is visible appears to be "Made in US Zone Germany."  No other tags or markings I can find other than on the wheel which reads "STEIFF 66 (or 55) X 12".  I measured him at 15 inches long and 11 inches high. We believe he is mohair and his eyes are either glass or plastic. Oh, he has a working squeaker, too! His stuffing feels harder but I am not sure what it's made of.

Apparently he also used to have a little blanket and leather head piece which is missing.   I looked carefully and actually do see a few red threads on his body that I was wondering about before as they seemed attached to him.  Now that makes sense.  Also when I look at the wear on the top of his head I can see the outline of where the head piece may have been.   

I am so fortunate to have inherited him.  I have enjoyed seeing him in our family my whole life. However, I do not know where he originally came from except that we think my mother or father must have gotten him since no other relatives remember him.  

Thanks for any information you can provide!


Steiffgal doesn't want to push the issue, but what Anita has here is called Steiff's Zieh Elephant or Pull Toy Elephant He is standing, unjointed, and made from grey mohair.  He has white felt tusks and a happy, smiling open mouth.  He was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1949 through 1961.  If he is 11 inches high (assuming height without wheels) then his is most likely the 28 cm size and has shrunk just a bit over time; this tends to happen with older excelsior stuffed items.  He came originally with a red felt blanket detailed with a yellow moon and star design, and red leather head dress. 

This excellent elephant has several features which allow him to be dated quite precisely.  This item had blue painted wooden wheels in 1949 and metal wheels with rubber tires from 1950 through 1961. He also has a US Zone tag, which dates him him from about 1947 through 1953, and the relatively rare Steiff block button, dating him from around 1950 or so.  If you dovetail all of this information, he probably was made in 1950 and as such is item #1328,2.  If he were made in 1951, which is also a possibility, his item number would be #1328,1.  These numbers translate into 1=standing; 3=mohair; 28 =28 cm; ,1= squeaker; and ,2=double press voice, growler, or pull chord voice. 

To restore or not to restore, that is a question here.  Steiffgal thinks that Anita's elephant is a very nice example of a classic item and would probably would benefit from restoration. Suggested basic improvements would include a good cleaning and a little re-stuffing around the trunk and head area.  It may also be good to recreate his original blanket and headdress as closely as possible.  The picture here to the left shows what this model looked like when new; it is the 1949 version with blue wooden wheels.  Anita's piece from 1950 or 1951 would be identical except for the wheels.  

Now for the question that turns Steiffgal into a wild beast - his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not an appraiser and truly believes something is worth what someone will pay.  The piece is in somewhat rough shape as it stands now.  Unfortunately, for many collectors, the condition and appearance of the face greatly drives its overall appeal and desirability - and that is one of the main problem areas with this example.  It is Steiffgal's best guess  is that although he probably has some collector's value, most of it is sentimental, given his current condition.  Getting him back in shape will at least preserve the value he has, and make him last for many more generations to come.  If he were Steiffgal's, she would make the investment.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Anita's Pull Toy Elephant has been a fun joy ride for you.

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