Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saddling Up To A Mysterious Steiff Pony On Wheels

Hold your horses... and take a look at this terrific Steiff wheeled wonder! A reader is curious to learn more about a significant addition to her Steiff hug. Melissa writes:

Melissa's pony, side view
"Dear Steiffgal:

I have a very large Steiff horse on wheels that is tagged in the ear with a yellow tag with the number 1356 C or it could be 1358 C. The last number is hard to read. On his leg is a tag that says U.S. Zone.

He is very big, about 27" to the shoulder or about 34" to the top of his head. He is made of gold mohair with a blond mane and tail. The wheels are blue. He wears an elaborate wooden saddle.

The lady I purchased him from had lots of gorgeous dolls and animals that were purchased for her and her sister in the 1950's. I have not been able to track down such a large horse. Any information would be greatly appreciated.


Original Steiff Reit Pony, photo from Gunter Pfeiffer
This inquiry is quite the barn burner!  What Melissa clearly has here is a Reit Pony or Riding Pony from the very early 1950's.  Reit Pony is hard stuffed with excelsior and is mounted on metal disc wheels with rubber tires.  He has an interior metal frame for security and stability.  Pony is detailed with a long mane and tail; authentic saddle, reins, and stirrups; and a happy, open, felt lined mouth.  He really is an adorable barnyard buddy!  According to reference books, this design was produced overall in 42, 43, 49, 50, 60, 80, and 100 cm from 1949 through 1970 in white mohair with brown spots (pictured here on the left) and brown mohair.  But wait, Melissa says hers is blond.  What's going on here?  

Melissa's pony, front view
Don't worry, this is not a case of "pony baloney."  Timing is everything, and the timeline for this item probably holds the answer to this mystery.  Let's first take a look at the yellow tag number, which is 1356 C or 1358 C.  This is a bit unusual, as it doesn't really fall into any convention.   However, it is important to note that the article numbers for Steiff's early Reit Ponies all start with 13.  And that the series number for early post war horses was 56.  Now, what's most interesting here is the letter "c."  According to company information, from 1947 through 1958, the use of the letter "c" on a yellow ear tag would indicate that the item was originally caramel in color.  Given how close some shades of caramel and blond are, and how colors fade and change over time, it is very possible that this pony was more caramel then blond when he left the factory in Giengen almost 60 years ago.  

So, care to bet on the results of this horse race?  It is Steiffgal's best educated guess that Melissa's pony is a caramel version of Steiff's standard line Reit Pony from around 1950. It is quite clear that this example was made in the 1950 through 1953 time zone, if you line up his IDs and possible dates of manufacture.  During this time, Steiff experimented with many themes and variations of successful products, so it would not be out of the question that they tried a caramel version of their usually brown and white, or all brown, riding pony.  And what about his size, which is usually reflected in the ear tag - but not in this case?  Steiff usually measures these sorts of items height-wise.  So, if he truly measures 34" head to toe (wheels not included), this pretty pony is most likely the 80 cm version.  It is also Steiffgal's opinion that his reins and possibly his saddle are original; but his blue stirrups, red handle, and wooden seat were not made by Steiff.

Steiffgal hopes that you have enjoyed saddling up to this great Steiff horse mystery. 

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

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