Sunday, March 2, 2014

Counting Sheep Over This Large And Unusual Green Eyed Lamb

It's not always exactly black and white when it comes to the identification of some vintage Steiff treasures.  And such is the case with this somewhat rare, early postwar lamb, who just indeed happens to be black and white!  Check out this note from a friend in New England, who asks about the eartag on an extra-large version of a sweet barnyard buddy.  Sandy writes in part:
 What can you tell me about a black and white Lamby - the one with green eyes - that is about 14 inches tall with a stock tag number 6535,02?  I don't see that number listed for the black Lamby in the Sortiment - but I know there are things that are not listed.  None of the stock numbers for the black Lamby end in 02 but there is such a number listed for a white Lamby.  
Let's not start counting sheep and take a look right away at this great Steiff design.  Sandy is describing a very nice black and white lamb pattern that only officially appeared in the Steiff line for a handful of years, from 1954 through 1956, in 10, 14, and 22 cm.  She is pictured here on the left; these Lambys are from Steiffgal's personal collection.  Called Lamby, she is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from black wool plush.  Her tail is made from white wool plush; smaller versions have a white forehead while larger versions have a white forehead, face, and muzzle area.  Lamby's ears are made from black felt.  Her face is detailed with green and black pupil eyes and a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth.  Lamby left the factory in Giengen with a silk bow and brass bell. 

So what about the Lamby Sandy is describing - a really big one at 14 inches tall?  Well, that does translate to 35 cm - which is much larger than the examples noted in the standard Steiff reference books.  So what may be this item's story - and what's with his article number that does not appear like any of the other standard size black Lamby models?  Well, only the lamb knows for sure, and many things in the Steiff world are not as consistent as many collectors would like.  So here's Steiffgal's possible take on this marvelous Steiff mystery.

Steiff began producing its lovely and extremely popular white lambs post war in 1948; they were named Lamb from 1948 to 1953, and Lamby from 1954 until the end of production in 1976.  Steiff introduced a black lamb pattern, also called Lamby, in 1954.  The article numbers for the first series of both white and black Lambys in 10, 14, and 22 cm were the same, except that the black ones had an s right after the number.  When Steiff did this, it usually was meant to indicate a color, and in this case, it is Steiffgal's strongest suspicious that the s was to designate schwarz, or black.  The 35 cm version of white Lamby, with article number 6535,02 was made from 1953 through 1958.  "6535,02" in Steiff language means young, wool plush, 35 cm, without wheels, and with a voice.  
It is Steiffgal's guess here that black Lamby was made in this 35 cm size as a sample, in a very limited production, or was not documented in the 1954-1956 time period.  It is not known if the 35 cm black Lamby Sandy is describing has a voice in its belly or not, and this is pretty important.   
  • If he does, then the article number 6535,02 would actually make sense for the black Lamby.  It is interesting to note that Steiff's numbering system in the 1947-1958 time frame did not explicitly represent colors via digits.  
  • If he does not have a squeaker in his belly, it is Steiffgal's best guess, that because the company realized that they would not be making black Lamby in the 35 cm size, but wanted to sell these larger pieces, they put on the 6535,02 ear tags they had on hand because in essence they do closely describe the product, and the time frame in which it was produced, and this would be the most cost effective and efficient rather than ordering a bunch of tags when only a few were required.  
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the numbering system on Steiff's black and white Lamby lambs all adds up to you.
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