Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Tisket, A Tasket, Here's Steiff's Kitties In A Basket!

Well, if this fantastic Steiff rarity isn't the cat's meow, Steiffgal is not sure what would be! Here we have an all but purr-fect basket of Steiff Susi cats all snuggled up together in their special bed.  Let's take a closer look at these pretty kitties and see what makes this grouping so interesting from the collector's perspective.  

A tisket - a tasket - here we have sweet kitties in a basket!  This marvelous set consists of three total baby 10 cm Susi cats, and one Mama 17 cm Susi cat.  The cats are head jointed and made from white mohair that has been carefully hand-airbrushed with black stripes. Their tails wrap around their rears.  Each has green and black slit pupil eyes, a pink embroidered nose, and clear monofilament whiskers.  All the Susi cats have been gussied up with a spray of faux silk flowers which are worn like a corsage on their ribbon, or as a pretty crown-wreath on their head.  (You can see one of the kittens with her floral flourish here on the left.) Post war, this Susi cat pattern was produced from 1948 through 1978 in 10, 12, 14, 17 and 22 cm and remains a classic favorite, even today.  

It is interesting to note that "Susi" was named after a member of the Steiff family.  

Let's weave the conversation now to the family's great wicker basket. It measures about 36 cm long by 25 cm wide by 11 cm high and is oval in shape. It is made from nicely woven brown wicker and is stamped "West Germany" on the base. The cushion is made from red and white gingham check cotton material, is quite soft and fluffy, and is removable from the basket.  The cats are all tied down to the cushion by white thread, which you can see on the underside of the cushion; this is illustrated here on the left.

This charming design was an "exclusive" item produced for the upscale toy retailer FAO Schwarz.  Steiff and FAO actually collaborated on a number of different "families in a basket" offerings, including groupings of large and small Dally Dalmatians, Molly Puppies, Snobby Poodles,  and other popular pet patterns.  In addition to Susi cats, Steiff's Kitty and Tabby cats were also used for this item.  You can see the Molly version of this product here on the left; the photo is from the book "A Century of Steiff & FAO Schwarz." Pet families in wicker baskets appeared in FAO Schwarz stores overall from 1961 through 1972; three or four total animals appeared in the baskets depending on the model used and year of production.  Steiff made the mohair animals and FAO Schwarz then decorated and attached them to their cushions in house once they arrived here in the United States. According to the FAO Schwarz catalog, 

"Next best thing to a real life family of pets (which can have its trying moments) is one of these happy groups of Steiff pets arranged on a pillow in a sturdy 14-inch beribboned wicker basket."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff and FAO Schwarz's Susi cat family in a basket has been an exclusive experience for you.

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

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