Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hop Hop Hooray For This Fabulous Steiff Rabbit On Wheels!

Any bunny in the mood for a little fun?  Well, its hard not to be in a playful frame of mind when it comes to Steiff delightful rolling collectibles!  And here's one that wasn't 'round for too long - she was only in the line for one year!  Check out this "smooth as silk" pull toy rabbit on red wooden wheels and see what makes her so cool from the design and historical perspectives.  

It's off to the races with this fabulous vintage Steiff rabbit.  She is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from tan artificial silk plush.  Her coat is brought to life with tan, grey and black airbrushing.  Her soft ears are lined in peach colored felt.  Her pensive face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth that is highlighted with a touch of pink paint. She has a few monofilament whiskers, a non-working squeaker, and retains her original blue ribbon.  Rabbit glides along on four red wooden off center wheels and has a red and white pull string attached to her chest.  For her Steiff IDs, she retains her short trailing "f" Steiff button and traces of her yellow ear tag. A close up of these IDs is shown below. This hoppy-go-lucky charmer was manufactured in this size in 1949 only.

This item certainly has wheel appeal and was made at a most interesting time in the company's history.  Just before the factory closed for toy making business in the early 1940's, and right after it opened again in the late 1940's, Steiff's manufacturing processes were challenged by limited material supplies.  Mohair and felt, traditional Steiff fabrics, were hard if not impossible to source, and had for several years been allocated to military uses, such as uniforms, hats, blankets, and other items.  

But Steiff has always found ways to get the job done, even under the most difficult of supply chain circumstances.  A great example of this is their use of plush made from wooden fibers right after World War I, when they also faced limited access to woolen materials.  The company was also forced to get creative with materials around and just after World War II as well. During this period, Steiff "improvised" with artificial silk plush materials to manufacture some of its most beloved designs traditionally made from mohair - like this rabbit on wheels. Artificial silk plush was a cheaper, lower cost, and poorer quality option, but it was available on commercial scale.  And "silk" most likely refers to the shine and softness of the plush.  However, this synthetic material tended to lose its sheen and good looks quite quickly; as a result, it unusual to find Steiff artificial silk plush items in great condition today. 

Because of the time frame in which artificial silk plush items were made, it is possible to see a number of different Steiff button designs on items besides the short trailing "f" button noted on the rabbit on wheels. The photo to the left shows a few other artificial silk period plush items, including:

  • Front and center, a black and white sitting bunny produced in 15, 18, 22 cm from 1938 to 1943.  His button is STEIFF in all capital letters.  His ID and production dates suggest he might have been made in the early 1940's, put into storage during the war, then buttoned and sold right after the war.
  • Standing tall in the back is a silk plush Teddy baby produced in 22, 25, and 30 cm from 1948 to 1950.  He has a blank Steiff button.
  • On the right, a sitting Bazi Dachshund, produced in 14 and 17 cm from 1948 to 1949.  He also has a blank Steiff button.
  • And on the left, a somewhat rare brown Teddy bear, he is not noted in the Steiff Sortiment but is estimated to be from the late 1940's.  Unfortunately he has lost his button, but one just like him was found with a short trailing "f" button.
It is interesting to note Steiffgal has never seen a US Zone tag on any silk plush item,  even though these tags were technically supposed to be sewn onto any Steiff item leaving the factory from 1947 to 1953.  Have you ever seen this combination?  Alas, another mystery for another day.   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's silk plush fabric items has added a touch of creativity and inspiration to your day.  

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

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