Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Good Things Come In Threes With Steiff's Tiny Tabby Kittens

Less is more when it comes to Steiff's amazing palm-sized pets!  And who wouldn't want to add a few petite treats to their Steiff hug? Although by nature more of a "dog person," Steiffgal recently had the the opportunity to adopt three utterly marvelous palm sized Steiff kittens into her collection.  Check out this terrific trio and see what makes them the cat's meow in so many ways!

Steiffgal is totally smitten with these tiny kittens! Here we have three of Steiff's Tabby cats.  They are standing, unjointed, and made from white mohair which has been highlighted with grey and detailed with black stripes. Their faces are brought to life with green and black slit pupil eyes, pink hand embroidered noses and mouths, and clear monofilament whiskers.  Each wears a pink or red bow and a tiny brass colored jingle bell.  Overall, postwar Tabby was made in 7, 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1949 through 1977.

Size also defies with these charming baby cats! Although they are "technically" labeled and cataloged as the 7 cm version (measured vertically from top of head to toe,) these Tabby cats actually vary from a little over 7 cm down to 6 cm.  A centimeter plus or minus doesn't sound like a big difference here, but when things are actually this small, it has a huge effect on an item's scale and appearance. 

It's never polite to ask someone's age, but in this case, it's makes for an interesting mystery!  These "triplet" cats all have their raised script buttons, yellow ear tags, and red imprinted chest tags.  This combination of IDs dates them all around 1952.  However, when it comes to Steiff, things are never quite that simple... especially when it comes to identification and detailing on items from the late 1940's and early 1950's.  There are a few very subtle differences between them that suggest that they may not all share the identical birth date!

  • One Tabby has a tiny white linen "US Zone" tag sewn into his front leg seam; the others do not.  This tag measures less than 1 square cm overall and is pictured above on the left. The US Zone tag was technically used on all items produced by Steiff in the 1947 through 1953 time frame.
  • One Tabby has early style, "teal green" and black slit pupil eyes, while the others have more "soda bottle green" and black slit pupil eyes; this is pictured below.
  • One Tabby's ear tag reads, "Steiff (in bold script) Original 1307,0 Made in Germany" while the others both read, "Steiff (in regular print) Orig. gesch. 1307,0 Made in Germany."  Both of these styles of ear tags were used in the approximately 1952 time frame, and are pictured below.
  • Each kitten has a silk ribbon; however they are not matching in color.  One ribbon is not original, but in the correct "color palate" to the others.  

So what does all this mean?  Here are two things to keep in mind...

First and foremost, it is important to remember that these sorts of vintage Steiff items were all made by hand, so slight differences in size and general appearance are to be expected.  And this truly does magnify with smaller items, where there is less "wiggle room" for differences.  Most collectors would agree that these variations only add to the appeal and charm of Steiff treasures.

Secondly, these items were made during a less than optimal production period at Steiff (circa WWII) where the company was dealing with limited supplies and resources.  During this time, it would not be unusual to use pre-war materials on post war produced items, as the company has traditionally used "what's on hand" for manufacturing and ID purposes.  For example, in this case, the blue-green eyes on one of the Tabby cats could have easily come from pre-war stock, while the Tabby herself may have been made post war.  And, to complicate things even more - given Steiff did indeed make a 7 cm grey and white striped Tabby cat from 1936 through 1943 - this Tabby could have even been made pre-war, tucked away during the war, and then buttoned, labeled, and sold postwar!   Only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these baby kittens reminds you that good things indeed come in threes!

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

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