Saturday, January 10, 2015

Climb Every Mountain For This Great Vintage Steiff St. Bernard Dog!

The excitement of finding wonderful vintage Steiff treasures is certainly universal... and all collectors love to be able to say... "Look what I found!" Check out this note from a reader from Germany who asks for advice on a possible purchase of a very vintage Steiff dog. Leonie writes: 

"Dear Steiffgal, 
Could you give me an advice for a purchase? I saw a Steiff prewar St. Bernard dog on eBay. He lost most of his fur, and his button, too. He is 28 cm high and his price is 95 euro. Should I buy him or is he too expensive? I have also sent a picture. I would appreciate an answer very much. Best regards, Leonie"

Who wouldn't climb every mountain for this wonderful mountain-loving canine?  And yes, Steiffgal says YES, GO FOR IT!  What we have here is a much loved 1930's-era Steiff sitting St. Bernard dog.  This model was made both in white and brownish-copper mohair and white and tan wool plush in 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm.  The mohair version appeared in the line from 1929 through 1937, and the wool plush version from 1929 through 1932.  Given this photo, it is hard to tell if Leonie's pup was originally made from mohair or wool plush.  Both versions were adorable, very puppy-like, and featured realistic fur coloring.  Each model had a dear face that was detailed with expressive brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand-embroidered nose and mouth, and a distinctive muzzle which came to life with black and pink airbrushing. These sitting St. Bernard models had their tails wrapped gently around their backsides, much like how "real" dogs sit... especially when they are on their best behavior!

The mohair version of Steiff's sitting St. Bernard dog - like several very popular models of the 1930's - was also produced as a tail-moves-head model.  The one big difference between the regular and tail-moves-head version of this design is the position of the tail.  The regular versions have wrapped tails, while the tail-moves-head versions have a stretched-out tail.  The sitting tail-moves-head version was made in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, and 36 cm from 1931 through 1934.  These dynamic doggies in good or better condition are quite rare on the secondary market;  in 2013 Teddy Dorado sold a 29 cm version for over 7,000 euro!  And just how beloved is this moving model?  In 1993,  Steiff made a replica of their special tail-moves-head St. Bernard in in an edition size of 4,000.  This replica is pictured here on the left. 

St. Bernard dogs continue to be collector's favorites today. Many enthusiasts can't get enough of the company's models from the late 1940's through the 60's, and it is easy to see why! It is interesting to note that the first St. Bernard to appear after the factory reopened for business post World War II was a larger standing mohair model on wheels. He was based on the company's pre-war design and was manufactured in 43, 50, 60, and 62 cm from 1949 through 1957. A slightly simplified standing model, also based on the prewar design, was available in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1953 through 1957.  These early standing post-war St. Bernards are pictured here on the left.

In the early 1960's, Steiff again updated their standard line St. Bernard and even gave him a name for the first time - Bernie. Bernie was made from mohair and available sitting or standing on all fours. New Bernie had a different pattern of facial airbrushing, a chunkier build, and a smaller scale tail; standing Bernie also featured a cask attached to his collar. Standing Bernie is pictured here on the left. Overall, sitting Bernie was produced in 12 and 22 cm from 1963 through 1970 while standing Bernie was made in 22 cm from 1964 through 1966. In about 1970, Steiff also produced a most impressive display sized St. Bernard, perhaps as an exclusive for the high end toy retailer FAO Schwarz. And, since then, St. Bernards have always been a standard feature in the Steiff line, mostly appearing in large size plush models for children's fun and play. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wonderful legacy St. Bernards has been a warm and fuzzy experience for you! 

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

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