Sunday, February 22, 2015

Steiff's Beagles Are Truly Best In Show In 2015!

This past week, many of us curled up on the couch with our own real pets to watch the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television. This two night event showcases breathtaking - and usually very well behaved - dogs from all over North America and beyond. This year's "Best of Show" winner was Miss P., the Beagle. In honor of her special accomplishment, let's take a look at Steiff's versions of her wonderful breed!

Some collectors might find it surprising that the first Beagle did not appear in the Steiff line until 1958. Steiff's debut Beagle, and probably the one most favored by collectors, was its standing Biggie Beagle. This model was unjointed and made from tan mohair.  His head, body, and tail were elaborately hand-painted with delightful shades of black, grey, and brown, giving him wonderful definition. His face was detailed with a black hand embroidered nose and mouth and remarkable tri-colored almond shaped glass eyes in white, black and brown.  Standing Biggie was produced from 1958 through 1961 in 10, 17, and 25 cm. The smallest Biggie truly had the sweetest puppylike, smiling appearance.

When it comes to Steiff, there is certainly no rest for the weary! As such, in 1959, just a year after Biggie's very successful introduction, the company made a 17 cm "Floppy" or resting version of him. Steiff manufactured a great number of "sleeping" style animals during the 1950's through the 1970's. All were prone in position and referred to as "floppy" or "cosy" animals.  Many were made in two standard sizes, 17 and 28 cm; all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal had "sleeping eyes." Like Biggie, these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known Steiff animal designs.  Floppy Biggie appeared in the line through 1961 and is considered one of the rarer and more collectible Floppy designs based on his charming design and limited time in the line. 

Hoping to mirror standing Biggie's success, Steiff created a hand puppet version of this playful pup  also in 1959.   This item was called Mimic Biggie Beagle. He was a fully functional, hollow bodied hand puppet with an open and smiling mouth and big pink felt tongue.  He was 28 cm long and made from tan mohair which was airbrushed with black, tan, and grey highlighting all over his body. He had wonderful and long floppy ears, and like standing Biggie, had fantastic tri-colored almond shaped glass eyes. His nose and paws were hand embroidered in black. Mimic Biggie Beagle was produced in one size only in 1958 through 1959. He is pictured here on the left. At the same time, the company also produced mimic style puppets in the form of a Dalmatian and Schnauzer. 

In 1965, Steiff introduced an updated Beagle to the line - perhaps by Presidential decree! This Beagle was also called Biggie, and he was sitting and made from mohair. Like standing Biggie, he had realistic airbrushing on his body. However, unlike standing Biggie, this sitting Biggie had brown and black pupil eyes and was head jointed. Sitting Biggie was produced in 10 and 18 cm from 1965 through 1975.  He is pictured here on the left.
 
And what's the connection to the White House here? President at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson - who served from November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1968 - was a huge Beagle enthusiast.  His Beagles, which included Him and Her, were truly the "First Dogs" of America - often accompanying the President on visits to heads of state, hanging out in the Oval Office, and swimming in the White House pool. These lucky dogs were even featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1964!  This great photo is here on the left.

FAO Schwarz also worked with Steiff to produce a handful of special "limited edition" Beagles for their high end toy stores.  It is safe to say that the timing of all these introductions - 1965 to 1966 - probably had alot to do with the popularity of the Presidential pets!  These treasures included a 40 cm mohair standing display Beagle; a 15 cm standing open mouthed Beagle (sort of a hybrid in design between Steiff's regular line sitting and standing Biggies); and a family of Beagles in a basket, resting on a soft cushion. The 15 cm FAO Biggie is pictured here on the left with his wonderful period red wooden FAO Schwarz tag.

More than a few dog years passed before beagles again graced the Steiff line.  In 2004, Steiff and FAO Schwarz again partnered to produce exclusive Beagles. This time they were in the form of an AKC branded mother and pup; both were made from soft plush and designed for children's fun and play. And most recently in 2014, Steiff treated collectors to another version of Biggie in the form of a 12 cm standing mohair pooch, complete with a matching collar and leash.  He was produced in an edition size of 1,500 pieces for the worldwide market. The 2014 version of Biggie Beagle is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal hopes this celebration of Steiff Beagles - like Miss P.'s win at Westminster - has been a best of show experience for you.

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

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