Sunday, April 12, 2015

Horsing Around With This Fantastic Steiff Wooden Stick Pony

Hold your horses!  Check out this great inquiry from a reader from the heartland of America.  Looks like she's had this treasure for awhile... but Steiffgal thinks he may go back at least half a century!  Kim writes:


I am writing to you to ask if this could be a Steiff stick pony. I purchased this at a garage sale 15-20 yrs ago. I cannot read the button clearly. It is located on the left side. The toy is made of wood and has a leather harness. The mane is hair... not sure what kind. The features are painted and it is 41 inches long. I would appreciate any information you can give me.

Thank you!"

Well, this pony is no phony!  He is indeed Steiff's Hobby Horse.  Some people refer to these toys as "stick ponies." He is constructed from solid wood.  His head is made from a thick piece of wood which has been finished with a smooth varnish.  His face comes to life with red, black and white paint.  His harness is both painted on, as well as a strip of red leather, held in place with metal hardware.  His black mane is probably actual horsehair or long mohair.  His "body" is a long wooden dowel, and he rides upon two red painted wheels.   This pony on the go was made in 100 cm from 1924 through 1941, and then again from 1949 through 1973.  He was also made in a smaller size - 80 cm - from 1937 through 1941. 

The Hobby Horse appears to have the raised script version of the Steiff button; this would put his manufacture date roughly in the 1950 through 1969 time frame.  However, given he appeared in the line right before, and right after World War II, it is possible that he was produced pre-war, stored away, and buttoned and distributed a handful of years after factory opened for toymaking business after the war.  This sometimes happens with items from this period, making actual dating challenging.  Only he knows his actual birthday for sure.   In addition, his detailing and mane are also slightly different than those pictured in standard Steiff reference books.  Again, this happens sometimes when an item has been in the line for a long, long time - in this case, almost 50 years. Product details are often incrementally updated on standard line, legacy items to keep up with design trends, consumer preferences, and material supply and availability.

Steiff's Hobby Horse examples are as rare as Triple Crown victories!  The earliest examples appeared in the line from 1898 through 1905 in 120 and 140 cm.  They were made from brown felt and unlike future examples, included the horse's head, front legs, and torso as part of the design.  These were followed by a more conventional pattern - just the head - which were manufactured in 112 cm from 1914 through 1943.  Depending on their production time, these head-only Hobby Horses were made from felt, paper plush, or cotton fabric, and had two or three wheels.  However, all examples were finished with a leather halter and fine hand painting.  From 1927 through 1935, Steiff produced a 112 cm Hobby Horse made from mohair.  This upscale design had a more elaborate halter and a lovely long mane.  A close variation on this design was produced in brown felt in 100 cm post war, from 1949 through 1970.  He is pictured here on the left. The last Steiff Hobby Horse to appear in the catalog was made in 100 cm from 1975 through 1977; it was quite basic in design and had two handles instead of reins and was painted a flat yellow color.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Hobby Horses has been a galloping success for you.

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

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