Sunday, May 24, 2015

Creating Panda-Monium Over This Most Unusual Steiff Bear

Oh baby! Steiffgal does not mean to pander to you, but how can you resist this utterly charming Steiff cub! Have you ever seen anything quite like him? Check out this black and white beauty and learn what we can piece together about his mysterious origins.

There's nothing not to love about this rare bear. Baby Panda is 80 cm, standing, and unjointed. He is made from long black and white mohair, while his muzzle area is made from shorter white mohair. He has flat, cardboard lined feet and is self-standing. His paw pads are made from trivera velvet material, which has been airbrushed with paw prints. He has four rubber claws on each pad. His face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and black airbrushing around his eyes and on the tip of his mouth. He is simply adorable and has a most toddler-esque look to him.

This sweetie absolutely deserves a standing ovation. But who is he, and when was he made? He does not appear in any of the standard Steiff reference books, at least as far as Steiffgal could find.

It is Steiffgal's best thinking that this "petite" Panda is a version of the company's early 1970's "Jungbaer" or Bear Cub. This terrific brown plush Ted is pictured to the left for reference. Like Baby Panda, Jungbaer is 80 cm, standing, and unjointed. He also has an insert muzzle area. Jungbaer has the same trivera velvet material paw and rubber claw construction as his Panda cousin; they both share a very similar "look and feel" in terms of their body shape and proportions. Don't the two of them look like they could be friends from kindergarten? Jungbaer was made from 1972 through 1975 in this size only; in 1972 he was sold as a US exclusive. 

Baby Panda also has other family ties. It is entirely possible he is related to another Steiff standout - a full sized adult Studio Panda. A photo of him is shown here on the left. Big boy is 190 cm, standing, unjointed, and made entirely from long shaggy mohair - except for his ears, which are made from black dralon. His face, which is made from slightly shorter white mohair, is detailed with large brown and black pupil eyes and a hand embroidered black nose and mouth. His mouth has a little additional grey airbrushed highlights around his jaw. Panda's foot pads are made from heavy plastic material, while his paw pads are made from trivera velvet material. They are carefully airbrushed with authentic looking hand prints. He has four rubber claws on each of his hands and feet. Panda keeps his standing balance via a metal support stand attached to his backside.  

Like Baby Panda, the origins of Big Panda are not clear. But studying him closely, Steiffgal thinks, given big Panda's size, appearance, and body shape, that he is a modification of Steiff's Studio standing Braunbaer or Brown Bear that was in the line from 1972 through 1980. You can learn more about this big brown buddy by clicking here. 

So what does all this mean in terms of identifying Baby Panda's approximate birthday and evolution?  Well, given his appearance, size, and probable relationship to other documented bears in similar patterns, it is Steiffgal's best estimate that he was made around 1970 or so as an early example or trial of this general cub pattern.  Most likely, his construction (more complicated given two distinct colors) and materials (expensive mohair) deemed him too costly and labor intensive to put into the standard line.  As such, his pattern was converted to a simpler, more economical design by making him one color in less expensive synthetic plush. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great standing baby bear has added a little Panda-monium to your day.

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

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