Thursday, May 21, 2015

Monkeying Around With This Early 1970's Steiff Riding Chimp

With Memorial Day  - the unofficial first day of summer - coming up next week, it's time to put the top down and go for a spin!  And Steiffgal can't think of a better vehicle to do that with than this utterly marvelous riding chimpanzee.  Let's take a joyride together and learn more about this great primate on wheels!

Let's not monkey around and get right to the point why this chimp on the go is so great.  Here we have Steiff's Reit Schimpanse or Riding Chimpanzee.  He is 50 cm, standing on all fours, and unjointed.  He is solidly stuffed with excelsior and has a grey painted metal grip handle. His body, head, and limbs are made from chocolate brown dralon fabric.   His hands, feet, ears, and face are made from a soft peach colored velour like material.  His face is detailed with friendly brown and black pupil eyes in eye pockets, an open, smiling mouth, a white dralon chin, a brown painted nose, and delightful, realistic airbrushed highlights.  

And what about his snazzy ride? Riding Chimp is mounted upon a black metal carriage with front wheel steering.  His red metal wheels have white rubber tires that say "Steiff 100" on them.  He retains his original red and white pull rope, which is wrapped neatly around his front axle.  This mobile monkey was produced in this size only from 1969 through 1972.  Despite his relative "newness," this design is rather rare and seldom seen on the secondary market.  (And that's understandable - who could part with such a charming treasure?)

This adorable riding animal certainly has great wheel-appeal.  And although not called out by name, the driver has a striking resemblance to Steiff's beloved and popular "Jocko" chimpanzee.  Jocko was produced in 9 sizes ranging from 10 to 80 cm from 1949 through 1990 overall. A whole family of Steiff's Jockos are pictured here on the left. However, there are a few fundamental differences between this item and Steiff's standard line post war Jocko pattern.  First, riding Jocko is made from dralon and soft velour, while standard line Jockos are made from mohair and felt.  Second, riding Jocko is unjointed.  Standard line Jockos are fully (and quite playfully!) jointed.  And finally, riding Jocko is permanently standing on all fours. Standard line Jockos are designed for sitting.  

Riding Chimp was produced during a time of change and challenges at Steiff.  During the late 1960's and early 1970's, many toy companies were starting to produce a great number of lesser priced (and of course, lesser quality) products.  These competitors were taking market share, and in some cases demand, from Steiff.  As a result, the company started trying to create efficiencies in manufacturing.  This was done in several ways, including simplifying patterns, decreasing or eliminating jointings, and using less expensive materials, among others.  

Riding animals have always been legacy patterns for Steiff.  However, given their size, complexity, and material and manufacturing requirements, they are by nature expensive to produce.  As such, starting in the 1960's, the company began transitioning away from woolen mohair, the material traditionally associated with these higher end toys, to dralon - a less expensive and highly durable synthetic fabric.  Dralon riding animals from this period, in addition to this chimpanzee model, included a bear (shown here on the left, with his great red wooden FAO Schwarz tag), Cocker Spaniel, Schnauzer, donkey, pony, goat, fox, and elephant.  Almost all were based on slightly modified versions of well known Steiff patterns of the era.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Riding Chimpanzee has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

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

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