Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Delightful Steiff Head-Turning Mystery!

Everyone loves a good Steiff mystery. And this one just might color your world, as well as have you nodding your head in agreement. Check out this note from a new friend who lives overseas. She writes in part:


I wonder if you have seen a Steiff like this before.

He looks to be from around the 1930-40's as his head is quite small and long body unlike the 1950's shape. He is 10 inches high. The front of his body and the inset of his ears are cream mohair and the rest of him is golden. His head is unjointed and he has a canister type thing in his body; you turn his tail and his head goes from side to side. He is not a yes/no as the tail does not move up and down.  

I have not seen one like him before. I would love to hear what you think and also what you think his value is.  Many thanks!"

This Ted is one rare bear indeed! Steiffgal has only seen one or two other examples in many decades of collecting and studying Steiff items. 
What we have here is Steiff's "Original Teddy bear with neck mechanism." This little guy with the big clunky name was produced in 1955 only in 18 or 25 cm. He is arm and leg jointed, and his little tail turns his head. This bear pattern is known among other factors for his ears and belly which are a lighter hue than his head, limbs, and body.  He also has a tail, which is an extremely unusual detail feature on Steiff mohair bears from any era. His back side and tail are pictured here on the left.

This bear is neck and neck in rarity with other unusual Steiff items from the early 1950's, including a little known 15 cm clockwork tumbling bear called "Turbo Teddy Somersault Bear" made in 1951 only. One thing that's a bit unusual about today's "head turner" is his production era - the 1950's. After receiving patents for "tail moves head" mechanisms, Steiff introduced a series of these items in the 1930's. For the most part, these were based on the most popular and beloved patterns of the time and included cats, dogs, rabbits, penguins, goats, and lambs, and even Mickey Mouse, among others. These were advertised as, "The ingenious head-movement makes Steiff animals appear alive."  The Bully pictured on the left is one of Steiff's early tail moves head items and appeared in the line in 11, 15, 18, 23, 26, and 31 cm from 1931 through 1935 overall.

Overall, about 25 different tail turns head models were produced through the late 1930's and very early 1940's. Interestingly, there was not a Teddy bear on this pre-war production list. It would be almost two decades later that the Teddy bear with neck mechanism under discussion today would appear in the line - and just for a year at that.  In 1990 and 1991, the company produced the 25 cm version of this bear as a replica in a limited edition size of 4,000 pieces.  This replica tail moves head Steiff bear is pictured here on the left.
And now for the question that requires a mohair crystal ball - his value.  As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it.  This item rarely if ever appears on the secondary market and is on the wish lists of many Steiff collectors.  However, there really are no readily available comps to help frame an estimate.  In the broadest sense, Steiffgal guesstimates that he might sell in the $1,500-3,000 range... but only he - and his next future owner - know for sure! 

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on the company's Teddy bear with neck mechanism has been a dynamic read for you.  
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.  


  1. This is so informative. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Always excited to learn or even re-learn about animals made by Steiff and the collectors who find great treasures.

  3. Thank you for this great blog post! It helped me tremendously. I am currently auctioning an original neck mechanism bear like this on eBay. Wish me luck?! And thanks again!


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