Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hopping Towards Easter With These Great Vintage Steiff Rabbits

Who's got a spring in their step? The Easter bunny, of course! And he's about to be called into action in a very big way on Sunday! Steiff and Easter go hand in hand as the company has made so many beautiful bunnies over the years. One particular model occupies a rare and interesting place in the company's history. She debuted in the late 1930's and stayed in the line through 1976. As such, she was produced in many different materials over time. Check out these three examples of Steiff's "hopping" style rabbits from the late 1930's to the early 1950's and see what a difference the choice of fabric can make!

It's easy to have a plush-crush on this first example. This wool plush hopping rabbit is 17 cm tall, unjointed, and made from tan colored wool plush. This material has a short, bumpy texture to it and is more "continuous" than mohair, which tends to have a more "bristle" feel to it. Rabbit has darker tan airbrushing on her back and black highlights around her tail and on the tips of her ears - which are lined in tan airbrushed felt and highlighted with pink. Rabbit has a simple pink hand embroidered mouth and nose and brown and black pupil eyes. She retains her original bow and bell and her short "trailing f" Steiff button as her ID. 

This exact rabbit is not noted in the Steiff Sortiment, although an identical looking one made from "woolen mohair" and produced in 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1938 through 1943 is. It was not unusual for Steiff to produce popular, standard line items in wool plush in the 1930's and early 1940's. For example, Steiffgal has a charming wool plush Jocko who is also not noted in the standard reference books.  It is most likely that this Jocko is from the late 1930's or early 1940's.  It is Steiffgal's best guess, given her materials and ID, that this wool plush hopping rabbit is from that same time period and is based on the model made from "woolen mohair." 

This second example of Steiff's hopping rabbit is smooth as silk. This example is 14 cm, unjointed, and made from tan colored artificial silk plush. This material has a very smooth, soft feeling to it and catches light well with its nice sheen. Her coat is brought to life with tan, grey and black airbrushing. Typical to the pattern, her ears are lined in felt and outlined in black and her face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth that is highlighted with a touch of pink paint. This example glides along on four red wooden off-center wheels. She retains her original blue ribbon and her short "trailing f" Steiff button and traces of her yellow ear tag as her Steiff IDs. This hoppy-go-lucky charmer was manufactured in this size in 1949 only.  

Artificial silk plush was a popular fabric used by Steiff around and just after World War II. During this period, when woolen fabrics and felt were not generally available for toymaking, Steiff "improvised" with artificial silk plush materials to manufacture some of its most beloved designs traditionally made from mohair - like this rabbit on wheels. Artificial silk plush was a cheaper, lower cost, and poorer quality option, but it was available on commercial scale. And "silk" most likely refers to the shine and softness of the plush. However, this synthetic material tended to lose its sheen and good looks quite quickly; as a result, it unusual to find Steiff artificial silk plush items in great condition today.  

Today's third Steiff hopping rabbit is a charm.  And a charmer!  This sweet girl is 14 cm and made from Steiff's traditional mohair.  She shares her relative's coloring and construction, including the model's distinctive felt lined ears trimmed in black airbrushing.  She appeared in the line from 1949 through 1976 in 8, 14, and 17 cm; she was simply called Hase or Rabbit to 1973 and Hoppy from 1974 onward.  This mohair hopping rabbit was made in the very earliest part of that time frame.

Unlike her earlier relatives, this early post war mohair rabbit is relatively common as many were made over a long period of time.  However, this particular example has a capital differentiator.  Her ear button is the very unusual "block letter" version, meaning every letter in the word "Steiff" on the button appears as a capital letter.  These buttons are extremely rare and appear very infrequently on items from the late 1940's through the very early 1950's.  Steiffgal only has 5 items in her entire collection with this very seldom seen form of ID. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these hopping rabbits has you jumping for joy in anticipation of Easter!

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

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