Monday, August 1, 2016

These Two Steiff Mystery Kittens Are Truly The Cat's Meow!

Sometimes Steiff treasures tip-toe in on little cat's feet. Check out this brief note from Steiff Superfan Holly, who had the great pleasure of finding and adopting these two tiny - albeit mysterious - sweethearts. She shares through a series of correspondences...

"Hi Steiffgal,

I just wanted to share a couple of oddities. It's been soooo long since I've added to my kitty collection and couldn't pass these up. Both are complete with all IDs. Their flag numbers are 2308,90. It's interesting that their 'chest' tags made it on their backs. Not a whole lot of room under their necks I suppose!

The cats themselves are not jointed, about 10cm across, 6cm tall, hard stuffed, the tail is not sewn to the body, velvet backed ears like an 11cm Tapsy. It's probably why I love them so much, they remind me of a curled up Tapsy! The body is a very simplistic design.

Cheers, Holly"

Well, it goes without saying that these two are truly the cat's meow.  They embody all that enthusiasts love - and are purr-fect in every way! They have a remarkable presentation; they appear to be in complete condition with all IDs; they are CATS (which are universal favorites); and most likely do not appear in any commercial scale catalog or reference book - at least as far as Steiffgal can recall.

Let's take things in order here and first check out the cat's article number - 2308,90 - and see if that helps to tell us anything about these darlings.  In this case, 2=lying; 3=mohair; 08=8 cm; 9=display animals or special editions; and 0=normal coloring.  Taken as a whole, that does for the most part describe these cats in the broadest sense.  

Now let's take a closer look at their presentation and see if that can help date or place their manufacturing and design within a relatively tight date range. 
  • Clearly, their general look and coloring is much like the company's beloved "Tapsy" kitten. Tapsy was produced from 1959 through 1966 in 8, 11, 15 and 18 cm.  
  • The facial expression on the sleeping version also may be a nod to Steiff's "Snurry" the dozing-off cat, who was produced from 1964 through 1966 in 15, 20, and 25 cm.  
  • Another thing to look at is the cat's body construction and simplicity.  The one analogous item Steiffgal can come up with here is the company's Dormy the edible dormouse.  This little guy was also tucked up and styled with a long tail as an important part of his presentation.  These were made from 1966 through 1974 in 12 and 20 cm.  
  • And finally, given that Holly's items are a special edition, it's important to check out another somewhat analogous special edition produced for FAO Schwarz here in the USA - the beloved "Cat Family Basket."  This item, which included three or four Steiff cats each, appeared from 1962 through 1972.  It is important to note that occasionally, other undocumented Steiff cats with velvet ear detailing - including a stretched out model and a crouching model - sometimes appeared in these baskets as well.
Like many Steiff rarities, Holly's kitties are probably a hybrid of a number of Steiff cat and design themes happening in the early to mid- 1960's time frame.  Steiff is well known for blending and matching themes, sizes, colorations, and detailing on their items to generate new product ideas. As such, these two kittens truly are a meow-mix! Steiffgal does think that these kittens are from the c. 1960-65 time frame, given article numbering conventions and their appearance.

So what is the back story with these pretty kitties?  They may have been produced on a very small scale as an exclusive product for a store such as FAO Schwarz but never documented as such. Steiffgal has seen that happen with a mohair squirrel edition.  They may have been made to be part of the "Cat Family Basket" and either got separated from the basket or never made it into one, and were sold on their own.  They might even be one-offs, meaning they were made as samples or prototypes and never produced on a commercial scale.  Steiff often sold these sorts of "orphans" to stores as they did not hold onto "rejects" if they could get them into the retail market.  But, at the end of the day, unfortunately only the kittens themselves know their real background and history. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Holly's mystery kittens has clued you in on their most interesting origins.

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

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