Saturday, November 26, 2016

This Lovely Steiff Silk Plush Elephant Is Simply Unforgettable

Talk about big love! Steiff has a long and deep history with elephants, with a felt elephant being the animal pattern that catalyzed the company into the toymaking business before the turn of last century. And it is interesting to note that the company chose an elephant with a raised trunk (in the shape of an "S") as its earliest logo, and also put an elephant on its first "button-in-ear" branding. 

There's just something unforgettable about the company's elephants from every era, and its always interesting to find Steiff treasures that span pre- and post- war production. So today's elephant under review is jumbo news indeed!

It's game on with this fantastic Steiff "play elephant." This gentle giant is 22 cm tall, standing, and unjointed. He is stuffed with excelsior and has a working squeaker in his belly. He is made from grey artificial silk material; the tip of his tail is decorated with longer mohair. His face comes to life with soft, floppy ears; black button eyes backed in felt, and a youthful, open, and smiling felt lined mouth. His red felt blanket, which is original to him, is decorated with yellow edging and a stylized yellow and green flower on either side. His Steiff ID is a tiny, 4 mm trailing "F" button.

Is it polite to ask his age? Play elephant was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1938 through 1942, and postwar in 22 cm only in 1948 though 1949. Given he is 22 cm and has a button that was used both before and after the war, it is impossible to tell his exact date of manufacture. And for better or worse, elephants are very good at keeping secrets! Either way, he does have a delightful, innocent, and old fashioned look to him.

Let's change things up a bit and look at the economics behind this excellent elephant. The photo on the left shows a Steiff advertisement from around 1940. (If you click on it, it should be large and legible on your screen.) On the bottom you can see the pre-war version of this silk plush elephant; at the time, the 17 cm version cost 4.30 DM; the 22 cm version cost 6.50 DM; and the 28 cm version cost 9.50 DM. Given that in 1940 there were approximately 2.5 DM to the dollar, these prices roughly translate to $1.72, $2.60, and $3.80 in 1940 US dollars. Using an online inflation calculator which adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index, this roughly translates to $29.38, $44.40, and $64.90 in US dollars in 2015.  Steiff has always been a premium product at a premium price!

Artificial silk plush was used as a less expensive and more readily available alternative fabric by Steiff during periods of manufacturing hardship. So it is not a surprise that this popular elephant design was produced in this fabric both as the country was entering into World War II, and then once the war was over but supply chains of conventional materials had yet to be re-established. References show that this exact play elephant pattern in 22 cm was made in mohair in 1950 through 1951. As such, it does appear that by the early 1950's traditional toy making materials and fabrics were again being manufactured for commercial use, and supply chains were functioning and dependable again.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic pre- and post- war elephant has been a memorable one for you.  

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

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