Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cataloging Steiff's Display Rarities From The Mid 1960's

A great way to learn more about vintage button-in-ear rarities is to go to the source - literally! Steiff has always been consistent in producing sales materials, catalogs, and literature about their product line over time, and these original documents are like miniature time capsules of information for collectors. Steiffgal recently purchased a specialty catalog from 1967 which features the company's vast range of lifesized animals produced 50 years ago. The cover, which has a family of display orangutans, is shown here on the left. These include a 130 cm or 52 inch papa, a 120 cm or 48 inch mama, and a 40 cm or 16 inch baby. Let's take a peek inside this great reference and see what it has to say!

The catalog cover itself measures about 23 cm wide and 17 cm tall and is designed like a binder, with metal rings holding the hole-punched sheets in place. The introduction page - which is written in German, French, and English - reads: "Besides the famous toy animals we also manufacture animals in natural until twice natural size. They are most popular for shop windows and stores to draw the attention of the buyers of our mark. Those animals are made of the same good mohair, plush, or nylon  and have a metal frame. If a person wants to sit on them, it would be better to add a metal ring which unites the four legs. This ring must be paid extra.

The catalog is beautifully illustrated with full color photography throughout. The pages are printed single sided, with blank backs. The catalog contains mostly "beauty shots" of the company's display line, but also has a few pages in the front which offer sales and shelving items, including price tags, lighting, signage, and merchandisers. Perhaps the most interesting page is shown here on the left. Check out the range of display pieces for smaller items, including what looks like green metal "cots" for the company's sleeping style cosy items. Steiffgal has never seen these in real life, have you?

Now let's make a big deal over some display animal highlights. The catalog has over 80 individual pages featuring these lifesized lovelies, so its difficult to pick out just a few. Several species, like elephants and the big jungle cats, were well represented with several models of each on offer. Here are some examples that really caught Steiffgal's eye - for their rarity, beauty, or just plain goofiness. (You can click on all the photos to make them bigger and read the catalog page details.)

It's never too early to start putting together your Christmas wish list! And Steiffgal bets just about every vintage Steiff collector would love to find this almost lifesized Santa Claus doll under their holiday tree! Santa stands 150 cm or 60 inches tall and is based on the company's beloved standard line postwar rubber faced Santa doll, who was produced in 13, 18, and 31 cm from 1953 to 1963 overall. Steiffgal has only seen one example of this display sized man in red firsthand - he's as rare as his namesake!

There's not a hare out of place when it comes to this next display highlight. This great mohair pattern looks to be for the most part a prehistoric proportioned Manni rabbit, given his begging position and coloring - with a little bit of Niki rabbit's facial detailing in the mix for good measure. And given that Steiff traditionally does not include ear length when measuring rabbits, this honey bunny is even larger than his 80 cm or 31-1/2 inch "official" size. Just for comparison, check out the teeny tiny Perri squirrel in the photo - he's probably only 12 or 17 cm! 

Now let's cool things down a bit with this jolly sitting polar bear. His body position is quite distinctive - he seems to be squatting on his bent legs. He must be carefully balanced, given the size and scale of his portly midriff. Another picture of him that Steiffgal has seen shows a metal rod base stand mounted strategically on his "bare bottom," probably to help keep him upright. This 180 cm or 72 inch perky polar bear has really prominent rubber claws, faux suede pads, and a million dollar smile. 

This busy pair only want to be your beasts of burden. The display catalog features two donkey designs, but Steiffgal thought this dralon, open-mouthed pattern was a bit more interesting than the other, given its seldom seen accessories. Steiff does a great job with farm animals, and their donkeys have broad and universal appeal. Sometimes they are produced "au naturel," while other models feature brindles and/or saddles. The company's early "Democratic" donkey mascot don a blue felt blanket. Whatever your political affiliation, it's very easy to get carried away over these 120 cm or 48 inch and 90 cm or 35 inch Steiff donkeys adorned with functional, hand-woven raffia baskets!

No need to trash-talk over this fantastic, lifesized black and white mohair Steiff Cockie Cocker Spaniel. It is interesting to note that Steiff's mid to late 20th century sitting black and white Cockers are in the form of rare novelties, including a tail turns head model and a musical version. There is no "standard line" postwar black and white sitting Cocker. So this guy must be pretty special! This catalog page illustration has it all - a great and seldom seen 80 cm or 32 inch display rarity, an authentic situation all dog owners can relate to, and little Steiff friends hidden in the mess.  

Anyone care to dance? It's hard to resist these two humongous and utterly charming mohair Zotty bears. Clearly these big bruins are based on the company's legacy mohair Zotty Teddy bear pattern, which appeared in the line from 1951 through 1978 in sizes ranging from 17 to  100 cm. These cavorting cubs seem to be having the time of their lives. Could that have something to do with the large beer keg and two porcelain steins in the background? These display items measure 80 cm or 35 inches and 100 cm or 40 inches, respectively. 

Bird's the word with this final display pick. Here we have two royal looking Crown Crane birds, measuring in at 140 cm or 56 inches each. Both are standing, unjointed, and elaborately detailed in various colors and lengths of mohair materials. They balance elegantly on metal framed legs that are covered in felt and realistically airbrushed. Steiffgal has seen and handled a number of Steiff display birds from this period, including a flamingo and an ostrich, (both also featured in this catalog) but never the company's cranes. It is her strongest suspicion that like the flamingo and the ostrich, these cranes were designed with removable heads and necks for ease of packing, shipping, and storage. 

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on Steiff's 1960-era display items larger than life.

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


  1. Awesome post! Love seeing these!

  2. Love the donkeys of course and have to laugh at the open mouth pose. I run New England's only non profit donkey and mule rescue( so I see a lot of donkeys!! When the jennets (females) are in heat they do something called "jawing"; opening and closing their mouth....looks a lot like these donkeys just might be in heat! LOL! Thanks for your great newsletters.


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