Saturday, September 2, 2017

This Long Brown Tipped Mohair Steiff Chimp Is One Head Turner Indeed!

When it comes to Steiff, it's always fun to monkey around. Primates have been an important part of the Steiff line since the late 1800's and many collectors really go ape over their expressive faces and playful presentations. Some of them even come with secrets - like this one. Check out this chimp-champ and see what makes him so interesting from the historical and product development perspective.

This sweet jungle-jem is unquestionably a mover and a shaker. His name is Chimpanzee, and he is 22 cm tall, sitting, and fully jointed. His long, narrow body, shapely arms, and bent legs are made from extra long brown tipped mohair. His face and hands and feet are made from tan felt. His charming face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes set close together in eye pockets, a dimensional muzzle, a closed mouth, and a white mohair chin. And he has a delightful surprise - he has a tail moves head mechanism, which allows his head to rotate 360 degrees! Like many tail moves head items from this period, the mohair covering on this Chimp's metal tush-twister has been lost to time. He retains his large trailing f button and a trace of his red ear tag as his IDs. This great pattern was produced in nine sizes ranging from 13 to 66 cm from 1931-1934. Steiff also produced a closed mouth, long brown tipped mohair "Chimpanzee" without the tail moves head feature in five sizes ranging from 25 to 100 cm from 1928-1934 overall. 

Do you suspect any monkeyshines between Chimpanzee's design and that of his better known cousin, Jocko? Steiff's Chimpanzees did in part resemble the company's Jockos, but did have a few distinctively different features and treatments. For a comparison, please check out the photo on the left which features this 22 cm tail moves head Chimpanzee and his new best friend, a 23 cm wool plush Jocko; both were made in the early 1930's.

Steiff was really on the move in the 1920's and early 1930's, at least with its line of top-tier toy categories. Richard Steiff, although living in the United States at the time, was very involved with the company's product design and development pipeline. He constantly encouraged his family in Germany to create new and exciting novelties, to capture the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the growing global marketplace. He did this by writing passionate and persuasive handwritten letters, in beautiful penmanship, on his personal letterhead. These letters often stressed the importance of quality, innovation, presentation, and advertising as keys to business growth and success. The Steiff design team came up with the idea of "tail moves head" animals as one of many responses to Richard's directives. The company applied for, and received patents for this technology in the early 1930's.

Overall, about 25 different tail turns head models were produced through the late 1930's and very early 1940's. These were advertised as, "The ingenious head-movement makes Steiff animals appear alive." For the most part, these were based on the best selling standard line patterns of the time and included cats, dogs, rabbits, penguins, goats, and lambs, and even Mickey Mouse, among others. However, there were exceptions to this rule, like a most unusual tabby tail moves head bulldog. Even more interesting to note is the fact that there was not a Teddy bear - perhaps the company's most popular product - on the pre-war production roster of tail moves head items. Steiff would go on to make a fully jointed, tail moves head bear in 18 and 25 cm in 1955 only. Today, this rare bear is one of the most sought after postwar bear examples among collectors.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this tail moves head Chimpanzee has been more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!

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