Sunday, October 8, 2017

This Mystery is More Fun Than A Barrel Full Of (Steiff) Monkeys!

Steiffgal goes bananas over interesting Steiff mysteries! So she was delighted to receive an inquiry from a dear friend who asks about a new chimp-champ he recently welcomed into his hug. Would it be possible to figure out the origins of this mystery monkey? Tim from the East Coast writes,

"Hi Steiffgal,

I just wanted to know if this monkey was made by Steiff, and how old he might be. He’s in excellent condition and is fully jointed. He has excelsior stuffing and I believe is centered seamed. He measures 23 cm sitting and 33 cm standing. He has no evidence of a button in ear or a chest tag. To me, he looks more like one that might have been shown in the in older Sortiment volume riding a tricycle.

Best, Tim"

Well, let's dive right into this monkey business. It is Steiffgal's best guess that this primate was not made by Steiff. Steiffgal does think that he was designed after Steiff's beloved Jocko chimp pattern but has subtle design differences. These variances are different enough that they probably avoid patent or pattern infringement, but small enough that the average consumer would not notice them. They include detailing on the the monkey's felt face, ears, hands, and feet. For comparison, let's take a look at these features compared to a known, "standard" Steiff Jocko that measures 25 cm sitting and 32 cm standing.

Face: Steiff's 25 cm sitting Jocko monkeys have open mouths, and their white mohair chins are far more prominent than the one on Tim's monkey. There is also too much "distance" between Tim's monkey's nostrils and his mouth line - these proportions are also not typical Steiff. The Steiff example is pictured here on the left, the "mystery monkey" is on the right.

Ears: Steiff's 25 cm sitting Jockos with felt ears have distinctive "earlobes" which are rounded at the bottom and not sewn into the head. They also have airbrushed highlights and black edging. This mystery monkey's ears are not typically shaped and seamed, and its earlobes appear to be flush to the head. The Steiff example is pictured here on the left, the "mystery monkey" is on the right.

Hands and feet: Steiff's 25 cm sitting Jockos have elegant felt hands and feet, with long, narrow thumbs and big toes. The hands and feet before the digits are graceful and lean, and the digits lie flat and are unstuffed. They are detailed with fingernails. Tim's monkey has "thick" hands, feet, and digits. The Steiff example is pictured here on the left, the "mystery monkey" is on the right.

Steiff's Jockos have a long and wonderful legacy. Jocko was basically "born" in 1909, making him one of the longest running patterns produced by Steiff in their history. It was in this year that Steiff updated a version of their basic 1903 model monkey towards an even more lifelike appearance. This new chimp design featured natural body proportions, as well as detailed felt hands, feet and facial features. One key design element on larger models of the new chimp was in the inclusion of felt eye pockets. This meant that his glass pupil eyes were surrounded by raised felt eyelids; they were not simply sewn onto his face as before. Additionally, larger sized chimps also sported a white mohair chin. The updated pattern was produced in 15 sizes, ranging from 10 to 90 cm, at various times from 1909 through 1943. Post war, Jocko was one of the very first items produced; this model appeared in the line continuously again from 1948 through the 1990's.  Here on the left you can see a collection of post-war Jockos in various sizes. 

Given his longevity, actually identifying the production date of a Jocko sans a button or other ID is quite hard. This is because his basic pattern really didn't change over about eight decades. Some collectors think the older, prewar models have a more "soulful" look, but that is more subjective than objective. A more objective metric would have to be an example's eyes, with glass eyes found on "earlier" Jockos and plastic eyes on "later" Jockos.  Here on the left, you can see three "earlier" Jockos, dating from the mid-1930's through around 1950. 

One final note on early Steiff Jocko monkeys. In reality, Steiffgal finds chimps to be one of the absolute hardest animals to identify if they are not Steiff. Elephants are a close second! A version of a brown mohair monkey with felt features was produced by practically every fine European plush company from the 19-teens onward, given how popular monkeys are/were. These happy primates appealed to both boys and girls as playthings, and to adults as companions as well as home decorative items. As such, when you are looking to identity an unbranded mohair "mystery monkey," always especially study the felt areas of the piece, usually the face, ears, hands, and feet. These are the few areas that toy companies could "tweak" to differentiate their products from Steiff's world-class offerings. It is Steiffgal's best guess that Tim's monkey is from the c. 1920's or 1930's, and was produced in Europe, but can't get more specific than that.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Jockos and their lookalike buddies has not thrown a monkey wrench into your collecting endeavors.  

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

1 comment:

  1. What perfect timing! I'm currently considering purchasing a Record Peter from the 1960s. It's in excellent condition and has all ids. I already have a Jocko from the late 1960s in my collection but not one on wheels. I want to add a Steiff pull toy to my collection that is in great condition and doesn't cost a fortune.


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