Sunday, January 7, 2018

This Latest Steiff Find Is The Cat's Meow

Sometimes, the best things in life tiptoe in on little cat's feet.  And such is the case with this week's happy find!  Steiffgal popped into an antique show while traveling recently.  There were many great vintage temptations on offer, but hardly any Steiff... until the VERY LAST booth in the hall.  Check out what was hiding out among a bunch of old toys, puzzles, and other vintage childhood favorites.

What a purr-fectly wonderful discovery! Here we have a nice example Steiff's very early post war "Kitty" cat. She is 17 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from mohair. Her body, limbs, tail, and face are made from very light grey mohair, while her paws, chest, muzzle, and ears are off white mohair. Her back, arms, legs, tail, and the sides of her head are lightly airbrushed with darker gray stripes, making her the true Tabby! Her all original and early slit pupil eyes are made from green-teal and black glass. Kitty has pink hand embroidered facial features, with a red dot on her mouth to indicate her lips. Her claws are red and she retains her original clear mono-filament whiskers. Steiff's Kitty was made from 1949 through 1970 in 10, 17, and 22 cm. This example's coloration, eyes, and "Made in the US Zone" put her in the very early portion of this time frame. 

They say cats have nine lives, and in the case of this example, that is exactly true! Today, when a toy is produced, it usually appears on the market for just a handful of years.  This is due to the "limited edition" phenomenon, as well as changes in market preferences - especially for things like licensed characters. But, in the case of Steiff's 20th century production, some items would appear for years, decades, or even generations.  For example, the company's Molly dogs were introduced in the 1920's and were produced through the end of the 1970's.  And Steiff's black "Scary Cat" pattern appeared in the company's debut catalog of 1903, and is still being manufactured on and off to this day!  Post war, this fully jointed cat pattern was clearly a fan favorite, appearing in the line for almost 20 years. 

Despite her longevity, this pattern did experience a few updates and changes over time. These changes were aesthetic, to keep up with modern preferences, but also structural, to help keep her manufacturing costs in check. So what are some differences between the older and newer Kitty cats? Here on the left, you can see a more "modern" Kitty, produced during the early 1970's. As you can tell, the older ones simply have a more "vintage" look to them. But here are three objective, key physical details that may help to date this beloved and legacy pattern. 

Eyes: Older Kitties have distinctive green-teal and black glass slit pupil eyes, while newer ones have olive-green and black slit pupil plastic eyes.

Coloration and ID: Older Kitties have grey and off white coats that are airbrushed in grey stripes, while newer ones have off white coats what are airbrushed in darker grey or black stripes. Older ones tend to have powder pink noses, while newer ones tend to have darker pink noses.  Older ones also often, but not always, have a "US Zone" tag sewn into their front leg seam. 

Materials: The smallest older Kitties have felt ears and a white velvet muzzle, while newer ones have mohair ears and muzzles. You can see two examples of the earliest Kitties with these details here (along with their sweet friend, a woolie mouse from F.A.O. Schwarz!) 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's fully jointed kittens has been the cat's meow for you.

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

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