Saturday, December 22, 2018

Going Ape Over Steiff's Unusual 20th Century Chimps

It's no secret that Steiffgal is completely bananas over Steiff's delightful and ever-happy Jocko the chimp. This marvelous monkey pattern has been in Steiff's catalog since 1909, and was given his “official” Steiff name, Jocko, in 1929. Over the years since his introduction, Jocko has been produced in sizes ranging from 10 cm to a whopping 150 cm, as well as a pull toy on wheels, a somersaulting chimp, a stringed marionette, a hand puppet and even a child’s handbag, among other treasured items.

Because the Jocko design has been around for more than a century, and its pattern is somewhat complex, it is not unusual to see slight variations on it over time. This may mean finding one in a color that is a little different from the standard brown or white versions, one is a fabric that is not traditional mohair, one that may have a distinctive expression or detailing, or even one in an unexpected size. Here are four of Steiffgal's favorite smaller first and second quarter 20th century Jockos; each one is special in his own way. All are 25 cm and fully jointed unless noted otherwise. Which of these fab four is your favorite?

1. Mystery Jocko
This first Jocko stands out aesthetically in several ways. First, Steiffgal has never seen his particular woolen fabric on any other Steiff item. It is very short, extremely dense, somewhat prickly, and an intense, lush brown - like dark chocolate or roasted coffee beans. Also unusual is his assembly; he has a slightly-to-the-left seam up his back shaped like the letter "J." Finally, his scale is chunky and his body is rather "V" shaped; broad shoulders tapering down to smallish hips. Traditional Jockos have more "H" shaped trunks from top to bottom. This peculiar primate retains his long trailing "f" Steiff button, very roughly dating him in the c. 1909 to 1936 time frame.

2. Work of Art Jocko
What makes this Jocko so eye catching is his amazing head detailing and coloration. His face is detailed with green and black glass pupil eyes set in eye pockets and a fuzzy white mohair chin. Jocko's face and ears truly come to life with delightful grey, pink, and black paint and airbrushing. He actually looks alive, and that he is making eye contact with you in real life! Work of Art Jocko has a distinctly innocent, childlike look to him that is rather precious and endearing. Prewar, Steiff made white Jockos in six sizes ranging from 10 to 25 cm from 1925 through 1943. 
Given his short trailing "f" button, Work of Art Jocko was most likely born in the late 1930s.

3. Oh Baby Jocko
This childlike chimp makes this exclusive list for his interesting ID - although his absolutely irresistible childlike expression is also a big plus! When Steiff resumed its toymaking business after the conclusion of WWII, most of its early production focused on pre-war best sellers. Of course, Jocko made this cut easily! Oh Baby Jocko has a very rare blank ear button as his ID, as well as a canvas "made in the US Zone" tag sewn into his leg seam. The company's early postwar blank buttons are quite rare and add tremendous collector and historical interest to any mid-century Steiff treasure. As suspected, Baby Jocko's IDs dates his departure from the Steiff factory around 1950, give or take a year or two. 

4. Ginger Prince Jocko
Unlike the other special Jockos noted above, this future king of the jungle Jocko measures 15 cm tall. He has a short trailing "f" button, most likely dating him to the late 1930s. You can't help but notice his AMAZING orange mohair. His fabric is backed in a light orange color, while the mohair strands are a lovely, deep orange color. He has faded a touch, but it is clear that he was "born" a glorious and unique (at least to Jockos) color. It is possible that Ginger Prince Jocko is distantly "related" to another preferred primate, Steiff's Mimocculo Orangutan, as they are both made from brilliant orange mohair. However, given that Steiff produced their smaller, non-eye moving Mimocculos only through 1933, that Mimocculo had a more elaborate facial construction, and that Ginger Prince Jocko most likely dates from the late 1930s... the two are more likely second or third cousins than brothers in this case!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on interesting 20th century Steiff Jockos has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

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