Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dreaming of a Childhood Friend

Old friends make good friends, old Steiff friends seem to make the best – or most nostalgic - ones! Check out this wonderful note from a reader from Stamford, Connecticut, who asks for help in identifying one of her favorite childhood playthings.

Susan writes thr
ough a series of correspondences:

“…I had a small collection of Steiff when I was little, some from my mom, that I mostly still have. My great aunt worked in a German candy store in New York City for 30 or so years, that sold Steiff...and now I collect them (as an adult).

I had
a polyester, foam filled sleeping leopard...but I don't know his brand, I remember him really well, his eyes were closed, sewn with black thread, and I think he had a floss nose, it was pink… he was really cute!

I think I got him when I was at least 2; I was born in November 1963… (to help with dating).

(Here is a picture of me with him taken at a department store at the holidays when I was a little girl); it was right after this picture was taken that I put him down and we left the store, and while in the car I remembered that I had put him down; I lost him right after the picture was tak

He was my favorite toy and I'd love to find him… can you help?”

Although Steiffgal only has "spotty" information to go on here, she thinks she can! Today, Steiff collectors tend to think of the company’s products as fine collectibles. However, it is important to remember that Margarete Steiff said herself “Only the Best For Our Children”, meaning that the company's founding mission was, and still is, to produce wonderful playthings for kids. And Susan’s long lost friend is a perfect example of that!

Assuming that this item is actually a Steiff, it is Steiffgal’s best guess that th
is item is not actually a leopard, but a lion, and is Floppy Lowenbaby or Floppy Lion Baby. He was produced in 1963 only. He is unjointed, lying down, made from soft spotted dralon plush, and has closed stitched eyes. He came in two sizes, 17 and 28 cm. His legs extend out from his torso horizontally, like an “H”, and his feet have brown “paw prints” airbrushed or stenciled on the bottom of his paws.

Steiff produced a great number of “sleeping” style animals during the 1950’s through the 1970’s. These included a Zotty Teddy and panda bear (both pictured to the left), fox, Cocker Spaniel, Siamese cat, tabby cat, seal, and elephant, among others. They were all prone in position and referred to as “floppy” or “cosy” animals. Most were made in two standard sizes, 17 and 28 cm; all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal had one of three “sleeping eyes” designs. These included a simple line stitching with or without a few eyelashes (as in the tiger pictured to the left) or a felt disk with an inverted "V” stitched across it (as in the panda pictured to the left). Several of the more “feminine” patterns, including the sleeping Floppy Snobby poodle and the Floppy Lamby Lamb had “dramatic” closed eyes with huge “Tammy Faye Baker” style eyelashes. All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known Steiff animal designs. Most, if they had legs, had them splayed out from their torsos like a “V”.

The fact that Susan’s lion had horizontal "H" legs – not “V” positioned legs - is instrumental in helping to identify it, if it is indeed a Steiff product. A somewhat similar model, Floppy Leo Loewe or Floppy Leo Lion was produced from 1969 through 1977. He is pictured to the left here, next to a Floppy Tiger. However, like most of his “sleeping” brethren mentioned above, Floppy Leo Lion has “V” positioned legs. Perhaps Steiffgal should change her name to SteiffDetective in cases like this, eh?

Steiff sleeping animals from the 1950’s through the 1970’s have a lot of sentimental value to their owners. However, in general, they are not considered as collectible as other Steiff authentically lifelike vintage mohair animals because they were designed as playthings, are not jointed, and are stuffed with washable foam, not excelsior. Exceptions to this trend include the Floppy Huhn or Floppy Hen, and Floppy Biggie Beagle; both of these sleeping animals have exceptional airbrushing coloration and were produced for only a handful of years.

Susan, Steiffgal hopes this information didn't lull you to sleep and that it does bring you one step closer in finding – and reuniting – with a version of your long lost friend. And readers, can you add any more information to help Susan out here? If so, please send it along to!

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