Friday, December 10, 2010

Shepherding You Through The History Of Steiff's Wonderful "Arco" Dogs

Dog-gonit, Steiffgal just can't get enough of Steiff's wonderful canines!  And apparently collectors from all over country feel the same way about these delightful four legged friends.  Check out this note from a reader in California about her "rolling Rover".  Marie writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

I have a Steiff dog on wheels.  I was told it was from 1880s...  but I think this is wrong. Did Steiff make dog that was big enough for small child to get on and ride?  

(He has) no ear tag of course. he is very old with straw fill and rubber tires that swivel. I've not been able to find anything about it.  Do you have some guideline on dating these dogs? I am including a picture for your review.

Thanks, Marie"

This blue-ribbon beauty is none other than Steiff's Reit Arco, or Riding Arco German Shepherd.  This particular model was produced in 43 and 50 cm from 1957 through 1970.  Arco is standing, stuffed with excelsior, and made from long and short mohair which is realistically hand airbrushed with black and brown to resemble the coat of a real German Shepherd.  He has attentive black and brown pupil eyes, a hand embroidered nose and claws, and an open, felt lined mouth with a pink-red felt tongue.  Arco has an internal metal frame, which when new, could support the weight of an average adult!  (But Steiffgal doesn't suggest "testing" this out today - joints and connectors tend to weaken over half a century!)  He glides on four red wheels with white rubber tires. 

German Shepherds are one of Steiff's beloved "Best in Show" dogs that have been in the line since 1923.  German Shepherds were given their "pet" name of "Arco" in 1937 with the introduction of an updated breed design.  The "new" Arco was made from mohair and had prominent, felt lined ears. The previous model was made from wool plush and had smaller, wool plush lined ears.  Pre-war, Arco was made standing on wheels (in 35, 43, 50, 60, and 70 cm), standing (in 14, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm), and sitting (in 17, 22, and 28 cm) from 1937 to 1943.  During this time, Arco was sometimes also referred to as "The Police Dog."  A well loved, faded, pre-war 17 cm mohair Arco is pictured here to the left. 

Early post war, Arco reappeared in the line to sit and stay with collectors who continued to admire his sturdy good looks and solid build.  Steiff produced a standing version of Arco in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1951 through 1956 which strongly resembled the pre-war version.  A 43 and 50 cm standing version on wheels was also manufactured from 1949 through 1956.  

In 1957, classic Arco had his final "makeover" designed to modernize his appearance.  The most noteworthy changes included an overall lightening of his mohair and airbrushing, and the addition of a pink-red felt tongue on larger models. The presence - or absence - of a tongue on Arco is one of the key clues collectors use to date Steiff's German Shepherds!  The "newest" classic mohair Arco was produced standing (in 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm), lying (in 22, 35, and 50 cm - pictured here), and on wheels (in 43 and 50 cm... this is Marie' model) and appeared in one form or another in the line from 1957 through 1976.  

Steiffgal has really enjoyed shepherding you through the history behind Steiff's Arco and hopes that you have a new appreciation for the legacy behind this wonderful classic Steiff design.  

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