Saturday, December 12, 2020

Putting On A Show Of Support For Steiff's Fantastic And Early Handpuppets!

Hands in the air if you love Steiff puppets!
These great novelties are universally treasured by Steiff, toy, and puppet collectors, and are a great cross-collectible. Although the first Steiff catalog was produced in 1892, hand puppets did not appear in these publications until 1911. However, the designs for a puppet bear, cat, and dog had all been registered in a German patent office since 1909. Through pure serendipity - in the best possible way- Steiffgal recently met an amazing collector with a passion for Steiff's puppets, especially the company's pre-war rarities. Come learn more about puppets and what makes Steiff's puppets so spectacular from the perspective of a lifelong puppet enthusiast.

Steiffgal: Please tell us your name, where you live, and what you collect.

Marcus Sampaio: My name is Marcus Sampaio. I was born in Salvador, the birth city of Brazil. In 2009 I immigrated to Canada and since then I’ve been living in Toronto, an amazing multicultural city. I’m a passionate collector of all sorts of puppets from different parts of the world.

Steiffgal: How did you get interested in puppets? Please describe your puppet collection, and how you store or display it.

Marcus: Puppets have always fascinated me since I was a little kid. All the great memories of attending marionette shows and playing with hand puppets — fostered by my parents during my childhood — led me to a side career as a puppet performer and theatre producer of A RODA puppet Company

My collection is very broad. I have Shadow Puppets made of animal hide, Wooden Marionettes (also called string puppets), Rod Puppets and, of course, the beloved and most known Hand Puppets! Some were once used professionally but many are well loved old toys.

Steiff stole my heart at the very first moment I saw a Jocko puppet. Today I have quite a large collection of these adorable Steiff critters and a soft spot for monkeys. Within the plush world, I also have puppets by interesting manufacturers like Schuco, Kersa, Eduard Cramer, Hermann Teddy, Grisly, Clemens, Anker, Invicta, SAF, Alpha Farnell, Hamiro and the list goes on…

I live in a condo and I don’t have much display space available. So most of my puppets are stored away, sadly! I use a barrister bookcase to display my favourite plush puppets. Some other special ones keep popping out of the trunks and hanging around the house.

Steiffgal: Do you actually use the puppets as puppets in performances? Or are they more like fine collectibles that are appreciated for their beauty, aesthetics, and rarity?

Marcus: I used to perform with the wooden puppets created by my artistic partner Olga Gomez, within the context of our puppet company A RODA in Brazil. The wooden puppet on the left is from A RODA's show "Love and Madness." Currently I collect puppets for their beauty, craftsmanship and also to preserve such an important part of the culture they come from. People would be amazed to know that pretty much every corner of the world has a form of puppetry.

Steiffgal: What about Steiff brand puppets particularly catches your eye?

Marcus: Steiff is truly an amazing brand! The attention to detail, craftsmanship and understanding of how toys are used, impress me. They are not only incredibly beautiful but they also function very well technically, as puppets. Their designs are so well thought out. Just as an example, if you take a close look at the back of a mid-century Steiff hand puppet, you will notice that it is slightly wider than its front. This pattern fits the puppeteer’s hand very nicely and even gives the puppet a nicer shape. 

Steiff is also very consistent in their production. Once I had 2 Dally Dalmatian hand puppets and decided to compare their black dots. I was amazed to see that they were identical but at the same time, their expressions were slightly different, as if they had different souls. I don’t see this design consistency and attention to detail very often when it comes to toy puppets.

Steiffgal: What are the top three favorite puppets in your collection, and why?

Marcus: Wow, that’s a tough one! My collection is so wide and the puppets that I have are so different in styles, origin and materials that it is hard to compare and pick one. But I can say that some pre-war Steiff Jockos are among my favourite plush puppets, probably due to my early memories of a play with a monkey puppet climbing a coconut tree. One named Blondie is pictured here on the left. My other two favourites are a late 19th Century Czech marionette of a noble man with a moustache and a full body Japanese Bunraku puppet.

Steiffgal: And finally, what is the holy grail you would like to find to add to your puppet collection? 

Marcus: Just in the beginning of 2020, I had the amazing opportunity to purchase a full body Japanese Bunraku puppet. I never thought I would be able to have such a treasure in my hands one day, but it happened! He is pictured here on the left. Most puppeteers cherish this highly respected form of puppetry that dates as far back as the 16th century in Japan. And when it comes to Steiff, I would love to add some of the rare and beautiful pre-war puppets that I’m still missing. An old Steiff Teddy Bear Puppet would be a dream come true!

Steiffgal: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and insights with the Steiff collecting community today! 

For more information on Marcus and his puppet passion, check out his website at

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