Sunday, May 16, 2021

This Charming Steiff Panda Bear Is Simply Mid-Century Marvelous!

It was pure panda-monium this week at Steiffgal's home when this latest addition joined her hug! Pandas top many Steiff collector's "love lists" and this sweet girl deserves a crown and throne for many reasons. Check out this black and white beauty and see why she really is mid-century marvelous!

This smiling sweetheart - newly named Princess - is 28 cm, five ways jointed, and made from black and white mohair. Her face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, and an open, triangular shaped peach felt lined open mouth. The black circles around her eyes are created by hand airbrushing; she also has black airbrushing on her back. Princess' pads are made from grey felt. She proudly dons her original pink silken ribbon. Princess retains her yellow eartag, US Zone tag, and raised script button as her Steiff IDs. 

Now let's take a closer look at Princess' place in the product development timeline.
According to the Sortiment, this pattern was produced in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1951-1961. Her eartag reads 5328,2. This translates to... 5 = jointed, 3 = mohair, 28 = 28 cm tall, and ,2 = with a voice. This pattern, introduced in 1951, was a modification of Steiff's first panda design which debuted in 1938. Steiff's prewar pandas were produced commercially in 15 and 30 cm, and would go on to appear postwar from 1949-1950 in 30 cm only. Given how Princess has elements of both the debut and updated panda patterns in her presentation, as well as her US Zone tag, it is clear that she was produced as the company was transitioning from one pattern to the other - probably in 1951. 

Despite her 1950s birthdate, Princess has many elements of Steiff's earliest panda cubs - especially from the midsection up.
Princess has a broad and triangular mouth; the updated mid-century version has a much smaller, half-oval shaped mouth. Princess has a very round face and muzzle; the updated mid-century one has a more finely contoured head and muzzle. And Princess has her black midsection almost to her mid-torso; the updated mid-century version generally has a much shorter black midsection. Also intriguing is the fact that Princess is technically cataloged at 28 cm, but actually measures 30 cm. And her pre- and very early postwar cousins - who are technically cataloged at 30 cm, actually measure about 26 cm. You can see Princess and her 22 cm updated 1951 postwar panda cousin pictured here on the left for comparison.

Steiff introduced pandas to the world just as they started appearing at zoos across the world in the late 1930s.
These jolly bears immediately rocketed to superstar status. Piggybacking on the success of their real-life cousins, pandas made their debut in the Steiff line in 1938. Because of wartime material shortages, some pandas were produced with linen or other alternative fabrics in the place of felt on their hand and foot paw pads. The success of its first early panda inspired Steiff to produce more pandas in the line as soon as the factory reopened for business in the late 1940s. These early postwar production pandas often had inferior quality felt on their pads as high quality felt materials were still only available in very limited quantities at that time. 

To bring history to life here, check out the two Steiff wartime era pictures above on the left. The one on the left has linen pads and the one on the right has with lesser quality greyish-black felt pads. The one with linen pads has a short trailing "f" button as her ID; the one with greyish-black pads has a raised script button and traces of her US Zone tag as her IDs. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Princess panda has added a touch of royalty to your day.

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