Thursday, February 3, 2022

This Marmalade Silk Plush Steiff Susi Kitten Is The Cat's Meow!

Orange you in the mood for something unexpected? Steiff's midcentury kittens are always the cat's meow, but this particular find is purr-fect in every way! Check out this fantastic feline and see what makes her so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This smooth-as-silk sweetie is an unusual example of Steiff's beloved Susi cat design.
She is 16 cm tall, sitting, and head jointed. Susi is made from artificial silk plush. Her muzzle, front feet, and neck are white while her body, head, and tail are a marmalade color. The marmalade areas are hand airbrushed with dark orange or brown stripes. Her face comes to life with piercing green and black round pupil glass eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, traces of a few clear monofilament whiskers, and a touch of pink paint to mark her lips. She has red embroidered claws on her front two paws. She retains her original pink bow. Her IDs include a large, watermelon style red imprinted chest tag, a short trailing f button, and traces of a light yellow or white ear tag.

Steiff's legacy Susi pattern has been a collector's favorite since her debut in 1936.
 It is rumored that this beloved design was named after a member of the Steiff family. Prewar, she was produced in grey and white mohair in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1943. In Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment, she is described as "mohair plush, gray tabby, sitting, very pretty model, round shape." It is very unusual to find subjective or "flattering" descriptions in the Sortiment books as they are almost always entirely factual and literal. So Susi's design must have really caught someone's eye! Shortly after the conclusion of WWII, Steiff began manufacturing just a handful of their most popular prewar patterns - including a version of Susi. Her pattern was first produced in grey and white artificial silk plush in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1948 to 1949, and then in mohair in 10, 12, 14, 17 and 22 cm from 1948 through 1978.

As far as Steiffgal can tell, this marmalade and white artificial silk plush full bodied Susi cat does not appear in any of the standard Steiff reference books.
However, it is interesting to note that she resembles a most unusual marmalade and white artificial silk plush Steiff puppet sold at auction in 2019. 
This puppet, which is pictured here on the left, generated 20 bids and realized over $3,000! You can see that they share similar coloring and materials, as well as the same green and black pupil eyes, and other facial detailing. This puppet was described in the catalog as, "hand puppet, faux silk plush, cat, shiny button, rests of the ocher-colored paper sign, was produced during the war, good condition, nice colors." The photo is from

So, what's the story with this very pretty, albeit uncatalogued kitty?
Here are a few ideas. It is entirely possible that she is a variation of the grey and white artificial silk plush version from the late 1940s. Her IDs align perfectly to that time frame. Given her stunning but unconventional hue and era of manufacture, she may have been produced as a sample of a design that never went into commercial scale production; was made from the only fabrics available at the time; or perhaps was designed and produced as an item for sale at the PX stores where American soldiers shopped immediately post WWII. However, only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this happily hued Steiff Susi has tickled your whiskers, in the best possible way.

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