Sunday, February 25, 2024

Racing To The Finish Line With This Unusual Wintertime Steiff Mascot

Baby it's cold outside!
At least in many places where Steiff Superfans are residing right now! Here's a little chilly weather fellow that is certain to warm your soul - and possibly even start your heart racing! This little bunny on the mend recently joined Steiffgal's collection, and the timing could not be more perfect! Come see what makes him so fun, quirky, and intriguing from the product design and development perspectives.

This bandaged bunny is 18 cm tall and head jointed.
Knupfi's head, ears, hands, and feet are made from mohair. His body is made from velvety material. His shirt is green and his pants are red; this clothing is integral to his body. His face comes to life with felt lined ears, big black and white cartoon style eyes, a red hand embroidered nose, a little pink airbrushing, clear whiskers, and brown shaded highlights. His arm is in a sling made from white cotton calico fabric with pink dots. His foot is bandaged in white tape, and he holds a red, white, and blue plastic ski pole in his hand. Perhaps he is using it as a cane, given his injuries? He retains his raised script button, yellow ear tag, and named chest tag as his Steiff IDs. This unusual character appeared in the line in this size only from 1968-1971.

Things are actually twice as nice when it comes to this (once) racing rabbit.
It turns out that he was actually produced with a companion named Hupfi. Like Knupfi, Hupfi is 18 cm tall and head jointed. He has an almost identical body construction with a mohair head, ears, hands, and feet and a velvet body. His integral outfit includes a blue shirt and red pants. However, unlike Knupfi, he is in fine form physically and has a ski pole in each hand and carries a perfectly to scale pair of skis. Hupfi was produced from 1968-1970. Perhaps Hupfi is the "before" and Knupfi is the "after" bunny when it comes to skiing safety? You can see Knupfi and Hupfi posed together on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1947-1999 Sortiment.

So what is the back story to these fine fellows?
 Steiffgal couldn't find anything specific about that, but has an idea. Given their dating, it is possible that they might have been inspired by a big worldwide sporting event. The 1968 Winter Olympics were held from February 6th - February 18th in Grenoble, France. These were the first Olympics to be broadcast on television in color.  

Skiing related competitions are usually a big part of these cold weather games, and this one did not disappoint.
French athlete Jean-Claude Killy swept three Alpine skiing events (downhill, giant slalom, and slalom). This accomplishment elevated him to icon status; he would go on to serve as co-president of the Organizing Committee of the 1992 Albertville Olympic Winter Games and become an IOC member in 1995. It is also interesting to note that the mascot for these games was also a playful, quirky little guy. He was named “Shuss”, and was in the form of a little man on skis. The top of his oversized, colorful head head, which rested on a unique zig-zag flash-shaped foot, featured the Olympic rings. You can see Shuss pictured here on the left. Perhaps Knupfi and Hupfi were Steiff's gentle nod to this also colorful and somewhat goofy mascot of the era.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's ski rabbits has put you in the pole position.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Does This Steiff Prewar Tom Cat Tickle Your Whiskers?

This great Steiff inquiry walked in on little cat's feet!
And talk about launching a collection with a rockstar! A new friend from Germany writes about her debut vintage Steiff purchase. She is curious about its birth year, give or take a bit. Rebecca shares,

"I bought my first vintage Steiff animal and it's the famous Tom cat. As I know that she was produced over many many years I'm now super curious which exact time it was that mine was produced. It's the smallest one. And it has the old button with the long "f" at the end. So I think that means that it can be between 1923 and 1953, right? Do you think you can say it more specific? I just can't find more information. Kind regards from Germany!"

Wow, Rebecca's purchase is truly the cat's meow
. It is Steiff's mid- to later prewar Tom cat. This fantastic feline was made for the standard line in 8, 10, 14, 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1923-1943 overall. The 8 cm and the 10 cm versions had a pitch black velvet body and a fuzzy black mohair tail. From 14 cm onward, all sizes were made entirely from black mohair. These cats were technically measured vertically, from the top of their heads to their toes. Their long vertical tails almost "doubled" their height measurements. They were detailed with green and black round or slit glass pupil eyes, a simple hand embroidered mouth and nose (Steiffgal has seen both pink and red examples), and clear monofilament whiskers. They left the factory wearing a decorative silk ribbon and sometimes a little bell to match. The bow on Rebecca's example is not factory original. 

Now back to the question - his birthday.
The best telling clue here is that he has the short trailing 'f' style button. This button appeared on items in the line from about 1936 through the very early 1950s. So we know that the earliest the cat was produced was 1936. As noted above, this particular cat with a black velvet head and body and mohair tail was made in 8 or 10 cm from 1933-1943 overall. This skinnies down his production timeframe to most likely in the c. 1936-1943 timeframe. So he's clearly from the late prewar period. 

One thing that's nearly purr-fect about this feline pattern is how long it has appeared in the Steiff line.
 The earliest version made its grand public debut in a photograph featured in the 1903-1904 Steiff catalog... in the same picture that introduced PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear! This puts Tom in very good company for sure. This photo is here on the left - you can click on it to make it bigger. And Tom CONTINUES to make guest appearances in the line on and off to this day in the form of replicas and special editions. His timeless, universal popularity and appeal have truly earned him legacy status within the Steiff collecting community.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar black Tom cats has tickled your whiskers in a most happy way. 

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