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Steiff Non-Bear Collectibles 
Feature Article by Terry & Doris Michaud                               January 2011

 

Any time we hear the name Steiff, we automatically visualize a delightful teddy bear - perhaps a hundred years old, or perhaps a brand new teddy.

Rarely do we associate this venerable name with other plush animals, but the fact is, Steiff made other creatures before the teddy bear was born.


It is certainly true that a very large part of the company's production is geared for our lovable teddy bears, and you might be amazed at how many animals are crafted by this company and how many people collect them.

You say that these Steiff animals will never reach the value of Steiff teddy bears? That may be true, but we found some secondary market auction prices that certainly got our attention.

How about a Steiff 1930's elephant that sold for over $3,000.00?

Or a 1910 Roly Poly that sold in the same price range.

Or the famous Steiff Elephant pin cushion, a late 1920s model, that brought $2,990.00. ( The photo is a     version from the 1930s.)

Or an early 20th century set of Steiff Skittles dogs, hammered down for $5,428.00!

You might argue that these examples brought exceptional prices because of their age, but even those Steiff animals produced in the Baby Boomer years can achieve good prices on the secondary market.

A check of recent sales on eBay shows that Steiff animals, from the 1950s and 60s, were sold in a range from $20.00 to $100.00, with a good number of them in the $50.00 to $75.00 range.

We start our search for Steiff non-bear creatures by going back to the company's very beginnings.

Margaret Steiff (1847 - 1909) , who was wheelchair bound, took sewing classes in school, and in the 1850s she and an older sister started a home-based business making clothing.

By 1879 she produced felt clothing under her own name. It was in that year that she crafted some elephant-shaped pincushions for her family and friends. They quickly became so popular that she added them to her line of goods for sale.

The elephant became the company's trademark, a cherished button found in the earliest Steiff animals and bears. In 1886 the Steiff company was producing 5,500 pieces annually, including riding and pull toys.

Business was growing rapidly, so in 1889 a move was made into a factory building.

By 1893 Steiff produced their first catalogue, which included a variety of stuffed animals such as dogs, donkeys, lions and other charming pieces that included dolls.

Margarete's nephew Richard joined the firm in the 1890s. An artist, he designed a selection of zoo animals that were introduced at the famed Leipzig Toy Fair in 1894.

It was after the turn of the century that Richard Steiff produced a drawing of bears that were to become what we know today as the beloved Teddy Bear.


Rare set of Steiff pointer skittles from 1910-20 era.  Sold at auction for over $5,000.00.


 

Steiff did a number of animals on wheels, including this dromedary,        circa 1910.


 

A group of Steiff animals, including a 1910 squirrel and friends from the 1950s.


 

A group of penguins and friends from the 50's.  Note that a Schuco yes-no penguin snuck into the picture. 

 
Steiff produced a bat and spider that were not strong sellers and were discontinued, making them a bit hard to find today. A real collectible!

 

Steiff woodland animals have always been a favorite with children and us big kids alike.


 

In more recent years, Steiff has produced a series of replicas from         earlier years, such as this grouping.

 

Delightful new Steiff pieces, including a Meerkat, a popular collectible. 


 

Here's a charmer with the added feature of being on wheels. This Steiff pig is currently in their line. 

Steiff had produced in the range of 3,000 stuffed bears to disappointing sales results, and when the famous Clifford Berryman political cartoon, of President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a captured bear, appeared in the fall of 1902, it set the wheels in motion for a strong demand for what was to become known as "Teddy's Bear"; our earliest teddy bears.

There is no question that teddy bears became the cornerstone for success for the Steiff Company, but they did not overlook their broad range of toy offerings throughout the early 20th century.

Caricature dolls were added to their line, puppet animals and animals dressed in clothing, pull toys and an ever-growing number of plush animals.


In 1950 Steiff introduced a hedgehog named Mecki, along with a wife named Micki as well as two offspring dubbed Macki and Mucki. To say the least, they became an international toy craze, and good examples are prized by collectors today.

Steiff's menagerie has continued to grow over the decades, with a host of wonderful species that includes dogs and cats both large and small, lions, tigers, goats, raccoons, a manatee, lobsters, spiders, bats and the list goes on and on.

It has been said that by the late 1990s Steiff had offered almost 15,000 different animals!


It does not have to be an old Steiff animal to be popular with collectors. Many of the current pieces marketed by this well known German firm are marketed to both the children's market and the collector's market alike.

If you are seeking information about some of the more modern Steiff animals, long time Steiff specialists Beth and Ben Savino of The Toy Shop from Toledo, Ohio have been dealing in this popular line for nearly 50 years.

This knowledgeable couple have traveled here and aboard sharing their expertise with Steiff collectors.

If you are not already a devoted Steiff collector, meeting the Savino's at a teddy bear show or a visit to their eBay store called The Toy Store Collectors Gallery may just provide the incentive you need.

Terry & Doris Michaud

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Pictures courtesy: Christie's, South Kensington and The Savino's.

   

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