Steiff and celebrations go hand in hand. Steiff treasures are great gifts for doll and Teddy fans, and nothing says “I love you” more than a little something with a button-in-ear. These happy pals from Giengen, Germany also make delightful Christmas decorative items. They look utterly charming in cold-weather vignettes when posed with dolls on a sideboard, table centerpiece, or other home focal point. If you are looking to add something “seasonally Steiff” to your collection, or just checking out festive winter decorating ideas, here’s a top ten countdown of vintage Steiff seasonal items that appear on Santa’s “nice” list!
“Not a creature was stirring… not even a mouse!” Steiff’s Pieps mouse debuted in 1958 and is still a collector’s favorite today. Made in grey or white mohair, precious Pieps is 8 cm, unjointed, and begging. She has tiny felt ears, feet, and hands and sports a very long felt tail. Her face is detailed with tiny black or red button eyes, a black button nose, monofilament whiskers, and a tiny black mouth highlighted with a spot of pink airbrushing. Pieps appeared in the Steiff line through 1978. Pieps makes a great stocking stuffer or playful focal point (imagine one popping out of Santa’s sack!) in any Christmas display.
We all pray for peace – especially around this time of year – and the dove is the universal symbol of this lofty goal. Steiff’s tiny pom-pom woolen dove is 6 cm tall, standing, head jointed, and made from white, light blue, and tan woolen yarns. He comes to life with a yellow felt beak, glorious felt tail feathers which are airbrushed in blue and brown, and adorable tiny black button eyes. His feet are made from plastic. This dove was produced overall from 1953 through 1977. Despite his petite proportions, this dove makes a big statement and adds a bright pop of unexpected color when grouped with other more traditionally hued seasonal selections.
It’s always time to chill out when this fine fellow’s in the house! Steiff’s first commercially scaled attempt at a snowman was in the form of this snowman hand puppet. He is 17 cm, unjointed, and made from white dralon, a popular synthetic material from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Snowman’s face beams with black eyes, an orange felt carrot nose, a red stitched mouth, and a touch of pink blush on his cheeks. He has two black “coal” woolen pompoms on his chest – just like a real snowman would – and he dons a black felt hat. Snowman was made in this size only in 1964 and is arguably the most sought-after Steiff postwar puppet. He’s be amazingly appealing displayed under a glass dome as a larger-than-life snowglobe.
It’s easy to see things in black and white when it comes to Steiff’s penguins, and these tuxedo’ed birds are always dressed to the nines for any Christmas celebration. Steiff’s early postwar penguin design is called Peggy, and she debuted in 1952. The earliest Peggys have oversized red felt feet and rounded beaks. They were produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm through 1956. In 1956, Peggy’s pattern was updated to make her look more realistic. This included tapering her body and beak, and giving her grey feet. “New” Peggys were made in 10, 14, 22, 35, and 50 cm through 1975 overall. Steiff’s penguins would add a sweet sense of whimsy to your holiday display. Can’t you just see a group of them looking inquisitively at Santa’s loaded sleigh?
Santa says these cool cubs make the best neighbors, and Steiff’s polar bears indeed make friends wherever they go. Steiff’s early postwar models are standing on all fours and made from white mohair. They have peach colored felt feet pads. Their youthful faces are detailed with black button eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a touch of red on their lips. These polar pals were produced from 1950 through 1972 in 12, 17, and 25 cm. Steiff’s vintage polar bears have a way of warming up any winter display and would look irresistible parading along fireplace mantel; the smallest sized one can also double as a tree ornament.
Reindeers play a critical role in holiday gift distribution operations, so it is important that they are well represented – and appreciated – in any Steiff Christmas celebration. Steiff’s Renny Reindeer is unjointed and standing. His body and head are made from short tan mohair that is realistically highlighted with brown airbrushed spots. His neck is made from really long tan mohair. You can’t help but admire Renny’s crowning feature – his proud antlers. Small Renny’s are made from double thick felt; big Renny’s are felt, wire-lined, and posable. Renny’s face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. Renny was produced in 14 and 22 cm from 1956 through 1970. Rennys look especially charming posed together as families; some collectors even hang tiny holiday ornaments from the antlers of the larger versions as part of their vignettes.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has been adding a special glow to the holiday season since his debut in a Montgomery Ward holiday brochure in 1939. Although Steiff has made several Rudolph editions, the first, and perhaps the most collectible, was produced as a limited edition of 2,000 pieces for the upscale toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz in 1998. This Rudolph is 18 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from white mohair with brown airbrushed highlights. His earnest face lights up with oversized black eyes backed by white felt, a prominent red mohair nose, and simple, small white felt antlers. Rudolphs add a playful, nostalgic touch to any Christmas display – especially positioned leading a winter animal parade.
Santa would have to say “I get by with a little help from my friends” when it comes to his bevy of energetic elves. Although Steiff never technically produced elves, they have since the turn of last century produced dwarfs or gnomes, who are also happy helpers. The company’s Pucki, Gucki, and Lucki dolls were introduced in 1959. Each is standing, bearded, and dressed in traditional Tyrolian outfits. Gucki wears a purple hat, orange apron, and blue pants; Lucky is in a red hat, green vets, and green pants; while Pucki dons a green hat, red jacket, and tan shorts.
These petite treats were produced in 13, 18, 30, 55, and 115 cm from 1963 through 1973 overall. Steiff’s gnomes are delightful additions to Christmas collections and displays given their darling presentations, seasonal coloration, and of course, Santa-esque full white beards.
2. Christmas Tree
This crazy-rare Christmas treat gives new meaning to the word “fir tree!” No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Here we have a 25 cm green soft plush Steiff Christmas tree. It is mounted on a wooden dowel and stands upright on its own. It is decorated with yellow felt stars, red fabric balls, and a garland of opal stars. This tree was not a limited edition but made in very small quantities in 2004. If you can find one of these on the secondary market, GRAB IT! I only know of three of them, and all three collectors who have them display them year-round.
Last, and hardly least, is the man in red… Steiff’s early and original Santa Claus doll! Although the company produced a small handful of Christmas themed items before 1950, it was not until 1953 that Steiff made a Santa Claus doll designed as we know him today. Steiff’s earliest standard line Santa was produced in 13, 18, and 31 cm from 1953 through 1963. The smallest version is made from rubber, while the medium and larger versions have felt bodies and limbs, and rubber heads. All have white mohair beards and don red felt suits trimmed in wool plush. Why not put a Steiff Santa adjacent to the cookies and milk you leave out for Santa on Christmas eve? Then the big guy can be certain those treats are for him!
About the Author
Rebekah Kaufman is a third generation lifelong Steiff enthusiast. Her personal collection of vintage Steiff treasures numbers north of 1,200. Rebekah’s German grandmother kindled her love for the brand over four decades ago, and today Rebekah is the proud steward of many of her Oma’s Steiff treasures.
Rebekah’s passion became her vocation when she became the Steiff Club Manager for the North American division of Margarete Steiff GmbH in 2003. A few years later, in 2008, she changed jobs and was appointed to the position she holds today – that of Steiff’s North American archivist. In this role, she leads collector’s events around the country, authors most of the vintage related articles in the biannual Steiff Club Magazine, and authenticates and values vintage Steiff treasures on behalf of the company. In 2014, at James D. Julia Auctioneers in Fairfield, ME, she appraised and cataloged the largest and most important vintage Steiff collection to come to market ever in North America; the sale realized over half a million dollars. Since 2015, she has consulted with Morphy Auctions of Denver, PA as a Steiff and Fine Plush Expert where she identifies, values, and catalogs treasures for the company’s quarterly fine doll and Teddy bear auction events on an as needed basis. Rebekah owns and merchandises Steiffgal’s Vintage Museum Marketplace, the largest online vintage Steiff shop worldwide.
Rebekah’s blog, My Steiff Life, focuses on vintage Steiff finds, Steiff antiquing and travel adventures, international Steiff happenings, and the legacy and history of the Steiff company. It has been updated weekly since 2009 and can be found at http://mysteifflife.blogspot.com. Her book, Sassafrass Jones and Her Forever Friends ABCs, features vintage Steiff as an integral part of the storyline. It was co-authored by Cathleen Smith-Bresciani, a fellow Steiff enthusiast. The book, ISBN #978-0-578-15002-4, is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Rebekah truly leads “The Steiff Life.”
See Rebekah chat LIVE with Ruby Lane in Orlando, Florida at the UFDC Convention in this seminar on Steiff’s Teddy Baby.
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