As you may know, Steiff made dressed, humanized versions of some of its more naturalistic animals. For example, Waldili the hunter is a dressed and upright version of Waldi, the dachshund dog.
Teddyli, the bear, is another dressed version of an animal, although even his non-humanized version is not quite what a bear cub looks like in nature. I refer, of course, to Teddy Baby, who, even without clothes, looks like a human toddler (see the BIG Teddy Baby in my shop). Although the ever-popular Niki rabbits, like Teddy Baby, don’t really look like rabbits (or hares) in nature, since they already stand erect like human beings, the “-ili” versions of Niki are dressed, whereas the “pure” Nikis are naked. ;-) And unlike their naked cousins, who are fully jointed, the Nikili dolls have stationary legs.
Nikili was made in two sizes, and in each size, there was a girl version with a skirt and shawl and a boy version with short pants, a vest, and a necktie. This wonderful bunny is the larger girl. Before this girl, I had never even seen a picture of the large Nikili (not even in Pfeiffer), let alone given her a temporary home until she is adopted!
Nikili’s catalogued size is 36 centimeters, and her two smaller siblings are catalogued at 26 centimeters. I believe the measurement to be taken is to the top of Nikili’s head, and if I am right about how to measure her, she is a real runt; she measures only 30.5 centimeters high, or almost exactly one foot. Her ears nicely stay up by themselves, even with no wires, so you’ll need about another 6 inches to accommodate (with a bit of spare overhead room) her slightly higher right ear.
As I said, unlike her naked Niki cousins, Nikili doesn’t sit, so you will have no other choice about how to display her. Fifteen or so inches high is nothing to sneeze at. I am showing you her standing in my palm, while holding her, and I could just barely stretch my arm out far enough to get her all in the frame, even with my wide-angle lens!
Speaking of the need to display Nikili standing, this is as good as any a place to tell you that her stance is not quite as stable as would be ideal. Her big feet have what are supposed to be flat bottoms, to enable her to stand on her own. As it happens, the bottoms of Nikili’s feet (made out of a really hard substance, maybe even wood) are slightly curved. I gently tried to bend them level to no avail. I am showing her soles so you can see the felt covering, but the curvature is really subtle and I don’t think it shows in my image.
I don’t know whether Nikili’s curved soles are something she got at the factory as a birth defect or something she got while living with an owner. If I knew the substance of the bottoms, I might be in a better position to evaluate how that curvature happened. Nikili still stands, but because of the curved soles of her feet, she rocks a bit till she settles on a stance. She will either pose leaning a bit forward on her toes or leaning a bit backward on her heels. I have positioned her in this latter way in all of my pictures.
As I say, Nikili will stand unaided. Once you put her leaning slightly forward or back, she will stay that way indefinitely. Of course, you could display her on a doll stand (which I don’t own), and that could provide more stability. As part of this same stance issue, Nikili leans a tiny bit to her right side. You can see from my pictures that that is no big deal. In any case, because I have never seen this Nikili before, and I don’t know about what she might have looked like just before she left Giengen, I am not counting her curved soles against her in evaluating her condition.
Nikili is the earliest model of this doll. Her article number, 736, is a little faded, especially the “6,” but it is legible. That number was used for only one year, 1958! The Nikili dolls were not made beyond the early 1960s in any case, 1962 for the big ones and 1963 for the 26-cm sizes, but the other years had different article numbers.
Nikili has her chest tag too, but it is in poor condition. That “line” running from the hole to the bear’s left ear seems more like a cut than a crease. Whatever this is, it did not appear to be threatening the integrity of the tag, but I decided to reinforce the back with cardboard, just to protect against further injury. Of course, nothing will make the tag look new, but at least I made the tag feel crisper to the touch.
I have already said that I am not counting Nikili’s feet against her. I would say that she is in at least good-plus condition, and I don’t mean “for her age!” I rate my Steiff animals on an absolute scale, no matter how old they are.
Nikili’s main detraction is some minor overall thinning to her mohair, and she has some other, minor issues. Her shawl is a bit frayed, and her airbrushing may once have been more vibrant (rose coloring inside her ears and more brown airbrushing than she has now). I am not showing you the fronts of her legs in good light, but they do have some nice brown accents. She does retain some nice rose coloring inside her felt-lined mouth on both her upper and lower palate. You are getting to see only a hint of it in her various poses. Another really trivial thing is the absence of some tiny artificial flowers that were once tucked into Nikili’s waistband. I would not even know that anything was missing if her near-mint little sister did not live in my vitrine.
Speaking of Nikili's waistband, it was originally closed by a rivet, which had partially broken off. I replaced that with a button, and if I had not told you that, you would think her skirt closure was original. Her skirt is bright, clean, and crisp as well. It’s adorable how her fluffy bunny tail comes through the opening specially made for that in her skirt.
Two final details are that Nikili retains her 16 (!) original whiskers—eight on each side of her coral floss nose. And, as you would expect for someone Nikili’s age, her eyes are glass.
I can’t think of anything else to tell you, but please write if you have a question. Nikili is a rare—especially in this size—and wonderful bunny, one that all serious Steiff collections should contain. If rare Steiff bunnies are your thing, please check out the rest of them in my shop.
WHATEVER YOU DECIDE TO DO ABOUT NIKILI OR ANY OF MY OTHER STEIFF ITEMS, PLEASE BE SURE TO SEE THE ARTICLE I HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT STEIFF ID FRAUD—INCLUDING COUNTERFEIT CHEST TAGS—(AND OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR COLLECTORS). YOU WILL FIND THE LINK ON MY SHOP HOME PAGE UNDER “FAVORITE LINKS.” IF YOU HAVE NOT LOOKED AT IT RECENTLY, I UPDATED AND EXPANDED IT IN OCTOBER, 2020.
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Rare Rare Rare BIG Sister Steiff Dressed Nikili Hase Rabbit Bunny Doll All ID 1958 Only!
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