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Steiff

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Company History

Date Event
1877
A Felt mail order company opened in Giengen, Germany to make felt garments
1880 The success of a small felt elephant pin-cushion leads to animal toy production
1892 The first Steiff catalogue is produced. Bears on iron wheels introduced
1893 Business registered as the "Felt Toy Co."
1897 Richard Steiff joins to develop the soft toy animal range
1902 First jointed bear produced (Bär 55 PB)
1904 Margarete and Richard Steiff awarded Gold Medals for industry and effort. Franz Steiff creates the "button in ear" concept
1905

In May the "button in ear" trademark confirmed.

1906 In July Steiff became a private limited company and re-registered as Margarete Steiff GmbH. Three nephews i.e. Paul, Richard and Franz-Josef appointed as managing directors
1907 A record 974,000 bears produced
1909 9 May: Margarete Steiff died, aged 61
1914-18 Paul, Richard and Franz-Josef enlisted. The factory is used to make war supplies
1920 A conveyor belt system is introduced to improve production
1943 Factory makes ammunition for war effort
1950 Production fully resumed after lifting of war-time restrictions
1953 50th anniversary of Steiff teddy bear
1965 The Steiff Toy Company is founded in Grieskirchen, Austria to improve export facilities
1980 The first replica bear is made leading to expansion throughout the 80's.
1992 90 years of Steiff bears. Steiff Collectors Club begins on 1 April

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Steiff Bears

1905/6 early 1920's Teddy Clown Teddy Baby 1953
Jackie Bear
55PB replica
Cinnamon Steiff from 1905/6 Steiff from early 1920's Steiff Teddy Clown circa 1926 Steiff Teddy Baby Jackie bear Steiff 55 PB replica

These are just a few examples, visit our Vintage Bears where, depending on availability, you will see more Steiff bears.

Some of the earliest Steiff bears appeared in 1892, they stood on their hind legs or on all fours - wheels were introduced later. The limbs of these early bears were rigid and it was the development of moving joints that led to the development of the teddy bear that we know today.

Steiff's first jointed teddy bear was the Bär 55 PB. The number indicated the bear was 55 cm, "P" = plush; "B" = beweglich (jointed). This bear resembled a real bear, it's arms and legs were attached to the body by twine that was fastened with a knot just under the plush. . This bear was introduced at the Leipzig Trade Fair in 1903 but attracted little attention. However, later that year an American, Hermann Berg, ordered 3,000. There are no examples in existence ............. unless you know otherwise!

Neither Richard Steiff nor his aunt were happy with the 55 PB so Richard set upon improving the design. In 1904 he produced the smaller Bär 35 PB, it's arms and legs were attached with strong string. It didn't take long for the limbs to become loose. Then twisted wires and rods were used. In 1905 disc joints were introduced. The head and limbs were attached used cardboard discs and metal pins - a very similar system is still used today.

Steiff have made so many famous bears since then it is very difficult to know which to mention, here are a few, most of which have had replica's produced since 1980:

  • 1907 Hot Water Bottle Bear; only 90 were produced. A metal hot water bottle was concealed in the bears tummy, the opening could be closed by strong ribbon lacing around hooks. 50cm tall.
  • 1908-17 Muzzle Bears: produced in white and light to dark brown in ten sizes
  • 1908 - click here to read about Alfonzo
  • 1910-18 Pantom Bear: attached to 6 wires, just over 6000 produced in two sizes i.e. 35cm and 40cm
  • 1912 Mourning Bear: in memory of the Titanic that sank on 14 April 1912. One such bear, in excellent condition, fetched £80,000 PLUS buyers premium at an auction at Christies in December 2000.
  • 1926-30 Teddy Clown: a bear with a felt clown hat and neck ruff.
  • 1929-50 Teddy Baby: produced in twelve sizes, the largest being 51cm and made in mohair, artificial and wool plush. Teddy Babies were mainly produced in dark brown or creamy coloured mohair but some were white and these are now very collectable. Teddy Baby was produced with a "laughing" open mouth and closed mouth. Replica's were introduced in 1985.
  • 1930-36 Dicky Bear: made of white or blond with a brown stitched nose or gold with black stitched nose. Characterised by a smiling mouth. A brown Dicky Bear was also made between 1935 and 1941.
  • 1951 onwards Zotty: the majority of Zotty bears were produced using a caramel coloured mohair tipped with white. They have a peach coloured mohair chest. There was also a less popular Sleeping or Floppy Zotty, positioned lying down with closed eyes.
  • In March 1953, to celebrate 50th anniversary of teddy bears, Steiff produced the Jackie bear. Jackie is a bear cub and is easily distinguished by a single horizontal pink stitch across the black nose stitching and a dark brown belly button sprayed on his tummy fur. Jackie was available in four sizes i.e. 17cm, 25cm, 35cm and, for display, 75cm.
  • In 2005, to celebrate 125 years of Steiff, the 125 Carat Teddy Bear was produced. He is 50cm (20") tall, made from 70% mohair and 30% gold silk fibres which were attached by hand - the fabric is believed to cost over £800 per metre. The eyes were made of 18 carat gold, each eye had a sapphire (6 carat) pupil and 20 diamonds (0.5 carat) embedded around the pupil. The nose and mouth were stitched with fine gold thread and the all important button in the ear and the medallion around his neck were 24 carat gold. This was a very special teddy bear! IF YOU HAVE ONE OF THESE TEDDY BEARS AND COULD PROVIDE A PHOTO WHICH MIGHT BE INCLUDED IN THE GALLERY ABOVE IT WOULD BE APPRECIATED.top and

Steiff Bear Identification

The table below shows some of the ways to identify a Steiff bear. However, the shape of the muzzle, head, arms, legs and that famous hump on the back must also be considered.
Year

Button
(in left ear)

Tags Material Stuffing Eyes Pads/Claws
1904

Nickel-plated button. Elephant and S-shaped trunk (6mm).

 

  Mohair

Wood-wool or
wood-wool and Kapok

Squeeze type voice box

Shoe button

Felt pads

Five claws

1905

Blank, nickel-plated with two prong attachment (6mm)
Steiff blank button used 1904-5

         
1906

Nickel button. Raised "STEIFF" - with final'F' underscored and drawn back to the 'E' (4mm) Steiff FF button

Ear tag: white with article number and "Steiff Original"       Four claws
1908   Ear tag: white paper; number indicates posture, covering and height   Tilt-type voice box Glass available to special order  
1910   White paper; now also shows "made in Germany"        
1920     Nettle plant derivative or paper plush   Clear glass painted on back with metal loop  
1925 Larger nickel-plated button (8mm) used until 1934 Ear tag: red paper showing printed article number and "Made in Germany"        
1926   Chest tag: white paper circle, with black print and metal edge        
1928   Beige paper circle with red outer rim, yellow bears head at bottom. Used until 1950        
1934 Brass button: the final 'F' now only drawn back as far as preceding letter (6mm) Steiff button used 1936 to 1950 Ear tag: yellow paper, showing article number and "Made in Germany".. Used until 1950        
1947   Extra white woven label "made in US-Zone Germany" sewn into body seam until 1953 Steiff US Zone flag
Synthetic plush      
1948 Blank iron button, sometimes painted blue (greys with age), used (7mm). Also blank nickel button used.          
1950

The word "STEIFF" is in block capitals (6mm)

Also, the underscore button, with fhe final F drawn back to the preceding letter used (6mm)

         
1952/3

Silver-coloured, nickel, button. Steiff" in raised script (5mm)

Steiff raised script button
Chest tag: beige paper circle with red outer rim, yellow smiling bears head. Used until 1972        
1955     Dralon Foam rubber    
1960   Ear tag: yellow coated linen label   Foam rubber and foam flakes Plastic attached with thread or star lock-disc  
1968 The cursive script "Steiff" becomes smaller (5mm). This button is used until 1977. Ear tag: id number changed: comma replaced by slash e.g. 0209/15        
1970 A rounder nickel button is riveted. Incised "Steiff" in script (5mm)     Soft, synthetic   Rippled woven velvet pads
1972   Chest tag circular, top half in yellow and bottom in red        
1976 Brass button with incised Steiff in script, riveted in ear (8mm)         Jersey knit pads
1980   Ear tag: white woven label used for ltd editions until 1982        
1982   Ear tag: yellow cloth weave used until 1987        
1986 Larger brass button (9mm)

Ear tag: white printed ribbon used for ltd editions, a yellow printed ribbon for classic bears

       
2001 Gold-plated button, riveted in ear for special limited editions          

If you would like to know more about Steiff visit our bookshop where you will find a selection of books packed with information about Steiff bears, dolls and their other soft toys and numerous colour photographs.

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