Dear Old Guy, I have enjoyed owning a Steiff teddy bear for many years and have just purchased this Steiff dog. I would be interested in learning more about the history of this company and finding out how to identify how old my bear is. Thanks for your help.
June Chambers, Ottawa
Hi June, Thanks for your question. The history of the Steiff Company might come as a surprise to many people. Margarete Steiff was born in Germany in 1847. As a very young child she contracted polio and was wheelchair-bound for her entire life. Despite this disability she attended school and became a seamstress, working with her sisters at a tailor’s shop. Determined to become an entrepreneur at a time when few women owned businesses or even had equal rights, she started her own company. In 1880 her company was registered with the motto that is still used today, “For children, only the best is good enough”. She was credited with producing the first “soft toy” for children, a felt hand-stitched elephant. That was the beginning of the Steiff Company which has evolved into one of the most successful, highest-quality toy manufacturers in the world. By 1907 Margarete’s company employed over 400 full-time and 1800 home-based workers manufacturing close to two million stuffed toys a year. In 1909 she died at the age of 61.
Determining the age of a vintage Steiff toy is not an easy task. The first ear button used in Steiff animals had an elephant image stamped into the button. After 1905 the company logo was used on the button, and is still used today. The first Steiff animals were filled with long thin wood shavings. Later a cotton-like silky fibre made from the seeds of the kapok tree was used. The bodies were covered in soft mohair or alpaca wool. The shape of your bear can also help in determining its age. Early bears (pre 1940) were thinner with long curved arms and legs. They had prominent pointed noses compared to later models. After the war the bodies of the bears became thicker and more rounded. The arms and legs were shortened. Early Steiff bears with a hump at the top of their backs are often worth the most. The paws of early bears were usually made of felt, while oil cloth was used from the 30s to the 50s. Synthetic fabrics were used after 1950. Rubber noses were introduced after 1950. Most modern bears have plastic noses. If your bear is lucky enough to still have its name tag or model number you can go to a great website: www.bearvalues.com. At this site you can determine your bear’s age and approximate value. By the way, the Steiff dog in the picture you sent was manufactured between 1976 and 1981 and is listed with an approximate value of between $85 and $110 U.S. Its Steiff registered name is Junior Lumpi. Enjoy your Steiff collection.
The Old Guy