Posted 3 years ago
What we have here is Steiff’s Pavian Coco or Coco Baboon. This is one of the most unusual and sought after post war items in the Steiff catalog. Coco is 35 cm, five ways jointed, and made from very thick silver mohair. He has a long bendable tail and very realistic grey felt hands and feet – with each toe and finger clearly defined. Like his distant cousin Jocko the Chimpanzee, Coco has a peach colored felt face and ears, as well as expressive deep-set eyes in felt pockets. One of the things that make Coco one of the most distinctive animals in the entire Steiff archive is his remarkable hair collar, which is made from mohair strands that are about 5 inches long! He does need a brushing every now and again to keep him untangled. Coco was produced from 1951 through 1958 and then again in 1961.
Although apes and chimps have been part of the Steiff catalog since its debut edition in 1892, baboons are a relative latecomer to the line. The first – and only prewar – Steiff baboon appeared in the catalog from 1931 through 1935 in 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 70 cm. He was standing and five ways jointed; below the waist he was made from short brown mohair while above the waist he was made in very long brown tipped mohair. His hands, feet, and face were made from velvet and gorgeously hand painted.
Right after the factory reopened for business in the very late 1940’s, work began on creating an entire new range of “modern” items –including dogs, cats, bears, jungle, and farm animals - to again position Steiff as the leader in precious mohair collectibles. Baboons were key in this strategy. In addition to this larger 35 cm Coco, the company introduced “Coco”, a standing grey mohair baboon with a distinctive fur “mane” and piercing eyes. He was produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1952 through 1970; a 25 cm version on eccentric red wooden wheels was available from 1951 though 1961.
Where I got him:
Coco is very special to me, not only because he is such an interesting, strange, and hard to find item, but also as he is from the collection of my friend and mentor, Dick Frantz. Dick is the beloved, long time Steiff archivist here in the United States. Dick was a featured speaker as well as exhibitor/dealer at the 2005 Festival of Steiff, held in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I had spotted Coco in Dick’s booth during the pre-show set up. I couldn’t get the baboon out of my mind and actually snuck back into the sales room after the evening event to make sure Coco was still on display. Seeing that he was, I found Dick in the reception area and immediately made an “after hours” offer for him. I was delighted when he agreed, and I have been “loco for this Coco” ever since!