Today’s guest blogger is Rebekah Kaufman, also known as Steiffgal, who runs a terrific blog called My Steiff Life.
What we have here is a complete set of Steiff’s 1960s-era Basset hounds. Steiff produced these handsome hounds from 1961 through 1963 in 12 (above, center), 14 (above, right), and 22 (above, left) cm. All three are sitting, head jointed, and made from mohair that has been carefully airbrushed in multiple shades of tan, brown, and black. Each has wonderfully long, droopy ears; hand embroidered black noses; and realistic, dimensional soft jowls. The biggest Basset has black embroidered claws and the two smaller ones have brown airbrushed claws. But their most interesting—and eye-popping—feature would be their outstanding peepers! The 14 cm and 22 cm size have extremely round, realistic-looking eyeballs that are embedded into their facial mask structure. The 12 cm model one has flatter, but no less realistic looking, eyes that seem to have a reflective quality to them. These Bassets were produced in limited quantities for less than three years, making them quite rare and desirable from a collector’s standpoint.
Basset hounds made their debut in the Steiff catalog in 1960 in a big way. Steiff’s first Basset hound was actually a larger-than-life Studio piece, measuring a whopping 75 cm tall. He was unjointed and stuffed with excelsior. He closely resembled the Bassets pictured above, though on a much bigger scale. Just to put into perspective how large this dog was, his vertically stitched nose alone measured three inches wide by two inches tall, and his hand painted wooden eyeballs were bigger than golf balls! Interestingly, the famous “Hush Puppies” footwear brand, whose logo is a Basset hound, was founded in 1958 and was quite popular in the late 1950s and 1960s. Based on this timing, I would not be surprised if the studio-sized Basset was designed as a window display piece for Hush Puppies shoes. Steiff also produced Hush Puppy branded 12 and 14 cm Basset hounds as premiums from 1970 through 1972; these were differentiated from the standard line of Basset hound items by a special chest tag that had the “Hush Puppies” logo on it.
Where I got them
It took several years to collect all three sizes of this rare, standard line Steiff doggie design. I found the 12 cm model at a small antiques show in the Northeast; he was sitting on the bottom of a box of old plush toys that was partially hidden under a table in the dealer’s booth. Good thing I asked to peek at its contents! The 14 cm one was discovered in an antiques shop; I still can’t get over how new he looks, like he was made yesterday. And I found the 22 cm model on an online auction; he was misidentified as a bulldog. All I can say is, eye, eye, eye…