Today’s guest blogger is Rebekah Kaufman, also known as Steiffgal, who runs a terrific blog called My Steiff Life.
Steiff pandas are “rare bears” indeed. Here are five examples that cover a manufacturing timeframe of almost three decades. The photo of the panda threesome includes 15-cm examples ranging from the 1930s through the 1950s. The pandas on the right and in the middle of this shot are from the 1950s, while the one on the left is from the 1930s. The photo of the panda duo shows a 15-cm cub with her 22-cm mom; both are from the late 1950s. All of these black-and-white beauties are five-ways jointed, made from mohair, have open peach felt mouths, and are detailed with embroidered black noses. Each Ted also has black airbrushed circles around its brown, black-pupil eyes, giving them their distinct “wide eyed” look.
Since their introduction in the Steiff line in the late 1930s, Steiff pandas have been universally beloved by collectors. The first Panda Baer or Panda Bear made his Steiff debut in 1938 and very closely resembled the panda on the far left of the panda threesome photo. It is interesting to note that unlike most other Steiff bear designs, Steiff pandas have flat, broad feet. These very closely resemble the “toddler feet” of Teddy Baby, another popular Steiff design introduced in late 1920s. This foot design allows the panda to stand up on his own. These pandas were produced in 15- and 30-cm sizes through 1942.
The success of its first early panda inspired Steiff to produce more pandas in the line as soon as the factory reopened for business in the late 1940s. Steiff started making the prewar Panda design again, but only in 30 cm through 1950. Then, in 1951, Steiff updated its original panda design slightly and started producing it in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm. The company used a suede-like grey rubber material instead of felt on this panda’s paws and soles from 1956 onward. This newer panda pattern, also a collector’s favorite, was in the line until 1961.
Where I got them
Steiff pandas from the 1930-through-1960 timeframe are quite hard to come by on the market, probably because relatively few were made. Those collectors who do have them are hesitant to move them along, given their appeal. The panda on the far left of the threesome-photo was discovered via a classified listing. For some reason, he had been on the market for several months at a competitive price but no one had purchased him. I felt that I had hit the jackpot when I found out he was still available, and adopted him immediately. The panda in the center came as a “bonus” in a large lot of assorted Steiff animals I purchased sight unseen at auction; I almost had a heart attack when I discovered him among many other Steiff treasures in the shipment from the auctioneer. The panda on the right, as well as the panda duo, were purchased through online auctions for a song; for some reason these tiny treasures escaped the radar of other collectors.
If you are looking to add a little panda-monium to your Steiff collection, these terrific Teds might just be the trick—they certainly do it for me!