What’s black and white and read all over?

April 9th, 2010 by

This Steifflife column, hopefully! Pandas have always been a beloved and in-demand species, despite their relatively late introduction and infrequent appearances in the line over the years. Let’s make up for lost time and review the history of Steiff panda bears, then highlight a few popular mohair models produced from the 1950′s onward.

The first Panda Baer or Panda Bear made his Steiff debut in 1938. He was made from shaggy black and white mohair, five ways jointed and had felt paws. His feet were flat, made from a shorter nap mohair, and really resembled the “toddler feet” of Teddy Baby, another very popular Steiff design of the time. His face was detailed with glass pupil eyes that were highlighted with black airbrushing and a sweet open mouth lined in light pink felt. He was produced in 15 and 30 cm from 1938 through 1942. The picture on the left is this delightful, highly collectible Panda, taken at the Spielzeugmuseum Museum in Munich, Germany.

The success of this first early panda inspired Steiff to produce more pandas in the line as soon as the factory reopened for business after World War II. Steiff started making the pre-war Panda design again, but only in 30 cm through 1950. Then, in 1951, Steiff updated their original panda design slightly and started producing this bi-colored bear in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm. The company used a suede-like grey rubber material in the place 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. Moving forward, pandas made on and off again appearances in the Steiff catalog through the 1950′s, 1960′s, and 1970′s. From the early 1980′s onward, Steiff has almost continuously had a soft plush panda in the line.

So now it’s time to stir up a little panda-monium and look at some of the more interesting Steiff pandas from the early 1950′s onward.

No need to sleep on this one. Here we have Steiff’s Floppy Panda, one of Steiff’s delightful, classic “sleeping” style animals from the 1950′s and 60′s. This particularly soft panda is unjointed, made from black and white mohair and is in a prone, sleeping position. He has an open felt lined mouth and stitched black “sleeping” style eyes. Floppy Panda was produced in 17 and 28 cm and appeared in the line from 1954 to 1961.

What’s old is new again with this charming Steiff panda. This dapper 29 cm fellow is Steiff’s replica of its original debut panda bear from 1938. Like the pre-war original, he is five ways jointed and made from white and black mohair. He has an open felt lined mouth, pupil eyes, and flat felt lined feet. His nose is hand embroidered with black floss. Even his chest tag is a replica of the one that would have been worn by the original – a classic tag with an angular Teddy bear face on the bottom. This particular edition, which was produced in 29 and 35 cm in 1984 through 1985, is a United States exclusive.

Finallly, take a look at this Steiff panda and friend who just happen to have personal significance to Steiffgal. This dynamic duo none other than Foo, the Happy Panda, and Little Foo. Both are North American limited editions from 2004; Big Foo was produced in an edition of 1,500 pieces while Little Foo was produced in an edition size of 3,500. Big Foo is 25 cm, made from long wavy black and white mohair, five ways jointed, and very chubby. He has brown pupil eyes, a black mohair insert nose, and tan felt paw pads. Little Foo, the first ever Steiff panda key chain, is 10 cm and is modeled after Foo. He is five ways jointed and made from short black and white mohair. Little Foo has tiny black bead eyes, a hand-stitched nose and mouth, and a sturdy key loop on the top of his head.

So what’s so special about this perfect panda pair? Pandas are native to China, and one of the Chinese word for “luck” is “fu”. About the time that the Steiff team was naming these items and getting ready to introduce them to the world, one of Steiffgal’s good friends was in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. Steiffgal – who worked at Steiff at the time – gave these pandas the name “Foo”, a version of the word “Fu”, to honor this blessed Chinese arrival!

Steiffgal hopes this overview of Steiff pandas over the years has given you a new respect for this Steiff – and real life – “endangered species.”

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, rare or otherwise? Let’s talk! Click here to learn more.