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Steiff Petsy, estimated at €4,500-€9,000 ($4,800-$9,700) at Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion.

Vintage Steiff ‘button in ear’ plush toys star at Ladenburger June 29

LADENBURG, Germany — Who created the first ‘teddy bear’? If you ask the fine German folks at Steiff, they’ll tell you their firm originated the concept. The former Ideal Toy Company of New York would beg to differ, however. Its founder, Morris Mitchom, saw the 1902 Washington Post political cartoon by Pulitizer Prize winner Clifford Berryman depicting American President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt refusing to shoot a bear that had been tied to a tree. He and his wife Rose quickly assembled a plush bear and began selling them as ‘Teddy’s Bear’. They wrote Roosevelt and asked for permission to use his name for the toy, and Roosevelt granted it. And thus, the Teddy Bear was born.

Fast forward to 2024 and survey the rather bleak toymaking landscape. Ideal merged with Mattel in 1997 and is now a minor brand in its vast empire. Steiff is still going strong after 177 years and continues to offer a full range of teddy bears, along with other licensed and in-house designs. The Steiff collecting community is worldwide, and its products remain treasured family heirlooms, passed down through generations.

Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion specializes in vintage toys, and its Steiff Special Auction, slated for Saturday, June 29, promises 226 lots of vintage Steiff collectibles. The complete catalog is now open for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Ladenburger takes great care in the posing of the lots up for bid, often including objects for the toys to interact with. Note that it is unclear if the Steiff toys are in fact accompanied by these items. Likely they are used not only to make fun images, but also to provide a sense of scale.

The sale’s top-estimated lot is Petsy, which was produced in the 1928-1930 period, at the height of the Weimar Republic period. Standing 14in in height, Petsy is described as being almost as good as new and exceptionally scarce. It carries a €4,500-€9,000 ($4,800-$9,700) estimate.

Also leading the sale is the Steiff car chimpanzee, produced between 1911 and 1912. Given the lot’s name, it is likely the vehicle accompanied the toy when it was originally released. The chimp stands almost 10in in height and has a bit of loss to its mohair, with ‘smaller faults’ in the felt of its hands. It comes with its original felt cap. Described as ‘absolutely rare,’ the unnamed chimp is estimated at €1,200-€2,400 ($1,300-$2,600).

From the pre-button era, or around the year 1900, comes the Steiff dancing bear. It stands nearly 27in in height and rides a pull-toy base that rotates the animal when the cart is moved by the child owner. Ladenburger describes the dancing bear as a ‘museum piece’ from the earliest days of Steiff toy production. It is estimated at €1,800-€3,600 ($1,900-$3,900).