Kiera admiring some of my Steiff Peky Pekingese collection!

My love of collecting Steiff toys began as a child, with numerous teddy bears, but my real love, that of collecting Steiff Pekys, began one Christmas.  My husband, aware that I had been trying to find one for many years, managed to spot one by looking on auction pages on the Internet.  He decided to bid on it and won…  Christmas morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Not only did he surprise me by the one I had been searching for, he managed to bid for a rare vintage Steiff Peky Hand Puppet!  This has to be my favourite and is the pride of my now ever-increasing Steiff collection.  Made of mohair, he measures about 10” high and 9” wide, and has glass eyes.

The following is a brief history of the famous Steiff “Peky”

Margaret Steiff and her nephew Richard decided they wanted to make a toy that would appeal to both boys and girls and so they started their company, named after Margaret, in 1880 in a small town in Southern Germany named Giengen.  It took them a long time, some 23 years, before their first teddy was released.  Richard made drawings of the bears in Stuttgart Zoo and researched his subjects well, resulting in the production of a bear that looked realistic and had moving limbs.

Steiff didn’t just produce bears, they made a whole selection of different animals.  Whilst these animals are attractive and as well made as the bears, they never caught the imagination of the world in the same way as the famous Steiff teddy bears, although cats and dogs have always been collector’s favourites.  Steiff are the world’s third most collectable item, after stamps and coins.  The highest price fetched for an antique Steiff teddy bear is $250,000!

Between 1953 and the 1970s Steiff produced as assortment of dogs.  One design they decided to create was based on a Pekingese dog and they called it Peky.  Peky was produced in various different sizes throughout these years and because Steiffs are all hand-made they are all found to be individual.

Development of Steiff Peky 

As soon as the basic specifications of the dog and size has been clarified, the designers then went to work, allowing their imagination and creativity full rein, to produce two-dimensional drawings of the dog from all aides.  Like fashion designers, they decided how the dog would be manufactured, where the seams would be and what materials would be used (eg. Mohair, long or short pile, cotton, etc).

The designers would study pictures and films, to ensure that the dog would turn out to be as realistic and natural as possible.  A pattern would then be made on the basis of the drawings.

A three dimensional model of the dog would then subsequently be manufactured in the production department, the designers supervising every stage in the production process from sewing and stuffing, right through to decorative stitching and painting.  The dog prototypes would be examined very thoroughly by an in-house committee.  Any corrections that may be necessary would be made until the dog prototype would be finally approved.  The complete process – from the initial idea through to readiness for series production – would usually take about a year.

A Steff Peky comprises of 35 plush and felt pieces on average.  A Peky pattern would be used to produce screen-printing stencils and the individual parts would then be cut out by hand, whereby just the backing fabric would be cut to ensure that the pile was not damaged.  Traditional methods are used at Steiff to dye certain mohair products by hand using a template in order to optimise the plush structure and the markings on the fur.

The cut-out pieces would then be sewn together on the wrong side.  The pile from both pieces would be pushed through to the right side before the seam would be sewn with very fine stitches.  The sewn body or shell would then be turned to the right was round.  Great care was taken to ensure that every seam was shaped into the right form.

Steiff Peky was always filled with wood shavings and stuffed by hand.  A stuffing tool was used to push several strands of wood shavings into the shell, one after the other, making sure that every corner was filled properly.  Joints were fitted to the Steiff dog and these were then permanently attached to the body.  The joints were fitted before the main body of the dog was stuffed and then the seam was sewn by hand.

The nose, nails and mouth of the dog were also stitched by hand and the whiskers were sewn into the mouth by hand to prevent these hairs from being pulled out by children.  Safety glass eyes were used and were secured in the shell like rivets before it was turned the right side out. 

Peky was then given a ‘special’ make-up treatment.  This involved a special airbrush technique in which the markings were applied by hand and thus give each Steiff Peky its own individual appearance.  Having passed a final inspection, Peky would be given and ear tag and the “Button in Ear”.  This would be permanently fitted to the animal’s left ear. 

Every Steiff would then be given a chest tag, a washing instructions booklet and an information booklet, as well as any decorations, such as ribbons.  Pendants, made of card were also tied round the neck of all Steiff Pekys.  In 1968 they produced a new Pekingese design called a Cosy Peky, but the best investments in Steiff are the earlier models from the 1950s and 1960s.

The term “Button In Ear” was registered as a trademark on 20th December, 1904 and patented on 13th May, 1905.  The “Button In Ear” was then supplemented by a fabric tag with the product number printed on it in 1908/09.

No matter what Steiff animal you buy, you should expect to pay an absolute premium price for those with ALL identification (All ID means a button in the left ear with a “flag” carrying a number attached behind the button, and a chest tag which will have the actual name of the animal).  All ID is very hard to find in the older toys.  There is nothing wrong with buying an animal in nice condition without ID – an animal manufactured by Steiff is unmistakable – and will most certainly increase in value!!!  Experience though is the best teacher!

The colour and style of writing on the button will give you an indication of the year made.  So the button is very important, but the chest tag is much harder to come by, as this was usually the first thing that got ripped off by a child! (Therefore sometimes the chest tag is more sought after!)

The flag colour can help too – newer limited editions usually have a white tag – additionally if you are reading a book that lists current value by numbers (0202/10 for example) it makes it much easier to look up an animal if the flag is readable.  The numbers on the flat also denote size.