Old Vintage Steiff Bears Identification & Value (Full Guide)

Vintage teddy bears have tons of brands and designs. But, if there’s one brand that collectors still eye for, it’s Steiff! From the snug stuffing to the maker stamps, Steiff’s realistic bears have everything you may ask for, making them one of the most desired collectibles ever!

Although Steiff bears are available to date, the antique market is only demanding the old and stitched 1900s designs. So, how can you identify such handmade teddies? Is it just the tags, or are there things to spot? Let’s find out in this identification guide!

Key Takeaways

  • Old Steiff bears will obviously have the brand’s marks, tags & labels. But you can also spot them by their hand-stitched eyes, nose, and movable feet.
  • The earliest 1900s Steiff bears had simple cardboard or brass tags, which later evolved to fabric & metal-rimmed chest tags in the 1920s.
  • Limited-edition Steiff bears like the Titanic Mourning or Louis Vuitton bear cost more than $100,000 due to their co-brands, themes, and original stamps.
  • Different visual features like the bear’s eyes, nose, and stuffing will help you know if your Steiff bear is vintage or not! Read on to know the deets!

Key Identification Features of Old Vintage Steiff Bears

Old Antique Steiff Teddy Bears on Shelf

Old & branded Steiff bears will surely be large, firm, and softer than the unbranded ones. But is that all? Definitely not! Below are some more exclusive features that you can spot:

  • Typical mohair or alpaca wool fabric with straw or wood wool stuffing
  • Curved or y-shaped, hand-stitched nose
  • Metal rod or disc bodies with movable arms and feet
  • Long, elongated shape with typical snout or humpback designs
  • Original branding – chest tags, ear tags, or ribbon labels
  • Personalized sound boxes, clothing & scarves

Brief History & Evolution of Steiff Bears

We all know how difficult & costly the states are! So back in 1880, when Margarete Steiff caught Polio, she had to start a work-from-home, handmade cushion industry for livelihood. Being soft & plushier, these were popular among children as stuffed toys & squishmallows!

Then, Margarete’s nephew Richard Steiff switched to toy teddy bears! First, he added a round baby bear face and used wire to make movable joints. He also used wool-woven brown, white, blonde, and cinnamon mohair for more softness.

And now there was no looking back! In fact, in the next few years, Steiff introduced many more series like the Titanic, Open Mouth, and anniversary collections. Yes, the 1940s World War affected sales by 10 – 20%, but the old, hand-sewn Steiff models still remain collectible!

Types of Vintage Steiff Bears (With Features & Values)

Confused with the hundreds of Steiff bear models available in the market? Don’t worry! You can quickly sort them into the following two types using their facial features:

Vintage Steiff Bear TypesYearsHow to Identify Them? Estimated Value
Button in Ear Teddies1903 – 1904Elongated, joint limb teddies with b&w labeled buttons sewn on the right ear. Also, these might have a long, cursive ‘f’ on their paws or claws.$300 – 4,500
Growler Bears1904Round, big-bellied teddies with small, sewn metal balls that rattle or growl when squeezed.$800 – 2,500

6 Factors to Identify & Appraise Vintage Steiff Bears

It’s not just the base type & series! Even other visual factors like eyes, nose & color help you spot & value old Steiff bears. Let’s see how!

1. Age & Trademarks

Old Steiff bears didn’t have a hardcore design until the 1930s. Before that, they were a bit elongated and flat, like other 1900s teddies. But then, by the 1920s, Richard added baby & musical teddies to develop interest.

And these also had movable limbs & joints for play. Besides, you might see some printed or sewn-in trademarks on their buttons, ears & chests!

So, let’s discuss such era-specific features to learn your Steiff bear’s age & cost:

Manufacturing DateAgeIdentifying FeaturesStamped TrademarksAverage Value
1900 – 1902121 – 123 yearsElongated & string-joint teddies with cinnamon-colored mohair, black shoe-button eyes, bumpy snouts & humpsSimple, cardboard-sewn tags with printed logo & sign$1,200 – 8,500
1903 – 1904119 – 120 yearsMetal rod joint teddies with superior excelsior stuffing, shoe-button eyes, embroidered mouth & embossed ear buttonsSmall brass buttons with an embossed elephant print & sign$800 – 5,000
1908 – 1910113 – 115 yearsRealistic, round teddy bears with embroidered noses, muzzles, four felt paws, and white, blonde, brown, cinnamon, or apricot mohair4mm buttons with a cursive ‘Steiff’ sign$500 – 3,000
1920 – 1930s93 – 103 yearsRound & chubby bears with longer mohair, unshaven muzzles, bulging pupils & branded ear or metal-rimmed chest tagsRed or white metal-rimmed chest tags with a cursive ‘f.’$500 – 1,200
1930 – 194083 – 93 yearsPremium wood plush teddies with red-lettered chest tags, open lips & glass eyesYellow, fabric-covered ear tags with original ‘Steiff’ signs$300 – 900
1940s – 1950s73 – 83 yearsRound & buttoned teddy bears with specialized ‘US Zone’ tags, metal ear buttons, synthetic plush, tufted hair & open-mouth designsRound metal ear buttons with the company’s name & date mark$120 – 600

Try to get vintage Steiff bears with four to five embroidered or felt paws for an old make.

2. Vintage Steiff Bear Ear Tags

Apart from trademarks, Steiff teddies’ ear tags also help you know if they’re vintage! It’s so that the earliest Steiff bears had blank buttons, embroidered or printed labels. But then, by the 1950s, makers used yellow, flag-like tags too!

And here’s how to identify each of them:

Old Steiff Bear Ear Tag TypesUnique featuresSteiff Tag Years
Blank Ear TagPlain, brushed metal buttons with no signs, logos & marks1900 – 1904
Script Ear TagsBrushed metal buttons with a signed ‘Steiff’ logo in an underlined script1905 – 1950
Yellow Ear TagsFlexible, fabric-coated tags with printed, red-lettered bear names, Steiff logos & a signed ‘KNOPF IM OHR’ mark1950 onwards
White Ear TagsPrinted, cool-white tags with brass Steiff buttons, original ‘Made in Germany’ marks & black-colored signs1970 onwards
White & Red Ear TagsWhite fabric tags with red-colored signs, logos & original Steiff brass buttons1970 onwards (only for limited edition items)
Flag TagsRectangular paper labels with rounded corners, printed Steiff logos, and a ‘000’ stamp1970 onwards (only for some special open-mouth series)

3. Stuffing Materials

Antique freaks love old Steiff bears for their original wood wool or kapok stuffing! But if you want a playable model, pick the new 1950s teddies with foam or polyester stuffing that retains their shapes.

Check out how the stuffing materials affect the Steiff teddies’ costs:

Old Steiff Bear StuffingHow to Identify? Average Price
Wood Wool & Excelsior (1900s)Look for a thin, strand-like texture with extra pads along the paws & belly$1500 – 5,000
Kapok StuffingYellowish-brown & lustrous fiber with thin, curly & fluffy strands$900 – 2,500
Foam Rubber (1950s)Yellowish or off-white stuffing with a spongy, springy & easy-to-compress texture$700 – 1,800
Polyester FibersFuzzy, white or off-white stuffing with a powdered, nylon-like texture$500 – 1,200
Synthetic Pellet  StuffingDense, granular stuffing with thin polyester or nylon covers$100 – 800

Pick old Steiff bears with central seam, long or cross-stitches for better returns.

4. Eye Types

Most of the old Steiff bears have painted, wood, or glass eyes. But, if you search more, you might even find the 1900s bears with button-shaped eyes on eBay & Etsy. And these might have hand-stitched felt or threaded patterns as well!

Want to know more such features and costs? Jump on to the table below:

Old Steiff Bear Eye TypesUnique & Collectible FeaturesEstimated Price
Stitched or Painted Wood Button EyesWood or leather-covered boot button eyes with embedded wire hooks, shanks & jet black finishes$1,000 – 6,000
Glass EyesShiny amber or black eyes with a colored border and opaque finishes$800 – 3,000
Painted Glass EyesGlossy, orange, red, green, or silver eyes with a jet-black border & pupil$500 – 1,800
Walt Glass EyesGlossy glass eyes with an automatic blinking or closing mechanism for a realistic effect$400 – 1,000
Felt-backed EyesGlossy glass eyes with a colored felt backdrop$200 – 900

Get old Steiff bears with hand-painted brown, black & white eyes for a good value.

5. Nose Shapes

You might be familiar with the new Steiff teddy bears with stitched, triangular-nosed teddies. But back in the 1900s, Steiff teddies had rubber or leather noses too! And some just ditched the sewn noses and used simple boot buttons or wooden discs instead!

Here’s a table to spot & identify such old Steiff teddy noses:

Antique Steiff Bear Nose ShapesYearsTop Identifying Features
Horizontal Stitched Nose1900s – 1904Simple, black-colored lined nose with straight or criss-cross stitches
Inverted Y-shaped Nose1910 – 1920sStitched, y-shaped nose with a long tail that extends up to the mouth
Vertical Stitched Nose1920sVertical criss-cross stitches with a black or brown embroidered thread
Buttoned Nose1900s – 1920sWood or glass button nose with hand-wound cords or wires
Airbrushed Nose1950 & OnwardsRound & bumpy noses with airbrush or stippled details

6. Fur Colors

Another factor that tells you if your Steiff bear is antique or not is its color. It’s so that the earliest Steiff teddies had earth-toned beige or brown fabrics. But then, by the 1920s, makers started using black, white & golden mohair, too!

Here is a price table to help assess the value of vintage Steiff bears based on their fur colors.

Vintage Steiff Bear ColorAverage Cost
Earth tones – Beige & Brown$600 – 8,500
Black, White & Gray$300 – 4,000
Silver & Golden$600 – 4,000
Green & Blue$200 – 1,500
Red & Orange$300 – 1,000

6 Rare & Most Expensive Steiff Bears Worth Your Money

Old & handmade teddies are okay! But do you know some rare or celebrity-owned Steiff bears sell for $180,000 or more? Well, that’s because these have special event or anniversary themes & exclusive gold ribbons.

Here’s a curated list of all such rare Steiff teddies with their resale costs:

Rare & Expensive Steiff BearsUnique & Collectible FeaturesLast Resale Cost
Steiff ‘Louis Vuitton’ BearUnique Steiff & Louis Vuitton teddy with brand logos, fine yellow mohair, trench coats, hats, scarves & travel themed packaging$182,550
Titanic Mourning BearA limited make of 665 bears, each with joint shoulders, hips & red felt shoe, button eyes$156,273
Elliot BearA prototype Steiff bear with short blue mohair fur, black button eyes, hand-stitched claws & logos$160,000
Harlequin Teddy BearUnique patchwork designs with red, blue & yellow mohair, glass eyes, and steel-motif chest tags$66,000
Hot Water Bottle Teddy BearShort, brown mohair teddy with an added can or water bottle in its lap$61,740
William Teddy BearRound, cinnamon-colored teddy with beady eyes and a brushed silver brooch & ‘Will’ stamp$55,500

Are Old Steiff Bears Marked?

Yes, old Steiff bears have different ear tags, buttons & labels, often with the original brand signs and logos. Besides, you can get the original trademarks & receipts with some of them.

Are All Steiff Bears Made in Germany?

Yes, about 99% of the old Steiff bears are made in Steiff’s 100-year-old factory in Giengen, Germany. But, some of the post-1960s models might be from Tunisia or Portugal as well.

Do Old Steiff Bears Growl?

Yes, some of the 1910 – 1920s Steiff growler bears had a built-in voice box that squeaked, growled, or played a melody when pressed. However, the earlier 1900s or open-mouth series didn’t have such voice boxes due to their small size.

Can You Put Old Steiff Bears in the Washing Machine?

Yes, you can machine wash old Steiff bears by placing them in a laundry bag or pillowcase. Alternatively, you can clean Steiff teddies by rinsing them with lukewarm water & mild soap without any bleaching agent to avoid fading.

How Do You Store Vintage Steiff Bears?

Pack your vintage Steiff bear in a box or newspaper, and place it on a dry, well-ventilated cabinet to prevent mold or bug attacks. Also, avoid placing it directly in front of a door or window as the direct sunlight might discolor & melt its plastic features.

Even though you get new Steiff bears today, the aged & hand-stitched features of old 1900s Steiff bears attract collectors even today! So, use this guide to identify such age-old teddies and invest your money rightly!

Apart from Steiff teddy bears, toys like ‘old dice,’ ‘Tonka trucks,’ ‘pedal cars,’ and ‘old marbles’ can be valuable collectibles too! Join in to learn about their identification and values!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *