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And so Steiff finally gets it's say in the world of my teddy bear reviews, I'd meant to write this review much earlier but got somewhat bogged down by essays and presentations so it got put on the back burner. But now I'm back to procrastinate with another teddy bear review. I think it's been fairly obvious over the course of the teddy bear reviews that Steiff are my favourite teddy bear producers, and the brand that when I have the money I am most likely to buy, and this little man is the latest addition to my Steiff clan. ===History=== Steiff is what we can quite easily be called the oldest manufacturer of high quality bears still in the market today. Their first stuffed toy catalogue came onto the market in 1892, and in 1902 Steiff invented its first plush bear, a full 5 years before Hermann brought out their original bears, and by 1904 the Steiff button in the ear of each teddy bear had been brought out to protect the product against fakes. The button itself stands for the high quality products which Steiff produce, the design and the workmanship of each individual bear, the brand image that Steiff has managed to cultivate over the years and the value of the bear. Margarete Steiff was the person who originally had the idea of the Steiff company, and was the one who set it up although obviously the business has passed through the family as the years have passed. Interestingly in a time when women had few rights and commanded very little social standing, it was this handicapped woman who set up one of the biggest toy companies in the world today. It was one of her nephews, Franz Steiff, who first thought up the button in the ear idea that was brought in during 1904, originally a stainless steel button with an embossed elephant. Although the changes to this button have been slight, excluding the addition of the fabric tag addition to the button which was brought in 1908/9, the differences between the button styles is still enough to determine an approximate date for when the bear was produced. I will not bore you with a full outline of all of the representative buttons over the years, but it suffices to say that the elephant was replaced by the word Steiff in various fonts and metal types, up to 2004 when the elephant motif came back in. Steiff are well known for their pricey but highly collectable items, and are all still hand made in Germany although they are now sold all over the world. And although bears still form the cornerstone of Steiff's work they have long expanded into other animals, and have added internal noise-makers such as growlers to many of their toys to add to the appeal. ===The bear=== Another definite keeper. Although to give credit, I look hard before buying a Steiff bear, and will never instinct buy with them because of the price. But this sweetheart is one of those bears that you could not resist buying regardless of price. In comparison to many of my other Steiff bear collection he isn't actually that little however, 40cm doesn't sound all that large, and as the Hermann bear is 50cm then he sounds even smaller. But as most of my Steiff collection stands between 20cm and 35cm, he is a fair bit bigger than most of them. As with most of the Steiff bears he is a fairly solid person with jointed arms and legs, which automatically makes him more endearing to collectors. But this isn't the major selling point with this particular bear. Steiff have outdone themselves with his fur, as per usual it is very soft, but unusually it has been hand painted by the manufacturers in its leopard pattern. That is what automatically stands out about the product, because it isn't done in the usual way of bears as well as the fact that it makes him look so adorable. As is noted in the bear title the fur is made of alpaca, as is the other two in the series; Zebra and Tiger - and no I haven't got my hands on them yet if anyone is interested! His nose and mouth are hand sewn, and his paws are made of felted wool, but again, this is usual for an official Steiff bear. But the most endearing thing about this particular lad is that he growls...a fairly deep growl that seems to occur when you move him quickly, shake him or turn him upside down (bear abuse I know!). As soon as you look at a large picture of this fellow you can tell that he is amazingly well made, and quite exquisite...I cannot see how anyone can fail to fall in love with him. I bought him from my known bear retailer in Stratford-upon-Avon for a rather steep £160 - if it helps he is one of the Steiff 2008 World Wide Collection, of which only 2008 were made world wide. With him I was given an official printed Steiff certificate of authentication, another way to ensure you have been given the real product. I cannot seem to find a price in pound sterling on the internet but it seems to be going for $360 on average, and considering the fluctuating value of the pound at the moment someone else can do the maths for me there! ===My reactions=== Well, my automatic reaction was 'Ahhhhhh!'. Closely followed by 'MINE!' Along with the highly childish reaction of grabbing and holding...and as soon as I heard the growl I was a goner...there was no hope of me getting out of the shop without my new found prize. And however tempting doing a runner with it sounded, the trouble that would get me into was far less appealing...I'd been looking for my Christmas present to myself for a while, and he was perfect. It has always amazed me with Steiff bears that they seem to manage to put a personality into each and every individual bear. They haven't failed here. The eyes are probably where they make most of the effect work, as they make them so open and friendly that he could be a confidant forever. My boyfriends reaction was slightly less friendly towards him...something along the lines of 'Another one?' but that's far less of an issue than the very cute new face I have in the house now! ===Conclusion=== I couldn't ask for more, Steiff have once again outdone themselves, and easily remain my favourite (if rather expensive) teddy bear manufacturer. He is perfect; the patterns, the eyes, the growl, everything is done to perfection. He is now safely positioned with the rest of my Steiff clan, and happily making friends in that area of the room...he'll soon pick up on the politics of the other clans...! And if they are going to take over the world then they really need to sort out this clan warfare business!
Steiff Classic Teddy Bear Leopard is made from high quality alpaca which has been hand painted with the typical leopard pattern. His nose and mouth have been delicately hand sewn and he has felt wool paw pads. He is fully jointed with a deep growler inside. The Teddy Bear Leopard is the first of three unmistakable bear representatives created by the artist Peter Lorenz. He will be followed by Teddy Bear Tiger and Teddy Bear Zebra - a very collectable series!