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History of Steiff and its founder, Margarete Steiff written by Brenda Mize, Owner of Beacon's Glow Collectibles

Steiff - Famous hand-made German teddybears with Steiff "Button in Ear"


Margarete Steiff, the founder of Steiff Bears, started her company in 1880. She beat all odds at the time by building a successful business, as she was wheelchair-bound as a result of polio. During this timeframe it was also unusual to find an aspiring female entrepreneur. Women had few legal rights or social standing during this period. Despite her handicap, she ultimately molded one of the most successful (and enduring) high-quality collectible toy companies in the world. After more than 128 years in business, this company continues to thrive and its products are in as much demand by collectors as they have ever been. This family-owned company makes about 15 million stuffed animals every year, which includes more than a quarter of a million Steiff teddy bears.
Steiff's plush animals are all designed by hand in their factory in Giengen, Germany. Each piece is hand-produced in their same traditional manner which results in the highest quality teddy bears and plush animals. Margarete Steiff's motto, which is still carried on by the company today, was "Only the best is good enough for our children".

Steiff "Button in Ear" Trademark

The Steiff "Button in Ear" trademark truly distinguishes each and every teddy bear and plush animal as a symbol of ultimate quality for toys. The "Button In Ear" trademark was invented in 1904 by Franz Steiff, one of Margarete's nephews, to distinguish Steiff bears from all others. Since 1904, each and every piece that Steiff has produced has the Steiff trademark button attached to its left ear.
To differentiate between Steiff's various collections, each teddybear and animal produced wears a distinctively colored tag as well as metal embossed button. For example:
  • Original Collection: comprised of a yellow Steiff ear tag with red writing and brass embossed button. Easily recognizable as an authentic Steiff Teddy Bear or Steiff animal.

Steiff Button in Ear Original Collection

  • Limited Edition: comprised of a white ear tag with red writing and gold-plated embossed button. Recognized by Steiff collectors as a piece from a limited edition.
Steiff Buttin on Ear Limited Edition
  • Replica: comprised of a white ear tag with black writing and silver-plated embossed button. These replica animals are reproduced exactly according to Steiff's historic role models from the past.
Steiff Button in Ear Replicas

Materials Used

Steiff Bears only uses the finest materials for their heirloom-quality teddy bears and animals. Two of the most popular materials used are mohair and alpaca. Both retain their long-lasting beauty which allows all of Steiff's pieces to be passed down from generation to generation.
Mohair has been used by Steiff since 1901 to make their teddy bears and animals. Angora goats took their name from the ancient Turkish city of Ankara, which was very close to where they originated. The Turks thought so highly of these special goats that none left the country until the sixteenth century. The first exports landed in Spain and France, but Angoras didn't reach American shores until 1849. The most valuable characteristic of the Angora goat is the value of the mohair that is clipped. The average goat in the U.S. shears approximately 5.3 pounds of mohair per shearing and are usually sheared twice a year – once in the spring and once again in the early fall.
Mohair fleece has always been the superior fabric for making teddy bears. There are many reasons for this:
1) mohair has an incredible luster to it, and dyed mohair resists fading caused by time and the elements
2) mohair is naturally almost non-flammable
3) mohair is considered the most durable animal fiber and is very resistant to hard wearing
4) the natural fibers from mohair have the ability to absorb and release atmospheric moisture
5) mohair is characteristically resistant to soiling
6) mohair possesses great tensile strength - diameter to diameter it is stronger than steel
Alpaca wool, on the other hand, is derived from the alpaca, a domesticated animal species from South America, that resembles a small llama. Alpaca fur is prized for its use in teddy bears, as well as many other items, and comes in more than 52 natural colors. It is light-weight, lustrous, and silky in nature which makes it a perfect medium for teddy bears.

Steiff at Auction

It is a well-known fact that Steiff Teddy Bears are true heirloom pieces, and increase in value as they gracefully age. They continue to fetch top prices among collectors and Steiff lovers. On October 14, 2000, the highest amount every paid for a teddy bear occurred at the Monaco "Teddies de l'An 2000" auction. Mr. Jessie Kim of Korea bought a "Louis Vuitton" teddy bear for 418,000 DM, which equates to nearly $195,000.00 USD.

The next highest amount paid for a Steiff bear at auction was $171,700 in 1994 for a bear named 'Teddy Girl'. This very valuable bear was a 1904 cinnamon Steiff bear sold to Yoshihiro Sekiguchi, founder of the Teddy Bear Museum in Izu, Japan.

Currently the latest teddy bear collector trend is for everyday collectors to buy reproductions of plush animals that are anywhere from 90 to 100 years old. Collectors desire the antique look, but don’t want the actual antiques themselves. Steiff teddy bears fit these requirements perfectly, and delight collectors of all ages by providing a lifetime of pleasure and enjoyment.


  1. Margarete Steiff GmbH
  2. All About Your Collectible Teddy Bear’s Mohair, An Overview by Beacon’s Glow Collectibles
  3. Pfeiffer Gunther (2001) 100 Years Steiff Teddy Bears. Koelbin-Fortuna-Druck GmbH: Baden/Germany.