Everyone has one. That elusive,hard-to-find Steiff item that tops a collector's wish list for years. For some Steiff enthusiasts, it may be a classic vintage piece - like a 1920's Treff dog or a tiny Teddy baby. For others, it may be one of Steiff's "One-derfuls"; items like Siamy the Siamese cat or ZottyZolac that were only in the Steiff catalog for a year or two. Others may quest for more recent oddities like the Steiff octopus or alpaca Teddytaur.
ForSteiffgal, it is, or was... a fuzzy caterpillar pull toy. Before you "roll" your eyes and accuseSteiffgal of bugging you,take a look at this "foot loose andfancy free" Steiff plaything that she recently welcomed into her collection after a10 year search!
What we have here is what Steiff callsNachziehraupe or Pull Toy Caterpillar. That's a mouthful, so let's just call her "Pilla" for short. Pilla is 43 cmand made primarily fromblack, green, and gold colored knitted
fur. Her face is very simple and basically consists of two side patches of tan nylon material, each with a hand painted black and white eye on it. She doesn't have amouth or a nose. She has two black "antenna" on the top of her head that are made from long black acrylic fibers. She doesn't have a Steiff button in ear, but she does have a yellow earflag stitched in one of her head seams. This colorful caterpillar rocks and rolls (literally) on four pairs of large off-center red wooden rollers; each wheel is about the size of a golf ball. She had a pull string attached to her front roller when she left the factory in Giengen. Pilla was produced from 1980 through 1983.
Steiff has made some interesting insects over time, including a fly, a spider, and a butterfly, but Steiffgal simply could not find anything remotely like Pilla in the Steiff catalog... and that's why she just had to have her for her collection.
One of the thingsthat makes Pilla so interesting - besides her psychedelic looks - is her wheel structure.When you pull Pilla
along - she doesn't just glide - she moves up and down, much like a real caterpillar does in nature. This type of movement in Steiff terms is called "eccentric wheels" and has been incorporated purposefully into Steiff product design for almost 100 years. Steiff actually owns a patent on this mechanism! The way it works on rolling toys is that the wheels are aligned slightly off center or on a bent axle, causing them to move up and down slightly when rotated. "Eccentric wheels" were "invented" accidentally, but Steiff quickly realized the opportunity created by their roller drilling mistakes. The company launched their "eccentric wheel" toys in 1912 with this advertisement:
waddling felt duck with brightly colored fathers is fixed onto solidly built, eccentric wooden wheels, which provide the duck with its characteristic waddle. Also fitted with a deceptively realistic "quack-quack" voice. A droll little toy."
Pictured here is one of the most famous "eccentrically wheeled" classic waddling Steiff items, the Entkette or Duck Chain.
It was manufactured from 1917 through 1932 and consisted of a mother duck and five ducklings. The illustration is from the wonderful 1892-1943 SteiffSortiment book byGunther Pfeiffer. Steiffgal
realizes that collecting has its ups and downs, but hopes that this column post brings you luck in finding your most coveted items, too!
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, wiggly or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.