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Every enthusiast has extra-special items in their collections – certain items that just take a gold medal for their rarity, design, or the story behind them. Here is one of those treasures from my huge collection of over 600 vintage Steiff collectibles.
Here we have an impressive 22 cm version of Steiff’s original Bully bulldog from the late 1920′s. Bully is sitting, head jointed, and made from black and white mohair. His face and mouth are tanned velvet, which has darkened a little over time. His ears are lined in wire and are poseable. Bully has very large brown and black glass pupil eyes and still has most of his black, hand-embroidered nose. He has black hand embroidered claws on his four paws. He retains remnants of his traditional horsehair collar, a typical Steiff accessory of his time. In terms of Steiff ID, this pooch is blue ribbon all around, he has his “ff” style Steiff button, bits of his red ear tag, and his metal rimmed chest tag.
His history and design legacy:
Steiff introduced Bully to the world in 1927 and he was an instant sensation with both children, as a plaything, and adults, as a collectible accessory. He was modeled on the French Bulldog—the “it” companion of those in the know all across Europe at the time. All Bullies were head jointed, had large brown and black glass pupil eyes, a hand-embroidered black nose and a simple snout and jaw constructed to give him his requisite jowls. Most were black and white or orange and white, but a rare blue-and-white version was also produced. Bully was made in velvet and mohair, as well as sitting and standing, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 centimeters. He was also produced as a pincushion, music box, dog-doll, nightdress bag, and even a puppet, among other product line extensions. Most Bullies came detailed with a horsehair ruff or leather collar. The original Bully appeared in the Steiff catalog through 1939; today, this precious pooch is one of the most universally desirable and sought-after pre-war Steiff designs among collectors. He has been replicated numerous times over the past few decades and even these newer models are coveted by collectors.
Why he’s so special to me:
I recently purchased a lot containing about a dozen Steiff items from an auction sight unseen. The online description of the items was somewhat vague and the associated fingernail sized photo shed no light on the contents of the group. However, something in the copy did catch my eye: “10 inch black and white dog with metal rimmed tag”… those few words were enough for me to send my online bid to the auction house. I all but forgot about the auction and was pleasantly surprised when I received an email at work telling me that I had submitted the winning bid. Fast forward a week or so, a huge box arrived at my door. I opened it with abandon, hardly noticing the other Steiff treasures in the box. And there he was – even better than I imagined, and far superior than described. I have several of the 10 cm versions of this Steiff design, but these larger ones are very hard to find and usually quite expensive. I was delighted, and based on what I paid for the lot, I got quite the bargain!
Steiff Bully dogs are probably in the top five most popular 1920 – 1930 era Steiff designs, and collectors are willing to pay a pretty penny for one in good or better condition. The recent October 2010 Steiff auction at Christie’s in London featured twenty lots of Bully items, with prices reaching up to $4,000 for unique models in all but pristine condition. Overall, assuming very good to excellent condition, with no rips, odors, or structural issues, and at least one form of ID, original pre-war Bullies usually value in the $600 to $2,000 range. This particular Bully, given his size and condition, values in the $1,200 to $1,500 range.