Speaking of Dolls: More than meets the eye

When the name Schuco is mentioned in the doll and toy world, we think of wonderful mechanical toys with sophisticated movements and high quality workmanship. The company was the dream of Heinrich Muller, a creative genius.

Muller was only 17 when he decided to form a toy company, but soon realized that he lacked the necessary experience to be successful. After working for the successful Bing Toy Company for several years, Muller, in 1912, again decided to form his own company in Nurnberg, Germany. With partner, Heinrich Schreyer, Muller formed the Schreyer u. Co., later shortened to Schuco. Unfortunately, the success of the company was interrupted when both partners were drafted for military service in World War I.

yes no bear.jpgAfter the war, Schreyer left the company and Muller found a new partner, Adolf Kahn. The business and management skills of Kahn, along with the creative skills of Muller, made the company, Schuco, a name known worldwide.

Yes/No bear with metal lever to turn head

While best known for their tinplate toys, Schuco began making mechanical teddy bears and other animals in 1921. The first was a large Yes/No bear whose head moved back and forth and up and down when a metal rod, disguised as a tail, was moved.

Schuco also patented a metal body for miniature bears and other animals. The earliest examples from the 1920s are approximately 2? inches tall, while the later ones are slightly larger. These sturdy little animals had movable limbs and head and many had hand painted metal faces. This patented metal body was also used for Schuco’s very popular miniature novelty animals.

The novelty bears from the cosmetic line are a favorite with doll collectors. While they appear to be just a bear, a glass perfume bottle might be exposed when the head is removed. You might also find a lipstick or a compact with mirror and powder puff under the head and inside the stomach of another version. MVC-003F.JPGThese tiny oddities were made of mohair and came in brown and caramel, but also red, green, blue and yellow. What fun it must have been to take your teddy from your purse, pull off his head and put on your lipstick!

Novelty bear with perfume bottle under head.

In 1936, the partnership between Adolf Kahn and Heinrich Muller was dissolved. Being Jewish, for his family’s safety, Kahn left Germany. Years later, Adolf Kahn and his son, Eric, who lived in the United States, re-established a business relationship with Muller and formed a company distributing Schuco products throughout the U.S. and Canada.

MVC-005F.jpgMVC-006F.jpgQuality remained important. The mechanical toys and animals that Schuco produced from the late 1940s through the 1950s are some of the most valuable and sought after by toy and doll collectors today.

Janus bear with two faces – one is bear face and one is clown face. Metal knob at base of bear turns head.

Creativity continued to influence the creations. The tiny novelty Janus bear is an example. While less than 4 inches tall, the patented metal skeleton of the bear allows it to be jointed. In addition to being jointed, the bear has two faces. One face is the typical bear face and the other is a comical face with a red tongue and large round eyes. The head is turned by twisting a metal knob at the base of the tiny bear.

Unfortunately, quality is not cheap and the Schuco Company found that they could not compete with the cheaper mechanical toys being produced in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. In the late ’70s, the company closed, but the quality and uniqueness of their creations make them a valuable and desirable acquisition for any collection.

In the late 1990s, the Schuco name was purchased. New products are now on the market bearing the Schuco name. Early Schuco examples demand very high prices, so be aware of age when buying.

Questions or comments? Contact Sherry Minton at dollypictures@aol.com.