Nostalgia - The mystery zebra

Some years ago when I still did the "Finds of the week" posts, I had some called "I'm a collector" in which I shared vintage items. Over time my collections have mostly stopped growing due to different reasons, but they are still there and still loved. I also have vintage items, some inherited, some gifts, some from fleamarkets, some more interesting than others. So I thought it could be fun to share some of them every, now and then and tell their story.

Today I have brought a little mystery friend from my Steiff collection.
Steiff has always been known to make promotional items, from an aphid for a chemical company to a little teddy for cough syrup, but also cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse.

This little fellow is a zebra as you can see. That isn't unusual of course, but unlike its zebra pal with whom it shares the stock number, its cotton velvet fur doesn't have only black or brown stripes (yes, even the "ordinary" Steiff zebras don't all have the same color) ...

... but part of its stripes are green. Huh?

The green is not painted over the original stripes and it is not limited to individual parts of the zebra, in some spots you can see it go across the seams.

Was the color sprayed on maybe? Why green? And why not all the stripes?
Then of course there's also the word "arco" on both hips.

I've tried more than once, but couldn't find out anything. So I finally turned to expert Steiffgal hoping she would be able to help me. She let me know that there was a picture of the arco zebra in a product guide I don't own, but all it said there was that it was from 1954 and that it was a promotional item for "Arco".
I had figured as much, but
what is or was "arco"? Is it a brand, is it a company name? What did it have to do with the color green?
Interesting is also that the zebra in the book is described as being green and white and also looks that way in the photo, no brown to see, while mine just has some green areas and the green seems to be brighter.
Did that depend on the person applying the stripes or did it have to do with the production process?

Unfortunately I don't have any possibility to find out after 70 years, so my little zebra is going to stay a mystery.
And why do I have the feeling it's laughing at me? ;-)


  1. He is adorable with his green stripes! We do have Arco gas stations here, but I have no idea how long Arco has been around or if they would have asked Steiff for a promotional zebra. The mystery continues….


    1. The only Arco that exists here nowadays is a furniture company. It was around in the 50s, but I didn't find any connection between the name being written like this as a logo or something.
      I won't be giving up. Sometimes a solution to a mystery has been coming round the corner whistling all innocently after years and years, maybe that will happen here as well :-D
      What I do know is that I think this is one cute zebra!

  2. What a cutie! I wonder if he might have something to do with the town of Arco in Italy? https://www.italythisway.com/places/arco.php There is a camp nearby called Zoo Camp, but it doesn't date back to the 1950's. :)

    1. As good a guess as any other. I would have thought that it's probably a German brand or company, but that's just because I mostly know German-related promotional items that Steiff made. Maybe an acronym.
      There is even a toy company called Arco, but not before 1967.

      I love my zebra even if it's laughing at me ;-)