The Steinbach Volkskunst company originated in Marienberg, Germany, over 200 years ago. Like other companies founded in the Erzgebirge region, Steinbach has become synonymous with a long tradition of German handcrafting, quality materials, and precise attention to detail. Today, the brand’s traditionally-made nutcrackers continue to dazzle children and collectors worldwide and keep the Steinbach manufacturing legacy alive.
Why are Steinbach Nutcrackers so popular?
Steinbach nutcrackers are a highly sought-after item today due to their distinctly German design, high-quality craftsmanship, and premium materials. The company’s Erzgebirge roots also give it a distinct prestige, as Erzgebirge toys bear a recognisable look that has remained relatively unchanged since the region’s rise in the toymaking industry in the late 1700s. Many have also regarded Steinbach nutcrackers as a Christmastime tradition, especially with the popularity of Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet in its various media forms.
Finally, after the original owners of Steinbach filed for bankruptcy in 2015 and subsequently reopened by new management in 2016, pre-2016 designs have become a famous collector’s item amongst enthusiasts. Some of these pre-bankruptcy collections in high demand today include the “Nutcrackers Suite” Series, the “Horror Legends” Series, and the “Famous Chieftains” Series that we’ll be highlighting today.
Discovering the Steinbach Nutcracker “Famous Chieftains” Series
The “Famous Chieftains” Series was released in the 1990s to celebrate and honour real and notable leaders of Native American tribes. The series was designed exclusively for Kurt S. Adler Inc. and manufactured at Steinbach’s factory in Germany.
Three different designs were included in the series – Chief Sitting Bull, Chief Red Cloud, and Chief Black Hawk – with a limited run of several thousand pieces per design. Each nutcracker is dressed in the traditional outfit of their respective tribe, including ceremonial feather headdresses and weapons.
Year of Make: 1991
Country of Origin: Germany
Chief Sitting Bull (1831-1890) was the leader of the Sioux Nation from 1834-1890. He was known for uniting members of the Sioux Nation against invading white settlers, mainly through the Great Sioux Wars culminating in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn. The Battle of Little Bighorn resulted in a victory of the Native tribes against General Custer, leading it to remain in the American mythos ever since as a reminder of the strength and tenacity of Native Americans. Visitors to the MINT Museum of Toys can see a genuine and authentic Chief Sitting Bull Nutcracker on display in the Level 2 Collectables collection. Located on Row 20 Shelf 1, it is part of a special sub-collection curated by our museum’s founder.
Chief Red Cloud (1822-1909) led the Oglala Lokata from 1868-1909. He was regarded as a skilful warrior and leader of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and North Arapaho peoples during Red Cloud’s War. His most significant military victory was during the Fetterman Fight of 1866, which was the worst military disaster experienced by the US Army at the time until Little Bighorn a decade later.
Finally, Chief Black Hawk (1767-1838) was a leader and warrior of the Sauk peoples who came to be regarded as a chief after leading several successful raiding and war parties. He notably led Sauk, Meskwaki, and Kickapoo peoples in the Black Hawk War against US settlers in 1832. Black Hawk did not originally intend for the campaign to turn into an armed conflict and hoped to instead reclaim the land that had been seized by the US. However, when US forces responded with fire, it escalated into a brutal battle culminating in the 1832 Bad Axe Massacre.
Seeing History in a New Light through Toys
Vintage toys such as the Steinbach Nutcrackers aren’t just ornaments or playthings – they also pass on valuable stories about history, heritage, and social issues. Through our various toy collections and seasonal exhibitions that touch on such concerns, the MINT Museum of Toys uncovers new ways for visitors to discover aspects of culture and history they might not have learned about in school.
Take a peek into a one-of-a-kind window into the past when you visit the MINT Museum of Toys, sign up for our interactive and engaging museum tours in Singapore, or go on our XperienceAR Museum quest with Le Petit Prince. Our unique exhibitions of toys, memorabilia, collectables, and more truly make us one of the best museums in Singapore to visit if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience like no other. Check out our blog for more behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, or contact us to find out more!