Saturday, May 27, 2017

This Orange Tipped Bully The Bulldog Hand Puppet Is On Fire!

You gotta hand it to Steiff - their early character puppets are simply marvelous! Often based on their most popular patterns of the time, favorite pre-war models include Molly the Puppy, Teddy baby, and Treff the Bloodhound. Recently, Steiffgal got to meet another top dog from this rare category - a Bully the Bulldog puppet! Check out this happy handful and see what makes this puppet so special from the design and collector's perspectives.

This Bully is on fire - really! His body and arms are made from white mohair, his ears are made from vibrant flame-orange tipped mohair, and his muzzle is made from tan velvet. Bully stands 17 cm tall. His head and the tips of his arms are stuffed with excelsior. He has three black hand embroidered claws on each of his padless paws. Bully's pouty face comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, freckles, and brown airbrushed highlights. His ears are lined in wire and are posable; this is a great feature also seen on other playful patterns of his era including Petsy the Baby Bear.  Bully puppet wears his original decorative horsehair collar and bell and retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. This hand puppet was made in 17 or 18 cm in orange and white or brown and white from 1927 to 1935 overall; he was also produced with a hand-activated voice for a few years as well. 

So just how old is this example, in either dog or people years? Given this Bully had/has a white ear tag, which technically appeared through 1926, it is quite possible that he was manufactured at the beginning of his production timeline, in early 1927.  As such, he was most likely branded with a leftover white ear tag on hand instead of the company's newer red version.  These red ear tags were introduced in 1927.  How can you resist this face??

This pattern has a most colorful history. 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 and an accessory). He was modeled on the French Bulldog—the “it” companion of those in the know all across Europe at the time. These top dogs were produced in a number of color combinations, including black and white, orange and white, and brown and white.  A rare blue-and-white version was also manufactured, and Steiffgal has even seen a photo of a red and white one! This was probably a prototype and never put into production. Full bodied versions are usually seen in sitting or standing positions, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 centimeters. This original Bully pattern was produced overall through 1939.  


Like many of Steiff's most beloved patterns, Bully the Bulldog was also produced in a number of theme and variation items and novelties.  These included a pincushion, music box, dog-doll, nightdress bag, wheeled and riding versions, and this puppet example, among other product line extensions. Most Bullies came detailed with a horsehair ruff or a button-studded leather collar.  It is extra-special to find a Bully with his horsehair collar intact, as these are quite ephemeral and tend to break or fall off over time. Today, this precious prewar pooch pattern 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.  The photo on the left is from a 1929 catalog and pictures a number of Steiff's beloved character puppets including an orange and white Bully; this illustration is from Carsten Esser's fabulous new book, Steiff Kataloge 1920-1929. Just click on the image to make it larger.  

Steiffgal hopes that you'll give a thumbs up to this interesting hand puppet discussion!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Exceptional and Early Steiff Bear Is Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice!

Well, hello handsome! Yes, it's OK to stare... he's used to it! This week's blog special guest is not a Hollywood hunk, although with some Steiff collectors, his good looks are on par with many of the leading men of the big and little silver screens! Steiffgal recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a magnificent and early Steiff bear, and wanted to share his perfect and period (and irresistible) detailing with you. 

This sweet and all original cub is sugar and spice and everything nice! He is fully jointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and measures 16 inches tall standing and 11 inches tall sitting. His felt pads are tan and he has four hand-embroidered claws on each paw. You can't help but notice his unusual color, which is a magnificent cinnamon hue. Although it is challenging to absolutely capture almost any color on film and on screen, his eye-catching color really does match the deep orange-brown glow of a cinnamon stick!

Ted's proportions make him one sexy senior citizen. Steiff's early bears have a relatively consistent scale. As such, its no numbers game to determine if a vintage Teddy bear may have been manufactured by Steiff many years ago. For the most part, Steiff’s early 1900’s bears have torsos (measured from neck to crotch) that are twice as long as their heads (measured from crown of head to neck.) This bear's torso and head measure 8" and 4", respectively. Steiff's bears from this era have relatively large feet, in a ratio of 1:5 to the bear’s height, measured standing. This bear stands 16 inches tall, and his feet, measured heel to toe, are c. 3-1/4" long. And these bears have extra long limbs, with their arms extending to their "knees” when standing. And why is this? Because they were originally designed to stand on all fours, as illustrated in the photo to the left. This Cinny seems to fits the mold to a "T" here!

Let's face it, you can't help but fall in love with this bear's handsome expression. His face comes to life with several features that have captured collector's hearts for over a century. His black wooden shoe button eyes, faded black nose and mouth stitching, and trimmed muzzle area are delightful and so typical to Steiff. And heading off any doubt about his authenticity, this bear also retains his still shiny "trailing F" style button and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. It is interesting to note that his mohair coloring inside his ears, as well around other areas "where the sun don't shine" is an even more vibrant cinnamon color. This is likely because these places were protected from any light or other environmental conditions that trigger fading.

Although it is impolite to ask about age, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this terrific Ted was born in the 1908-1910 time frame. Here's why. From his provenance, it is known that he was given to a little girl who was born in 1903. Ted's classic detailing, including his curved wrists, pronounced back hump, and long thin feet with narrow ankles are clearly early 20th century. His black shoe button eyes, for the most part, date him no later than 1910 or so. His button and ear tag are also completely consistent with this dating. Ted's prominent, hand-sewn chest seam also hides a clue to his date of manufacture. He has a non-working growler in his torso; these were invented by Margarete Steiff's nephew Paul Steiff and debuted in the company's bears starting in 1908.

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to this delightful and rare cinnamon Steiff bear has spiced up your day just a pinch!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This Tiny Steiff Bully Dog Has Enormous Wheel-Appeal!


Don't you just love it when you come across a Steiff treasure that you didn't realize even existed? That's the case with this week's fine find, a tiny and early post war Bully Bulldog on wheels. Steiffgal found him hiding amongst a delightful collection of vintage playthings at a booth at a regional doll and antique toy show in the New England area. Come take a look at this petite treat and see what makes him so dog-gone charming from the collector's perspective. 

This diminutive doggie has enormous wheel-appeal. Bully on wheels is based upon Steiff's smallest standard line postwar Bulldog pattern. He is 10 cm, standing, made from tan mohair, and is head jointed. His head, body, and tail are gloriously hand-painted with delightful brown and black spots and striping. He has brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, felt ears, and an elaborately and realistically constructed velvet muzzle. His airbrushed claws are black. Bully retains his original red collar and raised script style Steiff button as his ID. Steiff's overall Bully Bulldog pattern was produced in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1951 through 1974; Bully on wheels was produced in 10 cm only from 1954 through 1957 and then again in 1960.

Rolling along, now let's take a look at Bully's dynamic details. Bully glides along on four red off-center wooden eccentric wheels.  The wheels are connected with two silver metal rods - one in the front and one in the back. This wheel configuration gives Bully the appearance of bobbing up and down as he is pulled along. Each of his four feet is connected to the rods with tan thread stitching. There are little grooves in the rods that secure the stitching in place. Bully had a matching pull string attached to his front rod when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany; this unfortunately has been lost to time.  

Steiff has a long and lovely history of putting their most popular animal patterns on wheels. The earliest rolling Steiff treasures were on metal wheels; by the nineteen-teens to early 1920's most if not all examples had wooden wheels. Wooden wheels were sometimes left natural in color, other times they were brightly painted in bright, primary hues including red, green, and blue. 


Strangely, Steiff's "eccentric wheel" detailing debuted in 1912. Steiff even holds a patent for this unusual wheel and axle configuration! Eccentric wheels were "invented" accidentally, but Steiff quickly realized the opportunity created by their roller drilling mistakes. Steiff's dogs, cats, birds, and farm animals look particularly charming on eccentric wheels, given the way they waddle and jiggle in real life! The photo on the left shows two of Bully's eccentric wheeled 10 cm "canine colleagues" from his same general timeframe. Bazi the Dachshund (on red wheels) was made in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 to 1961 overall and Cockie the Cocker Spaniel (on blue wheels) was made in 10 cm from 1954 through 1957 and then again in 1960.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual Steiff Bully on wheels has been enjoyable to you, even in a roundabout sort of way.  

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steiff in Bloom at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts


Spring has hit with full force here in New England, with new flower surprises appearing daily on front yards, in parks, and around other outdoor spaces. In the Boston area, The Museum of Fine Arts celebrates this time of year with its annual "Art in Bloom" event, which pairs collection highlights with floral arrangements designed to coordinate with the theme of the pieces. Steiffgal took Bitty Bub, a Steiff inspired tiny Teddy baby doll made by the talented artist Elizabeth Leggat, along with her to see "Art in Bloom" and to tour the museum. Of course Bub, known for his mischief, thought the show was called "Art With Bub." As such, he decided to "participate" in the exhibits, as only he can. Here are some of his favorite works - flower related and other - from his visit to the museum today. Can you find him in each of the photos that follow? You can click on them to make them bigger!


Being cut from the finest cloth himself, Bub found this floral arrangement inspired by an original Frank Lloyd Wright textile particularly appealing. 


Bub sez, "I'm tickled pink to be part of this fine gallery room display!"


Bub's just one of the guys when it comes to this perfect pairing of Max Beckmann's painting of Perry T. Rathbone with a tall, dark, and handsome floral arrangement.


Bub sez, "The flower artists really put the pedal to the metal in this colorful arrangement celebrating this great painting by Frida Kahlo." 


Size defies when it comes to these monumental blue and white Japanese vases that are featured in John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," also shown in the photo. 


Bub is certain that this fine arts patron from Mary Cassatt's "In the Loge" only has eyes for him. 



Bub basks in the glow of this sterling portrait of silversmith and patriot Paul Revere, painted by John Singleton Copley in the 1768-70 timeframe. 


Bub sez, "There's plenty of extra room in that painting for me!" in regards to this 1796 portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.


Bub sez, "It's five o'clock somewhere!" to toast this elegant and period sterling silver cocktail tray, martini shaker, and goblets interpreted in flowers. 


Honestly, did you know that Bub has White House connections? This small bronze statue was made from Daniel Chester French's original plaster cast of the seated Abraham Lincoln, which served as the scale model for the larger than life marble version at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.



Drama... this marble statue called "Meg Merrilies" by Edward Thaxter tried to kidnap Bub!  Mischief attracts mischief for sure!


And finally, if this tour has tuckered you out, that's completely understandable. Here Bub sleepily eyes a c. 1800-30 English Regency bed detailed with two greyhound dogs! Its complementary floral arrangement does a great job in capturing its form in exotic greenery. 

Steiffgal - and Bitty Bub - hope this tour of Boston's MFA has helped to make your day even more beautiful!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!
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