Thursday, August 15, 2019

It's Three Of A Kind With These Midcentury Steiff Panda Triplets

The devil - or the discovery - is in the details! And this is especially true when it comes to Steiff's World War II era (c. late 1930's-early 1950's) editions. Patterns that were made throughout these turbulent years often had slight design and/or material changes over time due to supply or manufacturing constraints. These differences are subtle, but extremely interesting as well. Here's one example that is pretty black and white in these regards.

Here we have three Steiff pandas. All are 12 inches tall or 30 cm, 5 ways jointed, and made from black and white mohair. They have small, somewhat triangular shaped open, peach colored felt lined mouths, brown and black pupil eyes, and black, horizontally stitched noses. The black around their eyes, as well as across their back, is airbrushed. Like Steiff's beloved Teddy baby pattern, these also have flat, cardboard lined feet made for standing and downcurved wrists.

This adorable, child-like Panda design was launched in 1938, the same time Pandas made their grand debut at several zoos across the world. Prewar, this perky Panda was made in 15 and 30 cm through 1942. Postwar, this identical Panda design appeared in the line in 30 cm from 1949-1950. In 1951, Steiff updated its Panda design, producing their happy black and white cub in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1951 through 1961. The new model was produced in larger sizes than previously offered and had a different facial configuration, including a rounder mouth and a fuller, more sculpted muzzle. He had grey felt paw pads from 1951 through 1956 and suede-like grey rubber material paw pads from 1956 onward. The "updated" design from 1951 onward is pictured here on the left for your comparison. 

So now let's jump to some material matters when it comes to this jolly trio of early Steiff Pandas pictured at the top of this post. It's true they could be triplets, sort of. All are the companies pre-1951 pattern. But check out their paw pads and IDs - they are really quite diverse. The one on the far left has thick grey felt pads that have black fibers woven within the fabric. His ID is a raised script button. The one in the middle has linen pads and a short trailing "f" button. And the one on the right has regular grey felt pads and his raised script button and yellow ear tag as his IDs. A close up shot of the unusual grey and black felt pads, and the linen pads, are featured here; you can click on the image to enlarge it.  

So what is their birth order here? 

Hum, well, this will take some sorting out... and not all the dates and time lines align perfectly here. That's pretty standard when it comes to Steiff "mid-century mysteries." 

So, that being said... it is Steiffgal's best guess that the one with the linen pads and long trailing "f" button is the oldest, given his detailing. He might just be prewar, or immediately post war, as you see this linen treatment in items from the 1940s. Next in age - or the "middle child" - is probably the one with the thick grey felt pads and raised script button. His felt is unusual, and a little odd for Steiff production, so Steiffgal suspects Steiff used what felt was available, or on hand, to produce this pattern. And Steiffgal is pretty certain the one with the standard grey felt pads is the "youngest," relatively speaking. His pads closely match the ones used in the 1951 updated Steiff Panda pattern. The photo on the left is from a late 1930s Steiff catalog and shows Steiff's 1938-1950 Panda palling around with dolls and rabbits from the same era.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's mid-century Panda design has not left you bamboozled. 

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Things Are Twice As Nice With This Spectacular Steiff Pull Toy!

It's been a few weeks since Steiffgal's been able to share a new surprise with you; she's been traveling and just didn't have a moment to write. In a round-about sort of way, this post should make up for all of that!

Today's highlight is nothing short of the wheel-deal! Steiffgal won this precious pull toy at an auction in early July, and it recently arrived at her home "across the pond." Here we have a Steiff "Roly Droly." The baby Jocko is 10 cm, fully jointed, and made from brown mohair which has mellowed to a caramel color. He has a felt face, as well as felt feet, hands, and ears. He retains his long trailing "f" button in his foot. His sidekick is a standing, unjointed bear made from brown mohair. He is a "circus bear" given his nose ring and chain. His tiny face comes to life with glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He also retains his long trailing "f" 
button in his ear. 

Now let's check out their ride. These seatmates are each perched on a 8 cm in diameter yellow wooden disk. The bear holds onto a green wooden pole, and the monkey holds onto a red wooden pole. Each disk turns as the cart is pulled along. The chassis is made from metal and is green; it rides upon three red wooden wheels. The wagon itself is about 18 cm wide overall and has a red and white pull cord. The handle of the pull cord is red wood; when it was new, it had a Steiff button on the tip as decoration.

And just what makes this item a fifth-gear find? Roly Drolys are really, really rare, and for good reason. Unlike other types of Steiff treasures, these were specifically made and designed as hands-on play toys. And toys - especially with moving parts or designed for rough play - wear out, fall apart, or just get lost to time. For example, think about Steiff skittles. Those were designed as a sporting game, so losses and wear on skittle pins and balls are almost expected! This Roly Droly absolutely shows playwear, and even a little restoration. But given one makes an appearance every blue moon or so... it still is quite the bucket list score. Another example of a Roly Droly, this one with two little yellow mohair chicks as riders, is pictured to the left. 

Here's a bit more about this ingenious design. Roly Drolys are excellent examples of Steiff's prewar creativity. They were developed as a result of a mandate from Richard Steiff in the early 1920s to create more interesting, innovative, and novel items for the line. Roly Drolys get their name from the the German words "rollen" (to roll) and "drollig" (funny or droll). They appeared in the Steiff line from 1924 - 1934. These rotating pull toys were made with a variety of riders, including two chicks, two bears, a chick and rabbit, a dog and a cat, and two rabbits, among others. Other "wheeled wonders" of that era included "Wiwags," which appeared in the line from 1924 – 1927 and see-sawed up and down, and "Galop" toys which appeared in the line from 1926 – 1929 and moved back and forth. The catalog page from the mid-1920s featuring Roly Drolys is pictured here on the left. It is from Carsten Esser's 1920-1929 Steiff Kataloge. You can click on the image to make it easier to view and read. 

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on Steiff Roly Drolys really headspinning, but in the best possible way. 

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hat's Off To This Tiny And Absolutely Adorable Steiff Dwarf Doll!

Do clothes make the man? No, not always, but they can suggest some very interesting things about him! Check out this happy handful - a well attired Steiff dwarf doll - that recently joined Steiffgal's hug. His outfit, materials, and impish good looks make him quite the cover boy!

This petite treat stands 22 cm tall and is fully jointed. His entire body, including his face, is made from flesh colored linen. His oversized hands and feet are remarkably detailed with realistic fingers and toes. His ever-happy face comes to life with a long, light brown mohair beard and eyebrows, bright green and black glass slit pupil eyes, a charming upturned nose, and a open, red smiling mouth. His cheeks are very rosy and he even has a little razor stubble to him! He wears brown velvet shorts, a white cotton shirt, a bright yellow mohair cap, and a bright blue felt vest. His accessories include a leather belt and a Steiff-branded satchel; this is pictured below. When he left the factory in Giengen, Germany over a century ago, he wore oversized wooden and leather clogs. Dwarf retains his tiny, long trailing "f" button in ear as his Steiff ID.

So just who is this dapper dwarf? Steiffgal has two theories.  First, perhaps he is a hybrid of the company's early 20th century Snak and Snik dwarf designs. Snak was made in 22, 30, 43, and 50 cm from 1911-1915. He is known for his mohair cap and pointy nose. Snik was made in 22, 30, 43, and 50 cm from 1911-1920. He is known for his floppy felt hat and upturned nose. This little guy has a mohair cap and upturned nose - suggesting that he shares key traits from both patterns.

It is also entirely possible, given how every Snak Steiffgal has ever seen has a bright yellow mohair cap, that he is 100% Snak. Sometimes, the smallest versions of a Steiff item have little design tweaks from the larger versions. This usually involves simplification of seaming, body shape, or jointing relative to scale. In this case, this diminutive dwarf does not have eye pockets like the larger versions do, and his nose is definitely not crooked! Perhaps Snak's distinctive, long crooked nose just didn't translate well to the 22 cm version. Only this dwarf knows for certain, and he's not talking!

What is certain is his "birth date" and what that means in terms of his presentation. Given his materials, this dwarf was most certainly made in the World War I era (c. 1914-1918.) During this period, traditional, high quality woolen materials used for toy making like mohair and felt were in very short supply. Most of these fabrics were rationed for war purposes like uniforms and blankets; what was available commercially was very expensive and challenging to obtain.  

During peacetime, this dwarf's entire body and head would have been made from felt; here they are made from inexpensive linen. And his pants, which typically appear in felt, are made from velvet. These substitutions saved a significant amount of costly fabrics, and didn't really change his appearance or personality. It is interesting to note that his "signature" and highly visible elements - his hat, beard, and vest - are still made from woolen fabrics. However, the amount of materials needed for these "key" elements was quite small, and these details could have been pieced together from scraps for efficiency. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this tiny linen dwarf has added to the fabric of your day!

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

Saturday, July 6, 2019

This Unusual Steiff Cotton Plush Jocko Is More Fun Than A Barrel Full Of Monkeys!

No monkeyshines! This week's Steiff special guest is truly a top banana. It's no secret that Steiffgal is crazy for Steiff's Jockos, especially examples from the first half of the 20th century. Check out this really cool, and really unusual chimp-champ and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This marvelous monkey is sitting, measures 11 inches or 28 cm tall, and is fully jointed. His face, ears, hands, and feet are made from peach colored felt. His face is detailed with an open, felt lined mouth, brown and black glass pupil eyes set into expressive, dimensional eye pockets, a once-white mohair chin, and airbrushed highlights around his eyes, nose, and mouth. His body is made from a light brown - almost khaki colored - cotton plush material. He retains his short trailing "f" Steiff button, broadly dating him from the c. 1936 - 1950 time frame. Steiffgal suspects, given his materials, presentation, and ID, that this Jocko was probably made around 1948 or 1949.

It's easy to have a plush crush on Steiff rarities made from unusual materials. Cotton plush has both a cotton backing and a cotton pile. The best way to describe it is that it feels like a cotton bathroom towel that has been through a number of wash and dry cycles; a little bumpy in texture but with an overall and somewhat smooth feel and dull finish. It is not like mohair, which can be distinctive and prickly; or silk plush, which can shiny and smooth feeling; or wool plush, which is continuous in texture and more "dense." This material was sometimes used instead of the company's more traditional fabrics immediately after the factory reopened for toy making business in the late 1940's as mohair and felt were in very short supply or extremely expensive at the time.
And just what makes this mid-century example more fun than a barrel full of monkeys? Khaki colored cotton plush Jocko is not pictured or mentioned in any of the standard Steiff reference books or catalogs that Steiffgal knows of. He definitely started out life this hue, as he is the same even color throughout - even in his "private" places. Steiff did make a 25 cm, fully jointed dark brown artificial silk plush Jocko as part of its standard, commercial line in 1949. It is entirely possible that this 28 cm example was produced in very limited numbers and from materials on hand. This classic Jocko the Chimpanzee Steiff pattern is so universally beloved, appealing, and well designed that it translates well to fabrics other than mohair. And, it is not terribly unusual to find other undocumented prewar legacy Steiff patterns - like running rabbits, Teddy Baby bears, and Fox Terrier dogs - in "alternative" fabrics from the early postwar (c. 1948-1952) time frame as well. 

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed monkeying around with this unusual and extremely handsome Jocko!

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