Sunday, June 19, 2016

Welcome To Our World Of Toys!

It's no surprise that a lot of Steiff collectors associate all things button-in-ear with F.A.O. Schwarz. After all, it was at this magical place that many youngsters first encountered Giengen's finest Teddy bears, animals, and dolls. The Schwarz brothers "discovered" Steiff bears around 1906, and immediately started to feature them in their stores in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Over time, many Schwarz locations had collections of life-sized, or "Studio" animals displayed throughout their stores, Steiff animals playfully decorating their store windows, and a "Noah's ark" range of mohair and plush friends available for sale. Just thinking about those things puts Steiffgal in a very happy place! Here on the left, you can see a 1967 advertisement for the store, featuring a Steiff Teddy bear in the upper left hand corner.

Steiff and F.A.O. Schwarz also have a very special relationship in terms of exclusive items. Although the stores had been featuring Steiff items since the turn of last century, it wasn't until the 1950's that Steiff began designing and creating store-exclusive products in very small edition sizes for F.A.O. Schwarz. As such, these rare and extremely special items are particularly desirable to collectors today - especially because the future of F.A.O. Schwarz is unclear. If you are interested in F.A.O. Schwarz Steiff exclusives (and other outstanding vintage playthings), then be sure to check out the upcoming Premier Toy Sale at Morphy Auctions on June 24th-26th, 2016. The sale features a fantastic collection of delightful Steiff F.A.O. Schwarz exclusives and other North American rarities. Here are a few that really caught Steiffgal's eye!

There's no need to be stand-offish with this first F.A.O. Schwarz highlight. Here we have lot #805, Steiff's Snobby the Poodle. She is cataloged as...

"Made exclusively for F.A.O. Schwarz. Snobby is 35 cm, five ways jointed, and made from grey wool plush. She is styled in a very fluffy "French" cut. She has brown and black pupil eyes and a distinctive black leather nose. She has her original red head bow but her neck bow has been lost to time. This distinctive Snobby was produced from 1962-1968 in 28 and 35 cm as an exclusive item for the high-end toy retailer FAO Schwarz in the US. Condition: As noted. Snobby retains her Steiff button and fully legible yellow ear tag. In very good to excellent condition overall with just a touch of dust and light playwear. Size 13" L. Estimate: $400-600."

And what makes this poodle such a blue ribbon selection? Her presentation, proportions, and impish personality, to start with! Her leather nose and distinctive grey wool plush material are also quite appealing, and add just a touch of "upscale" charm to her. Steiff is well known for their poodle patterns, but this one truly is in a class of her own. 

And now we are off to the races with lot #888, a fully accessorized Steiff Pony. This pretty filly is cataloged as...

"Made exclusively for F.A.O. Schwarz. Pony is 17 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from tan mohair that is airbrushed with lovely chestnut highlights. Her mane and tail are made from very long, greyish-white mohair. Her face is detailed with black button eyes and a little hand stitched and airbrushed mouth. She is fully and originally attired with her saddle, blanket, reins, and headwear. Pony was produced from 1963-1972. According to the original F.A.O. Schwarz catalog, she is described as “… a handsome 8.5 inch steed covered in tan and white mohair plush with flowing white mane and tail. Complete with brindle, saddle, and saddle blanket. An FAO Schwarz exclusive. A toy to excite your child’s imagination, to give fun-filled hours, and provide fond memories that happily can last a lifetime.” Condition: As noted. In excellent condition overall with all IDs. Size 8'' L. Estimate: $250-500."

This pony is a triple crown winner all around. Her accessories are delightful, accurate, and in perfect scale to her body. Her coloration and impressive long mohair mane truly bring her to life. And her condition appears almost like new. Steiff did a remarkable job on this edition, and it is obvious why it remains a collector's favorite half a century onward. 

It's time to connect the dots towards our final F.A.O. Schwarz Steiff auction highlight. Here we have lot #870, Steiff's Royal Dally Dalmatian. Spotty Dotty is cataloged as...

"Made exclusively for F.A.O. Schwarz. Dally is 14 cm and made from white mohair which is marked with black airbrushed spots. His ears are black mohair. He is in the "begging" position and is head jointed. His face is detailed with black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. His lips are highlighted with a touch of red airbrushing. Royal Dally wears his original red leather collar and retains his chipped red wooden F.A.O. Schwarz tag; his crown, cape, and other IDs have been lost to time. Dally was made in 1963 only as an exclusive item for the upscale US toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz. Condition: As noted. In very good condition overall with just a touch of dust and light playwear. Size 5-1/4'' T. Estimate: $200-400."

This princely pet is truly Steiff royalty. Steiff created several exclusive Dalmatians for F.A.O Schwarz in the early 1960's, most likely due to the popularity of the 1961 Disney film 101 Dalmatians. Many of these patterns were based on standard line Steiff items of the period with just a few tweaks or modifications. However, Royal Dally is really unique. His body position is quite unusual; he is one of the few, if not the only, postwar dog produced in this unusual sitting up begging position, with his arms prominently hanging in front of his body. There are many dogs cataloged as "begging," but they are usually sitting with all paws on the ground. Royal Dally also has solid black mohair ears and is the only Steiff Dalmatian that Steiffgal knows of with this design treatment.

Steiffgal hopes this review of some of the fine F.A.O Schwarz Steiff exclusive items up for sale at Morphy's sale next week has generated "lots" of interest with you! You can check out the entire auction catalog by clicking here; the Steiff items start at lot #800. All Steiff will be sold on Saturday, June 25th starting at 9am east coast USA time. Best of luck to all bidders!

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

Sunday, June 12, 2016

California, Here We Come!



What a surprise! Steiffgal is on the road with Steiffguy at a work meeting in California. And guess who decided to stow-away in her carry on bag... Bub and Ophelia! Silly cubs! But perhaps they noticed that the official state flag of this great state features a big brown bear and wanted to check out this part of the country firsthand. You can see this impressive flag here on the left. Whatever their reasons, these mischievous Teddy Babies have agreed to give you a guided tour of our event venue, La Quinta. This lovely desert hotel and resort is located about 120 miles east of Los Angeles in Palm Springs and has been in business since the mid-1920's.

This stunning destination, located at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains, is in the desert -  but you might not realize that except for the blazing hot temperatures.  There are lush gardens, foliage, palm trees, and flowering shrubs everywhere.  Bub and Ophelia were convinced that they would see camels, mirages, and perhaps even Lawrence of Arabia on this trip, so they were a little disappointed initially.  But the views and beauty of this place have helped to change their minds back to a happy place.  Here on the left you can see them against the mountain backdrop. The red flowering bush you see against the wall is called bougainvillea; it is a climbing shrub and is all over the hotel.  It looks especially lovely on arched gateways. 

Despite its arid location, water is a central landscaping and decorative focal point throughout La Quinta. There are waterfalls, fountains, and references to water all over the place. Right near the entrance to the hotel, there is a large water feature that twists and turns throughout an area housing a few restaurants, coffee shops, and stores.  Just looking at it cools you down a bit, and it also makes a lovely, constant sound which is quite soothing.  In the middle of this area is a shaded sitting area where visitors can meet, socialize, or just enjoy the environment. Sometimes, at night, a live band plays there.  Here you can see Bub and Ophelia hanging out by one really pretty element of this central water feature, a large fountain featuring the name of the hotel in tiles.  

The people who work here are all quite nice and seem to like bears as well - which was very helpful in putting this guided tour together.  Because the campus is so large, Steiffgal is certain that most of their time is used giving directions from here to there.  The guest quarters are more like small condos  or small freestanding houses arranged in groups. Everyone always says hello, and asks if you need help with anything.  The staff seem to get around on small golf carts which are just about everywhere.  Visitors are welcome to hitch a ride on these anytime they would like.  The cubs wanted to try this, but the carts did not have small enough seat belts for them.  Oh well!  Here on the left you can see Ophelia and Bub visiting at the bell captain's desk with one of the great guys who makes sure visitors have a pleasant, seamless visit from the moment they step foot at the hotel. 

The hotel has a grand history and has been welcoming guests since 1926.  Of course, Ophelia and Bub were excited to hear that, as their Teddy Baby pattern debuted in 1929, and they both love things "born" during the roaring 20's.  La Quinta features bits and pieces of its history throughout the campus. These take the form of plaques, statues, and small exhibits. Many of the buildings feature adobe bricks as key construction elements, and apparently this was the case from the very beginning.  Here on the left you can see the cubs checking out a display showcasing these bricks; apparently 100,000 were made in 1926 to build the first dwellings on the property at a total cost of $150,000.  According to the US Inflation Calculator, that would translate into $2,027,635.59 dollars today.

There is so much to do at La Quinta, and the cubs have no trouble passing the time.  There are 41 pools in total; they are all distributed throughout the campus. Some are more private than others, and there are a few central ones where families with kids congregate.  These "community" ones also have a bar and restaurant nearby for convenience. La Quinta also has many tennis courts, an exercise facility, a spa, golf courses, and other fitness, wellness, and vacation-type offerings. Ophelia was very interested in seeing the spa. Bub, not so much.  In protest he decided to take a tumble into the fountain outside the spa to distract her.  Steiffgal feared for many reasons that this was a terrible idea, but thankfully he dried quickly in the hot desert sun without damage. You can see the two cubs (post dive) here on the left clowning around the early and original tiled fountain at the entrance to the spa.  

Everything on this campus seems to be big.  And that's just not relative to our cub friends. Perhaps that's to keep things in scale with the big blue sky, huge mountain range, and generous culture of the area.  There also seems to be a trend for all things handmade, or at least handmade looking.  Lovely tiles, stucco walls, ceramic roof tiles, and craftsman-style detailing really bring La Quinta to life, and give it a warm and welcoming feeling. The photo on the left truly illustrates both concepts!  Here you can see Bub and Ophelia trying to crash a party behind these giant, hand carved doors. Just the handles are three times their size! In case you were wondering, the naughty cubs were not successful!

The rooms at La Quinta are lovely. Each has a private or semiprivate sitting area. It is glorious to be outside in the early morning in these shaded patio areas. The bathrooms are also very nice, and include hand painted tiles, double sinks, a huge walk in shower, a vanity, lots of lights, and an abundance of soaps, creams, and hair care products. It is easy to feel like a starlet getting ready for a night on the town with these little luxuries. Ophelia is particularly enamored with the bathroom's glamorous facets. She feels they look like Genie bottles.  As such, she was very disappointed that when she gave them a cub-rub, only water came out.  You can see her here on the left hoping for a little magic to happen.  Needless to say, because of his fountain antics, Bub is forbidden to have anything to do with water on this trip.  That is why he is not in this picture.  

This brings us to the end of our tour, as the cubs are tired, and Bub is requiring another time out.  Perhaps the heat is making him cranky.  Good thing that Ophelia remains on her best behavior.  Clearly she wants to be invited on future travel adventures! Here you can see the super team resting in the shade with a little branch of bougainvillea. We all hope you have enjoyed this guided tour through this wonderful desert Eden!

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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Happiness Is A Warm (Steiff) Puppy From Morphy Auctions' Upcoming Toy Sale Event!

In the market for a new blue ribbon addition to your Steiff collection? There's practically an entire kennel of fabulous and unusual Steiff dogs on offer at Morphy Auctions' upcoming Premier Toy Sale on June 24th-26th, 2016. Paws and check out these collectible canine highlights and see what makes them so interesting from the design and feature perspectives.

Steiffgals' going out on a limb with this first pick - a Molliette "Charleston" dangling dog with ID. This is auction lot #802 and is cataloged as...

"This is a delightful 20 cm example of Steiff's "Molliette". She has a mohair puppy head; long, soft unjointed dangling limbs; and mohair hands, paws, and tail. Her body, arms, and legs are made from a lovely shade of lilac velvet that has darkened slightly over time. She has very large black and brown glass pupil eyes and black, hand embroidered claws, nose, and mouth. She retains her original bell, tattered lime green neck ribbon, ring, and pompom as accessories; her tan hanging ribbon may be a replacement. Molliette is one of a series of "play and car dolls" in the Steiff catalog from 1927-1932. These were based on the most popular named Steiff characters of the time. Each had the head of the character, mohair paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several bright, happy "jelly bean" colors and in 20, 30, and 43 cm. It has been suggested that the design of this series was based on a similar line from the Chad Valley Toy Company of England called "Tango Toys." Molliette has her most exceptional metal-rimmed chest tag as her Steiff ID. Condition: As noted. Slightly dusty but in very good to excellent condition overall. Provenance: From a Florida estate. Size 8-1/2'' T. Estimate: $800 - 1,600."

Good golly, what a great Molly! This Molliette design is a example of many of the influences that really took priority in the 1920's for Steiff. Its core "Molly the Puppy" pattern, introduced in 1925, was specifically designed to be as soft, fluffy, and child-like as possible. Her candy hued body - appearing in blue, pink, orange, purple, green, or yellow - reflected Richard Steiff's directive to add color and interest to the company's product lines, as well as a distinctly feminine appeal. And her novel design, based on the Charleston dance craze, shows how Steiff - despite its location in rural southern Germany - was keenly aware of worldwide cultural trends and their importance in growing their footprint and reputation as an international leader in the toy industry. Teddy Rose, pictured here on the left, was also in the line around the same time as Molliette, and shares many of these same design priorities. 

Steiffgal's second highlight, an early King Charles Spaniel, is eye candy in many ways. This is auction lot #818 as is cataloged as...

"This very interesting and early Steiff King Charles Spaniel is 21 cm tall and 37 cm wide, unjointed, and standing on all fours. She is made from white and copper colored mohair, which has thinned and darkened over time. She has long ears and a playful tail. Most interestingly, her oversized black eyes are backed in orange felt; this is the first time this cataloger has ever seen this outstanding and all original detailing. Her pouty face comes to life with a hand embroidered brown nose and mouth. This handsome design was produced in 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1924-1927. Condition: As noted. Spaniel retains her tiny trailing "F" Steiff button. Dog has been professionally cleaned and partially restuffed. With surface losses commensurate to age. In good to very good condition overall. Size 14'' L. Estimate: $200 - 300."

This sweet King Charles Spaniel is a prince of a pick. And, his felt backed eyes make him quite the looker. It was not that uncommon in the past for Steiff to add a felt backing to an animal's eye to help give its face a bit more depth and emotion. Perhaps the best example of this is the red felt the company used behind the eyes of its all-black Titanic Mourning bears from 1912. An 18" tall example of these rare and beloved bears - sold by Morphy's for $34,800 in 2011 - is pictured here on the left. Steiff has also used felt backed eyes on some of their rabbits, birds, and squirrels, among other species. However, this is the first time that Steiffgal knows of where the company has used orange felt to back the eyes of a dog, or any species at all!

This final auction highlight is truly Ivy League. This is lot #861, an extraordinarily rare Steiff standing Yale Bulldog. He is cataloged as...

"This standing, head jointed Yale Bulldog does not appear in the standard Steiff reference books. However, he is pictured in the 1951 FAO Schwarz catalog, along with seven other Steiff college and military mascots. His price at the time was $10.00. The dog is made from mohair and is realistically hand airbrushed with black, tan, and brown highlights. His comical face comes to life with one black ear and one tan ear; unusual “squint” style black and blue eyes; a black glass button nose; and elaborate jowls. He wears a blue and white felt Yale blanket and a red studded collar. He retains his US zone tag, button, and yellow ear tag as his Steiff IDs. Condition: As noted. Very good to excellent condition overall. Estimate: $600 - 1,200."

And just what makes this one top dog? His marvelous, clean condition; extremely appealing presentation; fantastic construction (with a face only a Steiff collector could love); and absolute rarity, to start with! It's also easy to take a shine to his black glass nose and black and blue glass eyes - both which are quite distinctive for his period. This style black glass nose is also seen on Steiff's early postwar poodles, while these blue and black eyes are also key design element of the company's legacy Lulac rabbit, introduced in 1952. This is only the second standing example Steiffgal has ever seen of this particular mascot pattern, the sitting ones are a bit more common. This examples is in by far the best shape of them all. You can see the original catalog page from the FAO Schwarz catalog here; click on the image to enlarge it a bit in a new window. 

Steiffgal hopes this review of fine canine highlights from Morphy's upcoming June, 2016 toy auction has got your tail a-wagging for this great event!

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Hunting For Clues About This Great Steiff Outdoorsman Bear

Do you have any plans for the upcoming long holiday Memorial Day weekend holiday? Perhaps you might be headed out for a little camping and outdoor fun to kick off the summer season! Well, that's exactly what this little wilderness-loving Steiff cub has in mind as well! Check out this most unusual and well attired bear and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Let's start hunting for clues about this hearty outdoorsman. He is 22 cm, fully jointed, and made of caramel colored mohair. His sweetly serious face comes to life with a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth and glass pupil eyes. He dons an orange felt cap with a wide brim; a green felt jacket detailed with a small collar, scalloped edging, long fringe, and a laced up front; and tall, faux brown leather boots. When he left the factory in Giengen, he had a wooden hunting rifle suspended from a leather cord tacked onto his shoulder. 

This bear was produced in 1953 and 1954 and is one of Steiff's "Nimrod" Teddy bears.  He was designed and manufactured in honor of the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the jointed Teddy bear as we know and love him today.  Also produced at this same time, and for the same reason, was Steiff's far better known "Jackie" style Teddy bear. Jackie, known for her pink nose stitch, distinctive belly button, and impish personality, was made in 17, 25, 35, and 75 cm from 1953 through 1955 only. Like Nimrod Teddies, Jackie bears are exceptionally rare on the secondary market given their appeal, limited production, and their brief time in the line.  A print advertisement featuring these two early, very special edition Teddy bears from 1953 is pictured here on the left.  The photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.
  
The Nimrod bears were all based on the company's early postwar, newly redesigned "Original Teddy" pattern. This design, which featured a stockier build and shorter limbs than the company's prewar standard line bears, was produced from 1950 through 1966 in 10, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 28, 35, 40, 43, 50, 65, 75, and 100 cm.  Overall, four Nimrod bears - in addition to the one under discussion here today - were produced.  These included a 22 or 50 white version which donned a green cap, an orange felt shirt, and brown boots; a 22 cm gold version which wore a green cap, a brown felt shirt, and brown boots; and a 22 cm caramel version detailed with an orange cap, green scarf, and very tall brown "wader" style boots.  All carried wooden rifles suspended from a leather cord.  You can see a few more of these original Nimrod bears here on the left; the photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.  

In addition to their well designed outfits, proper footwear, and outdoorsy personalities, Nimrod bears also have distinctive numbering on their yellow ear tags.  The caramel one under discussion today is numbered 5322 N.  This translates into 5=jointed, 3=mohair, 22=22 cm, and N=Nimrod.  You can see this numbering on the picture here on the left. Steiffgal has seen letters after article numbers, but they usually refer to colors or gender of an item, not its actual name.  So this configuration is quite unusual.  

Why would the company produce a series of hunting themed bears in honor of this special golden anniversary? Most collectors are aware that the Teddy bear got its name (and arguably its popularity) from Theodore Roosevelt, who refused to shoot a baby bear cub on on a hunting adventure in Mississippi at the turn of last century.  These Nimrod bears are a gentle nod to that key happening that in its own way helped to place Steiff on the map as a global company. The Nimrod bears and a Steiff likeness of President Roosevelt were featured on the cover of a Steiff brochure commemorating his 100th birthday in 1958.  The photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.  

And last but not least, what about the name Nimrod? Although Steiffgal cannot unearth anything definite about Steiff's choice of this name, she did discover that this might be a reference to an ancient biblical figure. According to scholars, Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah, who built an ark to save all the animals during the great flood. Nimrod is personally described in the bible as "a mighty hunter."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's rare Nimrod Teddy bears has you on the hunt for one to add to your collection as well!

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