Saturday, October 18, 2014

Behind The Scenes Of The October, 2014 Teddy Dorado Steiff Auction Event

It's fun to talk Steiff - especially with professionals who have the distinct pleasure of working with the brand we all know and love for a living!  Steiffgal recently had the wonderful experience of chatting with auctioneer Carsten Esser from Teddy Dorado about his upcoming Steiff sales event on October 25, 2014 in Germany.  This is the company's lucky 13th Steiff auction, and there are so many interesting items available at this sale, both for new and vintage Steiff enthusiasts... and the catalog in its entirety can be viewed here.  But for right now, lets go behind the scenes and learn a little more about this auction and the stories behind some of its highlights!

Steiffgal: Of all the delightful items coming up for auction, which ones would you most like to add to your own collection?

Carsten Esser: I have collected Steiff since I was a young boy, and have forever loved the company's very small dogs. They have always seemed to have such fantastic craftsmanship, and even today I wonder how it is possible to bring excelsior and plush to life in such a magical way. The upcoming Teddy Dorado Auction features some minty mint doggies from the 1950s; this of course brings me great pleasure - and hopefully the same to Steiff dog collectors from all over the world. A wonderful example is lot 13-1204, a 10 cm St. Bernard dog from 1953-1955 in pristine condition; he is pictured here on the left. 

However, when I founded Teddy Dorado four years ago, I made the very difficult decision not to actively collect Steiff anymore. I did so because I felt that if I continued to build my collection, I could not be a fair agent between those who would like to buy and/or sell fine Steiff treasures. So this fabulous example will have to find a new home that is not with me and my family.  But I am certain that this will not be a problem!

Steiffgal: Although you have handled Steiff for many years, and are very familiar with the company's products from the very beginning, are there any items in the upcoming auction that were new to you? 

Carsten Esser: Whenever an item appears that I have not seen in the past, well, this is always a very exciting experience indeed! And yes, this did occur with an item in this auction. We ran a Steiff valuation clinic during a Steiff Club event in a very large shopping center in southern Germany some months ago. Here, someone brought us a Steiff pedal car, which is lot TD 13-2601. The owner told us that it was his favorite toy when he was a kid, that the car still works very well, and that he hoped that now this vehicle could find a good new home. This was the first time I had seen one of these in person, and all I could think about was how exciting it will be to share this great and unusual find with the rest of the Steiff collecting world!  (This pedal car is pictured here on the left.)

But then the story gets even more interesting! The same man with the Steiff pedal car then took a tiny woolen miniature Pomeranian dog (now lot TD 13-7009) out of this pocket. He told me that he suspected that the dog was made by Steiff due to its white paper ear tag, but that it felt it was probably not terribly valuable and not worth enough to be auctioned off. Much to his surprise, I told him that the small dog would also do quite well at auction, and that his car and dog would be important lots in the upcoming October overall sale.  (This dog is pictured here on the left.)

I sometimes do see very rare or uncataloged items, and that is due in part to our business location, which is relatively close to Giengen.  My company very often receives consignments from people who live nearby the Steiff factory who have - or had - relatives who were employed by Steiff. And that is true in this auction as well, where we are listing a large and most likely one of a kind rabbit, lot TD 13-1503, from the estate of a former long term Steiff employee.  He is brown and white dralon and was most likely a prototype that was never put into production.  I particularly like his eyes, which are backed in felt. (This rabbit is pictured here on the left.)

Steiffgal: Your printed catalogs are so professionally done, well illustrated, and most informative. But how do you decide what appears on the cover? Is it the age of the items, or the lot numbers, or values, or something else?

Carsten Esser: We try to have the items on our catalog covers to be representative of the entire auction, as well as highlight some very special pieces, too. We choose items which are the "celebrities" of an auction (like Black Jack, the 1912 black bear who appeared on our summer, 2014 catalog cover and hammered for 15,000 €), items in extremely good or like new condition, very unusual treasures (like the White Teddy Girl on a mohair cushion who also appeared on our summer, 2014 catalog cover and hammered for 8,000 ), highly valued items, and things that go together nicely, like "couples." Our current cover features two such pairs: two small Teddy bears (lots 13-7001 and 13-7002) and a Fluffy cat and Rattler dog who have been together for many, many decades. They all came to us from the same private estate. If you check out our fall, 2014 catalog cover, you'd have to agree that they look great together! (Cover pets Fluffy and Rattler are pictured here on the left.)

Steiffgal: Carsten, as always, thank you so much for your time, and sharing some of your behind the scenes auction secrets with the Steifflife readers today!  

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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Getting A Leg Up On This Fantastic Midcentury Felt Steiff Stork

It's all good when it comes to Steiff's storks! And just why is that? According to German history and tradition, these long legged lovelies are associated with luck and happiness, and are very good neighbors indeed. So let's take the high road and check out a fantastic example of a mid twentieth century Steiff stork and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This very impressive tall drink of water is called Storch Adebar or Stork Adebar. He is 60 cm tall, unjointed, standing and made primarily from off white felt. His wings come to life with scalloped feathers and very light grey airbrushed stencil details. His tail feathers are made from black felt. He has delightful, solid orange felt legs with prominent, distinct knees and over-sized feet. His face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, black hand painted highlighting, and a most prominent, over-sized orange felt beak. He has a particularly charming and old fashioned look to him for sure - perhaps because he is made entirely from felt, which is Steiff's legacy material. Adebar was produced in 17, 35, and 60 cm from 1953 through 1969.

Storks have found their nest in the Steiff line from the very beginning - appearing in the company's debut catalog of 1892! Like most of Steiff’s first commercial toy items, these storks were produced from felt. Models were made in 7 sizes ranging from 14 to 100 cm through 1918. These earliest storks had metal legs that were wrapped tightly in waxed orange cord, a charming design treatment for Steiff birds through the 1920s or so. You may have seen this limb detailing on Steiff's hens, chicks, and roosters from this period. A nice example of a 1910-era Steiff stork is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Christie's. Early Steiff stork novelties included an ink wipe, produced from 1892 through 1894, and a hanging pram toy, produced in 1916. In 1925, Steiff updated its traditional stork pattern by changing the body shape slightly, wrapping the legs in felt instead of cord, and producing the birds with an open mouth. This model was produced in 43, 60 and 100 cm through 1939.

The "Adabar" stork pattern debuted in the early 1950's, a few years after the toy factory reopened for business post World War II. It was at this time that this big bird was finally was given a "proper" name. His pattern was a slightly updated and simplified version of the company's prewar model. Steiff also produced a 50 cm "studio" or lifesized stork in plush from 1980 through 1984; interestingly, he was not called "Adebar." This studio piece is pictured here on the left. In 1991, Adabar was brought back to the line, and was made in trivera velvet with plastic legs in 18 cm through 1993. And, more recently, Steiff produced a little felt standing stork holding what appears to be a little “bundle of joy,” clearly touching back to the reputation and legacy of this bird throughout the world.

So why are storks considered to be such lucky charms? This all started many centuries ago. For example, in Germany, there was the belief that if a stork built its nest on a home, then that dwelling would be protected from a house fire. In addition, this "neighbor" stork would insure good luck to all the people who lived in that home. Another tradition suggested that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. The babies would be delivered to new mothers directly, or dropped down the chimney! As such, couples that wanted children would put treats on their windowsills to attract storks. Even today, storks and new babies are universally associated with each other! 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Adebar sends some very good luck your way soon.

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Rare Steiff Bear - And His Heartwarming Story - Are Truly Hot Stuff!

Does Steiff give you the warm fuzzies? If you are like most enthusiasts, just the thought of a lovely vintage Steiff item brings a smile to your face - and makes your heart race just a bit, too. But some Steiff items are literally "hot stuff" with the real ability to warm cold fingers and toes. Such is the case with this Steiff superstar featured in the upcoming Special Auction Services event in London on November 6th. Check out this toasty Ted and see what makes him so special from the design and historical perspectives.

This heart "warming" bear is cataloged as follows: "A rare Steiff Hot-water Bottle Teddy Bear, with golden mohair, black boot button eyes, pronounced muzzle, black stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs, hump, the front seam opens with four brass eye and hook fasteners, opening to reveal metal cylindrical canister with brown cloth lining, circa 1908 –19.3/4in. (50cm.) high (pads replaced, the originals have been removed, some slight wear and missing some nose and mouth stitching)." This bear is only one of 90 made between 1907 and 1912, and was developed in response to a record cold winter in Germany at the time of his introduction. He has an auction estimate of £10,000 to 15,000, which roughly converts to $16,000 to $24,000.

According to Daniel Agnew, Doll and Teddy Bear Specialist at SAS, "His fur is probably in the best condition of all the previous ones I have sold, and this is the only one with this fastening. The others have been laces.  I also know of one example which has pop-studs."

Despite their huge appeal to collectors, little else is known about these adorable and functional Teddy bears.  Their article number was 5335b, which corresponds to 5=jointed, 3=mohair, 35=cm (size sitting), b=hot water bottle or "Warmflasche."  And just why were so few made?  Given his complex construction, it quite probable that they were expensive to make, and therefore quite a pretty penny to buy.  This may have limited his potential audience of buyers.  In addition, this product concept, although charming and fully understandable today, may just have been too advanced or confusing in the early 1900's - when people had Teddy bears, and hot water bottles, but not a hybrid of the two.  Today, bidding for vintage Steiff hot water bottle Teddy bears at auction usually brings the room to a boil.  And, in response, Steiff has created several recent modern replicas to satisfy collector's interests in these rarities.  

Now let's turn up the heat on this delightful collectible by learning more about its provenance.  

The consignor's grandmother, Mildred Behrendt, received the Steiff hot water bottle Teddy as a gift shortly after she was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1907. While Mildred’s parents were born in Milwaukee, her maternal grandmother was born in Germany in 1868. The winter of 1907 brought frigid temperatures to Germany; the Behrendts and their German relatives shared a common desire to keep warm.   

When Mildred’s relatives sent the Steiff hot water Teddy to her in 1908, they began what developed into a 100 year gift-giving tradition. Mildred cherished the bear throughout her life. She passed it and her love of Steiff animals on to her daughter, Lois, the consignor's mother.  Lois kept the Teddy in pristine condition. This teddy presided over Lois' collection of beloved Steiff stuffed animals. 

As an adult, Lois continued the family tradition by selecting a special Steiff animal to give to her daughter - the consignor - every Christmas.  Over time, this extended to Lois picking out new animals from Steiff’s collection to give to the consignor's two children in a similar fashion.  As such, the consignor's family truly represents four generation of Steiff lovers and collectors.

Lois truly loved all things Steiff, and the brand continued to be so important to her throughout her life.  Steiff's Jocko the monkey, outrageous spotted gecko, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and the growling bear were some of her very favorites.  She watched eagerly as her grandchildren opened the boxes containing the special Steiff animals each Christmas Eve. During the holidays, Lois and and her husband accompanied their two grandchildren to a winter wonderland inhabited by movable and life-sized Steiff animals. The amazing exhibit is a reflection of the Milwaukee community’s fascination with Steiff animals and the marvelous history behind them. An example of a typical Steiff holiday-themed window display is pictured here on the left.

And just how can the consignor "bear" to part with such a beloved legacy treasure?  She says, "Steiff bears have been an important part of our family’s holiday traditions for generations and we are eager to share this remarkable bear with the world."

Steiffgal hopes this background on Steiff's rare hot water bottle Teddy bears and the story of the Behrendt family has added a warm glow to your day!

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cataloging What Makes Steiff's 1970's-era Playthings So Distinctive

A picture is worth a thousand words! And this is especially true when it comes to Steiff, and their marvelous catalogs over the years. These great time-capsules really capture the essence of the brand from decade to decade - in terms of key styles, proportions, fabrics, and designs. When giving a talk on the history of Steiff and the company's product design evolution, Steiffgal often refers to the 1970's (in the most loving way) as the "ugly decade." By this, she means that for the most part, item designed in this time frame have a goofy, nontraditional look about them. Let's look at the items on this cover of a 1971 Steiff catalog and see if you agree, too!

Before we start, it is important to note that this particular catalog cover from 1971 features both legacy and "new to the 1970's" items. Today, Steiff, or really any other company, only features the newest, latest, and greatest items on the cover of any printed materials. In terms of "vintage" items, collectors will surely recognize Zotty, the gymnastics ball, the Lulac style rabbit, the lying tiger, the Jumbo elephant, and the woolen miniature ladybug as beloved items first introduced in the 1950's - or even earlier! These items are made from high quality mohair and have a very youthful, energetic, and "here for the long run" feeling to them - sort of the opposite of the vibe of 1970's items.   

So are you "red"-dy to dive right into the 1970's now? Then let's check out the 70's pieces in above, from left to right. No monkeying around here - the cheerful chimp is Steiff's "Weich-Schimpanse" or soft chimpanzee. He is standing and unjointed. He is made from brown dralon - a very common synthetic material used by Steiff in the 1970's and '80's - and has red overalls. His face, hands, and ears are made from peach colored synthetic velour, another material typical to Steiff for the period. Chimp has a sweet and playful face, highlighted by oversized white and black cartoon-style eyes. He is stuffed with foam chips and is fully washable. He was produced in 30 and 40 cm from 1971-1982 overall.  In addition to his chest tag, button, and yellow ear tag, this chimp - and other foam stuffed, washable dralon items - would have left the factory with an additional silver hang tag, which read, "form formgeschaumt" with the Steiff logo. You can see this on the chimp if you look closely; a sample of this tag is pictured here on the left. (Is it Steiffgal's imagination or does the bear faced logo look uncharacteristically unhappy here?) 

Let's now check out Steiff's "Buzzel Hen," just to the right of the chimp. Hen is 19 cm, unjointed, and sitting on a flat bottom. Like her chimp neighbor, she is made of dralon, stuffed with foam, and is fully washable. Her feathers, beak, face, and comb are made from yellow, red, and white felt. She has a squeaker in her base. She was made in this size only from 1971-1974.

Bird is also the word with the adjacent pair of featured feathered friends. Here we have Steiff's well attired Cosy Duck Boy and Cosy Duck Maid. Both are 25 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from white dralon. Their beaks and webbed feet are orange synthetic velour. Both have airbrushed highlighting on their faces. The boy dons a dapper blue tam-o-shanter and a matching blue sailor collar. The girl is adorable in her green felt hat. They are stuffed with foam and are fully washable. Boy and Girl Duck were both produced in 25 cm only from 1970-1973. 

It's easy to see things in black and white with this next 1970's feature. Here we have Steiff's 17 cm Pinni penguin. He is standing, unjointed, and made from black and white dralon materials. He has a chubby, orange beak and feet, as well as oversized black and white cartoon style eyes. He was made in this size only from 1971-1974.

Can you feel the "buzz" from the last two 1970's cover stars on the far right of the catalog cover? If you guessed that these, like the hen, are also buzzel items, then give yourself a high five! The bunny is Steiff's Buzzel Rabbit. He is made from tan and white dralon and has a face that sort of reminds Steiffgal of Steiff's Pummy Rabbit. The rooster is Steiff's Buzzel Rooster; he is pictured here on the left. He is made from orange and black dralon. He has a yellow felt beak, and a red felt waddle and comb. His tail feathers are made from green felt. He is a very simplified version of the company's legacy mohair and felt rooster model. Both are 20 cm, sit upon a flat bottom, have a squeaker, are stuffed with soft foam, and are fully washable. The rooster was made from 1971-1976; the rabbit from 1971-1978.

When it comes to Steiff, it goes without saying that "the more, the merrier!" In addition to the Buzzel collectibles noted above, the company also produced a Buzzel Cat and a Buzzel Santa, which did not make it into this cover shot. Both are pictured here on the left. The cat is made from grey and white dralon and has a pink hand embroidered nose, clear monofilament whiskers, and adorable green and black slit pupil eyes. Santa is made from red and white dralon material and felt, with a full long white dralon beard. His face is precious and simple; he has small blue felt eyes, a round peach colored felt nose, and a tiny red circle for his lips. Santa is wearing his traditional Santa suit which is integral to his body. He carries a brown Santa sack, which has a little bell in it. Both are 20 cm with typical "Buzzel" construction and features. Cat was made from 1971-1975; Santa from 1972-1974.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of vintage Steiff treasures from the early 1970's has been a great blast from the past for you.

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

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