Sunday, March 19, 2017

Singing A Happy Tune Over This Unusual Steiff Musical Tiger!

Well, this interesting find should be like music to your ears if you like Steiff tigers. And why is that? This wonderful jungle gem has a secret - he's got a special and most unusual music feature hidden in his belly. Check out this terrific tiger and see what makes him one of the coolest cats around!

It's easy to break out in song over this pretty kitty. "Music Tiger" is unjointed and about 20 cm tall and 30 cm long (not including his tail.) He is in Steiff's "lying" position, meaning he is curled up with his legs resting gently to his side. His face is detailed with piercing green and black eyes, a pink embroidered nose, a black embroidered mouth with a touch of pink airbrushing, and tufts of longer mohair around his jowls. He has many long, clear, monofilament whiskers.  He is made from short mohair, which has been hand airbrushed and stenciled to give his coat a most authentic and realistic look.  Even his paw pads have charming "footprints" on them.  On his underside, there is a small brass winder that activates his happy tunes; it is in working condition. 

Collectors will recognize this beloved pattern as the one identical to Steiff's popular lying tiger cub design, which was produced from 1953 through 1978 in 17, 28, 43, and 60 cm.

Let's take a look at some of the special IDs of this singing sweetie, which does not appear - as far as Steiffgal knows of - in any regularly referenced Steiff book. The first is his eye-catching chest tag.  It is Steiff's regular, colorful bear faced version with his name on it.  Given the "secret location" of his music box, and the fact that his basic pattern is relatively standard in the Steiff line, this tag is essential in identifying him from pictures as something really unique. The second is his special musical item tag.  The tag is metallic silver, red, and blue, and features a Steiff logo and the word "Musicanto" on each side. It is in four languages, and reads, "Contains a genuine Swiss music box. To wind: Turn knob in the tail or underneath tummy."  

It's not polite to ask someone their age, so let's figure out another way to date this Music Tiger. Steiffgal has two other Steiff musical animals that have this tag. The first is the company's Music Kitty. This fancy feline is 17 cm, head jointed, and resembles Steiff's beloved sitting Susi cat pattern. Music Kitty was made in 1955 through 1957, and then again in 1961; she is pictured here on the left. The second is Steiff's Music Cockie Cocker Spaniel. Cockie is 17 cm and sitting. She is made from black and white mohair and is head jointed. She has a large, open, smiling mouth. Her face is detailed with large, friendly brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose.  Music Cockie was produced from 1955 through 1957 only.  Both Music Kitty and Cockie's music features are activated by winding up their tails.  And of course, who can forget Steiff's fabulous Music Teddy, which was made in 35 cm from 1951 through 1957?

Given all of that, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this Music Tiger, like his other talented and performing cousins, was most likely made in the 1955 through 1957 time frame, give or take a pinch.

It was not terribly unusual for Steiff to take some of its most popular patterns and try "theme and variation" items from them. Some of these "experiments" were produced on a commercial level and appeared in the catalog; others were made in extremely limited quantities if at all. For example, Steiffgal also has a larger lying tiger made as a silk-lined and zippered pajama bag. This also does not appear, as far as Steiffgal knows, in any standard Steiff reference book. In 2009, Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion featured two marvelous musical rarities; a musical Lulac rabbit and a very large musical tiger.  The auction house dated each from approximately 1952. Both are pictured here on the left - click on the photo to enlarge it!

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

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Music Tiger has been a high note in your day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

This Unusual Steiff Curled Wool Pachyderm is Simply Ele-Fantastic!

Oh baby!  A new vintage friend has arrived from overseas and Steiffgal can't wait to introduce you to him. Steiffgal was checking out some online auctions and came across an interesting find on offer from an auction house in The Netherlands.  The stars aligned and she won this somewhat rare prewar Steiff elephant.  And, it turns out, he has several very charming and unusual design features that are not obvious from photos or cataloging.  Let's check out this petite pachyderm and explore his interesting assembly. 

Steiff calls this beautiful baby "Play Elephant." He is 14 cm tall and 20 cm long, standing, and unjointed. His body is made from an interesting material called "curled wool plush."  This fabric has the look and of bumpy Persian lamb material, but with a softer, friendlier feel to it.  The backing is a dark grey or black, and the front is light grey in color.  He has red airbrushed highlighting on his ears, as well as nails on each of his feet. His distinctly babylike face comes to life with simple black button eyes that are backed in pink-airbrushed felt; an open, peach colored felt mouth; and a posable, wire lined trunk.  He is excelsior stuffed and has a working squeaker  Play Elephant retains his long trailing "F" style Steiff button. When he was new, he had a colorfully striped blanket; sadly, this has been lost to time.  Play Elephant in this unusual material appeared in the line from 1935 through 1941 overall in 14 and 17 cm; the 17 cm version was also produced as a pull toy on eccentric green wooden wheels.  

Above on the left you can see a c. 1935 German print advertisement featuring Play Elephant; also pictured is the little known "Dream Baby No. 103" which appeared in the line from 1934 through 1936 and a mohair ball duck, which appeared in the line from 1932 through 1943.

So let's take a closer look at three subtle features that make this elephant a jungle gem.  

The first is the use of additional, unusual fabrics on this period item. Elephant's paw pads, tail, and ear backing material is not felt, but another light grey material that has a cotton backing and a soft, velvet-like nap to it. It feels very much like the flesh-colored material used on the bodies of the company's pre- and early postwar animal dolls.  The tip of his tiny tail is also detailed in long, soft black material. It looks somewhat like mohair fabric that could be used to represent the mane on a horse or zebra, but it is much softer, easily bendable, and doesn't feel like wool in any way.  

The second is some unique stitching detailing on his oversized, floppy ears.  Each ear has six simple grey seams which fan out from where the ears join to his head.  These are both decorative as well as hold the front and back fabrics making up the ears together.  Because of the texture of the curled wool plush, the stitches are not visible on the front of the ears.  Steiffgal has several prewar elephants in her collection based on this "Play Elephant" pattern - including a 22 cm silk plush version - and none have this distinctive ear stitching detailing.   

The third is a mouthful - literally!  Steiff is famous for how the company inserts and secures the eyes on its bears and animals.  This is usually done by inserting the eyes into the front of the head, pulling the threads to the rear of the head, and knotting them firmly in the back at the base of the neck.  In the case of this particular pre-war curled wool plush elephant, this distinctive knot is located right inside the baby's mouth. This was really hard to photograph but hopefully you can see this feature here on the left. It is the first time Steiffgal has seen this assembly detail on any Steiff item. 

Steiffgal hopes you find this sweet baby elephant as unforgettable as she does!

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Steiffgal's All Smitten Over This Celebrity Kitten

Now isn't this the cat's meow? Steiffgal was checking out eBay during some down time recently and came across this sweet Steiff mascot. She quickly "bought it now" from a seller who was downsizing his family's collection. Although this item itself is somewhat recent, this pretty kitty has more than a half-century long legacy in Germany - both in the media and with the Steiff company. To learn more, let's turn our "lights, camera, and action" on this Steiff celebrity cat.

This "purr"-fect treasure is a great example of Steiff’s "Koko" mascot. She was made for the popular and long-time German magazine "TV Hören + Sehen, ” or "TV Hear and See." This fine feline is 28 cm tall, unjointed, standing, and made from grey and white knitted fur that is detailed with grey tabby stripes. Her extra long, curly tail is quite eye-catching and made from white knitted fur. Her paw pads are tan trivera velvet, and her ears are lined in white trivera velvet. She has three painted claws on each of her paws. Koko's mischievous face comes to life with oversized teal and black pupil eyes, a tan plastic formed nose, black airbrushed mouth, and black monofilament whiskers.

Truly "the whole package," Koko comes with her original diecut cardboard packaging stand, which displays her so nicely. The back of the stand is designed to both prop up the the cat, as well as hold her prominent tail securely in place. You can see this feat of engineering on the photo above on the left. On the front, the stand has both the Steiff and magazine’s logos. The German writing on the front of her display translates to, "Koko the popular cat from TV to Hear + See, now from Steiff." Koko has distinctive Steiff IDs, including a special logo'd chest tag, button in ear, and ear tag. This edition was produced in this size only in 1988.

It is interesting to note that this is not the first TV Hören + Sehen Koko Cat mascot that Steiff has produced over time. In 1954, Steiff made a 12 cm begging version of Koko. Her body was made from mohair, while her ears and front paws were made from felt. Her face was made from rubber. Of course, she also had a long and prominent tail. Steiffgal has never seen or handled this extraordinary rarity. It is her best guess that very few were produced over a very short time, and just a handful remain in existence today. This would be because their faces, which were made from rubber, probably have dried out and fallen apart by now. Many Steiff rarities made from rubber or with rubber detailing from this exact time period face this same sad reality. The picture on the left of the "original" Steiff Koko Cat is from Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1947-2003.

Now let's read up on TV Hören + Sehen. This magazine has been published weekly in Germany in its current form since 1962, although its origins go back to the mid-1920's, with much growth and change in the early 1950's. Today, the circulation is just under one million copies per edition. The publication features a guide to the upcoming week's television and radio programs. It also includes features, news, interviews, recipes, cartoons, games, horoscopes, and other articles about lifestyle, fitness, and popular culture. Although Steiffgal has not seen or handled a copy of the magazine in person, from its contents, it sounds like it may be a hybrid of the popular magazines "People," "TV Guide," and "Ladies Home Journal" here in the United States.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion has left you smitten over this dear Steiff kitten.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Here's Your Formal Introduction To Steiff's Grasshopper In A Tuxedo!

Today's interesting Steiff rarity is certain to bug you - but in the very best way possible.  Take a look - or two - at this absolutely amazing Steiff grasshopper in formal wear.  Yes, that's right... Steiff is responsible for the best dressed insect on the planet!  Here's the story, and the tale, behind this fantastic find.  
This happy hopper is Grashuepfer (grasshopper) Kalle Stropp. He is 18 cm tall and head jointed.  Let's start at the top by describing his head. It is constructed from green velvet and is decorated with black painted nostrils, a smiling mouth, and antennae made from clear plastic rods that are topped with two round, red balls.  His eyes deserve special mention for their detailing. They are made from tiny black buttons and backed in white material, somewhat like the eye treatment on the company's Bambi.  They are highlighted with painted pink shadows and black eyebrows.  Interestingly, Kalle has a black floss loop of thread sewn into the back of his long, thin neck. It appears to be original to him; perhaps it was put there so he could hang from a hook or a car's rear view mirror.  Steiff made a number of these "hanging style" mascots in the 1950's.

Now let's check out the rest of him. His body is made from heavy metal wire that feels somewhat like the wire used on the feet and legs of the company's woolen miniature birds of the same period.  His five fingered hands are made from light green felt. He is wearing a white felt collared shirt, red and white striped fabric bow tie, black felt pants, and a light green felt cutaway style topcoat.  His jacket is detailed with darker green lapels, white felt cuffs, and seven red bead buttons - two on each sleeve, two in the rear, and one in the front.   Black felt shoes with red felt soles complete his runway-grade outfit.  Kalle retains his colorful, named, bear faced chest tag and raised script button (located in the tail of his coat) as his Steiff IDs. 

The amount of work and the number of fabrics used on this big bug are simply astonishing.  And given the ephemeral nature of his construction and materials, it is amazing that he is still with us today. 

Kalle Stropp is one of Steiff's "one-derfuls," appearing in the line for only one year - 1956. Kalle is a popular Swedish fairy tale character invented by European author Thomas Funck. Funck's stories about Kalle and his friends were broadcast on the radio, produced as movies, and appeared in print in cartoons and books starting in 1954.  Kalle's sidekick was a frog named Grodan Boll; Grodan was also produced by Steiff in 1956 only as a 17 cm puppet and as a 14 cm figure. Both were made from velvet, had distinctive, round, googly-style eyes, and wore a black and red felt vest for good measure.  Kalle Stropp the grasshopper was portrayed as "a strict but distracted and nervous gentleman" while Grodan Boll the frog was "hyperactive, clumsy, and outspoken." Sounds like the plot behind many US situation comedies today!

According to Margarethas Dockskåp, a new friend who sells Steiff in Sweden and who is also passionate about the brand, "The film was written by Thomas Funck in 1956 and it was elected the best childrens movie that year. They had actors dressed up in all the different costumes but Thomas Funck himself made all the voices. His brother was the director of the film."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the well dressed Kalle Stropp has been a black-tie affair for you.

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