Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Cattle Battle Is On With Steiff's Fantastic Vintage Oxen

Ok, it's time to get to work! But don't worry, this task is a labor of love. Let's take a look at an interesting Steiff pattern that really pulls its weight when it comes to its interesting design and history. Without further ado, please say hello to Steiff's Oxy Oxen!

The cattle-battle is on with this truly novel Steiff collectible. Oxy is standing and unjointed. His body is made mostly from tan mohair with great brown airbrush highlights and stripes on his back, legs, and face. His horns, very prominent nose, and dewlap are made from tan velvet. His face comes to life with pert mohair ears and black and white style google eyes. This pattern was made in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1953-1957. The smallest version has a cord tail, the medium version has a velvet tail tipped in mohair, and the largest version has a mohair tail tipped in mohair. The largest version also has a long mohair forehead area. This Oxy pattern is quite endearing - and also quite interesting, given his mix of fabrics and whimsical presentation.

Oxen are traditional laboring animals, and are usually castrated adult male cattle. However, sometimes females and intact males are given jobs to do as well. Research suggests that oxen were first harnessed and put to work around 4000 BC. Oxen are a legacy pattern for Steiff. They first appeared in the line in 1897 made from spotted white felt and on wheels. The following year they debuted freestanding in 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm. By 1903 they were also being produced in velvet. Although Steiff started significantly integrating mohair materials into their product design and development around 1903, it was not until 1909 that the company produced their first mohair ox. This pattern was made from patched tan and reddish brown mohair and appeared on wheels; it was produced overall in 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 80 cm through 1943. An example of Steiff's mohair ox on wheels from the 1920's is shown here on the left; it was sold in 2015 at James D. Julia for $830. Steiff's freestanding mohair ox appeared in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1929 through 1943 overall.

But there's even more to this cattle call. You cannot help but notice that Steiff's postwar Oxy pattern has a number of design and material similarities with another, and even rarer, special edition. This is the company's Texas Longhorn, which was produced as an exclusive for the upscale US toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz. This treasure, made in 1960 only, is considered by many enthusiasts to be one of the most collectible Steiff and F.A.O. Schwarz collaborations of all times.

Steiff's Texas Longhorns usually causes a stampede when one appears on the secondary market. This big boy is 25 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from mohair. His detailing is quite distinctive and includes a velvet dewlap extending from his neck to his lower chest, googly black-and-white eyes, and an open, peach felt lined mouth. Only a handful of Texas Longhorns were made. Some had prominent faux leather horns, while others had rubber horns. These rubber horns are similar to those seen on the company's Yuku Pronghorn Antelope, which appeared in the line 22 and 35 cm from 1962 to 1963.   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Oxy has not been heavy lifting for you.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

It's A Dream Come True With This Amazing And Adorable Steiff Pajama Bag

Hold everything! Well, that's exactly what this rarity was designed to do.  Check out this Steiff pajama bag designed after one of the company's most beloved dog patterns of the time. Steiffgal is certain you'll be experiencing puppy love at first sight!

This darling doggie has a great bedside manner. She is 60 cm (measured from the tip of her nose to her toes) long, lying, unjointed, and made from black and white mohair. Her head and the tips of each of her paws are softly stuffed. She has dramatic and floppy ears made from extra long mohair. Her back paw pads are made from short white mohair that has been stenciled with puppy-footprints on them. Her face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes backed in white felt; a black, hand-embroidered nose; floppy jowls; and an open, pink velvet lined mouth. Her pert tail is surrounded by a black mohair patch. Her belly is soft and unstuffed, and hollow like a bag. It is lined is teal blue silk, and closes with a 28 cm metal zipper. She retains original red silk ribbon and her illegible yellow ear tag and raised script button as her IDs. 

This functional friends refuses to unzip the answers to a few mysteries about her. A very similar item, called Zipper Cockie, appears in Pfeiffer's Sortiment book and a pristine, like new example was sold by Teddy Dorado as part of that company's summer auction in 2014. That auction highlight is pictured here on the left and the photo is from Teddy Dorado. The article number on the Teddy Dorado version is identical to that listed in the Sortiment book - 0330,06 - and has relatively aligning measurements. The zipper on those examples is at the crotch of the animal, and the bag appears to be lined in simple cotton fabric. This standard line Zipper Cockie pajama bag was produced in 30 cm in 1964 only. Steiffgal's version has its zipper down the belly of the dog, and the lining bag is made from silk. Steiffgal's version is also proportionally larger overall than the Teddy Dorado and Sortiment examples, and has a much more detailed mouth structure.

So just who is this kooky Cockie? Clearly, her pattern is designed after Steiff's beloved black and white Cockie Cocker Spaniel. Black and white Cockie was produced lying, standing, a music box, a tail-turns-head version, and as a display piece in the 1955 - 1976 overall timeframe. A 12 cm black and white Cockie from 1960 - 1976 is pictured here on the left. 

Now let's try and figure out the origins of this mysterious mutt. Steiffgal adopted this larger Cockie pajama bag from its original owner, who received it as a special gift from F.A.O. Schwarz as a child. In the 1950's through 1970's, Steiff often made "over the top" exclusives for F.A.O. Schwarz based on standard line designs - for example, a series of Dalmatians based on the Dally design, a grey alpaca Poodle based on the Snobby design, and a standing, open mouthed Beagle based on the Biggie design. Steiff produced another fantastic pajama bag as an exclusive for F.A.O. Schwarz from 1962 - 1972, a walrus which also has a zipper down its belly and a silk lined interior. All of this converges on the probability that this elaborately constructed Cocker Spaniel pajama bag may indeed have been produced in a very small edition size for F.A.O. Schwarz in the early to mid-1960's, and perhaps is undocumented. But only she knows for sure - and she's too busy counting sheep right now to talk.

Steiffgal hopes this pajama bag discussion has given you a good case of bed-head!

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

Three Cheers For Steiff's Red, White, And Blue Teddy Bears!

Happy July 4th to friends and fellow collectors in the United States. Steiffgal hopes your holiday is full of colorful fireworks, yummy cookouts, fun gatherings, and of course, beers - or in this case, bears! To celebrate this beloved and much anticipated day of tradition, Steiffgal thought it might be fun to check out the story behind three "patriotic" Teds from her hug - a red one, a white one, and a (sort of) blue one. So without further ado, please meet Pocket Alphonso, George, and Penelope.

Size defies when it comes to Pocket Alfonzo, our "red" representative. He is 15 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from bright red mohair backed in apricot colored fabric. His paw pads are tan felt, and he has a black hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws. His face comes to life with black button eyes and a prominent, trimmed muzzle. His head and limbs are softly stuffed with polyfill while his belly is stuffed with metal pellets, giving him a hefty, robust feeling when you hold him. Like the original and legendary Alfonzo, he wears a white trimmed, light orange Cossack outfit. This happy handful was made in 2008 in an edition size of 1908 for Teddy Bears of Whitney in the UK.

It's always party time when Pocket Alfonzo appears - really! A dear friend  - you know who you are - gave Steiffgal this petite treat as a birthday present a few years ago. Steiffgal and pal met up in New York City for a trade event that happened to be at the same time as her special day. The bear came wrapped up in a spectacularly dolled-up box, complete with colorful tissue and a bow large enough to decorate the roof of a car! Apparently the giver took the bear to a special store famous for its over the top wrapping. Boy, was it noticed AND so appreciated. Steiffgal will never forget this gift or its breathtaking presentation.  

By George, Steiffgal is certain you will enjoy this next introduction. Now please say hello to this early white Teddy baby, who just happens to be named George - but more on that later. He is 43 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from long, white mohair which has mellowed to a vanilla color over time. His muzzle and feet-tops are made from white mohair, which has also darkened a touch. Typical to his pattern, George has an open, felt lined mouth; flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing; downturned paws; and a distinctly, childlike appearance. His irresistible face comes to life with oversized brown and black pupil eyes and a brown, hand embroidered nose and mouth. George retains his large trailing "F" button and traces of his red ear tag, dating his production to the c.1929-35 time frame.

George has a capital history. Steiffgal purchased George in the saleroom associated with the 2016 United Federation of Doll Clubs national event in Washington, DC. She adopted him from her friend and colleague John Port, an expert dealer in antique bears and toys. George was sitting in John's booth with a few other bear buddies. George's fantastic size, charming expression, and wonderful, vintage condition literally called to Steiffgal across the pavilion floor like a siren song - but in the best way possible. Visiting John's well stocked booth at the UFDC event is one of Steiffgal's favorite shopping experiences of the year, and she looks forward to seeing what goodies he has on offer at the upcoming 2017 event in Orlando. And yes, George is named after George Washington, in a nod to his presidential status among Teddy babies, as well as the location where Steiffgal adopted him. 

This final colorful cub just might turn your brown eyes blue! Here we have Penelope, a 25 cm tall Teddy baby doll and our blue representative today. She is standing and head jointed. Her arms fall loosely at her sides, and her legs are solid and rigid. Her body is made from a flesh colored velvet like material. Her head, hands, and the tops of her feet are made from brown mohair. Her feet are flat and lined in cardboard allowing her to stand; the bottoms are made from tan linen. Penelope's head is in the typical Teddy baby style with a tan inset muzzle; an open, felt lined mouth; and oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes. She retains her raised script button-in-ear and traces of her US Zone tag sewn into the seam of her leg. Penelope was probably born in the c. 1950-52 time frame, given her configuration of IDs and materials. 

This blue-belle did not start out life this way. Like George, Steiffgal found Penelope in the showroom of the 2016 UFDC national event in Washington, DC.  However, Penelope was partially hiding, upside down, and in the bottom of a pile of vintage toys in another sales booth. Steiffgal saw her two legs sticking up in the air from across the aisle, and went over to investigate. And there she was! However, she was wearing a poorly fitting and unflattering, unoriginal outfit that did nothing to bring out her natural beauty and playfulness. Never judge a book by its cover! Steiffgal immediately adopted Penelope, and then went on a mission to find her the perfect outfit. Luckily, there were several dealers specializing in vintage doll clothes also in the showroom. Steiffgal located a few options for Penelope, but quickly realized a combination of dark blue velvet pants, a light blue Peter Pan collar shirt, and a blue and white striped apron suited her to a T.  Don't you agree?

Steiffgal hopes this red, white, and blue bear discussion has put you in colorful - and festive - state of mind. Happy birthday, America!

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Unearthing A Few Hidden Gems From The July, 2017 Steiff Sommer Auction

Wouldn't it be nice to stumble upon an overflowing treasure chest of unusual vintage Steiff treasures? And even better, wouldn't it be divine if they were available to add to your collection? Such is the case with Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's upcoming Steiff Special Auction to be held on July 1st, 2017 in Giengen, Germany as part of Steiff's annual summer celebration. It's worth checking out the catalog, even if just to dream big. You can find it online here. A few outstanding "hidden gem" lots amongst the offerings really caught Steiffgal's eye. Here are three that truly make her heart skip a beat - or two!

This first pick will have you singing the blues - in the best way possible. This is lot #1704, a blue tipped circus elephant with a starting bid of 650 euro. It is cataloged as:

"Circus elephant, mohair plush, grey/blue flamed, jointed, with neck mechanism and snap joints, velvet paws with toes, with felt down below of the snout and also at the point of the trunk, blue glass eyes, 32 cm, there is no snap mechanism in the snout, the elephant was X-rayed at Steiff, many parts of the mechanism are identical to the subsequent serial model, this is a test version, it is known that a similar elephant was in possession of the family Steiff (Klara Steiff, great second cousin Magarete Steiff) and a few years before it returned to the Steiff-archive, after that was a replica produced with red flamed mohair, in Giengen it was common practice that this test models were presented to relatives of employees or on the occasion of special events, version without tusks, small places with pelt loss, this version isn't listed in the Pfeiffer catalog."

And just what makes this petite pachyderm so unforgettable? It is always thrilling to learn of one of a kind Steiff treasures, and it is clear to see where this particular model fits in with the company's line of "snap" models. These high end novelties had spring joints and were designed to have movement and snap back and forth into different playful positions. Snap jointing could appear on an item's hands, feet, legs, and mouth. Original Steiff snap style items are all extremely rare to begin with, so to find a sample or prototype of one is really extraordinary. Standard line models produced included a Snap Dicky, a Snap Circus Bear, this general style of Snap Elephant, and a little known doll with snap jointing in her legs, enabling her to stand or sit easily. All of these variations were produced in the 1930's.

The blue mohair color of this sample is also very interesting. Steiffgal can only think of a handful of standard line prewar Steiff mohair items were produced in blue - including a few novelty rabbits and dogs. It is possible that this item was not produced in blue was because blue mohair was expensive, challenging to work with, or just not available on a commercial scale. 

Rolling right along, now let's have a go at lot #1583. This is a Steiff Record orang-utang, No. 320, 1929 - 1933, with a starting bid of 750 euro. It is cataloged as:

"Record orang-utang, No. 320, 1929 - 1933, mohair, felt face, glass eyes, 18 cm, with button, felt is except of minimally places in face and a small place at one hand in good condition, good mohair, the color on the wheels is worn, rare, voice is faulty."

This monkey on the go is the wheel-deal indeed. A few details about this item are certain to send collectors on a joy ride. The first, of course, is his form.  Orangutangs are extremely rare in the early Steiff line. The most familiar pre-war version is the company's playful and very appealing Mimocculo. This great pattern was produced in 11 sizes ranging from 8 to 50 cm from 1930 through 1936 overall. The middle and larger sizes featured a most unusual "pull the ear and the eyeballs move" feature. In 2010, a 13.5 cm example sold for close to $10,000 at an auction at Christies in London.  

The second is the fact that this first class example rides upon a four wheeled "Irish Mail Cart." This means that the carriage appears to be propelled by the rider pumping a handlebar back and forth with their arms. These "record" style animals on carts were introduced in 1912 and were an immediate hit. Bears, rabbits, monkeys, felt novelty dolls, and even Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse appeared on these rolling carts. It is easy to understand why early items on working carriages seem to always drive auction bidders into fifth gear! 

And finally, let's pay full attention to lot #1551, a felt Steiff Hungarian soldier doll. His opening bid is 360 euro, and he is cataloged as:

"Caricature figure, Hungarian, produced between 1912 - 1917, felt, jointed, national costume, item description "Ung 50 Völkertypen", shoe button eyes, traditional costume and also head with holes in the felt, original leather shoes with tassels, nailed shoes, c. 50 cm, without hat, left arm is mended and also a small red felt insert, otherwise good condition, rare."

This fine example has uniform appeal, especially among the small army of Steiff military doll enthusiasts. Steiff’s uniformed dolls were a significant percentage of the company’s line and business in the early part of the 20th century. All of these dolls had most or all of their clothing integral to their bodies and were five ways jointed; some 50 cm and larger also had jointed knees. In a span of about 20 years, Steiff produced examples representing German, Scottish, Moroccan, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, American, Belgian, French, Italian, Hungarian, and Austrian armed forces, among others. All were known for their well tailored and authentic clothing, extraordinary to-scale accessories, and, of course, their perfect posture. Check out this soldier's fantastic jacket buttons and embroidery as well as the tiny tassels on his well constructed boots! Steiff made over 100 distinctly designed military dolls over time; most of these patterns were made in two or three sizes each. In tribute to some countries, like Germany, England, and the United States, Steiff produced dolls at numerous ranks and in various uniform types. 

Steiffgal hopes this auction preview tour has been a highlight of your day!  And good luck if you do bid on any of the sale's fantastic treasures!

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