Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catching Spring Fever With Steiff's Wonderful Early Post War Bazi Dachshunds

At last, the snow in the park across the street from Steiffgal's house has started to melt enough that there are more patches of green than white. And no one could be happier about that than Steiffgal, with the pugs a very close second! It is great to see the neighborhood dogs again, who all seem so happy to end their winter-induced home hibernation! To celebrate the onset of spring and its associated "pup parade," let's take a look at one of Steiff's earliest post war dogs - Bazi the Dachshund - and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Doxies are a legacy design pattern for Steiff. They have been in the line almost continuously since the late 1890's, with the first version debuting in felt in 1897. This is easy to understand - this breed is especially beloved in Germany, and it seems as if the Steiff family themselves had a particular affinity for them as well! Steiff's first named long haired mohair Doxie, Waldi, debuted in 1933 and was an immediate sensation. Prewar, he was produced standing, sitting, as a hunter dog-doll, and on wheels. It is interesting to note that from what Steiffgal can calculate, Waldi has the honor of being the dog pattern with the longest history of production in the Steiff line. He appeared pretty much continuously in the line from 1933 through 1980 - for a total of 47 years. (Molly the puppy is a close second, with a total of 44 years.) An early standing Waldi is pictured here on the left.  

Most likely due to the success and popularity of Waldi, Steiff introduced a new Doxie named Bazi design right after the factory reopened for toy making business in the late 1940's. Two versions were produced - a sitting Bazi and a standing Bazi on wheels. Both were head jointed and made from artificial silk plush which was highlighted with brown and coppery highlights. Sitting Bazi was made in 14 and 17 cm from 1948 through 1949, while Bazi on wheels was produced in 14 cm in 1949 only. And, because of their era of production, these silk plush versions may have a number of Steiff's buttons, including a short or long trailing F button or a blank button. Sitting silk plush Bazi is pictured here on the left; this particular example has a blank button. 
Bazi took the collector's world by storm in 1950, and remained a constant in the production line through the mid 1970's.  The early 1950's could be called "the dogs days of Steiff" as this was the time when many new named dog patterns - like Snobby the Poodle, Dally the Dalmatian, and Sarras the Boxer -  were introduced as mohair became more readily available on a commercial scale again.  Starting in 1950, Bazi was made sitting, standing, on wheels, as as a press and release music box, and as a dog-doll.  You can see these blue-ribbon buddies pictured below.  

Sitting mohair Bazi was was produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1950 through 1969. These are very early examples with their red imprinted chest tags and earliest article numbers. The small one also has his US Zone tag.

Standing mohair Bazi was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 through 1975. Like his brothers pictured above, this is a very early example. 

Standing mohair Bazi on wooden eccentric wheels was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 through 1961. This model rides upon four off-center wooden wheels and has the appearance of bobbing up and down as it is pulled along. 

Musical mohair Bazi was produced in 25 cm in 1950 and 1951 only. Please click here to learn more about this really interesting item and her full provenance.
Standing mohair Bazi dog-dolls were produced in 25 cm from 1950 through 1954. Please click here to learn more about the story behind this very sweet Bazi couple.

Steiffgal hopes this review of Steiff's beloved Bazi pattern has been as refreshing as a breath of spring air for you!

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bowled Over By This Fantastic and Early Velvet Steiff Dachshund Skittle

Are you in the mood for a little Steiff game today?  Steiffgal nearly toppled to the ground when she received this email inquiry from a professional colleague from the New England area who asks about a vintage Steiff find.  See if it bowls you over as well!  

Blain writes...

"Steiffgal,  I have a friend who has a Steiff dog, which looks like he is sitting up on his rear legs, perched on a wooden base, who has his original elephant button... this is in VERY good condition...  Dog is two toned, no issues I can see.  Can you tell me a little about him... and what you think he is worth? Thank you!  Blain"

Steiffgal's not playing with you when she says this is one very special treasure!  What we have here is a very early Steiff skittle.  Skittles are analogous to today's modern sporting bowling pins.  The skittle itself is made of a dachshund which is perched on a wooden plinth.  The dog is begging, unjointed, and made from brown and white velvet with airbrushing.  He is rather basic in form and design.  His face is detailed with a simple hand embroidered nose and mouth and black shoe button eyes.  He wears a little leather collar.  Steiffgal has seen these finished with a small medallion or bell; this model has lost his ornamentation to time.  This begging velvet  dachshund mounted on a skittle is identical to Steiff's standard line velvet dachshund; this precious pooch was produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1901 through 1927 overall.  His absolutely remarkable elephant button helps to date this item to 1904!  Although Blain did not mention the size of the dog, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he is the 14 cm version based on other Steiff skittles of the same era.

Wooden it be nice to know more about the dog's plinth?  Well, this base was designed to be knocked over when hit directly with a fast rolling felt ball.  The plinth is solid wood  and finished simply with a little varnish and a black ring around the top circumference.  European skittle sets had 9 skittles while those made for the USA had ten.  In most cases, each set came with a "kingpin" who was slightly taller and dressed in a beaded crown and felt jacket; his wooden plinth was also slightly taller than those of the other pins.  An example of a typical Steiff kingpin is pictured here on the left; this fabulous pre-1904 velvet elephant realized close to $1,500 at the June, 2014 James D. Julia Antique Doll, Toy, and Advertising Auction.

Steiff produced Skittle sets from about 1892 through 1919. Over that period of time, Steiff made the sets with hens, monkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits, poodles, pointers, chicks, cats, and bears, among others.  The skittle pin under discussion today most likely was made as part of a Dachshund-Kegelspiel or Dachshund Skittle set.  This dog-themed game was manufactured as part of the general product line from 1901 through 1912. 

Now the question that has everyone on pins and needles.  Just what is this little guy worth?  Well, Steiffgal has not seen him firsthand, and cannot account for structural and/or aesthetic issues that do not appear in photos, like odors, weak spots, repairs, insect damage, etc.  However, given that he is as nice in real life as described and presented, his value may just bowl you over!  Here's why.  Skittles like this one are beloved by vintage collectors as they represent a wonderful long gone era of Steiff design and production.  They really don't take up too much room to display, which is an issue for many collectors.  Few survive today because in reality they were produced to be used - and used hard - as playthings.  And remember, this begging beauty retains his crowning glory, his most desirable ELEPHANT button - which is pictured above on the left!  Given all that, and based on relatively recent sales of Steiff skittles, it is Steiffgal's best guesstimate that he may realize in the range of $2,000 to $3,000 at auction today.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this velvet begging dachshund skittle has been a real game changer for you!

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bright Eyed And Bushy Tailed Over This Fantastic - And Well Traveled - Vintage Squirrel

Can a picture paint a thousand words?  Yes, especially if its subject could be a vintage Steiff treasure!  A few years ago, author and illustrator Claudia McGehee contacted Steiffgal about a little toy squirrel that played a very big role in the life of one lucky young man at the turn of last century.  Her question was, given some line drawings from century-old diaries and memoirs, could an item be identified as Steiff?  This squirrel had emerged as an important element of the 1918 Alaskan adventure story she was researching and writing.  The "mystery squirrel" is pictured here on the left; the original artwork is from Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska, By Rockwell Kent Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.

Of course, Steiffgal goes nuts (in the best way possible) over these sorts of inquiries. Given the existing drawings, it appeared that the "mystery squirrel" could possibly be one of two Steiff models - either a gray and white mohair version, or a red-brown and white mohair version. Both of these squirrels were made from 1909 through 1919. The gray one was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm. The red-brown one was produced in 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm. Both were six ways jointed - meaning that the head, arms, feet, and tail all could turn. Both originally came with a squeaker as well.  These squirrels are pictured to the left, the photos are from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.  Although it is impossible to tell with 100% certainty if Claudia's mystery squirrel was indeed made by Steiff without seeing it firsthand, its appearance, dating, and origins all suggest that this is entirely possible. 

The squirrel in question plays a major role in Claudia's new work, My Wilderness, An Alaskan Adventure, which was published just a few weeks ago by Sasquatch Books. The book recounts the true-life story of New York artist Rockwell Kent II and his 9 year old son Rocky's adventures living, painting, and exploring all around Fox Island, Alaska in 1918.  The story is told through young Rocky's eyes, and is magnificently written and illustrated.  It is a must have for anyone who appreciates wonderful children's literature, the beauty of early frontier life, and, of course, Steiff! The book cover is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal had the great pleasure of interviewing Claudia McGehee (who is pictured here on the left) about My Wilderness An Alaskan Adventure, and learning more about its "starring squirrel," Squirlie.  Here's a bit of that conversation.

Steiffgal: Tell us how you came across this tale of the Kent family and why you chose to share it in the form of a children's book.

Claudia McGehee:  Born in 1882, American artist Rockwell Kent II worked as a commercial illustrator, painter, writer and adventurer. I came across Kent’s book art and loved the qualities of his black and white engravings and drawings. I then saw an exhibition of Kent’s work in Chicago in 2001 and discovered his paintings were just as powerful. One painting intrigued me most; it was of a father and son, standing together outside a rustic log cabin. Was this the artist and his own son depicted here? I thought there had to be a good story behind it. 

And there was! Kent had published his memoir about living several months in 1918 on Fox Island, Alaska. His oldest son Rocky, had accompanied him. Kent excelled in painting cold northern landscapes. He also loved Big Nature. To paint in Alaska and to share a wilderness experience with his young son made the opportunity too good to pass up. It was a successful, happy time for the two; Rockwell Kent the artist produced many wonderful paintings while on Fox Island, and Rocky lived a childhood dream of exploring a wilderness island!

Soon after seeing the exhibit, I started thinking about what a lovely father-son adventure this was, and with my illustration style, a picture book idea was born.

Steiffgal: How did you first learn about Squirlie (the book's squirrel character, pictured here on the left) as part of this history?  Did that discovery in any way change how you felt about Rocky, or how you would present his character in the book?
Claudia McGehee:  Soon into research, I discovered little Rocky had brought along a stuffed toy squirrel named Squirlie. I was instantly smitten with this detail and knew I would work Squirlie at least visually into my book.

Rockwell Kent’s memoir mentions Squirlie several times.  The first reads, “Squirlie is Rockwell’s pet, brought from home with us. It sleeps every night close in Rockwell’s arms. I begin to almost believe in it myself.”  The father also notes that Squirlie often accompanied young Rocky on his adventures, specifically writing, “They went for a long way into the woods like good companions.”  The memoir also playfully reveals that Squirlie had a birthday celebration on the island and received many special gifts!  

Little Rocky was a kind, sensitive boy from his father’s descriptions, and how he treats Squirlie “with tender care” convinced me Squirlie was very special to him. I chose to show Squirlie as part of every day island life with the boy. Squirlie can be seen poking out of Rocky’s pocket in most of the illustrations, but he is also there, unseen, in the dramatic boat scene. Squirlie represented a comfort from home.  (In this picture above on the left, you can see a close up of Claudia's drawing of Rocky and Squirlie tucked into bed together after a long day of fun and adventures on Fox Island.)

Steiffgal:  It is probable that Squirlie was indeed made by Steiff. And, given that the Kents were from New York, it is possible that they purchased him at FAO Schwarz, as that toy store carried Steiff items as early as the turn of last century.  Do you have any specific history on

Claudia McGehee:  I had my suspicions early on, from two drawings of Squirlie in Kent’s original memoir, that Squirlie may be a Steiff. (One of these drawings, "Squirlie's Birthday Party," is pictured here on the left, it is from  is from Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska, By Rockwell Kent Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.) I asked a friend, an avid Steiff collector, her opinion, and she thought so too!  And I am encouraged by Steiff Gal’s thoughts on the matter as well.

I corresponded with one of Rocky’s descendants as part of my research and asked about Squirlie in particular. He couldn’t confirm that Squirlie was a Steiff.  He did recall that Rocky’s mother made little stuffed animals for her grandchildren, so it is plausible that she made Squirlie, given they were on a frugal artist’s budget.  

But noted scholar Scott Ferris wrote to me, "As for Squirlie … I have only seen it in illustrations. As for it being produced by Steiff, that certainly makes sense, on two fronts: one, as you point out, the Steiff stuffed toys were quite popular at the time; and two, RK being a lover of all things German, he probably would have voted for acquiring a German made toy for his son."

Steiffgal:  Do you know why Rocky chose to take Squirlie  - of all his toys and personal items - on this Alaskan adventure?

Claudia McGehee: I can only guess, but as mentioned above, Squirlie was already a part of Rocky’s life, it sounds. He was small and portable and cuddly. Exactly what you might need in the wilderness!

Steiffgal: And finally, we all would love to know... what became of Squirlie over time?

Claudia McGehee: As far as anyone I spoke with knew, Squirlie is no longer in the Kent family. So we may never know for sure! I am still on the hunt for clues, however. Perhaps one of your readers owns a 19-teens mohair Steiff squirrel that still has the faint smell of Alaskan wilderness!!

Steiffgal:  Wouldn't that be over the moon marvelous!  If anyone out there thinks they may have Squirlie in their Steiff hug, please do let me know!  Thank you so much, Claudia, for sharing this wonderful story with us today! 

Steiffgal hopes this conversation with about Squirlie and his great Alaskan adventure has been like a trip of a lifetime for you!

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

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Steiff's Wearing The Green For Saint Patrick's Day 2015!

With the exciting holiday of St. Patrick's Day coming up this week, Steiffgal can't help but think in green! And after such a grey and cold winter around these parts, it seems that everyone is looking forward to spotting their first patch of green grass, crocus sprouts, and leaf buds - especially here in the Northeast! So to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland AND encourage the powers that be to send spring along as soon as possible, let's look at a few vintage - and not so vintage - verdant Steiff treasures. 

This first green goodie is all dressed up with nowhere to go! Here we have Steiff's always jolly and quite portly Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. He is 27 cm tall, made of light and dark green mohair, standing, and head and arm jointed. His foot pads and palms are made from light green felt. His happy, smiling face comes to life with tan, black, and yellow embroidered eyes and a smiling, felt lined open mouth. Toad wears a black felt cutaway style coat which is trimmed with a white cotton collar and cuffs, and a yellow silken bow tie.  Doesn't just looking at this awesome amphibian put a happy spring - as well as a hop, skip, and a jump - in your step? 
Mr. Toad was made in an edition size of 2009 pieces in 2009 for the UK Danbury Mint.  He marks the 100th anniversary of the beloved book, "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. In 2003, this tale was voted the British public's 16th most beloved novel of all time. The drawing on the left is Mr. Toad as he is illustrated for the book; the drawing is by Ernest Howard Shepard.

The next emerald hued highlight in today's green parade packs alot of punch in a little package. This tiny fellow is Kroko crocodile. He is 12 cm (measured tip of nose to end of tail), lying, unjointed, and made from light and dark green mohair. He has two dark green felt ridges, extending from his eyes to the end of his tail. His sweet face is detailed with black button eyes and a wide open, felt lined mouth that is lined with teeny, tiny white felt teeth. The detail on this petite treat is astounding! 

Bitty boy Kroko is designed as a key ring or purse decoration and was produced in this size only in 2009. Steiffgal picked him up in the Munich airport on a flight stopover. He was displayed in a store window and his 1,000 karat smile, and vibrant hue, in caught her eye. Like a four leaf clover, he's served as her good luck totem ever since! 

Bird's the word with this third great green treat. This vintage fellow is Steiff's Ente, or Duck. He's 14 cm tall, standing, and unjointed. He is made from white, tan, and bright green mohair which is patched together in a rather charming, precious way. His face is as inviting as a breath of spring air with its red felt backed black button eyes and floppy orange felt beak. Duck stands upon two oversized, comical orange felt feet. His Steiff long trailing f style button button is located on his right footpad.

This dandy duck was produced in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1925 through 1932. Steiffgal adopted him a few years ago at the Brimfield, Massachusetts antique fair, one of the largest in the country. Another lucky find indeed!

Let's end this happy green conversation in a really big way! These green giants are Steiff's mother and daughter Dinos pair. They are 42 and 12 cm, respectively. Both are unjointed, standing on all fours, and made from tan colored mohair that has been painstakingly hand airbrushed in a full spectrum of greens - as well as blues, purples, and browns. Baby Dinos has a felt fin along his back; mom's is made from mohair triangles. Both have an open, pink lined felt mouth, green and black google style eyes, and little yellow felt ears. Their gentle faces and sweet personalities defy their fierce and feisty reputations!

This prehistorically proportioned pair was produced as a US exclusive from 1958 through 1959 only. Steiff also produced mother and daughter Tysus and Brosus duos at the same time.  In 2010 at a Steiff auction at Christie's in London, a complete set of 3 almost pristine quality larger dinosaurs realized over $2,500, while the smaller versions realized over $3,100!  It is safe to say, that for many collectors today, owning the complete range of Steiff's late 1950's mohair dinosaurs would be like stumbling upon a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!

Steiffgal hopes this celebration of green Steiff treasures was as enjoyable - and refreshing - as a perfectly poured pint of Guinness! Happy spring and St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

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