Monday, October 19, 2020

My Favorite Martian - Steiff Style!

So what's the wackiest thing in your Steiff collection? Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and Steiffgal would bet there are as many answers to this question as there are collectors. Here's one oddity from Steiffgal's hug that just may put you in orbit with his weirdness. Take a look at this mystery Martian and see what makes him so "out there" from the design and product development perspectives.

It's probably very easy being green when it comes to this "space cadet." This majorly-toothed Martian is Steiff's Gruenes Maennchen, or Little Green Man. He is 35 cm tall and made from green colored trevira velvet. His proportions are much like the company's iconic "lulac" style animals, with their long torsos and dangling limbs. His arms and legs have wire armature so they can be posed in playful ways. 

Gruenes Maennchen's face is utterly charming. He has enormous black and white googly eyes, one thick black strand of "hair" (or possibly an antenna) on his forehead, pert ears, a prominent bulbous nose, and an open mouthed ear-to-ear grin. And of course... a huge set of white felt buck teeth. According to the Sortiment, he appeared in the lie from 1982-1984, and that perfectly aligns with his IDs, body shape, and materials.

Like life on other planets, there isn't alot known about this "Man from Mars." Physically, this guy has some similar body characteristics to Steiff's Steiff's Cappy Schlenkerfrosch, or Cappy Dangling Frog. Cappy also is "lulac" styled with his long unjointed arms and legs and internal wire armature. He is also made from green trevira velvet. This "hoppy" friend is 32 cm and appeared in the Steiff line from 1979 through 1984. You can see Cappy posing here on the left. Gruenes Maennchen also shares a few characteristics with Steiff's 35 cm, open mouthed, google-eyed green trevira velvet Hand Dragon puppet. This silly sweetie was made in 1991 for the Oldenburg publishing house. Oldenburg, which is now part of the De Gruyter group, is headquartered in Berlin; its company history spans more than 260 years. You can see this puppet below here on the left. 

We do know for sure that Gruenes Maennchen was designed by the European author and illustrator Pat Malette. Malette wrote a number of popular books charmingly illustrated with these "little green men" in the 1980s. It is possible that Malette's adorable, quirky alien caught the eye of the Steiff design team who decided to bring it to life, Steiff style!  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on her strange alien Gruenes Maennchen, or Little Green Man, has grounded your day just a bit. 

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

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Best of All Worlds: Steiff REAL and Replica!

Are you seeing double? Usually, this is cause for alarm. But not in this case, in terms of these two very fine Steiff fellows. Produced nearly a century apart, these "hairy canaries" prove that good looks, genes, and and remarkable beards are not only timeless and appealing, but great assets, too! Let's take a look at this original turn of last century Steiff doll and his 1990s era replica and see how they compare.

Things are twice as nice when it comes to Steiff's "Hungarian" doll. The original is shown here on the left, and the replica from 1996 is on the right. The early and original Hungarian doll was manufactured by Steiff from 1912 - 1917. According to the Pfeiffer's early Sortiment reference book, he was produced in 50 cm, although this particular example measures 43 cm and the number on his tag reads "Ung 43." It is very possible that he was produced in a number of different sizes during his manufacturing run; not all early records are perfect.

So let's look at the older guy first. Vintage Hungarian - on the left in this photo - is made from felt, stuffed with excelsior, and fully jointed. His uniform is integral to his body. He wears a red felt jacket that is trimmed with curly, jet black mohair and detailed with metal buttons, black and gold embroidery, and cord and orange felt trimmed cuffs. His tan pants are decorated with red embroidered felt stripes. His knee-high leather boots are trimmed with tan string tassels and orange felt. His "proper topper" is a red felt cap embellished with a metal button, orange felt, and a leather brim. Hungarian has a gold rope whip wound around his left shoulder. His face comes to life with Steiff's signature center seam construction, black eyes, a prominent nose, oversized ears, and a full mustache, beard, and head of hair made from the same curly jet black mohair that decorates the bottom circumference of his jacket.

Now let's check out his doppelgänger. This marvelous Steiff replica doll was produced in the late 1990s as part of limited edition doll and horse set. You can see that dynamic duo in the photo here on the left. Although the replica is cataloged at 43 cm, Steiffgal's example actually measures 47 cm tall. In the late 1980s through the late 1990s, Steiff created a series of replicas based on their 19-teen era Schlopsnies Circus program. These replica dolls included clowns, animal trainers, musicians, and performers, among others. The original Schlopsnies Circus was large scale, dynamic, and extremely popular exhibit designed and created by Steiff creative freelancer Albert Schlopsnies. It consisted of over 30 circus themed dolls and acrobats, based on real life performers at the world famous Circus Sarrasani of Dresden, Germany.

So how do the original and the replica align? Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to recreate something exactly as it was a century onward - given how materials and technology change over time, and how fabrics and fillings oxidize and age. With that as a backdrop, let's compare three factors here: these two doll's detailing and materials, construction, and general aesthetics.

Detailing and materials:
For the most part, the two have a lot in common in these categories. There are a few very minor differences, like the exact embroidery on the back and arms of their jackets and the spacing of the stripes on their cuffs. The original has his button and white paper tag located in his ear, while the replica has his button in ear, and another Steiff button and his white tag located on the edge of his jacket. Clearly, the doll's rope whip and boot tassels cannot be exactly replicated as the materials used for these accessories have evolved over time. The key physical material difference between the early Hungarian and the replica Hungarian is that the replica uses long black plush in the place of long black mohair on the doll's hair, beard, and jacket trim - perhaps as a cost savings measure. 

The original Hungarian doll is entirely stuffed with excelsior from head to toe. The replica's head is softly stuffed, while the rest of his body and limbs are stuffed with excelsior. It is really interesting to note that the dolls are nearly identical in weight, with the replica just 4 grams heavier than the antique one. Both dolls have analogous jointing. Here on the left, you can see an original Steiff advertisement from around 1912 featuring the Hungarian astride a camel; the photo is from Ayers and Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

General aesthetics:
It is obvious that the turn-of-last century doll is slimmer, curvier, and more elegantly scaled than the replica. This is especially noticeable in the face; the original has old fashioned facial contouring and a smaller, to scale nose while the newer version has a fuller, flatter, rounder face with a really bulbous nose. This probably has to do with the fact that excelsior stuffing allows greater contouring than simply polyfill. The replica, although still quite handsome and a wonderful addition to any Steiff collection, is simply a bigger, somewhat streamlined, and boxier interpretation.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's original and replica circus dolls has been one hot ticket for you.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Vintage Steiff Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

What's old is new again when you recreate it using older Steiff friends! One thing Steiffgal has noticed, especially on really image-centric platforms like Instagram and Facebook, is that folks are "recreating" scenes from their childhood as adults - and often incorporating original props, backgrounds, or outfits. These are usually really fun, and cheerful, and show the effect of time on people, beloved artifacts, and settings. Here on the left you can see Steiffgal attempting to "recreate" a fantastic Steiff image she found online. This little girl is NOT Steiffgal, but they clearly share the love for fantastic vintage button-in-ear playthings. 

As Steiffgal was preparing for another Steiff project, she came across a charming company catalog from the late 1930s. This prewar brochure from her collection was printed in sepia tones and featured a number of utterly adorable product vignettes that really called to her - including this one of two farm friends and a cat-doll on a little stroll. So she thought... let's bring this to life again! You can see this vintage image here on the left. 

A picture is worth a thousand words - especially those featuring some of our most beloved vintage button in ear friends. Steiffgal has "recreated" this image using analogous items from her own collection; you can see this attempt here on the left. The calf is standing, unjointed, and made from white and light brown wool plush. He was produced in 14, 17, and 22 cm; Steiffgal's version is the 17 cm size. The lamb is standing, unjointed, and made from white wool plush with a "lumpy-bumpy" texture. He was made in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm; Steiffgal's version is the 14 cm version. And the cat doll is standing, head jointed, and is available dressed in a number of different outfits. She was made in 22 and 28 cm; Steiffgal's version is the 22 cm version. 

It's always fun to use the information documented in vintage ephemera to learn a little bit more about the items being promoted. In this case, we can use the prices listed to figure out how much they would "cost" today. So, here's how each item noted was priced in 1938, and the approximate cost of each today in US dollars using an inflation calculator:

  • The 14 cm calf was 1.90 DM, which is about $14.01 in 2020.
  • The 17 cm calf was 2.50 DM, which is about $18.43 in 2020.
  • The 22 cm calf was 3.50 DM, which is about $28.81 in 2020.
  • The 14 cm lamb was 1.90 DM, which is about $14.01 in 2020.
  • The 17 cm lamb was 2.50 DM, which is about $18.43 in 2020.
  • The 22 cm lamb was 3.50 DM, which is about $28.81 in 2020.
  • The 28 cm lamb was 5.00 DM, which is about $36.87 in 2020.
  • The 22 cm cat doll was 2.50 DM, which is about $18.43 in 2020.
  • The 28 cm cat doll was 3.50 DM, which is about $28.81 in 2020.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on recreating vintage images has been a picture perfect experience for you!

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

This Prewar St. Bernhard Is Happy To Come To Your Rescue Anytime!

Would you climb every mountain to have a marvelous antique St. Bernhard dog in your Steiff collection?
These delightful, hard working, and loyal companions made their Steiff company debut in 1904 and have been a key dog breed in the line ever since. Check out this great example which climbs to new heights with its fabulous presentation and great set of wheels. He'd be happy to come to your rescue anytime!

This pretty pooch is standing, about 15 cm tall and 22 cm wide, and unjointed.
He is made from tan mohair with a brown patched-in fanny, head, and ears. His stitched-down ears are lined in felt. His tail is fluffy and somewhat oversized. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a lightly trimmed muzzle. He has a non-working squeaker in his belly. St. Bernhard rides upon two metal axles connected to four concentric, green painted wooden wheels. His leather collar and wooden barrel are not original to him, but seem appropriate, given his tasks at hand. This fine St. Bernhard example retains his long trailing "f" button in ear and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. 

Steiff produced this eye-catching design on the go in 11 sizes ranging from 12 to 99 cm overall from 1904 through 1927.
Given the huge number of sizes made, and the length of time this model appeared in the line, certain design element updates were noted over time. These included having an open mouth versus a closed one (the earliest ones had open mouths) and the type of wheels (metal on the earliest, wooden from the 19-teens onward.) This particular model under discussion here today, given its IDs and wooden wheels, probably dates from the early 1920s. Here on the left you can see Steiff's print ad for this great pattern in 1912. The image is from Ayers and Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings; you can click on it to make it larger if you want to read the product details. 

And don't worry if this fine fellow has you seeing spots, too.
Steiffgal has also noted that the brown and tan patching on the body migrates a bit, with the brown patch appearing in a number of locations, perhaps in relation to the dog's size. Here on the left you can see the same St. Bernhard dog model on metal wheels with the patching on his side. This handsome hound probably dates from the early turn of last century.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this lovely and popular prewar dog design has been a tail-wagging experience for you.

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