Sunday, May 1, 2016

Steiffgal's Quite Keen On This Steiff-Man Named Green!

Ever felt like running away and joining the circus? Well, this inquiry from a new friend in Europe about a fantastic Steiff entertainer may just have you packing your bags! Check out Åslaug's great family heirloom, a rare Steiff doll. She shares over a number of correspondences....

"Hello,

Do you know what the name/number of this Steiff-man is?

My mother in law was the owner of this. She collected a lot of things. Kind of a hoarder. She passed away in January. Among the things she has left behind is more than 1,000 dolls. Mostly bought at flea markets. Most of all she was interested in the culture and specially toys of her childhood.

A lot of her collected items has been given away to different collections and museums. But, this doll I fell in love with and we are intending to keep it. We also found 15 Steiff animals. Have sold seven, but have some still.

Kind regards and thank you from Norway"

No clowning around... this is one find that belongs in the spotlight! What Åslaug has here is a Steiff doll named "Green," probably because of the color of his eye-catching coat. Green is 43 cm tall and fully jointed. In addition to his gold and button trimmed outerwear, he wears a yellow felt vest, black felt pants, and Victorian looking, buttoned up "spat" style footwear. His face and head comes to life with black shoebuton eyes, a hand painted mouth, rosy cheeks, and a shock of handsome silver-grey hair. Green appeared in the line from 1911 through 1919. His series number is 88 (indicating that his pattern is a doll) and his article number is 43, meaning in this case that he stands 43 cm tall. A picture of Green as he appeared as new is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. 

Green was produced as one of many characters performing in a charming series of circus themed window displays.  Green is cataloged as a "lackey," which probably means he would have acted as a footman or assistant to other performers or to the circus managers.  Steiff's circus displays were created by Steiff creative freelancer Albert Schlopsnies starting in 1910. The first Steiff circus display made its debut at the Wertheim Department Store in Berlin. According to Cieslik's Button In Ear The History of the Teddy Bear And His Friends, "It had three circus-rings and visitors to the Steiff show were given a circus program - a comic adaptation of an actual program." (A copy of this program is to the left; if you click on it you can read the most entertaining text. The photo is from Cieslik.) Over the next decade, about 30 authentic character dolls including clowns, ringmasters, acrobats, musicians, and other performers were produced - in addition to stables of circus performing animals. Many characters were based on real life circus professionals at the time. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's turn-of-last century circus performers and displays has been the greatest show on Earth for you.

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

This Regal Steiff Beagle Certainly Lives Up To His Name!

Hot dog! Most readers are familiar with Steiff's beloved "Biggie" Beagle model. Here's an example of this fan favorite that really merits the name. Check out this life-sized Steiff Beagle and see what makes him so interesting from the collector's perspective.

This "Best of Show" beauty is Steiff's studio (or display size) Beagle. He stands 14 inches tall and 16 inches long (not including his tail) and 24 inches long including his tail. He is made from tan mohair and is head jointed. His head, body, and tail are elaborately hand-painted with delightful shades of black, grey, and brown, giving him wonderful definition. He has three black hand embroidered claws on each paw. His face comes to life with brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and floppy ears. He retains his original red buckled collar. This Beagle was produced in this size only from 1965 through 1966 as an exclusive for the upscale toy retailer FAO Schwarz. 

This regal Beagle stands and delivers with his great IDs. Like most Steiff items sold at FAO Schwarz during his era, this dog sports the company's red wooden "bell" tag. This features a golden bell and the words, "EST. 1862 TOYS FAO SCHWARZ." This old fashioned design is based on a bell carved in the Schwarz family's wooden dining room table. This piece of furniture was originally located in the family's Greenwich, CT home. The Beagle also has his raised script button, and fully legible yellow ear tag. It is numbered 1343,90, which corresponds to 1=standing, 3=mohair, 43=43 cm, 9=display animal or special edition, and 0=normal coloring.

Beagles were a very popular breed in the 1960's, most likely because they were the "Presidential Pets" of Lyndon B. Johnson. His Beagles, which included Him and Her, were truly the "First Dogs" of America - often accompanying the President on visits to heads of state, hanging out in the Oval Office, and swimming in the White House pool. These lucky dogs were even featured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1964. As such, FAO Schwarz picked up on this cultural trend to create a number of exclusive Beagles for their customers, including this display example under discussion here. Other FAO Schwarz exclusive Beagles included a 15 cm standing open mouthed Beagle (sort of a hybrid in design between Steiff's regular line sitting and standing Biggies) and and a family of Beagles in a basket, resting on a soft cushion.  

And really, just how "big" is this special FAO Schwarz Biggie? Steiff Supermodel BooBoo the real-life pug, (reluctantly) shares the spotlight with him so you can see his scale firsthand. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of this rare display size Steiff Beagle has made a big impression on you!

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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Feather Your Nest With This Adorable And Extremely Early Steiff Woolen Miniature Chick

When is a "spring chicken" not really one at all? Steiffgal would be shocked if you could answer this silly riddle! In this case, she is referring to a recent Steiff find she made in April - which is actually a vintage baby barnyard bird! Check out this happy handful and see what makes her so interesting from the design and product development perspectives.

Bird's the word when it comes to this Steiff woolen miniature chick. This bitty baby is 6 cm tall, standing, and made from white and yellow Nomotta wool. She had metal feet and legs which have been painted yellow. Her tiny face comes to life with black button eyes, a tan felt beak, and a light orange comb. Most interestingly, she has a distinctive neck which allows her to be jointed at her "shoulder" area as well as at her head. This pattern was produced in this size only from 1931 through 1935 and was made in six color combinations: white and yellow, white and orange, white and light brown, white and dark brown, white and gray, and yellow and brown.  The white and grey version is pictured below for review and comparison; the photo is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book. 

Although this white and yellow chick's IDs have been lost to time, she would have left the factory with two IDs. These would have been a red tag with the numbers "1506,1" on it, held in place like a bracelet around her ankle with a small "trailing F" style button. The 1506,1 corresponds to: 1=standing, 5=wool plush, 06=6 cm tall, and 1=the first in a series of different versions of a particular item; in this case, a chick that came in six color versions.  The 1 specifically identifies it as white and yellow. The grey and white example pictured to the left is considered version number 5.  As such, her tag would read "1506,5."

This charming chick holds two really interesting distinctions.  The first is that she was produced in the 1931 through 1935 timeline.  Woolen miniatures debuted in the Steiff product line in 1931. As such, it is very possible that she is amongst the earliest examples of any woolen miniatures the company ever produced.  Her second "first" is that her design is the very earliest "chick" woolen miniature design manufactured by Steiff.  Woolen miniature chicks would appear continuously in the line through 1984; however, from 1936 onward they were all yellow or maize and singularly head jointed or not jointed at all.  A close up of the double jointed neck area on the earliest versions is pictured here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early and rare woolen miniature Steiff chick has made you as happy as a rooster in a hen house.

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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Clowning Around With This Distinctive Steiff Pressed Felt Faced Puppet

Steiffgal's not clowning around when she says she's over the moon excited about her latest Steiff acquisition. Just this week, she welcomed a delightful and most unusual Steiff clown puppet into her hug. Not only is he irresistibly adorable, he also has a really interesting place in Steiff's product development timeline. Check out this gentle joker and see what makes him so unique from the design and historical perspectives.

Please give a round of applause to this happy handful! Here we have Steiff's Kasperl Clown or Punch Clown puppet. He is 17 cm tall. His head, hands, and ears are made from felt. His body is made from a piece of red, yellow, blue, and green flowered calico fabric. He comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a dimensional face, hand painted facial features, and yellow mohair hair. His clown costume includes a blue silk neck ruff and a felt hat decorated with a red pom-pom. These accessories are quite similar to those seen on Steiff's Teddy Clown bears from 1926 through 1930. This clown puppet was made in this size only and took center stage in the Steiff catalog from 1936 through 1943. 

Steiff created a few "theme and variation" items based on this basic clown pattern.  The company often did this with popular designs and characters. As such, the clown was also produced as a 35 cm clown doll from 1936 through 1940 and as a 25 cm soft tumbling Roly Clown from 1937 through 1943.  For reference, the clown doll and Roly Clown are pictured below; the photos are from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment Book.

Doll version of the clown
There are several very interesting details and features about this clown puppet that should give collectors the giggles. 

The first includes his numerous "debut roles" in Steiff's product line.  This clown puppet appears to be the very first "non-animal" puppet manufactured by Steiff overall. In addition, he is the only "non-animal" puppet made by the company pre-World War II. However, Steiff did produce many "people puppets," including clowns, Santa Claus, dwarfs, and fairytale characters, from the late 1950's onward.

Roly version of the clown
The second is his actual construction. This puppet has a seamless pressed felt face head, not a center seamed head, like most early felt dolls made by Steiff.   Although Steiff’s better known center seamed dolls were popular and sold well, the company had been actively experimenting with alternative ways of manufacturing felt heads since the early 1920’s. The goal was to eliminate the center seam and substitute the "two part" face with one made from seamless pressed felt. This proved quite challenging to do, both from the manufacturing and design perspectives. The company finally solved the problem of facial integrity by reinforcing the molded felt material with a plastic backing - almost like an interior support mask. Once this process was put into production, Steiff manufactured at least 27 different full doll models with this pressed felt face design between 1938 and 1943, in addition to the clown pattern under discussion here today.

Distinct, sewn on ears
Listen up for his third design feature. Yes, this clown doll head design has very distinct ears. Unlike his other pressed felt faced doll cousins, this pressed felt faced clown has distinctive felt ears that are attached to his head via two stitches. All the other pressed felt faced dolls of his era have ears that are much smaller, less distinct, and integral to their heads. Clown's ears are more like those seen on most of Steiff's earlier felt center seamed dolls. It is interesting to note that this pressed felt faced clown design was launched on a commercial scale in 1936, one year before the general pressed felt faced doll line was launched. Perhaps the ear treatment on the clown head is a "nod" to the traditional ear treatment on the company's earlier center seamed felt faced dolls?

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unique pressed felt faced clown hand puppet has been a one of kind experience for you!

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