Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Isn't She Pretty In Pink?

It's OK to squeal in delight over this week's fantastic Steiff find! And this one certainly qualifies as both an oldie and a goodie! Check out this absolutely charming barnyard friend and see what makes her so interesting from the historical and product development perspectives.

This perfect little porker is truly a sight for sore eyes. She is standing, unjointed, and measures 6 cm tall by 11 cm long. She is made from pink velvet which has darkened and browned a bit over time. You can see her original vivid coloring in the folds of her ears. Her velvet has a few traces of very light brown detailing here and there. Her tail is long, thin, and authentically curled, just like her live counterpart. Her ears are triangular. Piggy's face comes to life with tiny black seed button eyes, a red tipped snout, and a simple, hand embroidered mouth. This happy handful was made in 8, 12, 14, and 22 cm from 1899-1935 overall.

Piggy's design has a few very cool, and very legacy, details that date this example to the very early part of her production time frame. First of all, she does not have a button, and there is no indication that she ever did. Given Steiff's button branding debuted in 1904, and piggy has been in the line since 1899, it is very possible that she is from the pre-button era. Second, she has tiny, black seed bead style eyes. These are the identical eyes that are featured on the company's earliest, smallest (i.e., 10 cm standing) Teddy bears which debuted in 1909. She is made from velvet - which along with felt - was Steiff's primary toy making material through c. 1903, when mohair became available on a commercial scale. And her nose, which is made from red felt and "appliqu├ęd" on with tiny stitches, is also noted on the felt version of this design... which debuted in 1892!

It is also interesting to note that this particular pig has tiny pinprick sized marks/indentations on her back and sides, hinting that she just might have been used as a pincushion at some point in her life.

Steiff made a number of pigs through the first half of the 20th century. Historically, pigs are associated with good luck, being able to feed one's family, and prosperity. So they are always popular and in demand! And from the manufacturing perspective, they are relatively simple in design and don't require jointing or elaborate seaming or finishes. As such, Steiff built upon these factors and produced pigs in felt, mohair, velvet (like this one under discussion today), and lamb's wool plush. They also appeared fully jointed, on regular and eccentric wheels, as a brush, as a pincushion, and on skittles, just to name a few novelties. The photo here on the left, from Dottie Ayers and Donna Harrison's Adverting Art of Steiff is probably from the very early 19-teens and shows a litter of these perfectly porcine pals. You can click on the photo to make it bigger.

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed pigging out on the details surrounding this happy hog.

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

Let's Make Some Noise About This Unusual 1930s-Era Steiff Cub!

Care to take a stroll down (Steiff) memory lane? Then this seldom-seen and almost antique walking Ted just may fit the bill. Check out this kinetic cub and see what makes him so delightful and noteworthy from the design and product development perspectives. 

Let's make some noise about this bear on the go. He is officially named Growling Bear or "Brummbaer." He measures 9 cm tall and 25 cm from end to end. He is on all fours and in a natural walking position. Ted is unjointed and made from brown mohair with a tan mohair muzzle and paw pads. He has pert, perfectly proportional mohair ears and four black hand embroidered claws on each paw. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes placed exactly on his muzzle seam and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has a large but nonworking side-squeaker in his tummy area. Brummbaer was made in 17, 25, and 32 cm from 1934-1943 overall. This example is the medium sized version.

Brummbaer was "born" at a period of great uncertainty at Steiff. Starting in the mid-1930s, the effects of national geopolitical realities really began to hit Steiff and most businesses throughout Germany. As such, high quality toy making materials such as mohair and felt were becoming more expensive, and less available, due to military rationing. Local, regional, and international distribution channels began to dry up, eventually all but disappearing by the early 1940s. And the great majority of consumers did not have, or were not spending, money on discretionary playthings. So, as always, Steiff made the most of what they did have, and could control, and produced items like Brummbaer starting in the mid-1930s.

So how exactly does Brummbaer fit the mid-1930s Steiff ethos? In a nutshell, it is a great example of a well designed product strategically engineered to deliver "the max for the minimum" in terms of appearance, presentation, materials, and economy. Brummbaer's "walking" form is unusual and appealing. It is interesting how his bent limbs appear dynamic, and moving, without the item actually being jointed (which is expensive and time consuming) in any way. His interesting, eye-catching form arguably has a higher perceived "value" than a standard, static bear bear on all fours; yet from the business perspective, requires about the same amount of material and time to construct. It is also interesting to note, and probably not a coincidence, that Brummbaer was launched just as many of the company's higher end "tail moves head" animals - including a very similarly styled bear on all fours - were being phased out of the line. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar Brummbaer has given you a leg up on this interesting design!

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Is This Turn of Last Century Mohair Goose The Wheel-Deal?

Heads up - there's a goose on the loose! Steiffgal recently came across a most interesting, and very vintage, goose on wheels. His early and endearing presentation, traditional and legacy set of materials, and turn-of-last century manufacturing details certainly appear very Steiff-like. But he does not have any identification, and does not appear in any Steiff reference book or catalog Steiffgal knows of. Take a peek - what do you think?

This fine feathered friend is certainly on a roll. He is standing, unjointed, and measures about 18 cm tall and 28 cm wide. Goose is made from all white mohair and is solidly stuffed with excelsior. His wings are dimensional, stretch backward, and are tacked to his body with a few stitches. His neck is long and graceful. His face comes to life with black button eyes backed in faded red felt, a yellow felt beak, and prominent brown detail embroidery stitching that goes from his eyes to his beak. He glides along on a carriage with four wheels that have traces of gold paint on them. Steiffgal tested the entire rolling mechanism with a magnet and it is made from solid metal.

After much searching around, Steiffgal came across a good picture of a similarly styled goose that Steiff had in the line at the turn of last century. That long-necked bird was standing and had jointed legs. He was made from white mohair, had a yellow felt beak and legs, and almost the identical facial features and detailing - including stitching from the eyes to the beak - as this one on wheels. Steiff's standing, jointed goose was made in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1911-1918. You can see this goose here on the left, it was sold at Christie's in 2010 along with a smaller farm friend. Together the pair realized GBP 1,375.

So what's going on with this easy rider? Here is a possible explanation, with the tell-tale hint in his wheels. Steiff introduced its wooden up-and-down "eccentric" wheels around 1912 and holds a patent on this mechanism. Eccentric wheels were discovered accidentally, but Steiff quickly realized the product-development opportunities created by their roller drilling mistakes. Birds of all sorts were ideal for eccentric wheels, given their natural "waddling" tendencies, and you see wooden eccentric wheels on many Steiff bird models from 1912 onward.

Now let's shift the discussion into fifth gear. This goose is clearly on metal, not wooden wheels. His pattern, as noted above and given he is Steiff, was introduced in 1911, BEFORE wooden eccentric wheels were in the line. It is possible that in 1911 or early 1912, Steiff wanted to see if their existing standing white mohair goose pattern could be modified as a pull toy on metal wheels - and this example could be the result of that experiment. It is interesting to note that Steiff introduced a new mohair goose on eccentric wooden wheels soon after in 1914. This updated pattern, having an orange felt beak and feet, grey and white coloring, a shorter neck, and a more compact body, appeared in 14 and 17 cm prewar through 1943 overall. You can see that updated goose on wheels here on the left; the picture is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual and probably Steiff goose knocked you over with a feather.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Steiff Penguin of Royal Stature!

They say it's not easy being green. But Steiffgal has to disagree, at least in this particular case! A special little someone just waddled his way into her collection, and she couldn't be more excited. Check out this colorful creation and see what makes him so outstanding from the historical and product development perspectives.

Bird's the word with his stunning Steiff King Peng penguin. He stands all of 15 cm and is made from white, green, and orange tipped mohair. His beak is double thick orange felt, and his chubby wings and feet are made from orange velvet. His wings have black hand drawn lines on them. His childlike face is detailed with black and brown glass pupil eyes. Larger versions had cartoon eyes backed in felt. This model is a tail moves head example, meaning that when his tiny green mohair covered metal tail is twisted left and right, his head moves in unison. His long trailing "f" Steiff button is located on the bottom of one of his velvet feet. This polar pal was made in 15, 18, 23, 29, and 36 cm from 1931-1935 overall. He was also produced in the same sizes in a slightly different color combination, with blue/black mohair in the place of the green mohair seen on this example.

Tail moves head editions were amongst Steiff's headliners of the early 1930s. They were produced as a result of the company's emphasis on producing fun, exciting, and endearing novelty items as a way to further capture the pocketbooks - and hearts - of Steiff enthusiasts worldwide. Overall, about 25 different tail turns head models were produced through the late 1930's and very early 1940's. These were advertised as...

"The year 1931 has presented us with the animals with the new head movement… The simplicity of the mechanism, though which the splendid movement is produced, cannot be beaten, yet it is unbreakable and allows lifelike play, full of variety and mimics… When buying new supply in plush toys please be sure to include the STEIFF animals with the new head movement; all numbers equipped with it are marked ‘H.’” 

Most of these newfangled tail moves head items were based on the best selling standard line patterns of the time. Recognizable friends included cats, dogs, rabbits, goats, and lambs, and even Mickey Mouse! Although Steiff did have a penguin in the line in the late 1920s and early 1930s, they did not use that pattern for a tail moves head version. King Peng's introduction most likely corresponds to the worldwide news of Richard Byrd's South Pole exploration, where penguins and other cold-weather animals featured prominently in the story. Since its founding, Steiff has always been extremely conscious of animal themed events and cultural trends and has integrated them when possible into its product line and assortments. You can see the advertisement introducing these merry movers here on the left, the photo is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear: The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends book from 1989.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Steiff King Peng penguin has been a royal experience for you.

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