Sunday, June 23, 2019

On the Up and Up With This Tiny Steiff Pup!

Friends for life! Collectors will recognize this slogan as one of Steiff's tag lines in terms of its toy production. But this "promise" also extends to the company's business relationships with other beloved brands and characters over time. Check out his note from a new friend on the west coast who asks about a tiny Poodle that appeared mid-century with dolls from the Nancy Ann Storybook Company.  She writes, in part...

"Several of my doll collecting friends have been helping me research the question of Steiff's Poodle being the dog that Nancy Ann Storybook Company used. 

...I have acquired all the reference books available for Nancy Ann and the company catalog photos that they contain, and even though the salesman's sheet doesn't say that the Poodle in the container is Steiff, my fellow collectors all agree that it is a Steiff Poodle that we see in the containers. You can see the Steiff tag around the belly of the dog.  

...Who knows why Nancy Ann didn't say in their catalog that it was a Steiff Poodle? Vogue Doll company didn't say in their Ginny catalog that Ginny's dog was a Steiff either. The Poodle was available in Muffie catalogs from 1956-1960. it was available in 3 colors from (what I understand): white, gray, and black."

What a best-of-show inquiry! So let's first paws and take a look at the Poodle in question, which is INDEED made by Steiff. This model was made as part of the company's very popular post-war woolen miniature collection, and could be one of the smallest dogs Steiff ever made! These are 6 cm tall, standing, leg and arm jointed, and made from wool and felt. Their faces, arms, and legs are like pom-poms, while their ears and body are felt. They come to life with a little black cord tail and black bead eyes. All models left the factory in Germany wearing a tiny red cord collar. This Poodle was produced from 1955-1978 in grey, black, and white. You can see all three here on the left. They are so tiny that they wear their yellow "eartag" like a bracelet around their middles; this is secured with a tiny Steiff button. These IDs were often lost to time, as noted on the dogs in this picture. Because of their size, they never had a chest tag. 

This precious design remains a collector's favorite today, given how nice they look posed with small to medium scaled mid century dolls.

As far as Steiffgal's understanding and research reveals, Steiff did not specifically make a dog for dolls in this line. However, it is entirely possible that the Nancy Ann Storybook Company "adopted" this dog pattern into its line and made it part of its merchandising and product line - given how delightful the two go together! The Nancy Ann Storybook Company most likely purchased a bunch of these woolen miniature Poodles then boxed them and distributed them through their regular sales channels from their own business headquarters. Steiff usually includes some Steiff branding on their packaging that is factory original. Steiffgal can't tell if there is Steiff branding on the Nancy Ann Storybook Company packing on the photos above, but it is not obvious. It also appears that some of the Nancy Ann packaging for the accessories is quite similar. That also suggests that the packaging was done by Nancy Ann in house and not Steiff. Finally, it is not clear why the Nancy Ann Storybook Company did not promote these as made by Steiff... perhaps for some sort of licensing or business reason? 
The Poodle design "adopted" by the Nancy Ann Storybook Company was not a "company exclusive" and was available through worldwide sales channels. You can see the 1961 Steiff catalog page showing these in white, black, and grey, here on the left. (You can click on the photo to make it bigger.) So what would make a product an "exclusive?" It has been Steiffgal's experience that company exclusives often are standard line items with a little something different to them. For example, in the case of these Poodles - if the collars were a different color or style (say blue or green, etc.), or they came in a different color, like brown - that could suggest an exclusive.  But Steiffgal has not personally seen any examples like that, at least not yet! Have you?

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's woolen miniature Poodles has been enormously interesting for you!

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Tune In For More Information About This Superstar Steiff Cat!

Look who just appeared on little cat's feet - really! This pretty kitty was a surprise find on an online auction. And, when she arrived, she was an even FINER feline than advertised! Check out this 1920's Steiff superstar. Steiffgal is certain you'll agree... she's simply the cat's meow!

This marmalade Tabby turns Steiff's legs to jelly! She is 10 cm tall, standing on all fours, head jointed, and made from tan mohair that has been striped with fantastic and realistically detailed orange highlights. Her limbs and tail are elegant, proportional, and shapely. Her face comes to life with oversized teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink embroidered nose and mouth, a bunch of clear, monofilament whiskers, and a spot of red right on her lips. She has a particularly pensive look to her. She retains her original blue silk ribbon and bell. This cool cat was made in mohair in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1928 through 1937. 

Tab - you're it - when it comes to this cat's outstanding and original IDs. She retains her long trailing 'F' Steiff button, crisp and fully legible red ear tag, and perfectly preserved red imprinted chest tag with its "watermelon" shaped bear face. The numbers on her ear tag, 1310,0, correspond to: 1 = standing; 3 = mohair; 10 = 10 cm (standing height); and ,0=without wheels. All of these IDs strongly suggest that this kitten left the factory in Giengen in the late 1920s or early 1930s. And what a well preserved specimen she is - we should all look so good c. nine decades onward! 

Although Steiff had been selling its items in the USA since the turn of last century, it appears that the company really started investing heavily in American consumer advertising a few years after the conclusion of WWI. In the late 1920s, Steiff was promoted on the radio by an on-air personality named "Uncle Andy Claus" as part of a program sponsored by Erwin-Wasey and Co. Erwin-Wasey was an international advertising company that specialized in radio advertising; the agency was famous for its product sampling campaigns. Although it would be challenging, and expensive, to "sample" Steiff products nationally, Erwin-Wasey and Co. came up with the idea of sending Steiff letters, pins, and brochures to children who responded to a direct on-air marketing campaign promoted through Uncle Andy Claus. Here on the left you can see the letter that went out to children as part of this very early "Steiff club." You can click on it to make it bigger. Personally, Steiffgal finds it a little weird that Margarete "signed" this note from the late 1920s, given that she passed away in 1909. Details, details... 

The letter also talks about a little brochure that accompanied the mailing. This cheerful, orange and black printed pamphlet gives a brief history of the company and calls out the "superstar" items of the era, including Treff the Bloodhound, a horse on wheels, Fluffy cat, a bear on wheels, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, an elephant on wheels, Molly the puppy, a donkey on wheels, Bully the Bulldog, Teddy Clown, a mosaic ball, stick horse... and this very Tabby cat under discussion today. Her description reads, "A most lifelike cat with a "come hither" expression in standing position. Fine quality plush, most natural coloring, sewn in glass eyes, assorted colored ribbons." You can see this illustration and description here above on the left.

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this marmalade Tabby a sweet treat.

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

This Antique Steiff French Soldier Doll Is Five Stars All The Way!

It's safe to say that this week's topic will have uniform appeal! Check out this absolutely handsome Steiff doll that recently marched into Steiffgal's collection. He was an attic find and listed on eBay, which only proves there's no telling where the next great find will surface.

This soldier doll truly stands and delivers. He is 50 cm tall, five ways jointed, and made from felt. His face comes to life with blue and black glass pupil eyes, a prominent nose, and a ginger inset mohair mustache. His inset mohair hair exactly matches the color, length, and density of his mustache. Soldier's body, legs, and feet are super long and skinny while his ears and nose are exaggerated. He retains his tiny button-in-ear as his Steiff ID. Given his overall presentation, Steiffgal would consider him a "transitional" doll in terms of Steiff's early doll production. This means meaning his aesthetic and production falls between the company's earliest and more cartoon-like "Karikaturpuppen" dolls (c. 1903-1914) and their truly human scale dolls (c. 1908 - 1930).

Not surprisingly, this soldier's timing and production align with military precision here. This doll, called "Kuerassier" and secondarily noted as a French soldier, was only made in this size - about 20 inches tall -  in 1912. Cuirassiers were cavalry equipped with armour, swords, and well embellished helmets. They appeared in late 15th-century Europe through the beginning of WWI. Today they may attend state occasions for ceremonial, non-combat related purposes. When this Kuerassier doll left the factory in Giengen, Germany over a century ago, he did indeed carry a metal sword, much like his namesake. Unfortunately it has been lost to time. 

Kuerassier's military outfit is five stars all the way. It aligns with the uniforms worn by French Calvary soldiers during the late Franco-Prussian era. His fitted jacket is made from blue felt and is integral to his body. It has a loose peplum on the bottom. It is detailed with tiny buttons up the front and on the sleeves, red embroidered piping, and red felt patches on the wrists and collar. Another eye catching features of his coat include its epaulets, which are made from felt, ribbon, and string. They attach to his shoulders via metals buttons that match the ones down the front of his coat. His pants are made from red felt and resemble jodhpurs, which make room in the legs for movement. His black, knee high boot are handmade from leather and have brown leather soles. They are pictured here on the left. His stunning solid brass helmet is decorated with a now lilac colored woolen fringe and resembles the helmets worn by his namesake French Cuirassier Troopers in the late 1800s. It has a partial metal chin strap. You can see an illustration of an early 20th century French Calvary soldier a little bit up and on the left; the similarities between the uniforms are so interesting! The image is from the The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Steiff’s soldier dolls were an important segment of the company’s line and business in during the first quarter of the 20th century. In a span of about 20 years, Steiff produced examples representing German, Scottish, Moroccan, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, American, Belgian, French, Italian, and Austrian armed forces, among others. Well over 100 distinct designs were produced during this time frame; most of these patterns were made in multiple sizes. However, after WWI, interest in soldier dolls understandably plummeted. The company filled this void in the 1920’s by realigning its doll production efforts towards a series of toddler dolls, dressed animal and bear dolls, popular cartoon inspired dolls, and other happy go lucky novelties.

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this Kuerassier soldier doll worthy of a 21 gun salute.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Overall, A Most Delightful And Unusual Steiff Rabbit Doll!

Hop to it and check out this delightful Steiff rabbit doll with a somewhat mysterious origin. Steiffgal saw this charming fun-bun for sale on an online auction, and was lucky enough to win her (or him, but more about that later.) Its animal doll configuration was typical to 1930s construction, but there was something a little different about this example. But what was it?

This standing sweetie measures 28 cm tall (not including the ears) and is head jointed. Rabbit's body is made from a soft fabric that has a velvet-y touch to it. It has flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing. The tips of its hands and feet, and its head and ears, are made from a woolen type of fabric - it is short, with a continuous, semi-rough feel to it. Rabbit's long "sideburns" (or side-buns?) are made from long mohair. Bunny's face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth, and traces of airbrushing. The ears are lined in wire and are poseable. Rabbit doll retains its long trailing "f" button and traces of a red ear tag as its IDs. 

So just who is this rare hare? This exact rabbit doll pattern does not appear in the Steiff Sortiment books. Steiff did make a series of wonderful rabbit dolls - toys with rabbit heads and human-like bodies like this one - starting in the 1930s. But none had the dramatic facial "hair" of the one under discussion here. This sideburned head pattern was produced on at least four other rabbit bodies. These included sitting and begging tail-turns head models, and two begging models - an unjointed version, and one wearing a little jacket. All appeared in the line from 1931 through 1940 overall. Given all of this, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the rabbit doll was indeed made in early to mid 1930s.

It is easy to go down a rabbit hole when it comes to learning more about Steiff rarities, and that's exactly what happened here. After looking through an original 1938 Steiff brochure, Steiffgal spotted a rabbit doll with mohair sideburns. Much to Steiffgal's surprise - as she thought the rabbit may be a girl - the bunny doll is actually called "Haspapa!" This literally translates to "Rabbit Father." He is shown next to another rabbit doll called "Hasmama," or "Rabbit Mother." Papa and Mama were made in 22 and 28 cm. The brochure does not mention their materials. However, it is interesting to note that they are posed with a woolen mohair duck. Woolen mohair was often used in the place of mohair plush on Steiff toys in the c. 1930-1950 time frame. It is considered an alternative, war-era fabric. So it is plausible that Haspapa was originally intended to be made out of woolen mohair and not traditional mohair plush. The picture from the brochure is shown here on the left, you can click on it to make it larger.

Finally, its a clothes call with Haspapa's darling outfit. According to the brochure picture, Haspapa left the factory wearing green overall style pants and what appears to be a checkered shirt. Fast forward eight decades, Haspapa did arrive wearing his wonderful red overalls; they are original to Steiff but not to him. The red fabric features lots of Steiff's most beloved toys and designs on a teeny-tiny scale, and looks great with his red nose and mouth . But given his age, and the New England weather, Steiffgal though he needed a few more layers. So Steiffgal's sister went right to work, making him comfortable cotton underwear, knitting him a sweater, and even "cobbling" him a pair of tie shoes. Isn't he a handsome devil? A big Steiff shout out to Steiffsis for the great handy work.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Haspapa has been a hare raising experience for you.

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