Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clowning Around With Steiff

Steiffgal's not joking around when she says Steiff has a long and rich history of producing wonderfully entertaining clowns!

Over the 130-year his
tory of the company, these playful pranksters have appeared in just about every form you can imagine. They have been produced as dolls, ball-dolls (figures with a goofy ball shaped bodies and "normal" limbs), musical figures, pom-pom characters, skittles (perched on wooden pins for a bowling style game), and roly-polys (on half-spheres that wobble about). From what Steiffgal can tell, the first clown appeared in the Steiff catalog in 1894 as a 28 cm doll with a felt body and colorful felt clothing.

Since clowns can't help but bring a smile to your face
, what would be a better way to welcome 2010 than a quick look at some Steiff's more recent "clown highlights?"

Kicking off ou
r clown parade is Clownie. This fabulous funnyman was produced from 1956 through 1975 in 14, 19, and 43 cm. He was also available as a 120 cm display piece by special order. The smallest Clownies had hard rubber heads and bodies, while those 19 cm and larger had fabric bodies with movable arms. Clownie sports blue felt patched pants (patches are on the front and back of his trousers), a white calico shirt, white gloved hands, and black felt shoes and hat. Leveraging a good thing, Steiff produced this beloved Clownie design as a 17 cm hand puppet from 1967 through 1976.

Steiff also produced another clown named Clownie from
1954 through 1955. He was made in 14 and 19 cm and was attired in a green felt jacket, black felt pants, a red and white striped shirt, black felt pants, yellow felt shoes, and a red felt cap. This Clownie is very rare and collectible due to his extremely limited time in the catalog. Interestingly, the production methods for both Clownies are based on lessons that Steiff learned from the large scale manufacturing of both the Mecki and Micki hedgehog dolls from the early 1950's.

Let's extend the hand of friendship to this next Steiff clown. This is Hand-Kasper Happy or Hand-Punch Happy. This perky puppet is 17 cm tall and is detailed with red and gold felt clothing, red wool pom-poms, and a white felt neck ruff. He is wearing a gold felt hat with a bell on the end and white felt gloves. He was in the line from 1963 through 1974; those up to 1972 had plastic heads, those after 1972 had softer PVC heads. It is interesting to note that the same head design was used in 1964 as a Blacky Chimney Sweep puppet. Moving forward, Steiff used this very successful basic design template for many puppets by varying the hairline and costumes through the early 1980's.

The next Steiff clown in this lineup is Cappy Schlenkerpuppe or Cappy Floppy Doll. This silly softie stands 28 cm and was produced from 1968 through 1974. He is unjointed and designed for fun and play. This Cappy has a plastic head, yellow felt cap with a bell, while felt glove hands, and red felt feet. His costume is a red and blue artificial silk "harlequin" style suit with a white felt neck ruff.

Notice Cappy's face and head? It is the same as Hand-Punch Happy mentioned above. Steiff also used this very popular face and head for other dolls including a caveman and a sandman; these were produced in the same general time frame as Cappy.

Our parade is slowly drawing to a close, and that's a big deal. A 70 cm deal. This very big boy is Schlori Kasper or Schlori Punch. Schlori was produced from 1978 through 1980. Earlier Schlori dolls were made from synthetic velvet while the later versions were made from trevira velvet. Schlori has a pointy cone nose and soft plush blond hair. He is completely unjointed and very floppy. He wears a red felt hat, red shoes, and an orange and green "harlequin" suit which is finished with a white felt neck ruff. This identical design was also produced in 40 cm as Lari Kasper or Lari-Punch, and Fari Kasper or Fari-Punch. Lari has brown hair and an orange and green suit, while Fari has black hair and an orange and red suit.

And finally why does the word "punch" keep showing up in reference to some Steiff clowns? Probably in reference to the famous "Punch and Judy" puppet shows that were very popular across Europe in days past. The "Punch" character was a "clowny" jester who traditionally wore a playful harlequin style costume, called a "Motley."

Steiffgal ho-ho-ho hopes this optimistic review of Steiff clowns helps to set you up for a very happy and jolly 2010!

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Steiff's 12 Days of Christmas - Part 2

... And picking right up where we left off last week - without further delay - the second part of "Steiff's 12 Days of Christmas!"

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me... seven swans a-swimming. Take a look at this lovely all black swan, which as far as Steiffgal can tell, is the only one Steiff has ever made! Schwan, or swan, is 20 cm, unjointed, and made from women fur. She has tiny red webbed feet and a red beak. She was produced from 1983 through 1985 and also came in all white. The first Steiff swan appeared in the 1892 debut catalog; according to the 1892 - 1943 Steiff Sortiment book, she was described as "felt, white, lying in a nest of knitted moss, colorful felt pad, painted, also usable as an ink wiper." Boy, how times have changed!

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...eight maids-a-milking. Let's make it "chocolate milking" to add a little holiday fun to our story! Milka Kuh or Milka Cow is one of the best known and loved advertising characters in Germany. This purple cow is the logo of Kraft Food's specialty chocolate brand Jacobs Suchard, which has been in business since 1901. It is thought that her name, Milka, came about from combining Milch and Kakao (the German words for milk and cocoa, the candy's primary ingredients.) Milka is made from purple and white woven fur and wears a leather color and bell. She was produced in 23, 32, and 75 cm (the largest being a special window display piece) and appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1997 through 2003.

On the
ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... nine ladies dancing. And oh so prettily! From 2004, this is the "Vienna Ballerina Teddy Bear", a limited edition of 1,500 pieces produced exclusively for Austria. She is five ways jointed, made from apricot mohair, and stands 32 cm tall. She is elegantly dressed in a silken tutu and wears laced-up ballet shoes. And what is dance without music? This dancing darling comes with a music box that plays the "Wiener Blut" or "Viennese Blood Waltz", a popular piece of classical music composed by Johann Strauss II in 1871.

On the te
nth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... ten lords-a-leaping. Now here Steiffgal must confess.. that this is her FAVORITE day, and favorite gift, in this version of Steiff's 12 days of Christmas. Imagine these "Lords" a-leaping. Here we have Lord, the Great Dane, which Steiff produced from 1932 through 1936. (This picture is from Pfeiffer's 1892 - 1943 Steiff Sortiment book... a "must have" resource for all things Steiff.) Lord is sitting, unjointed, and made from a hearty fabric which has been carefully airbrushed with brown spots. He was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm. He was also manufactured in a similar standing design, during the same time period. Lord was the first, and as far as Steiffgal can tell, the last Great Dane produced by Steiff.

On the ele
venth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...eleven pipers piping. There's no rule that pipers can't be heavenly, right? That being the case, this Teddy bear angel with a transverse flute ornament from Steiff's 2004 worldwide limited edition holiday collection should fit the bill here just fine. This perfect piper is 11 cm, five ways jointed, made from blonde mohair, and is adorned in a sky-blue gown to match her distinctive eyes. Of course, she has her requisite angel-wings. And just what is a transverse flute? It's a relatively simple, ancient wind instrument, possibly first seen in Chinese art from the 9th century BC.

Drum roll to t
he finale here please... on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... twelve drummers drumming. But why just stick with drums when the whole band is available to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas? Here we have Steiff's wonderful and highly collectible Circus Band Set from 1988 and 1989. The set, which was made in an edition size of 5,000 for the USA, consists of five fabulous musicians, including a Teddy bandmaster (bottom left), a dog trombone player (top center), a cat with a drum (top right), a lion with a tuba (top left) and a crocodile with a trumpet (bottom right.) Each player is 19 cm, fully jointed, dressed to the nines in their marching attire, and made from mohair. These jolly players were part of the larger Steiff "Golden Age of the Circus" series, which included clowns, acrobats, balloon sellers, a fat lady, fire eaters, strong men, and other traditional "big top" entertainers.

Readers, Steiffgal hopes that this Steiff-y take on the twelve days of Christmas has helped to set you up for a very happy New Year's celebration and a healthy, successful, and personally fulfilling 2010.

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Steiff's 12 Days of Christmas - Part 1

Here's a little known fact... the 12 days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas day and last through January 5th! This special time, also known as Christmastide, inspired the universally beloved Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The "cumulative style" carol was first published in England in 1780. All of this got Steiffgal thinking... what would the 12 days of Steiff Christmas look like? Alot of Steiff! So here is part one - days one through six. Check back here early next week for part two - days seven through twelve!

Now, without further adieu, let's strike up the band and get started!

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...a partridge in a pear tree. Surprisingly, Steiffgal cannot find any indication that Steiff ever commercially produced a partridge bird in any of her reference books. New product idea, perhaps? Since a partridge is a mostly grey, chubby bird with red feet, this little fellow will have to do the trick for now. Here's a vintage, well loved 12 cm Steiff Fink or finch from 1955 through 1957. He is made from mohair and has tiny red metal legs.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me...two turtle doves. Interestingly, the German word for dove and pigeon is the same... Taube. The first taube appeared in the Steiff line in 1894 - just two years after the debut catalog of 1892 - as a white felt bird on an elastic string. This modern clip-on dove is 10 cm, made from white alpaca, and has lovely airbrushed felt wing and tail feathers. She was produced in 2004 as part of the North American limited edition collection.

On the third
day of Christmas my true love gave to me...three French hens. Steiffgal hopes you enjoy this tourist photo, taken of Woll-Henne or Woolen Hen, on her most recent trip to Paris! Hen is one of Steiff's famous "woolen miniatures", the tiny "pom-pom" style animals Steiff first introduced in the 1930's. This particular 8 cm hen was produced from 1949 through 1982 and has a red felt comb, grey felt tail feathers, yellow felt beak, googly plastic eyes, and red metal legs. She was also manufactured in the identical pattern pre-war from 1938 through 1943.

On the fourt
h day of Christmas my true love gave to me...four calling birds. Steiffgal can't imagine a better bird-buddy to have on the phone than a parrot! This is Papagei Lora, or Lora Parrot. She is 12 cm, is made from brightly colored mohair, has felt feet, a delicately detailed facial mask, a rubber beak, and piercing green pupil eyes. She appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1962 through 1976. She was also produced in 22 cm from 1962 through 1974. The first Steiff parrot was appeared in the catalog in 1892 and was made from felt; she was available with or without a wire swing for display.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...five golden rings. Well, Steiff hasn't entered the fine jewelry business yet, but Steiffgal is saving her pennies for that day if it ever comes! In the meantime, check out this all-season sparkler, the Steiff Swarovski Teddy bear pendant! Teddy is 2.8 cm, has a gold-plated muzzle, eartag, and paws, and is covered head to toe in 120 clear hand-set Swarovski crystals. His eyes and nose are black enamel. That's some blinged-out bear!

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...six geese a' laying. To mark the halfway point in our Steiff twelve days of Christmas review, here we have a darling trio of Steiff geese. The goose on the far right is Gans Tulla or Tulla goose. Tulla was produced from 1952 through 1974 in 12, 17, and 28 cm. Tulla is made from white mohair and has delightfully playful orange felt webbed feet and beak. The goose on the left and in the middle is Kuschi Gans, or Kuschi goose. Kuschi was produced in 12 cm from 1962 through 1970 as a "special order" promotional item for a bedding company. The only difference between Tulla and Kuschi is that Kuschi is detailed with white feathers on her tail or head.

Readers, Steiffgal hopes part one of the Steiff "Twelve Days of Christmas" review has put a happy holiday song in your heart. Check back in a few days for part two!

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Steiff Holiday Greetings - From 1913!

Steiffgal hopes that all of her readers have mailboxes full of seasonal holiday cards from friends near and far. Hopefully you have room for one more from Steiffgal! This one features a tree, but didn't take a tree to produce as you can view it online!

Take a look at this wonderful vintage Steiff Christmas scene from around 1913. (You can click on the picture to enlarge it.) This image is from the delightful book Advertising Art of Steiff Teddy Bears and Playthings by Dottie Ayers and Dona Harrison. This vignette was actually produced as a black and white print advertisement for the German publication Illustrirte Zeitug. This was a popular weekly current events magazine that featured news reports; home, garden, and fashion articles; culture and lifestyle columns, and extensive advertising. The publication had a very high circulation for its time.

Let's take a look at the ad piece by piece.
First the writing. The copy on the top left of the picture translates approximately to: "Toy factory Margarete Steiff, GmbH, (Wurttenberg). Founder and manufacturer of the world famous "Teddy bear." Trademark "Button in Ear." Grand Prix St. Louis 1904 and Brussels 1910. International building trade exhibition Leipzig 1913: State Award. Available everywhere. No direct sales to private parties. Catalog #20 free." This is basically presenting the company's trademark, highlighting early awards won, and telling consumers that they must purchase their items through a retailer's store - not directly through Steiff. However, they public could request a catalog at no charge.

Now to the fun... the items displayed in the ad! From left to right they are: a 9 cm plush play ball ($0.19), a 50 cm ride-on goat ($4.80), a 25 cm record Teddy ($0.96), a 35 cm little boy doll named Heiner ($1.32), a tiny white mouse ($0.10), 17 and 22 cm white lambs on wheels ($0.41 and $0.65), a 35 cm little girl doll named Rosa ($1.56), a 25 cm record Peter monkey ($1.14), and a 50 cm ride-on donkey ($4.80). On the tree, left to right, if you look closely you can see a 8 cm pigeon ($0.22), a white felt swan with woolen pom poms ($0.22), 12 cm velvet squirrel ($0.29), a white felt rabbit with woolen pom poms ($0.22), and an 8 cm "good luck" pink velvet pig with a clover in his mouth ($0.17).

And the dollar figures listed after each one? That's how much each item cost in US dollars in 1913! But just to put things in perspective, the average weekly salary back then, based on a six day workweek, was about $17!

Clearly, Steiff has played a role for many families at Christmas since the company started producing its wonderful items on an international scale at the turn of last century. However, it is curious to note that none of the items pictured in the seasonal advertisement were actually specifically made for Christmas. Most interestingly in this regard are the tree "ornaments". The pigeon, swan, and rabbit were all designed as "pram toys" or items to hang from a baby's stroller. The squirrel was a popular plaything, and the pig was intended to be a pincushion. After combing through many Steiff reference books, the earliest Christmas specific Steiff item Steiffgal could find was a brightly painted 20 cm wooden Santa Claus toy on a rocking base. This item was featured in the catalog from 1923 through 1927. To the left is a black and white picture of this item, which is taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892 - 1943 Steiff Sortiment reference book.

Christmas became a higher priority for Steiff after WWII.
nta Claus as we know him now made his grand debut in the Steiff catalog 1953 as a five way jointed 31 cm doll with a rubber head, felt body, bright red felt suit and cap, and white fluffy mohair beard. By 1955 this design was also being produced in 13 and 18 cm as well as a special order 150 cm display piece. From 1954 through 1961 this Santa pattern was also produced as a popular and highly sought after 21 cm hand puppet. This original beloved Santa Claus doll was reissued in 19 and 28 cm as a US exclusive from 1984 through 1988. Christmas really kicked into high gear at Steiff in the late 1980's with the production of several Santa Claus Teddies. A series of limited edition Christmas tree ornaments for the US market was launched in 1994.

Today, Christmas
items are a very important part of the Steiff product line. Each year, numerous worldwide and country-wide limited editions are produced, and several retailers - including FAO Schwarz - have traditionally produced their own exclusives in conjunction with Steiff. A few years ago, Steiff started producing a series of Christmas specific soft plus playthings and baby toys. This 25 cm green, soft plush decorated Weihnachtsbaum or Christmas tree from 2005 - one of Steiffgal's treasured oddities - is a good example of Steiff's relatively new "outside the box" thinking about Christmas. This seasonal showpiece was a holiday gift from Steiffgal's friend Steiffpal a few years ago.

Dear readers, may you find that one Steiff item you have always wanted under your Christmas tree, tucked next to your menorah, or adjacent to your Kwanzaa kinara centerpiece! But more importantly, Steiffgal hopes this time of joy and celebration - however you personally celebrate the season - brings you peace and happiness in very real and meaningful way.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Slo-ing Things Down For The Holidays

With the holidays quickly approaching, Steiffgal is certain many readers are running around like crazy, managing festive details like shopping (hopefully a new Steiff item for everyone on your list!), seasonal cards, and joyful get-togethers with friends and family. To give Steiff lovers a cause to paws (pun intended), slow down and take a look at this wonderful jumbo vintage Steiff turtle Steiffgal and Steiffguy found last weekend at an antiques show in southern Florida!

Say "shell-o" to Snuggy Slo! Snuggy was designed as a "sitztier" or sitting animal for children. He was produced from 1957 through 1974. This laid-back beauty is unjointed, 43 cm, and made from cream-colored mohair that has been exquisitely and carefully airbrushed with brown, olive, green, and black to give the look and feel of a real life turtle. He has a cheerful open mouth that is lined in peach felt and olive colored felt claws on the end of each of his limbs.

And what specifially makes Snuggy Slo a "sitting animal?" On his underside, he has a very study black metal frame which helps him keep his standing shape as well as support the weight of a child sitting on him. When he was new, he had rubber feet on the ends of his metal frame, to keep him in place and prevent floor scratching. It is easy to picture a little boy or girl resting on his back, enjoying a good book or snack!

Snuggy Slo's design is based on Slo Schildkroete, or Slo Turtle, a popular reptile that was introduced in the line in 1955 and produced through 1975. Interestingly, as far as Steiffgal can tell, Slo was the first turtle ever to appear in the Steiff catalog. Slo was made from mohair and came in 10, 14, and 22 cm. The 10 and 14 cm versions had a rubber or plastic shell and a closed mouth, while the 22 cm version was made entirely from mohair and had an open felt lined mouth. The picture above shows Snuggy Slo with his Slo cousins, so you can see the “family resemblance.” Slo was also produced as a 35 cm riding turtle on wheels from 1959 through 1975. He received a "makeover" in 1976, appearing in velvet with a PVC shell in 14 and 22 cm. This design remained in the catalog until 1984.

Snuggy Slo was part of a series of "functional playthings" Steiff started producing in the late 1950's. Steiff's universal appeal really took off a few years after the end of WWII, possibly because soldiers returning from assignments in Europe often brought Steiff items back home with them. As a result, Steiff began expanding its offerings to keep up with demand and explore the potential of new product lines. In addition to Slo, other sturdy, metal framed "sitting" mohair animals in the Snuggy series included a 30 cm may beetle (produced from 1968 through 1969), a 40 cm frog (produced from 1959 through 1966), a 35 cm elaborately airbrushed starfish (produced from 1959 through 1969), and a 55 cm elephant (produced from 1957 through 1966). All but the starfish were based on existing, beloved Steiff patterns of the time.

Readers, Steiffgal hopes this discussion around turtles and sitting items has added a much-welcomed respite to your frenetic holiday activities. (It certainly has for Steiffpug, pictured here "test sitting" Snuggy Slo!)

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Good Things Come In (Steiff) Threes

Steiff items are made with such quality that it is not all that unusual for them to be passed down through numerous family generations. Steiffgal herself is the proud third-generation steward of many of her family's Steiff treasures! Check out this note from a reader who wants to learn more about a fantastic collection of vintage items that belonged to his great, great aunt. Joel from Minnesota writes...


I got these toys from my great, great aunt.

I was wondering when they were made and if they all were Steiff or not?

I would be happy with any information you could give me.

Thank you, Joel"

Good things come in threes, and these delightful Steiff items certainly exemplify that truth! But before digging into the details of each, Steiffgal first wants to introduce a very special SteiffLife guest. Please welcome Joel’s great, great aunt, Harriet. She is the original owner of these turn-of-last-century treasures. Harriet was born around 1912 into an affluent family from Wisconsin. Here she is on the left as a little girl – probably about the time that she welcomed these Steiff “Friends for Life” into her own life.

Ok, now let’s jump right in – literally. Joel and Harriet's first item is what Steiff calls Hase, or Rabbit. This bouncing bundle of Steiff joy is unjointed, sitting, and is made from lamb’s wool plush, giving her a “nubby” texture. Her ears are lined in pink. This particular model was produced from 1901 through 1924 in 8, 10, and 12 cm. The same basic design made from lamb’s wool plush was also produced in an upright running style in 14 and 17 cm from 1903 through 1918.

This sitting “heavy bottomed” bunny pattern was extremely popular in the Steiff catalog through the end of the 1920’s. This design debuted in the first Steiff catalog of 1892 in white felt in 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm as well as in brown, grey, black, and white short pile plush in 14 cm. She next appeared in velvet in 1899. Most interestingly – and a sure confirmation of her popularity - this design was one of a handful of items produced post World War l in substitute woven fabric and mohair “paper plush” in 1918 through 1921. If you look closely at the bunny’s button, pictured to the left, remarkably you will see a remnant of a white ear tag. This helps to date the piece between 1906 and 1924.

It’s time to tiptoe on cat’s feet to the next great item in the collection. Here we have a Steiff Katze, or Cat, also from the early part of last century. This fantastic feline is unjointed, sitting, and made from white mohair. And like Joel’s Aunt’s bunny from around the same time, she also features a “heavy bottom” design. This particular cat was produced from 1906 though 1927 in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm. When she left the factory in Giengen a century ago, she was detailed with a colorful (probably pink) silk ribbon and a bell.

This cat, like the rabbit discussed previously, is a classic early Steiff design. A sitting cat in felt in the same pattern - featuring a deep “v” as part of the chest construction - was featured in both white and grey felt in 14, 22, and 28 cm in the charter 1892 Steiff catalog. This model then appeared in short pile plush, mohair plush, velvet, and wool plush within a few years. She was last seen - in a slightly updated form - pre World War ll made from coat plush, an inexpensive material used in the place of more costly mohair.

Steiffgal tries never to play favorites, but in the case of this final item, it’s almost impossible not to! Saving perhaps the best for last, here we have what Steiff calls Spitz or Pomeranian. This wheeled wonder was produced from 1902 though 1929 in 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm. Spitz is standing and made from long white curly mohair with a white felt face, ears, and legs below his hips. He has black shoe button eyes and embroidered facial features. He was available with metal wheels until 1921; after that, he came with wooden wheels.

When this Spitz was new, he featured a red cord with two pom-poms or tassels around his neck, giving him a “regal” appearance. The breed does have some connections to German royalty, which may explain why they are decorated like “little kings”. This wonderful Spitz design was also produced in several other variations, including an unjointed sitting version, a jointed standing version, and as a pincushion on a red velvet pillow, seen here on the left. (This picture is from a catalog from the German auction house Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion.) All but the standing version came with red tassel neckwear.

Joel, you are most fortunate to be the next steward of this marvelous collection of century old classic Steiff playthings. Steiffgal hopes that this overview gives you a great feeling for the legacy of the items as well as their importance on the Steiff product – and your – family tree!

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's "Better Together" With Steiff

Steiffgal recently attended her 25th high school reunion. And yes, she did bring along some Steiff, in the form of her beloved Charly purse (a North American limited edition from 2005). The event triggered two thoughts. The first one is obvious: how quickly time passes. The second was a bit more unexpected: it's really nice to connect with old friends. Some things are just better together, and the same is true with Steiff collectibles. Take a look at four item pairs from over the years that truly exemplify "friends for life".

Mecki and Micki could be considered the "royal couple" for Steiff. They were first designed in Germany in 1940 by the artist Ferdinand Diehl. They became much more famous in the early 1950's with their regular appearance on the German TV magazine HORZU. This hedgehog family, including the father (Mecki), mother (Micki), and their children (Macki and Mucki) remain popular to this day, with "Mecki" fan clubs and merchandise available across Germany. The Diehl Film company from Munich granted Steiff the licensing rights to produce the dolls in 1951, and they have been a mainstay in the line to this day. Both Mecki and Micki have been produced in 17, 28, and 50 cm from 1952 onward; a 100 cm Mecki was produced in 1967, perhaps as a special window display.

These particular Mecki and Micki dolls are the 17 cm size and date from the mid 1960's, as their heads are made from vinyl.
Earlier versions had latex heads which tended to crack very easily. They both are head and arm jointed and have wonderful white-tipped mohair hair. Their bodies are made from felt; Mecki has a fuzzy blond mohair chest. Mecki wears his traditional work outfit including "dirty" and "patched" grey trousers, a red and white checkered shirt, and brown felt vest. Micki sports red and black checkered skirt,
a blue and black checkered top, and a white, well-used apron. Both have black felt shoes.

Hop to it and take a look at this next great duo. Here we have the 50 cm Steiff Kaenguruh Kangoo or Kangaroo Kangoo. Kangoo was produced from 1953 through 1966. She is head and arm jointed and made from blond mohair. Her ears are lined in grey felt and she has large, adorable pupil eyes. In her pouch she has a 7 cm blond unjointed velvet joey baby. This model was also made in 14, 28, and 65 cm; the smaller sizes had a plastic joey while the largest size had a mohair joey.

This terrific two-some is the Mama and Baby Set 1903, from 1981. It follows on the heels of the wildly successful Papa Bear 1903, which was produced in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Steiff company in 1980. This set was one of the first limited edition replicas produced as a United States exclusive. Mama is 38 cm and baby is 15 cm. Both are five ways jointed and are made from long blond mohair. They are joined together via a lovely orange ribbon imprinted with "Margarete Steiff Ltd. Edition Knopf im Ohr" across the front. The set was produced in an edition size of 8,000 pieces.

And finally, it takes two to stay warm, and this penguin set does just that. Here we have Pingu and Pinga, the famous "pingunese" speaking claymation cartoon characters from the TV show Pingu. Pingu (the slightly larger more black boy) and his sister Pinga (the slightly smaller more white girl) are both head jointed and made from mohair. They have felt feet and beaks. Pingu is 13 cm and Pinga is 12 cm. They were made as a 1,500 piece limited edition set for Sony in Japan in 2000. Pingu originally ran for 6 seasons for a total of 156 episodes; it is, and remains popular worldwide due to its universally understood language and simple story themes. You can check out some of the funnier episodes by clicking here and here... and here... but be fair warned, this program is TOTALLY ADDICTIVE (in a good way!)

Steiff is certainly a great way to bring folks together for a good time. Perhaps Margarete Steiff was referring to more than just Teddies and animals when she said Steiff was all about "Friends for Life!"

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Taking a Closer Peek At Steiff's Peky Dogs

Dogs are perhaps Steiffgal's "best of show" favorites among all the wonderful creatures Steiff has produced over the years. There's something in the way that the Steiff designers capture the personalities and characteristics of the toy breeds - including pugs, Pomeranians, and Pekingese - that make their renditions completely irresistible. Check out this question concerning a precious Steiff pup to see if you agree. Anna from Warsaw, Poland writes:


A few months ago I bought a very nice Steiff dog.

Unfortunately I have no information regarding this dog.

It would be great if you could tell me anything about it.

Please find a picture of the dog as an attachment.

Best Regards, Anna"

This is a walk in the dog park to answer! Anna, what you have here is Steiff's Cosy Peky, the Pekingese. She was manufactured from 1968 through 1978. Peky is 20 cm, sitting, unjointed, and has adorable black and white pupil eyes and a hand stitched nose. She is made from tan and white Dralon (a synthetic plush), and is stuffed with soft fibers and foam, making her fully washable. Cosy Peky, like most Steiff items with the word "Cosy" in their names, was designed more as a fun, play item for children rather than a collectible.

Steiffgal guesses that her button is small and dome shaped, with the word "Steiff" written in tiny script letters, or rather flat like a plate with the word "Steiff" in larger script letters. Anna's Cosy Peky was made at a time when the company was transitioning from one button type to another.

Pekingese dogs have been in the Steiff product line for 497 (dog) years, having made their first appearance in the 1938 catalog. The original Peky, shown here on the left in a photo from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892 - 1943 Sortiment Book, is standing, head jointed, and made from very long off white mohair. She was produced in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 25 cm up until 1943.

After the war, a newer Pekingese design was introduced, debuting in 1953. This updated Peky was produced in 8, 10, 14, and 22 cm though 1977. The post-war Peky is standing, made from light brown mohair, has a detailed black muzzle (mostly velvet in the smaller sizes; mohair in the larger ones), and a darling, pouty mouth. This pattern was also produced as an 18 cm hand puppet from 1963 through 1964. Because this design is so expressive, it remains a collector's favorite to this day - as each Peky truly has her own look and personality. The photo on the left shows an assortment of these "newer" Pekys, including the puppet.

Steiff also introduced other Pekys into the line through the 1980's. These included a larger, 30 cm light blond mohair sitting Peky from 1965 through 1976 (pictured to the left), Anna's adorable Cosy Peky, a crylor (a coarse synthetic material) standing Peky, and a few other soft plush play versions for children. Interestingly, Steiff has yet to produce a Studio, or life sized, Peky for collectors! Hint, hint!

Anna, Steiffgal hopes this "peek" into the history of Steiff Pekingese dogs has given you a good feeling for the legacy of your precious Peky!

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

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