Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reigning Cats and Dogs: Auction Highlights 4/27-5/3/09

You may be familiar with the old saying "April showers bring May flowers." This week's auction review bridges the months of April and May, and there certainly were a gardenful of wonderful highlight options for the column. But in the end, it started raining (oops, I mean reigning) cats and dogs, and this incredibly special pup and kitty, both from the 1930's, got my "green thumbs" up.

This charming canine is Treff the bloodhound. Treff is sitting, made from blond mohair, is head jointed, and has black embroidered paws and a vertically stitched nose. He has delightful airbrush detailing on his face - check out his freckles and "eye makeup". He is 14 cm and from the description and pictures associated with the auction, appears to be in like-new condition, with his "bear face" his chest tag (with his name, Treff, in red letters), "ff" Steiff button, and red ear tag. Treff received a sky high 29 bids and sold for $1,262.99.

Treff is one of the most interesting and popular Steiff characters of the late 1920's - 1930's. This particular Treff appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1928 - 1938, and was available in 9 sizes, ranging from 7 to 50 cm. Treff was also available standing, as a riding toy, as a squeeze - release "Music - Animal", (click here for more information) as a pincushion, as a hand puppet, as a dressed dog doll, and as an evening bag. A few models were also produced in velvet and in a less expensive plush fabric.

Interestingly, Treff did not begin life as a bloodhound. The design was based on the English Dalmatian, "Dismal Desmond", manufactured by Deans Rag Book Co. of London. Paul Steiff, one of Margarete Steiff's nephews, modified the design to match the company' style, manufacturing, and marketing needs. Treff's eye design was actually legally patented; the eyeball is embedded in the eye socket and surrounded by fabric eyelids, not just sewn on, giving the bloodhound his distinctive expression. (Collectors may recognize a similar eye construction in Steiff's chimp, Jocko. For more information, click here for "Confessions of a Jocko-holic.")

Now this little kitty is certainly the cat's meow. She is tiny - 7 cm - sitting, has a flexible wire frame, and green and black glass pupil eyes. Her ears are pink felt and she is made from Nomotta wool. Nomotta wool is moth proof and has a really wonderful, rich, unique texture to it; I have held other Steiff collectibles from kitty's era and I would best describe the look and feel to be a cross between Steiff's well know fuzzy "pom-pom" animals and really lush alpaca. According to the description and photos associated with the auction, kitty is in excellent condition and retains her original pink silk ribbon and tiny "ff" Steiff button. She received 21 bids and sold for $1,514.

This terrific tiny tabby appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1936 - 1938. Steiff began producing a large number of "woolen miniatures" in 1931, starting with a series of six bird breeds. Starting in 1934, rabbits, cats, mice, mice, monkeys, ducks, and other popular breeds joined the line. These were (relatively) lower cost items designed for play (all eyes were sewn in for safety) as well as for collectors to use in dioramas and for seasonal decorations. Steiff produced these woolen miniatures through 1943. They began producing them again in 1949; they appeared in the catalog through the early 1980's.

I hope this week's highlights have planted a few seeds on how interesting - and ususual - Steiff's dogs and cats from the 1930's can be!

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

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