Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Best In Show

Steiffgal has seen alot of Steiff, but nothing quite like this "blue ribbon" buddy sent in from a curious reader. After much "digging and sniffing" around for what seemed like dog years, she finally figured out who he is and the remarkable story behind him. Take a look at this note from Marvin, who writes from Texas:

"I have spent a lot of time from past to present trying to learn more about a family piece I own. I have an obviously, very rare, Steiff puppy or dog tail-turns-head dating Ca. 1920's-30's.

Like many of the early Steiff pieces that w
ere made and sold in Germany, this is impossible to find anywhere! From what I know, this dog was not an import or mass-produced Steiff. What is also unusual is the open mouth. I will now provide all of the information you requested at your website/blog.

  • Age: (eartag) According to the 8mm iron nickel plated button with f drawn back to E, this piece dates to 1925-1934; also has Steiff button tags on leather collar.
  • The size of this dog measures 13" long excluding the tail. The full (L shaped) tail measures about 8". There is a thin metal rod that runs through center for turning.
  • The dog is made of mohair and is oatmeal-like in color. It could be a golden retriever puppy like Marley from "Marley & Me".
  • The eyes are glass. Brown with black pupils. Each eye measures about 11mm in diameter. The nose and claws are both stitched and black in color. ...he has an open mouth with pink felt lining.
  • This Steiff dog is stuffed with straw.
  • The tail and both front legs have a thin metal rod than runs through the center of them. The front legs have the same connected rod running through both of them, so that they will move at the same time if you move one of the legs. Probably U shaped iron rod connecting both front legs. The front legs are not jointed, neither are the hind legs either. This puppy dog may have originally stood taller on its front legs, in the front. It may need a little adjusting of iron rod in legs or just to have the seam re-sewn and positioned. This is a tail-turns-head dog, so it has a mechanical turning mechanism on its rear end.
This puppy dog was brought to the U.S. by German immigrants. I have never seen another like it anywhere! I tried to do my homework to assist you by saving time, but I have reached as far as I can go! I am sure this will be interesting for you and your friends! My last word is HELP!!!!!!!!!!"

Hi Marvin; Steiffgal would be more than happy to help out here! What you have here is truly a remarkable piece, both for what it is and the story behind it.

First the piece itself; Steiff calls your item Chinook Byrds Arctic Expedition Dog. The picture here on the left shows what he looked like brand new. Chinook is sitting (your piece got a little "bent out of shape" over time); made from cream colored wool plush that is airbrushed with light brown and black detailing; has an open pink lined felt mouth, brown glass pupil eyes, black stitched nose and claws; and sports a leather color. As you note, he features a tail-turns-head mechanism. Steiff manufactured this particular model of Chinook in three sizes: 23, 29, and 35 cm in 1931 and 1932 only.

In addition to this sitting heads-turns-tail Chinook, Steiff also made three additional Chinook models in the 1930 through 1932 timeframe. These included standing (17, 28, and 43 cm), lying down (22, 32, 35, and 50 cm), and just sitting (22, 28, and 35 cm) versions. All have the same general look and sport elaborate leather collars studded with Steiff "ff" style buttons; only the two sitting up models have open mouths.

So what's a Chinook, and what does it have to do with Byrd's Antarctic Expedition? A Chinook is a relatively recent breed of dog that was created by Arthur Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire in 1917 as a working dog. This breed was carefully and strategically derived from crossbreeding dogs from the Peary North Pole Expedition with other breeds with great stamina, strength, and cold weather tolerance.

Walden was an experienced dog driver with years of experience in the Yukon. For that reason was selected as the lead driver and trainer on the 1929 Byrd expedition, even though he was close to 60 at the time! Walden brought along his original Chinook, now 12 years old, and fifteen of his dog sons to provide surface transportation on the Antarctic ice for this critical exploratory mission.

Of Chinook, Byrd wrote:
"...there was no doubting the fact that he was a great dog. ...Walden used him as kind of a "shock troop", throwing him into harness when the going turned very hard. Then the gallant heart of the old dog would rise above the years and pull with the glorious strength of a three-year-old."

On the night of January 17, 1929, after an especially hard day of work, old Chinook wandered away from the base camp and was never seen again. Walden and the entire team were devastated; a highway in New Hampshire is named the Chinook Trail in honor of this dog and his heroic contributions.

And what does this mean in terms of Steiff? It is not uncommon since the turn of last century for Steiff to use "celebrities" as inspiration for new products. The world was in love with Chinook; why not make him as a plaything? The precedent had already been set with a series of delightful and popular dolls and toys honoring Peary's North Pole Expedition in the 1908 - 1919 time frame.

Marvin, Steiffgal hopes this information is helpful and gives you some background on your exceptional family treasure. Like the original Chinook, your collectible is simply Top Dog!

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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

All In The Family

Collections are always really interesting, as they usually tell a story about a person and what is, or was, important to them. Steiffgal recently got this note concerning a group of five woodland animals that a reader had inherited from her Grandmother. She was interested in learning more about the pieces.

Julianne writes...

"...One is a little bunny, cream in color with brown airbrushing and a baby blue bow. He is a baby animal and I think about 5-7" in length. He still has his chest badge and the ear tag. (EAN 6325/00?).

Another one is a beautiful squirrel with a big
bushy tail and tuft of hair on top of his head. He still has the prongs in his ear where the tag was, but the tag is missing.

We also have a beaver that is really cute. He has a felt tail that is airbrush striped, a darling open mouth showing his two front teeth. His backside fur is short, br
own, and white tipped. He has a cream belly with dark brown airbrushing. Missing tag and chest badge. I cannot see where a tag even may have been.

A baby chipmunk standing on all fours, kind of cream color underneath w
ith dark brown overall, and darker brown or black stripe going down the length of his back and tail. He is about 5-7" in length. Missing chest badge and ear tag. No prongs or staples that I could see.

Baby owl is about 6" high. Light brown with darker brown highlights and striping on back of head, body and wings. Cream colored belly has black spots. Head has felt "ears" coming out of the top. Felt feet with dark brown talons. Felt beak. Bushy cream colored fur around each eye which are green yellow in color. No tags.

My Grandma bought t
hem in the late 1950s or early 1960s. She used them for a Christmas tree that was decorated in woodland animals. They have not been played with. If you could help me find the value of these darling woodland creatures, I would be most appreciative....

Thank You!'

What a nice period grouping! Let's take a look at each one.

First, the rabbit. The EAN (product ID number) code that you provided indicates that this bunny is what Steiff calls "Changeable Rabbit". This is a neat piece because his back legs are fully jointed and he can be positioned in a running, sitting, or begging position. Changeable rabbit is made from mohair, has a jointed head, and is beautifully detailed with airbrushing around his feet, face, and ears. He has an especially youthful and playful appearance, partially because of his extremely large brown pupil eyes. This piece was produced in two sizes, 17 and 25 cm, from 1957 through 1970.

Now the squirrel. This squirrel is called Perri, and he was made between 1959 and 1983 in three sizes: 12, 17, and 22 cm. The 17 and 22 cm versions came with a little velvet nut, so Steiffgal suspects yours is the 12 cm size. Perri is made from mohair, is unjointed, has monofilament whiskers, and a fabulous tail made from especially long and thick mohair. His little hands and feet are made from tan felt; his black eyes are backed in felt as well. His body is expertly airbrushed in several shades of brown, orange, and even a mustard-y yellow. Perri is based on the squirrel from the Walt Disney movie called "True Life Adventures", Vol. 4, which was produced in 1957.

Onto the beaver (one of Steiffgal's personal favs...). This beaver is called Nagy, and he was manufactured in three sizes: 10, 17, and 25 cm - from 1958 through 1978. Nagy's body is made from brown, tan, and coffee colored mohair, while his tail, hands, and feet are made from felt. (Steiffgal is especially fond of the "spike-y" tipped mohair on his back, which is very similar to the mohair used as the hair on the very famous Steiff Mecki and Macki hedgehog doll family.) One of the things that makes this piece so adorable is the detailing on his open pink felt mouth, including a set of tiny felt buck teeth.

Next is the chipmunk, but not really. This little buddy is actually Murmy Marmot. A marmot is a rodent and closely related to the squirrel family. They are better known in Europe than here in the US; the word "marmot" roughly translates into the word "Alps Mouse". This Steiff Murmy was produced from 1960 through 1964 in 10 and 14 cm. He is made from brown tipped and airbrushed mohair, is unjointed, has tiny felt feet and hands, and a bushy mohair tail (unlike Nagy who has a felt one).

It is good to end on a wise note, so let's talk now about your owl. This popular and well known model is called Uhu Wittie, or Wittie Owl. Wittie as a plaything was produced from 1954 through 1977 in four sizes: 10, 14, 22, and 35 cm. Wittie is made from mohair and is unjointed; he has marvelous airbrushed detailing on his body, huge green glass pupil eyes, and charming tufts of black hair on his forehead. One of the things that is quite remarkable about this piece in any size is his enormous felt feet. Whittie was also produced as a popular hand puppet from 1955 through 1978.

Now onto the question that pains Steiffgal the most... how much are these items worth? As always, Steiffgal is not an appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. Additionally, poor economic times tend to favor buyers over sellers. That all being said, in terms of collectibility, the Changeable Rabbit is probably most attractive to collectors. Steiffgal has seen similar Changeable Rabbits recently sell at auction in the $50 - 75 range. The other items, although adorable and desirable, appear relatively frequently on the secondhand market. They usually auction in the $25 - 40 range each.

Steiffgal's best advice? Hold onto them and keep them together as a group to honor your Grandmother's legacy. Clearly woodland animals were important to her and to her heritage for some reason. Bring them out at Christmas, and toast your Grandmother's very good taste with a hot toddy or two! :-)

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Doesn't Take Much To Bug Steiffgal

Ladybugs are considered really auspicious, and that's the way Steiffgal felt when she received this inquiry from a reader concerning one of her family treasures. Take a look at this note from Paula, who writes from Brooklyn, NY.


I would like information on age/value of my Steiff ladybug pull toy. It measures approx 22" long and 16" wide, all four wheels are marked Steiff 80, it has glass eyes and plastic antennae. There is the remnant of a tag, but it doesn't have any writing on it. There is some wear to the top but none anywhere else.

I know you can't appraise, but I would really appreciate a "ballpark" valu
e if possible.

Thanks for your time.


Paula, your question literally "transports" Steiffgal to a long ago time and place. What you have here is called Reit-Marienkaefer, or Riding Ladybird. This well known toddler toy is made from red, black, and white mohair. It is quite solidly built for hands-on play with a metal frame and black grip handle. He has footrests and a pull-type front steering. Post war, this model was produced from 1950 through 1990. Riding Ladybird has rubber type tires from 1950 to 1966; from 1967 onward he has plastic tires. Your model, with rubber tires, dates your particular piece in the earlier production time frame.

Steiff has featured ladybirds, or ladybugs, in their line since about 1914. As a matter of fact, the earliest reference Steiffgal can find to ladybirds in the Steiff catalog is a 15 cm felt ladybug on wheels that doesn't appear all that much different than your piece under discussion, just smaller. Your postwar piece is almost identical in size and appearance to a ride-on ladybug that Steiff produced from 1939 through 1941, except for slight differences in the wheel construction.

Paula, you requested a ballpark value for your Reit-Marienkaefer. As always, Steiffgal is not an appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. Additionally, poor economic times tend to favor buyers over sellers. That all being said, Steiffgal recently saw a similar item sell at auction for about $100.

Thanks for rolling along with Steiffgal concerning this lovely ladybug; she hopes that this information is helpful moving forward!

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

Whenever Steiffgal travels, she always finds the local antiques district... of course, on a quest to find unusual Steiff treasures. This week, she is about as far from home as she could be while still remaining on the same continent! As luck would have it, she discovered two outstanding Steiff collectibles at a beautiful, clean, and friendly antique mall in Reno, Nevada called Antiques and Treasures. These two friends, not typically "companions" in nature, will remain together in her collection as a wonderful souvenir of a delightful day. So take a look!

The first find is an absolutely pristine 14 cm unjointed Steiff Lamm or Lamb. She has a charming, youthful innocence to her; her simplicity makes her so appealing. Lamb is made from wool plush (which feels like an ultra dense, slightly rough mohair). She has beautiful green glass pupil eyes, a little bell which is tied on with a light blue ribbon, a simple red stitched mouth and nose, and delicate pink airbrush detailing on her eyes, ears, and paws.

Lamb was one of the first Steiff items produced post war, starting in 1948. She was manufactured in six sizes, ranging from 10 to 35 cm through 1976. What makes this Lamb even more special is her crisp and clean "Made in US - Zone Germany" tag on her front left leg. This id, coupled with her raised script Steiff button in ear, puts her date of production at somewhere between 1949 and 1953.... even though she looks like she was made just this morning!

The second find really makes Steiffgal feel like queen of the jungle. This baby king is a 12 cm mohair Loewe Leo, or Leo Lion. Leo is unjointed, sitting, and has brown glass pupil eyes, mono-filament whiskers, and a prominent pink embroidered nose. He also has a very pronounced brown tipped mane; the same mohair and tipping details the end of his tail.

Steiffgal was thrilled to find this little love tucked in the corner of a display counter, but had no idea of his delightful and unusual surprise. Upon close inspection, Steiffgal discovered he has not one, but two Steiff lentil buttons in his ear! (The lentil button, which a puffed out hollow rivet with the word "Steiff" written on it in tiny script letters, dates the piece from 1969 through 1977.) Steiffgal literally started dancing in the aisles of the antique mall with excitement upon discovering Leo's secret! This "double button" is a highly unusual occurrence; such "mistakes" are usually culled or corrected via Steiff's rigorous quality control processes. Leo is the only "double button" item in Steiffgal's collection, and only the second time she has seen such such an oddity. Have you seen anything like this?

Traveling can be fun, finding Steiff treasures along the way makes it fantastic!

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

They're GRRReat!

Steiffgal couldn't help but think of Kellogg's "Tony The Tiger" character when she got this wonderful email inquiry from a reader about a family heirloom Steiff. Like Tony, when asked what she thinks of Steiff's "striped sweethearts", Steiffgal enthusiastically says...."they're great!" With that catty introduction, take a look at this note from Amanda from Halifax, NS, Canada. She writes:


I stumbled upon your site while looking up some information on my Steiff. He was given to my sister and I when we were ~8-9 years old when we lived in Maine. (approximately 1989) He wasn't in great shape when we got him, but we also did some damage to him by "riding" on him! I haven't been able to find much information on this big guy so I would appreciate any information you have.

He is, of course, a tiger, sitting at approximately 3 feet tall. I have learned that he is Studio Size. His hair is rubbed off in places and his left leg is slightly bent forward because of us sitting on him. He seems to be stuffed with excelsior(?) with a hard wire frame within (thus why his leg is permanently bent.) He is constructed of mohair. He had original glass day-glow eyes which were lost over time, and also a Steiff button in his ear which was also lost when his ear was ripped. When I acquired him from my parents a couple of years ago I decided to have him restored by a local professional. These are the repairs she made:
  • Replace left ear with mohair
  • Replace eyes with day-glow glass eyes
  • Replace fabric patch on front feet with mohair
  • Slightly shorten tail as the end had rotted and had holes
  • Restitch nose
  • Replace whiskers
  • Clean and brush
She did an excellent job on this guy - I paid $100.00 CND, in which she offered to buy him from me for $350.00 CND - this is the only idea of value I have had on him. Love him to death though and we will never sell him. I appreciate any information you have on this guy. I have attached photos of the "after" shots, I can't seem to find my "before" photos at the moment, but could get them if you need them with further digging. I am also interested on how/where to purchase a replacement button for his ear.


Amanda, what you have here is a Steiff Bengal Tiger. Steiff produced Bengal Tigers in three sizes ( 14, 22, and 45 cm) from 1959 through 1961. These mohair tigers are sitting, have distinctive green eyes, a pink vertically stitched nose, and open felt lined pink mouth with four distinct wooden teeth. They have magnificent, hand stenciled stripes and delicate airbrush detailing on their bodies. Steiffgal feels the Bengals have a softer, more playful persona than other Steiff tigers produced around the same time, which tended to have a fiercer, more realistic look to them. Bengals are coveted by collectors; a 43 cm one in relatively good condition just sold at auction for close to $300.

So what about his size? The really cool added bonus here is that Steiffgal believes that your Bengal is a very unusual Studio (life sized or display) piece. Because of his proportions, it may have taken a strong man a few days or even a week to carefully hand stuff him with excelsior (adding significantly to his original cost.) Steiffgal cannot find any reference to the 3 foot (approximately 90 cm) version owned by your family. However, in 1967, Steiff did produce a more conventional looking 90 cm sitting tiger, and it is cataloged as a "Schautier", or a display animal. So it is pretty safe to say that your sitting 90 cm Bengal Tiger is a Schautier as well!

And why doesn't he appear in Steiff references? Steiff is known for producing beautiful, high quality items for both consumers and for businesses. It is very possible that your Bengal Tiger was produced in a very limited run (anywhere from maybe 1 - 25 pieces) as a special order for a store as a display piece or as part of a window decoration. Sometimes these custom pieces just didn't get recorded as part of the general inventory, which makes them even more special to collectors. Steiffgal herself also has one of these uncataloged Studio display pieces in the form of a 90 cm Baboon, which was produced as part of a window display on the theme of "The Peaceable Kingdom" for a department store in the 1960's.

And replacing the button? Sorry, your Bengal is beautiful without it. Steiff won't sell replacement buttons; they simply are not available from the company. You may find one on eBay or online somewhere else, but Steiffgal highly recommends leaving him be.

Amanda, I hope that you continue to love and cherish your "big baby", and that this information further reinforces how special he truly is!

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

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wake up and look at this thing that I bring...

Always on the lookout to bring something new and unusual to readers, Steiffgal is delighted to introduce you to this wonderful Steiff version of Bagpuss, a "saggy cloth cat". Probably known more to friends in Europe, this character was the star of a short lived, but highly loved and memorable children's television program of the same name. Take a look here to learn more....

This Steiff Bagpuss was produced as a limited edition for The Danbury Mint in the UK in 2008. Like the original Bagpuss, this floppy Steiff version is about 9 inches tall, unjointed, has big blue eyes, a long tail, and is dramatically striped in almost neon pink. These pink stripes were individually hand stenciled on Bagpuss -- truly a time consuming labor of love! He also has an open mouth and long whiskers (giving him a thoughtful, pensive look...) just like the original Bagpuss. Steiff Bagpuss is made from rich, lush alpaca, which is a special type of wool that feels dense and warm like the coat of a sheep.

The Bagpuss TV series ran on the BBC for only 13 episodes in 1974. The programs were made using stop frame animation, and always included stories based on folktales, simple songs, and wholesome life lessons. Even though the program is now 25 years old, in 1999 the series came in first place in a BBC poll selecting the nation's favorite children's shows; it also came in fourth in a 2001 BBC poll of The 100 Greatest Kid's TV Shows. The original Bagpuss can be viewed at the Rupert Bear Museum in Canterbury, UK.

Bagpuss came Steiffgal's way quite unexpectedly, almost on little cat's feet. But she's so happy to be able to share his story with you!

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

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Very Special Delivery

Ever notice that when you are waiting and waiting for something, time crawls along, but if you are having a grand time, it just flies by? If Steiffgal ran things, it would certainly be the other way around!

Well, after a very long month of checking the mailbox every day, a wonderful package from Germany finally arrived at Steiffgal's house! And, the contents - both of a field and forest nature - are quite unusual and very exciting. Take a look!

The first item just slithered into Steiffgal's heart. He is a strange yet charming puppet called Hand-Snaky Schlange, or Hand-Snaky Snake. This mohair puppet is 20 cm, has an orange felt lined mouth, and green glass pupil eyes. His button and yellow tag are located on his bottom underside. He is a Steiff "One-derful", being produced only from 1965 through 1966. This particular piece is missing his orange felt tongue, but is in good condition otherwise.

The airbrushing detail on this puppet is truly remarkable. Every single inch of the snake, both top and underbelly, is elaborately painted, stenciled, or shaded, giving him a vivid and 3D appearance. Colors on the snake include tan, brown, yellow, green, olive, and mustard. An example of Steiff's handwork at it's finest.

Steiffgal doesn't mean to be sly about it, but the second item is a real head turner. This tall drink of water is Rotfuch, or Red Fox. He is made from plush and is designed as a faux fox winter stole or wrap. He measures 99 cm long and has a very detailed face with mustard pupil eyes, black whiskers, and black ears lined in white plush. He has an elongated, draping body and tail but no arms or legs. Red Fox has a string loop under his chin and a metal clip on his body to secure the stole on the wearer. Another Steiff "One-derful", Red Fox was produced only in 1976 through 1977.

Red Fox is quite unusual for Steiff in that he was designed as a wearable fashion accessory. Although Steiff has made many functional items over the years, including purses; pillows; playful hats and head wear; pincushions; pajama bags; music boxes; egg, coffee, and tea cosies; among others-- Steiffgal cannot find any reference to other wearable fashion focused Steiff items. Readers, are you aware of any other Steiff "runway" accessories?

The old saying "good things come to those who wait" couldn't be any truer than here!

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

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gone But Certainly Not Forgotten

Steiffgal's ears certainly perked up when she got this nostalgic inquiry from a reader from Toronto. Take a read here, do you know what she is looking for?

Nancy writes...

"I purchased a Steiff pom pom rabbit in the early 70's, as a child. (I saved a while for it.) It has a cream white body, black ears and feet, and partial black face. I never played with it, I kept it safe. When my son was a toddler, he must have been playing with it and dropped it in the laundry basket. I didn't realize until it was too late. I have kept him, but he is a little warped, and his whiskers were wrecked. I have periodically looked for a replacement, but there appears to be a short supply. Do you have any hints as to where to look? I live in Toronto, Canada. Thanks for any advice you might have."

Nancy, your story really brings back happy memories. When Steiffgal was a little girl in the 1970's (she thinks we are about the same age...) she also collected and cherished Steiff woolies as well as the little Steiff "bendy bears", which she would receive for birthdays and special events. Not to make anyone feel old here, but unfortunately neither is being
manufactured today.

Take a look here at this picture of a woolie rabbit from Steiffgal's collection. This model is called "Woll-Hase" or woolen rabbit. Steiffgal believes that this might be the product you are describing in your email. She has felt ears, glass pupil eyes, mono-filament whiskers, a tiny airbrushed pink mouth, a swivel head, and petite pom pom feet. Rabbit was manufactured in three sizes: 4, 6, and 8 cm. This model was produced prewar from 1931 through 1942 and postwar from 1949 through 1984. Postwar, she was produced in all white (albino, with pink eyes), white/beige, light brown/white, grey/white, and black/white.

Please also note the original attached price tag still on the bunny's foot... she was $2.00 at Bloomingdale's in 1967, which translates into about $12.78 today.

Woolen miniatures are a legacy product for Steiff. Many collectors caught the "collecting bug" from them, as their relatively low price made them more accessible than their higher priced Teddy and animal cousins. Six breeds of birds as woolen miniatures made their debut in the 1931 catalog. This introduction proved really successful, and Steiff introduced rabbits, cats, mice, mice, monkeys, ducks, and other popular breeds in 1934. Steiff produced these woolen miniatures through 1943. They began producing them again in 1949; they appeared in the catalog through the early 1980's.

As for finding a replacement for your childhood purchase, the very best recommendation Steiffgal has is to go online and search eBay and other websites that sell vintage Steiff. Steiffgal does not in any way endorse any particular vendor, and cannot give an opinion on service and price. However, she did find this rabbit for sale online (click here to link to the listing); is this your old friend?

Nancy, I hope this information is helpful and gets you a hop, skip, and a jump closer to finding your childhood treasure.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yes/No... Steiff Or Not?

Well, there's no question at all that Steiffgal extends a hearty hello to all SteiffLife readers!

It's time again for "What Do You Know", where Steiffgal answers questions emailed in from Steiff collectors around the globe. Today we have a really interesting inquiry submitted from Steve, from Pennsylvania. He writes....

"Steiffgal, Here's a recent purchase of mine I need help with.

I believe this is a Steiff Jocko. No Button or
Tag can be found. Fur is only on body parts exposed to sight. There is no fur under the chef's outfit so I have to believe is original to doll. Is 9" tall sitting down. When you move the head the tail also moves so they are connected. Any idea about age or if is a Steiff?...

..Yes under his clothes is no mohair but IS NOT worn off just never put on. Eyes are black pupil with brown around them. Tail is about 2 1/2" long. Arms and legs are jointed. I did purchase from an estate that the person collected Steiffs that had about 50 other animals.

Thank You and God Bless!


Steve, thanks so much for writing and sharing this precious treasure with Steiffgal and the SteiffLife readers. When Steiffgal first viewed your photos, her first reaction was that this was not a Steiff Jocko even though he certainly has some characteristics in common with the well known Steiff chimp. Upon gathering more details from you, and doing some additional research, she is certain that chef monkey was not made by Steiff.

Here's why:
1. Upon extensive research, and even a conversation with another well versed Steiff collector, Steiffgal can not find any record whatsoever of Steiff ever producing a Yes/No (i.e., tail turns head) Jocko.

2. The Steiff Jocko who is 9" sitting has legs that are bent at the knees, not straight as pictured on your chef monkey.

3. Post war, except for a small series of his and her dressed animals including "Pupphase Bub and Maedel" (Rabbit Doll Boy and Girl), "Pupp-Bazi Bube and Maedel" (Dachshund Doll Boy and Girl), and "Pupp-Fuchs Bube and Maedel" (Fox Doll Boy and Girl), no Steiff character dolls have bare (i.e., mohair-less) bodies and limbs.

4. Chef monkey's face, although Steiff-like with its black and brown glass pupil eyes, felt eye pockets, and white chin, is slightly different than the traditional face of the 9" sitting Jocko. Steiff Jockos of this size have slightly ajar mouths, not closed like chef monkey's mouth. Jockos also have extensive airbrush shading around the bridge of their nose and eye area; chef monkey does not appear to have this level of detailing. It also appears from the photos that chef monkey's nostrils are stitched; Steiffgal has never seen a Jocko at any size with anything but airbrushed nostrils.

Ok, so chef monkey is not a Steiff. Then what is he?

It is Steiffgal's best opinion that chef monkey is a "Schuco Yes/No Tricky Patent Monkey." From what Steiffgal could discover, Schuco has been producing Yes/No animals from at least the 1920's. Schuco produced a series of dressed Yes/No Tricky Patent Monkeys in the 1950's in at least two sizes: 10" and 13". The 10" versions were lightly attired while the 13" models were elaborately clothed. Your chef monkey, which is 9" sitting, is most likely 13" standing and one of these beloved Schuco collectibles.

Schuco is a German toymaker founded in 1912 that also made and exported mohair and other toys globally, much like Steiff. The company has changed hands and has gone bankrupt several times but is still in business today, primarily manufacturing high end model cars and vehicles.

Steve, Steiffgal hopes that this information is helpful as you piece together the recipe behind your precious and collectible chef Schuco monkey.

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

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Girls on Film: Steiff On The Not-So-Big Screen

One of Steiffgal’s favorite songs from the “big 80’s” is Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film.” This week, she had the unique experience of being one (well, sort of!) Steiffgal and a bunch of her hug had the pleasure of sitting for a portrait with the artist Michael Oatman and his team.

Michael is working on a commission for the city of Cambridge, MA called “You Are Here”. “You Are Here” is an open-to-the public project where over the course of six weeks, 20 people from the city are posed and videotaped surrounded by meaningful personal items. At the end of the six weeks, the footage will be edited and processed, resulting in a permanent exhibit and displayed on three large hi-def TVs in the city's new youth community center. The vertically oriented screens will feature portraits of area residents, entitled “The Cantabrigians.”

Of course, it was a thrill to be selected but it probably was the Steiff that won the invitation to participate. Take a look here at a sample shot from the sitting… what do you think?

The hardest part of participating in “You Are Here” was deciding who to bring along for the shoot. Some were chosen for their legacy, others for their personal history, and a few just for their good looks! Here’s the “who’s who” in the portrait, sort of counterclockwise from the top….

Horace, the Longfellow Bea
r: In honor of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Steiffgal’s friend Frankie Wetherell, both true Cantebridgeans.

Flamingo: For her wonderful color.

Vintage studio gorilla: He was featured in an early 1970’s “Peaceable Kingdom” window display for the department store Gottschalk’s and seemed like a natural fit for this vignette, too.

Leo lion and Cosy lamby: A further reference to Edward Hicks’ famous painting, “Peaceable Kingdom.”

Two large vintage Jocko monkeys: Monkeys are legacy Steiff products and no Steiff scene would be complete without one or two; Steiffgal carried the larger one home from Germany on her lap (Lufthansa didn’t charge for that, thankfully!).

Pug: Because Steiffgal’s two real pugs wouldn’t sit still long enough for the shoot.

Vintage cozy camel: A nod to the first unofficial Steiff logo, the camel, who was the first animal to appear on the cover of the debut Steiff catalog of 1892.

Collie: To keep faithful watch over the participants.

Giraffe: For her beautiful color and adorable facial expression.

Orange replica circus elephant: In tribute to the first official Steiff logo, the elephant… also for her amazing color and tricked out looks.

Vintage Tiki Niki hedgehog doll: Found on an antiquing adventure in Lucerne, Switzerland; to add a bit of the unexpected to the portrait.

Mother/daughter vintage Susi spaniels: For their sheer adorableness.

Two vintage sets of Zotty and Lully bears: Seemed like a natural “peanut gallery” for the shot with their forever smiling open mouths and happy faces.

Lulac tiger: A special gift from Steiffgal’s maternal Grandfather (of blessed memory) when Steiffgal did not get into her first choice college early decision; Steiffgal and tiger together delivered the eulogy at Grandfather’s funeral twenty years later.

And Steiffgal is holding…

Grandma’s very vintage Teddy: Won by Steiffgal’s paternal Grandmother in a drawing in Berlin in the late 1930’s and one of the only things she took with her when she left Germany in the early 1940’s. (Much more on this in upcoming columns.)

Very vintage Jocko monkey: In tribute to Hans and Margret Rey, authors and illustrators of the beloved Curious George children’s book series, who spent the later part of their lives in Cambridge.

A very peaceable kingdom, indeed. A big thank you to Michael Oatman and team for a wonderful once in a lifetime experience.

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two Truths and A Lie: Spotting Fakes Is No Game

This past weekend, Steiffgal went antiquing with a friend (Egypto-mama, for her love of vintage Egyptian themed collectibles) at an area antiques mart. Her experience could be summed up by the party game “Two Truths and A Lie”, where each player reveals two real things about themselves and one fabrication. The other participants have to determine which is which. Here’s why the game comes to mind: Steiffgal scored two lovely collectibles (the truths), and was almost swindled by a fake one (the lie).

First for the two truths.

Truth #1 is this adorable 8 cm Fox terrier. This size was made from 1950 - 1959; he was called Fox up to 1953 and Foxy from 1954 onwards. This pup is unjointed and made from white mohair that is detailed with black airbrushed spots. He has brown glass pupil eyes, a salmon ribbon and metal bell around his neck, a simple embroidered nose and mouth, and tiny brown felt ears. This overall dog model was produced from 1949 - 1975 in 11 sizes ranging from 7 to 36 cm. In 1956, a 8 cm Foxy was paired with a Ginny doll and was given the names “Ginny’s Pup” and “Sparky”; this promotional set is highly coveted by both Ginny and Steiff collectors alike.

Fox terriers are a legacy breed for Steiff, first appearing in the catalog in 1899. Pre-war, close to 40 different models were produced in practically all forms, including sitting, standing, and lying toys; woolen miniatures; puppets; pincushions; rolling toys; and waterproof bath toys. Post war, their popularity continued; the breed was one of the first items produced once the factory was up and running in the late 1940’s. A Fox terrier has appeared in the line almost continuously to this day.

On to truth #2: this exotic 17 cm llama. Llama’s body is made from long cream-colored mohair with brown, black, and tan airbrushed spots. His legs (from mid-thigh down) and face are both made from tan velvet. His ears are tan felt with a bit of pink airbrushing. One of the things that make this llama so interesting are his eyes: they are glass pupil and embedded in velvet eye pockets, giving them a “sleepy” look. Eyelids can lend tremendous emotion to Steiff collectibles: similar facial treatments can be seen in Jocko the Chimp (learn more here) and Treff the bloodhound (learn more here).

Llamas are relatively uncommon in the Steiff catalog; this particular model was the first ever produced and was available from 1957 - 1969 in three sizes: 17, 28, and 43 cm. Steiff has also produced a Studio llama in the 1960’s and two soft plush play llamas in the 1990’s.

Ok, now to the BIG FAT LIE (or, Steiffgal’s tips for spotting a fake)

Steiffgal can’t put into words how excited she was when she spotted what appeared to be a late 1940’s blank button tiger in the showcase at the antiques mart. Egypto-mama can vouch for that! Post war blank buttons are extremely rare and were only used sporadically from 1947 to 1952. (Steiffgal only has one blank button item in her entire collection.) Steiffgal asked to see the piece and was handed a 14 cm running tiger cub.

Immediately Steiffgal felt something was not right with the piece. Here’s what was off, and what you should look for as well before investing in a pricey collectible.

1. The button itself.
Upon closer look, the button was extremely shiny and scratched, like someone had taken a file to it. It was also relatively small and completely flat; it seemed to be glued to the tiger’s ear.

What you need to know:
The post war blank button is full sized and has a dull pewter colored finish. It also is attached to the ear of items via small prongs, which can be seen on the underside of an item’s ear, as well as felt through the fabric. Steiffgal cannot think of a single Steiff item she has ever come across where the button is glued on – it is inserted (via small prongs) or punched into the collectible.

2. The date of the item. As mentioned above, the postwar blank button dates an item from 1947 through 1952. That means this tiger was produced before 1953 at the latest.

What you need to know.
The only possible item this could be is the Steiff Tiger Cub, which didn’t go into production until 1954. So the dates don’t match up.

3. The quality of the item. Even though the piece had what appeared to be Steiff’s classic tiger green glass pupil eyes, something about the quality of the mohair and the facial stitching just didn’t feel or look “Steiff-y”. Even Egypto-mama, a Steiff novice, noticed this. Perhaps most telling were his stripes. Steiff does a good job at robustly “striping” their tigers through careful airbrushing and stencils. This tiger had random, thin, non-precise striping down his back.

What you need to know.
If your gut tells you the item is not real, listen – even if the salesperson insists to the contrary. Steiff items are beautifully constructed, made from top-notch materials, detailed with great care, and age well. If an item doesn’t meet those criteria, buyer beware: it’s better to leave an item on the shelf than to risk making a big financial mistake.

Well, I guess Steiffgal came out on top of this weekend’s round of “Two Truths and A Lie”… but not without some careful thinking and questioning. Make sure you do the same before pulling the trigger on a Steiff collectible that appears “too good to be true!”

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