Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bear-er of Good News

Big Teddy hugs to a reader from the mid-Atlantic area who wants to know more about his vintage Steiff bear. Through a series of emails, Fred writes:

"Do you think this guy is interesting? He looks blondish in color and is jointed. He is 12 inches tall and has a blue ribbon around his neck, which appears to be original.

The eyes lo
ok original; they are brown with black in the middle. He has his metal button; it's small with the last f trailing backward between the "E" and "I" in STEIFF. There are no tag remnants under his button.

His growler doesn't work anymore.
He is crunchy, probably straw filled. His nose stitching seems to be's worn. His nose is one and a half inches long."

Steiff Teddies in many families are part of the family legacy; this darling bear is practically old enough to take the role
as great-grandfather! What we have here is a charming example of a well loved Teddy that was most likely made in the 1920's. There are many design features which help to date him. Here's how Steiffgal determined his approximate "birthdate":

First, his button: Steiff used this 8 mm iron nickel-plated button, with the long arching final "F" in "STEIFF", from 1906 through around 1936. The button is usually the first - and the best - place to start when dating a vintage Steiff collectible.

Next, his eyes and nose stitching: Steiff started using glass pupil eyes on their Teddies, in place of the traditional black shoe button versions, in the early to mid- 1920's. His (worn away) black stitching is period consistent with his dark blonde mohair; brown stitching was used on white bears.

Now his "shape": Many of the Steiff Teddies of the mid to late 1920's had a rounded, more "feminine" shape to them and a less realistic, more "playful" appearance, much like Fred's Teddy. As a matter of fact, a mid-1920's model that has a similar appearance to the reader's bear was used from 1925 onward as the basis for Teddy Clown (pictured to the left), one of the most beloved Steiff designs of all times.

And his mohair and stuffing: long, lush wavy mohair became much more available in the 1920's and instantly became a favorite among Steiff buyers and fans. Although these "playful" happy Teddies of the 1920's were often stuffed with lighter kapok filling, excelsior stuffing (as seen on the reader's Teddy) was still quite common as well.

And finally, his bow (which appears to be original): In 1922, Richard Steiff, nephew of Margarete Steiff and the manager in charge of the US market wrote, "... I would be inclined to enhance all the teddies we currently have in stock with beautiful silk bows in appealing colors..."; a practice that continues to this day!

As for the value of this precious Steiff Teddy... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. These poor economic times seem now more than ever to favor buyers over sellers and prices for Steiff collectibles at all price points seem unusually low... so don't sell unless you have to! On the other hand, Steiff bears from the 1920's are universally loved by collectors worldwide and will only become more desirable and valuable over time. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen 12" Steiff bears from the 1920's in similarly worn condition sell at auctions in the $500 to $1200 range.

Fred, Steiffgal hopes she is the bear-er of good news for you concerning your wonderful vintage Steiff friend.

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

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