Saturday, May 30, 2009

What Do You Know About My...

Hello Steiff friends and welcome to today's issue of "What Do You Know", where Steiffgal answers questions emailed in from Steiff collectors around the globe.

Check out this note from Ainsley, who writes from Toronto.

"I'm so glad I found your website - I have a feeling only a true collector will know the history of this Steiff (my mother had a small collection - ~15 animals). I have what I've been told is a very rare Steiff Tiger but I don't know anything else really about it. I took it to the Antiques Roadshow 15 years ago and they made an attempt at valuing it between $2,000 and $5,000 back then, depending on the auction. I am attaching some photos of the tiger and some details about him below:

  • Mohair, hard stuffing
  • glow in the dark eyes and teeth (mouth is open)
  • pull string in between the shoulder blades creates a "growl" sound when pulled
  • stands approximately 20" tall - forgot to measure when I took the photo and it's in storage now (I placed a pair of keys on the table so you can see the relative size/length)
  • never a child's toy - in superb condition
  • cast iron base and wheels with pull along cord
  • he has his button in the ear but my mother pulled the tag off when it was given to her as a gift in the mid 1950's
Can you tell me anything more about this piece? I haven't been able to find anything like it, in a similar size. Most items are much smaller. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.

Best,
Ainsley"

Hi Ainsley. Yes, you have quite a lovely and unusual Steiff collectible. Steiff calls this "Reit Tiger" or Riding Tiger, and he was produced from 1956 through 1964. This timeline coincides with the information you provided about him. As his name implies, was designed as a ride-on toy for children, although his durable construction could support a full sized adult, at least when he was new. Reit Tiger is 50 cm, stuffed with excelsior, made from mohair with extensive black hand stenciled stripes, and has an internal metal frame for support. He glides along on disc wheels with rubber tires, has a pull string voice box, and a handled rope for pulling him along.

Besides his excellent condition, one thing Steiffgal finds particularly interesting about this piece is his open pink felt mouth with his four detailed, pointy, canine teeth. She can't help but notice the remarkable design similarity between Reit Tiger and another highly collectible (but much smaller) Steiff tiger produced from 1959 through 1961 called "Bengal." Bengal is sitting, has the same green eyes and open mouth and teeth design as Reit Tiger, a pink vertically stitched nose, and comes in three sizes: 14, 22, and 45 cm. Take a look at this picture of Bengal; what do you think? Definitely related... cousins at least!

Tigers are a legacy species in the Steiff catalog, first appearing in 1915. The first "riding tiger" debuted in 1928. Prewar, Steiff produced about a dozen different tiger designs, but unlike your big beauty, none had open mouths with teeth (this design element debuted in 1953.) Post war, tigers are a contender for "king of the Steiff jungle", having been manufactured in more than forty unique models - including a puppet, sleeping animal, "lulac" style (long, playful dangling arms and legs), and life sized studio pieces.

As for Reit Tiger's worth... well, that's really hard to determine, further complicated by the overall poor economy, which has driven most collectible prices downward. Good for buyers, bad for sellers. However, given his excellent condition, age, and model rarity, you will always be able to find a buyer for him. Despite a thorough search, Steiffgal was not able to find any recent sales of comparable items, so it is impossible to give a hammer price range. Steiffgal would recommend monitoring eBay sales of 1950 - 1960 50 cm+ riding animals and/or studio pieces to get a better feeling for the market and Reit Tiger's possible value today.

Ainsley, Steiffgal hopes that this information about your toothy friend gives you enough to chew on... thanks for your note!

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green With Envy: A Steiff Mystery

Before Steiffgal reveals the mystery, she must first confess that she enthusiastically bid on this Steiff collectible on a recent online auction; wanted it desperately; lost only by a few dollars; and is jealous of the winner. So that explains (most of) the green with envy part of the story. So with that disclosure out in the open, onto the mystery.

Take a look at this wonderful Steiff primate. He is about 11 inches (28 cm) tall, five ways jointed, and has a tail. His body and limbs are white mohair while his hands, feet, face and ears are felt. His face is quite distinctive with airbrushing highlights: surrounding his green glass pupil eyes, detailing the nostrils on his nose, and defining his mouth. The monkey has his ff Steiff button in his left ear, indicating that he was made in the 1906 through 1934 time frame.

So what exactly is he? Steiffgal cannot find any reference to his true identity anywhere. There lies the mystery. But there are a few hints…

Is he a classic green-eyed white Jocko, the chimp Steiff produced pre-war from 1925 through 1943? Check out this picture of a 1920's Jocko and see what you think. White Jocko was produced in six sizes ranging from 10 through 25 cm. At first glance maybe… but no. Here’s why. Mystery monkey has a tail, a seam down the entire front of his face, and is 28 cm. Jocko does not have a tail, his face seam ends at the bridge of his nose, and maxes out at 25 cm. (To learn more about the history of Jocko, click here.)

Ok, then is he the rarer, more primitive looking white Steiff “Affe” or monkey, the predecessor of Jocko? Imagine this brown monkey in white - that's what Affe looks like for reference. White Affe was produced from 1908 through 1915, in five sizes ranging from 28 through 60 cm. Sort of fits the bill, but not perfectly. Mystery monkey has green glass pupil eyes, extensive facial airbrushing, and a flush nose. Affe has black boot button eyes, a raised nose, and no airbrushing.

With everything, the devil is in the details.

Here’s
what Steiffgal discovered with a little more digging. Although 1915 was technically the last year the white Affe appeared in the Steiff catalog, for some reason, the 28 cm version, which is the size of Mystery monkey, was made for a blip from 1925 to 1927. As noted above, prewar green eyed white Jocko was produced from 1925 - 1942. So there is some manufacturing overlap from a timeline perspective.

It is Steiffgal’s guess that Mystery monkey is a rare and interesting composite of a white Jocko and a white Affe, and was made around 1925. The body shape, tail, and facial construction are from Affe; the distinctive green eyes, facial details, and airbrushing come from Jocko. Mystery monkey may even be a factory prototype for a design that was not produced commercially. Steiff has a history of creating their next generation of products based on “borrowing” design elements from successful items, so this “merged monkey” hypothesis does have legs to stand on.

Mystery solved? Perhaps. Jealousy abated? I guess I could say the monkey’s off my back now.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Do You Know About My...

Hello and welcome to the first issue of "What Do You Know", where Steiffgal answers questions emailed in from Steiff collectors around the globe.

So without further ado, let's take a look at this note from Shirley, who writes from France.

"Hello Steiffgal,

Firstly, I'd like to say how much I enjoyed your website!


I wonder if you could possibly help me to find further information on a Steiff Buttoned Loch Ness Monster Toy? I have been into a couple of websites which mention the above, including your own one, but when I enter the website there is no further info shown? I have attached 3 photos to help identify Nessie as I call her! You asked for more details........

  • Size is approx 20 cm long and 13 cm high to top of head
  • She is made from a sort of soft, plush dralon material
  • Her eyes are blue
  • he has a white soft stuffing and originally had a squeaker inside too.
  • On her back she has a small, brass button with the name Steiff on it attached to a gold coloured ribbon.
I would appreciate any info/help you can give me........"

Hi Shirley! What you have here is not a Loch Ness Monster but what Steiff calls their "Cosy Baby Dino." As you mentioned above, this darling dinosaur is made from green patterned woven fur, comes with a squeaker in his belly, has blue pupil eyes, and is 15 cm tall when new (he might have compressed from a few years of hugs). He was made from 1993 through 1995 only, and came in red, yellow, blue, and green.

Steiff created a plenitude of prehistoric pets in the early 1990's. Along with your tiny treasure, Steiff also created a Cosy Bronto (Brontosaurus); Cosy Tyro (Tyrannosaurus Rex); Cosy Stego (Stegosaurus); and Cosy Rato (Triceratops); each was 50 cm and made from plush with similar "scaly" pattern to that of your Cosy Baby Dino. So your little one is in very good company.

The first dinosaurs appeared in the Steiff catalog in 1958 and only stuck around through 1959. Made as mother - baby pairs, these rare mohair relics included Tysus, the T-Rex (mother is 45 cm, baby is 17 cm); Brosus, the Brontosaurus (mother is 60 cm, baby is 15 cm); and Dinos, the Stegosaurus (mother is 42 cm, baby is 12 cm). Steiff even produced a 4 meter long "Studio Dinosaur" from 1958 though 1960.

Shirley, I hope that I have answered your question and put some context around your item's production, history, and origins. Thanks for writing!

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

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 5 Countdown: What Were They Thinking?

Hello Steiff friends! It's been a strange and punchy couple of days for Steiffgal... so naturally her eye went to those Steiff items in her collection that reflected the tone of her week! She thought it would be fun to take a look at some of her Steiff goodies (or in this case, baddies?) that really could be classified as oddballs.

So without further ado, here are Steiffgal's top 5 countdown winners for today's coveted "What Were They Thinking?" Award.

#5: Poppy Chameleon
Poppy is 45 cm, unjointed, and made from primarily red multicolored woven plush. She has a blue felt ruffle down the middle of top center seam, and a plush flap surrounding her face. She has enormous bulging eye pockets and black beady eyes. Her tail is thick and curled, like that of a pug. She was produced for two years only, in 1995 through 1996, and was available in three colors: red, green, and blue. She looks like a child's drawing of a chameleon brought to life-- primitive, colorful, and exaggerated. Fabulous, in sort of a psychedelic way. What were they thinking... or on?


#4: Mobby Dangling Rat
Mobby is 37 cm, unjointed, and made from grey woven plush. In the traditional "lulac" style, Mobby has really long, floppy arms and legs. His hands and feet are proportionally enormous, stuffed with bean bag filling, and lined in soft grey suede-like material. His tail is made from grey rope. He has a pink nose, black bead eyes, and airbrushed facial details. Perhaps his most odd feature, and the one that got him on this list, is his tiny white plastic buck teeth. An orthodontist's dream. Mobby was produced from 2000 through 2002. One toothy question for you: What were they thinking?

#3: Kiwi
No, your eyes do not deceive you. Welcome to New Zealand! (Steiffgal only means that in the best way, visitors from the "deep south"...) Steiff has produced a number of unique species, and Steiffgal would nominate this really lifelike kiwi as one of their finest. The kiwi is 25 cm, standing, and made from woven brown fur. His legs are jointed (like giant drumsticks) and his feet are truly remarkable. They are made from tan fabric, are flexible, and are detailed with intricate airbrushing. His beak is about 4 inches long, soft stuffed, and is also finished with airbrushing. Kiwi was produced from 1995 through 1999. Kiwi makes the list well, just because... what were they thinking?

#2: Cosy Clippy Crab
Ok, has Steiffgal pinched your interest yet? Take a look at the smallest oddity to make today's countdown, Cosy Clippy Crab. Clippy is 10 cm, made from two colors of woven fur, and has felt claws and feet. His eyes are tiny and set deeply into his face. Clippy was produced from 1995 through 1996 in six - yes six - colors: violet, yellow, red, olive green, eggplant, and raspberry. This probably says alot about Steiffgal, but she has THREE in the series...so perhaps the better question here is... what was SHE thinking?

DRUMROLL PLEASE....

#1: Cosy Flappy Fly
Look what we have here. Please say hello to the grand prize winner of today's "What Were They Thinking" countdown. This is Cosy Flappy Fly, an unjointed 20 cm bug primarily made of mottled green woven plush. He has simple black plush feet, long grey plush wings, and really crazy eyes made of cobalt blue fabric printed with black hexagons. He has black rope feelers. Flappy was only produced in 1994 and came in five colors: red, yellow, green, blue, and brown. Steiffgal once gave a red Flappy to a friend as a birthday gift; in disbelief he exclaimed that the fly would forever be his favorite Steiff collectible of all time. Ok, you get it... so what was HE thinking?!

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stop The (Peter) Presses!

Wow! Take a look at this fantastic followup to Steiffgal's recent column about Struwwelpeter (Shockheaded Peter)!

Why yes, it's an ORIGINAL vintage Steiff Shockheaded Peter! If you are unfamiliar with the story behind this classic German fairy tale by Heinrich Hoffmann, no worries, you can change that. Click here to learn more!

Steiffgal couldn't wait to show you this remarkable 90+ year old collectible which she came across during her daily review of Steiff auctions. Peter stands 38 cm tall and is in very good condition for his age. Primarily constructed of felt, with the traditional Steiff center seam face, Peter has a fabulous shock of crazy long blond mohair hair and sports his classic "uniform" -- a reddish felt topcoat, green felt trousers, black leather shoes, and a white collar tied with a silk ribbon. He has his Steiff "ff" button; the only thing that seems to be missing on him is his black coat belt.

Please note Peter's outrageously long fingernails which are made from leather. Oh the glory - and the gory!

Steiff produced Shockheaded Peter in the 1909 through 1927 time frame in 3 sizes - 30, 35, and 43 cm. He was also available in 20 cm as a ride-on pull toy from 1916-1927. (Today's featured Peter at 38 cm probably was originally 43 cm, but his excelsior stuffing and felt construction tends to compress over time.) Peter received 4 bids and sold for $1,625.00.

Steiffgal is certain this recent Struwwelpeter
auction was quite the nailbiter!

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

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Birds of a Feather: Auction Highlights 5/11 - 5/17/09

Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Rome has the Coliseum, and London has its famous bridge... and the city of Ulm, Germany has its sparrow. Huh? And what does this have to do with this week’s Steiff auction highlights? Just about everything! Take a look at the two versions of this “fantastic flyer” - coincidentally sold the same week at auction. Then learn how this famous sparrow’s bird-brained behavior helped to build the tallest church steeple in the world!

Steiffgal is all a-twitter about this first highlight, an 8 cm Steiff sparrow made from Namotta wool. This beautiful bird is brown, tan, grey and black; has a felt tail and beak; tiny black eyes that are sewn directly into his swivel head; and metal feet. He has a red Steiff tag and tiny ff button, indicating he was made between 1926 and 1934. He carries a little piece of straw in his mouth, which is critical to his identification. The sparrow appears to be in excellent condition according to the description and photos associated with the auction.

Interestingly, his article number, 6508.12, does not appear in the Steiff Sortiment, although Steiff did make a 4 and 8 cm sparrow sans straw in the 1931 – 1943 time frame. These two cataloged models each have a similar article number to this auction highlight. Steiffgal’s best guess is that this sparrow is a very early “customer special” for the City of Ulm. Customer Specials are relatively standard Steiff items that have been customized (in this case by adding a piece of straw), produced in limited numbers, sometimes not cataloged, and given unique identification numbers. This tiny treasure received 21 bids and sold for $439.35—most likely due to its condition, age, and relatively undocumented nature.

This second highlight is a more recent version of the Ulm sparrow. Made in 1965 only, this 8 cm pom-pom pal is primarily brown with black, white, tan, and grey highlights. He has a wool beak and tail, black bead eyes, and tan plastic feet. He is standing on a plastic shield which says “Ulmer Spatz”, or Ulm sparrow. He also holds a piece of straw in his mouth. According to the pictures and descriptions associated with the auction, he appears to be in like-new condition with his Steiff button and tag; he also comes with his original Steiff packaging and the bag from the souvenir store in Ulm where he was purchased. He received 16 bids and sold for $217.20.

So do tell… what’s the legend behind this tiny superhero? The city of Ulm is located on the Danube River in southern Germany, not too far from the Steiff factory in Giengen. Ulm is known for its universities, important architecture, commitment to the environment, and for being the birthplace of Albert Einstein. Ulm is also home to the world's highest church steeple - 530 feet high and 768 steps - and this is where the sparrow comes into the story. Apparently during construction of the cathedral, the builders were having enormous trouble getting very long wooden beams though the city’s narrow gates. According to legend, it was only by watching a sparrow build its nest that the church was completed. Birds have always known that the way to get big objects through small openings is to go length ways. It just took people a little longer to figure this out…! Tributes and references to Ulm’s “super sparrows” can be found throughout the city, including on the cathedral itself!

I guess it may be fair to say that this architectural masterpiece was completed on “A Wing and A Prayer!”

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Different Sort of Peter Principle

For Steiffgal, nothing's quite as exciting as opening up a treasure postmarked from Germany. And this surprise far exceeded any expectations! What started as a big mystery resulted in this Steiff Life column, written to introduce you to one of the oldest and beloved "little boys" in 20th century German literature.

Here's the story... Steiffgal came across this unusual Steiff puppet for sale at auction. She had never seen this model before and did not recognize it. It was not listed in the Sortiment books or other print or online sources. The only clue about him was his button and ear tag, attached to the lower right hand side of his jacket. These IDs dated him to the late 1960's or early 1970's. Despite the unknowns, she bid and won the puppet. A week later it arrived in a neatly wrapped box from Germany. With the item in hand, could the puzzle be solved?

Yes! It turns out this fine fellow is none other than "Shockheaded Peter", a character from a classic European children's book called Der Struwwelpeter. Peter is 28 cm and has a hollow body, legs, and arms. His head is trivera velvet with blue pupil eyes, a tiny felt mouth, and a shock of long blond hair. The design of his head is somewhat similar to that of a series of Steiff soft stuffed play dolls from the mid 1970's. Peter's shoes are black, his pants are green, and his coat is red; all are made from felt.

So how did Steiffgal ID this rarity? It turns out that Struwwelpeter (which translates literally to "Shaggy Peter") has made important appearances in the Steiff catalog, albeit many years ago! As a matter of fact, there is a tiny Struwwelpeter on the back of the first Steiff catalog ever published, in 1892! A jointed Peter doll was available from 1909 through 1927 in 3 sizes - 30, 35, and 43 cm. He was also available in 20 cm as a ride-on pull toy from 1916-1927. In all of these cases, Peter had a shock of blond hair, black shoes, green pants, a red belted coat, and a white collar .... exactly matching the design of "Puppet Peter"!

But what's the story behind Struwwelpeter? This book was written by Heinrich Hoffmann in 1845 as a gift to his son. It is composed of ten richly illustrated tales focusing on children. Each story has a life or societal lesson and graphically illustrates the results of bad behavior in each situation, in an Edward Gorey - like fashion. For example, the first tale describes a boy who does not bathe and groom himself properly (hence the long crazy hair and fingernails) and as a result is unpopular. Other tales involve playing with matches, thumb sucking, and wasting food; still child rearing issues today! Struwwelpeter has been translated into many languages and first appeared in English in 1848.

Relevant over 150 years after his debut, Struwwelpeter is still referenced in popular culture today. He has been the inspiration behind several characters in the DC Comics series Doom Patrol and Johnny Depp's Edward Scissorhands from the movie of the same name. More recently, Rainn Wilson's character, Dwight Schrute, from the TV show The Office tried to read Struwwelpeter to kids on "Take Your Daughter to Work Day." There is even a Struwwelpeter museum in Frankfurt, Germany, celebrating Hoffmann's life, professional work, and literary contributions.

Shocking! Who would have guessed all of that would pop out of a little DHL package from Germany?

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

Monday, May 11, 2009

Twice as Nice: Auction Highlights 5/4-5/10/09

This week's pair of auction highlights have something really fun in common - they are "two-fers!" Each has not one, but two really interesting features or stories behind it! So let's redouble our efforts and take a look at these wonderful bogo (buy one, get one) collectibles.

First on the highlight list is this simply magnificent Eskimo doll. He is not only an authentic Steiff felt and mohair treasure from the early part of last century, he is also a piece of exploration history. The doll is 35 cm and is fully jointed. His hair, body, arms, legs, and hoodie are made from mohair and his center-seamed face, glove like hands, and feet are made from felt. This childlike Eskimo was produced from 1908 through 1919, piggy-backing on the commercial excitement surrounding Admiral Peary's race to the geographic north pole. According to the pictures and description associated with this auction, Eskimo is in excellent condition relative to his age and retains his Steiff ff button. He received 15 bids and sold for $1,733.

Admiral Peary's arctic adventures captured the imagination of the world and Steiff followed suit with a number of polar themed items in the 1908 - 1919 time frame. These included lifelike polar bears; this Eskimo doll in 5 sizes (28 - 60 cm); a somersaulting Eskimo doll; native guide dolls in authentic trekking attire; a Frederick Cook doll (a competing polar researcher), and even a Peary doll himself!

Traditionally, Steiff has used current events as inspiration for new products. After all, Steiff Teddies can partially credit Clifford Berryman's 1902 cartoon of Teddy Roosevelt "not hunting" for their appearance and popularity a century later! Other news-y examples include Billy Possum, Laika the Space Dog, and even Knut the Polar Bear.

Now let's chill out a bit and head off to the beach. Take a fly-by on this terrific mobile. This piece not only incorporates seagulls, a rare Steiff species (only 5 models have appeared in the catalog from 1913 - present) , but is also a decorating accessory - not a plaything. This kinetic collectible consists of three miniature black, white, and gray seagulls, suspended at different lengths from clear nylon string. Each 3 x 3 cm bird has a woolie pompom body and head and a felt beak, tail, wings, and feet. The one button and flag on the piece can be found at the top of the mobile where the nylon string ends for hanging. According to the pictures and description associated with this auction, the mobile is in pristine condition and has its button and yellow Steiff flag. It received 13 bids and sold for $155.02.

The late 60's through the mid 70's were the heyday for mobiles and a great time to hang out with Steiff. This seagull mobile was produced from 1974 - 1976. From what I can find, two mobile models debuted in 1969, one with five woolie fish and another with four woolie hummingbirds. Seagulls, ravens, and bat versions quickly followed suit. All are highly sought after by collectors as their delicate construction makes them quite rare today.

So thank you, and thanks again, for stopping by this week to learn about these doubly delectable Steiff collectibles!

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

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Announcing "What Do You Know", A New My Steiff Life Feature

What do you know... about Steiff? And what would you like to know about a special piece in your collection?

Announcing So What Do You Know, a new My Steiff Life blog feature. Steiffgal has lots of fun talking with you about interesting pieces in her collection and others that she encounters. How about talking about your pieces, too?

If you have a Steiff item and have questions like...
  • How old is my piece?
  • What is some of the history around my piece?
  • Is my piece really a Steiff?

Email Steiffgal at Steifflife@gmail.com with a picture or two of the item, and the following information:

  • Your name and where you are emailing from.
  • If the item has a Steiff chest tag, button, and/or eartag? Please describe.
  • The size of the item, either standing or sitting - please specify.
  • Details about the appearance of the item, including materials (mohair, plush, velvet, felt, etc.), colors, eyes, nose/claw stitching, airbrushing, etc.
  • Details about the construction of the item, including jointing, stuffing (soft stuffed or excelsior filled), and anything that is unique (is musical, is a purse, is a pincushion, etc.)

Steiffgal will do her best to tell you what she can about your piece from the collector's perspective; however, she cannot tell you what an item is "worth"; that's up to the current marketplace. Responses will be posted monthly in a special What Do You Know My Steiff Life blog column.

Steiffgal is not an official appraiser, just a Steiff fan interested in using the internet to share information about the interesting stories behind vintage Steiff collectibles.

Again, email Steiffgal at Steifflife@gmail.com with your question, do not post it in the comments section at the end of this post or Steiffgal will have no way to get back to you!!!

So, What Do You Know?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's In A Name?

Everything, when it comes to Steiff collectibles! Take a look here to watch Steiffgal unbox a rare Steiff treasure and discuss it's most unusual sobriquet!



This cute Cocker Spaniel is none other than Revue Susi, who appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1959 through 1977. Revue Susi is 17 cm, sitting, made from blond mohair, and is head jointed. Her head is quite detailed; she has large plastic pupil eyes, airbrushed "eyebrows" and lips, pronounced doggy jowls, and floppy ears made of long, lush mohair. She has a red leather color and a very crisp bear faced chest tag with "Revue Susi" in block capital letters. Overall, Revue Susi was produced in 4 sizes - 12, 17, 28, and 35 cm.

Cocker Spaniels have been around more than a few "dog years" in the Steiff catalog. Spaniels debuted in 1908; four body models were produced through 1937. They then resurfaced in 1951 and the popular breed remains in the line to this day. Over 24 different Cocker Spaniels have appeared in the catalog post-war in practically every form imaginable-- standing, sleeping, reclining, as a music box, as a life-sized studio model, as a ride on toy, and even as a Nightcap Animal. (Steiff Nightcap Animals are mohair headed creatures with tent felt cone bodies used to hide small surprises for children. Nightcap Cockie - in her cheerful orange tulip'ed dress - is pictured here.) Interestingly, all of these various Cocker Spaniels are named Cockie.

So what's with unusual name? For some reason, Revue Susi is the only Cocker Spaniel with a name other than Cockie. Here's an educated guess why. "Revue" in German translates roughly to "show", so ...

... perhaps Revue Susi was intended to be the "blue ribbon" of the breed?



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

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

As you may know, Steiffgal is a regular contributor to the wonderful collector's magazine, Teddy Bear And Friends (go to http://www.teddybearandfriends.com/ to learn more and subscribe!) Her most recent article appears the Summer 2009 edition and can be found on pages 48-50 in the print version of the publication. With the permission of the editor, here it is for your reading enjoyment....

Steiff “One-derfuls”

Collecting is a passion that many of us share. But what makes certain things more collectible than others? The reasons are as numerous as there are collectors. The thrill of locating, and owning, a scarce item is a feeling that keeps most collectors, well, collecting. Steiff items are inherently collectible. But one reason why some vintage pieces are considered “blue ribbon” finds is that they were made for a short period of time, no more than a year or two. They are truly “One-derful” treasures! Let’s take a look at some of Steiff’s especially wonderful “One-derfuls” from the 1950’s and 1960’s… two decades of noteworthy “one hit wonders” in the Steiff line.

The 1950’s produced a number of “One-derful” rarities. These included items like Maidy, the black poodle with a “Persian lamb” style coat, and Cosy Sigi Seahorse, a dralon “Loch Ness Monster” looking toy with fabulous airbrush detailing. However, many people would consider Siamy, the Siamese cat, and a family of Steiff dinosaurs the true “one-derfuls” of the 1950’s for Steiff.

Siamy, the Siamese cat, an exotic mohair feline with piercing blue eyes, made her brief appearance in 1953-1954 in three sizes – 11, 15, and 23cm. She originally appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1930-1942. In good condition today, the 1950’s version can garner $425-600 at auction.

Dinosaurs were a truly “one-derful” highlight of the late 1950’s. Tysus, the t-rex, Brosus, the brontosaurus, and Dinos, the stegosaurus, walked among us only in 1958 and 1959. These mohair rarities were majestically airbrushed in realistic colors. All were available in two sizes – a 12-17cm “baby” and a 42-60cm “mama”. In good condition today, a collector can expect to pay at least $400 for an original 1950’s dinosaur.

Just how sought after are these 1950’s era treasures? Steiff produced Siamy as a replica twice– in 1994 and again in 2006. Both Dinos and Tyros were produced as replicas in the early 1990’s.

The 1960’s were quite the heyday for creativity at Steiff. Lucky for collectors, this resulted in a significant number of unique designs, many which are “One-derfuls."


Throughout
the 1960’s, Steiff added a number of unusual breeds to its catalog. These include Corso the Afghan hound, Luxy lynx, Loopy wolf, Pandy the Indian panda, and a realistic bison. In tandem, Steiff also began producing items in unusual sizes and others with unique details, including a 50cm studio Hexie dachshund and Zooby, a bear with distinctive felt claws. Today, collectors pay around $500 for a Zooby in good condition. All of these treasures were produced for a year or so, and have become “One-derfuls” and highly collectible in their own right.

In 1960-1961, Steiff produced a series of “ball” animals; Mopsy (a pug), Sula (a cat), and a rabbit. Each of these big-bottomed dralon collectibles is 16cm, has a jointed head, front facing limbs, and a squeaker. These items are hard to find, especially in good condition—because they were designed to be used as playthings and stuffed with foam, which deteriorates over time. A collector may expect to pay around $150 or so for a 1960’s ball model in good condition.

Steiff has a century plus long history of producing rounded products, including roly-polys (weighted ball shaped items without legs) and tumblers (felt or mohair items on a bowl base, designed to wobble about). It is possible that some design inspiration behind the 1960-1961 ball animals came from a series of Steiff rounded, legged novelties produced from 1932 to 1943. This collection included a teddy, puppy, cat, rabbit, duck, elephant, and lion; most were available in 9cm or 15cm. The larger size came with a ruffled rubber band so the owner could play “catch” with the toy.

Many collectors are familiar with Steiff’s cartoonish “lulac” creatures—animals with exaggeratedly long limbs and torsos.
The German verb “to laugh” is lachen, and the word for smile is L├Ącheln; suggesting that this style was designed to have a goofy appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner. The first lulac animal, a rabbit, appeared in 1952, and is still being produced in modified form today. A large menagerie of species have been produced in the lulac style over the years, including frogs, dogs, tigers, and cats.

Many vintage lulac style animals have earned the title of “One-derful”. In 1954, Steiff made a lulac donkey, and followed up in 1958 with a lulac elephant, tiger, poodle, and a lion. In 1964 and again in 1966, a lulac version of the Zotty bear, Zolac, was produced as well as a Kalac, or tomcat lulac. In 1964, a 40cm Sulac the spaniel lulac, made her brief appearance in the Steiff catalog. All of these long limbed lovelies are highly coveted by collectors; an aficionado recently paid $650 at auction for a Zolac in good condition.

Like the ball animals of the early 1960’s, the lulac animals might also have been inspired by a popular Steiff product line from an earlier era. From 1927-1932, Steiff produced a series of tall toys based on popular characters of the time. It’s been suggested that the idea behind these was the Charleston dance crazy of the 1920’s, with its dramatic and fast moving arm and leg movements. Called “play and car dolls”, these collectibles included Bulliette, the bulldog, Molliette the puppy, Fluffiette, the cat, and Rabbiette, the rabbit. Each had the head of the character, mohair paws, feet, and tail, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several colors and in 20, 30, and 43cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker.

From one lulac lover to another, I hope this article has given you a “leg up” on the wonderful world of Steiff “One-derfuls”, and thank you for “hanging around” ‘till the end.
According to a popular song from the late 1960’s, “One is the Loneliest Number”. But it’s fair to say that you are in very good company if you are a fan of these Steiff “One-derfuls”!

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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!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Don't Mean To Hound You, But...

...blink for a second and you’ll miss this rare Steiff “long haired hippie” (oops, I meant yippie!) from the 1960’s! Take a look here as Steiffgal unboxes her latest Steiff treasure…



Dog-gone-it, this shaggy lovely is none other than Corso, the Afghan hound. Corso is 22 cm, in a lying position, and unjointed. His body is made from exceptionally long and lush light brown mohair. His face has a vertically stitched nose and glass pupil eyes and is made from shortly cropped mohair. His ear tips and snout are airbrushed black, and he retains his raised script Steiff button. A really lovely, peaceful collectible.


Afghan hounds are an unusual Steiff species, and from what I can tell, have only appeared in the Steiff catalog twice. Corso debuted in 1966 and was available only through 1968—in 22 and 35 cm. About 20 years later, from 1987 to 1988, Steiff produced another more lifelike looking Afghan hound model called Hassan. Hassan was made from knitted plush and was available standing (45 cm) or sitting (40 cm).


Afghan hounds are amongst the oldest dog breeds in the world. They link very closely to wolves genetically. It is not exactly clear where the breed originated from, but they were mentioned in ancient Egyptian papyruses as well as used to illustrate the insides of caves of northern Afghanistan more than 4,000 years ago.

Now that longevity certainly qualifies for “man’s best friend”- and button in ear - status!

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