Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcoming 2011 With A Parade of Steiff Studio Animals!

Hey, baby New Year is knocking on the door, but you still have a little time to make big plans to celebrate the arrival of 2011. This year, Steiffgal had the pleasure of meeting a collector who specializes in Steiff’s largest treasures, their studio items. Needless to say, this Steiff enthusiast doesn’t need to leave his home to celebrate this new decade in a “larger than life” way! Please meet Denis, a lifelong Steiff collector who lives with a Steiff – and real! – menagerie of “friends for life!"

Steiffgal: Hello Denis and thank you for sharing your story and breathtaking Steiff collection with us. Tell us a little about yourself.

Denis: I am 51 years old, live in California, and am an animation director by profession. I have 3 dogs; a lab/pit mix who looks like a Dingo; a Border collie mix named Frieda; and a Chihuahua names Elroy. I also have 4 miniature goats and 6 chickens. All of these “pets” are named after friends and family, meaning that they'll never be eaten!

Steiffgal: Please tell us about your overall interest in Steiff. How many items do you currently own, and what got you interested in the brand?

Denis: I started collecting Steiff around 20 years ago. When I was a kid, I had a white Pieps mouse, a small kangaroo, and a small Jocko. Pieps and Jocko are long gone but I managed to hang onto my kangaroo. I'd scour the thrift stores, sidewalk sales, and flea markets for Steiff and ended up with a small collection to keep my kangaroo company. I think the first one I ever found was a little velvet pink pig. Then I found a small Rocky mountain goat, a swimming duck, a larger sized Leo lion and a handful of animals that I had "thought" might be Steiffs. These were the early years of collecting and there were few books about Steiff for identification. Once I found out about the elusive "exotics", including bats, spiders, lobsters, lizards, snails, etc. - I became hooked. It was those pieces specifically that pushed me over the edge and deep in the hunt. I always thought it to be very odd that they made toys like this for kids at that time.

That small group of childhood Steiff items has grown to around 500 of them, give or take 50 or so; an actual number is a little tricky to pinpoint.

Steiffgal: Tell us about your studio collection. How did you get interested specifically in Steiff’s lifesized items?

Denis: I think a lot of Steiff collectors my age remember going to FAO Schwarz and other fancy stores that sold Steiff studio pieces when they were kids. It was kind of an unobtainable fantasy for most of us to have such a thing as an 8 foot tall giraffe. To me, the BIG Steiff animals were like having a "real" live exotic pet. Of course, I had to settle for Pieps, who spent a lot of time in my pocket. Once I became an adult, I realized that these were "sometimes" obtainable and they weren't always outrageously priced.

Today, my studio collection includes a bison, standing, jumping, and sitting tigers, an oryx, a zebra, a giraffe, a sitting lion (in the picture on the left), an owl, an alligator (in the picture on the left), a two humped camel, a one humped camel, a goose, a rabbit, a penguin, a German Shepherd, a golden pheasant (in the picture on the left), a hen, a baby wild boar, a coco monkey, a Xorry fox, a reindeer, and many other larger, but not technically “studio” items including a very large Jocko monkey and the the “snuggy” (i.e., footrest) versions of Steiff’s elephant, starfish, and frog. 

Steiffgal: What is your most favorite studio item in your collection?

Denis: I think my absolute favorite studio (and possibly all-time favorite Steiff) is the FAO exclusive, standing Xorry fox. He's just beautiful, the expression, the posing, the color - an all around amazing design - in my opinion. My other favorites include the studio snake, which is pretty great too, with his purple and gold airbrushing and creepy yellow eyes. The only problem with him is that he can be a bit hard to display. He's usually around my studio giraffe's neck, strangling him.  He is pictured here on the left doing just that. Another favorite is my studio owl, which needed a few repairs when I got him but is now in great shape.

Steiffgal: Give us a “blue ribbon” example on how you find these Steiff rarities to add to your collection.

Denis: My biggest prize was finding out about an auction of studio animals that were in an old hotel or casino back east. I bid over the phone and the auction house told me flat out that it wasn't highly publicized and I'd probably get a pretty good deal. The auction house was located near where some of my family lives and they picked the items up for me on site and shipped them out here to me in California. My brother-in-law worked for an airline at the time, so that made things VERY convenient. In that auction I got the giraffe, standing tiger, and zebra (with all id, including a BIG chest tag) and they were all in great condition. You can see a few of these treasure in the picture on the left.

Steiffgal: What would you consider the “rarest” Steiff studio item you have ever owned?

Denis: The rarest Studio animal I ever had was the Studio Tysus tyrannosaurus. My sister found him at a sidewalk sale - sort of. I think he originally came Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. I wanted him very badly but he was very expensive at the time. I took out a small loan to get him. A Steiff representative told me there had been only 5 of them ever made! I believe he now lives in that toy museum in Basel Switzerland. Years ago, he was featured in an article in Teddy Bear and Friends. He is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal: I hear you have a very special Steiff studio bison in your collection. Tell us a little about it.

Denis: Though not necessarily my favorite, the bison is probably the most impressive of my studio animals. He is pictured here on the left with my studio Renny reindeer. When the seller told me over the phone that he was 8 feet long and 6 feet high, I really couldn't grasp how big he was. I had to borrow a friends hefty truck since he wouldn't fit in my Toyota pickup.

Years ago I had seen him in a local toy store. He was up on a wall overlooking the shoppers. I inquired about the possibility of a purchase. They said he wasn't for sale and probably would never be. Many years later, a friend told me that the store was going out of business and I should contact them about adopting their bison. But I was too late and he had already been donated to a children's museum.

Fast forward almost a decade later, I found him listed for sale on Craigslist! He was VERY reasonable priced but the ad had been up for 3 days. I was nervous that he was no longer available. A few days later the phone rang and it was the curator of the museum who said that he would be delighted for me to have him. At that point I thought, he is really meant to be with me after all these years!

When I got him home, he was dusty so I stood him on my front lawn and vacuumed him off. Thankfully, his head comes off. It's hinged to sway back and forth. His head was lying in the corner of the yard while I vacuumed his body and I notice large shadows on the ground. I look up and there are two turkey vultures circling looking for a quick bite!

Steiffgal: Clearly good (Steiff) things come to those who wait! The readers and I appreciate you sharing your wonderful world of studio animals with us!

Steiffgal wishes you a very Happy New Year and hopes that your big dreams for 2011 all come true!

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Capping Off 2010 In A Prehistorically Large Steiff Way

Steiffgal hopes all her readers had a "larger than life" Christmas and that everyone enjoyed good times with family, friends, and those most special to them.  Not that it's a big deal or anything, but Steiffgal finally did get one of her dream Steiff items this holiday season, a large vintage dinosaur!  As many collectors can attest, these seem to be as rare of a find as a real dinosaur discovery!  The picture on the left shows the "mother" version of Dinos, Steiffgal's holiday "prize" of 2010! Let's take a look at Steiff's versions of these gentle giants and see what makes them so special.

Early Steiff dinosaurs appeared in the catalog in 1958 and only stuck around through 1959. Steiff produced three models:  Tysus, the T-Rex; Brosus, the Brontosaurus; and Dinos, the Stegosaurus.  Each was made in two sizes, a larger "mother" version (which ranged from 45 to 60 cm) and a smaller "baby" version (which ranged from 12 to 17 cm).  Each was made from mohair, had an open felt lined mouth, felt detailing, and remarkable, colorful airbrushing.  Only Tysus had movable arms, the other models were unjointed. The picture on the left shows the "baby" versions of Brosus and Dinos.

These six models were produced exclusively for the US market for the Loucap Company.  This was one of the two companies that distributed Steiff in the USA in the 1950's and 1960's.  The other distributor was Reeves International.  Reeves became the exclusive distributor of Steiff in America in the mid-1960's. The picture on the left shows the "baby version" version of Tysus.  Don't you just love his silly smile and jumbo feet and toes? 

One of the things that make these fossilized finds so interesting is their eyes.  To keep things light and playful, Steiff used green and black or white and black glass google-style eyes on these standard line vintage dinosaurs. From the design perspective, this is the company's way of saying these beasts were created to instill fun - not fear - into the hearts of their lucky recipients.  

In addition to these playful toy sized models, Steiff also created "almost" lifesized studio versions of several types of dinosaurs in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  These included a 305 cm studio Pterodactyl and Dinos dinosaur.  The Pterodactyl was made from tan and red mohair, had an open leatherette beak and claws, green glass eyes, and was stuffed with excelsior.  The Dinos was made from mohair, had an open felt lined mouth with a prominent red felt tongue and fangs, brown glass pupil eyes, was neck jointed, and had rubber claws.  Unlike their smaller cousins, these big beasts were designed to be as "realistic" and authentic as possible.  

Steiffgal hopes that this review of Steiff's delightful vintage dinosaurs helps to cap off your 2010 in a very big way!

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Steiff's Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town...

Ho ho hope you are in the holiday spirit where ever this posting finds you! As you probably have heard, "Santa Claus is comin' to town..." and hopefully will soon leave one or two Steiff treasures under your holiday tree.  In honor of the big guy in red, let's take a look at the history of Steiff's Santa Claus dolls over the past half century or so.

From a historical perspective, the figure of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, has its roots as far back as the 4th century. And Santa as most of the world now knows him has been around for around 150 years.  His "modern day" appearance was the vision of Thomas Nast, an illustrator and cartoonist who lived from 1840 to 1902. His rendition of Santa Claus, which appeared in a 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly, effectively created the chubby, happy, bearded, red-suited man we all know and love today. Nast's Santa is pictured here on the left.  Based on this timeline, it is interesting to note that it was not until the early 1950's that Steiff introduced a Santa Claus doll into its general line, especially given the company's long and successful history with felt character dolls starting from the early turn of last century!

Like Santa tumbling down the chimney, the arrival of a Steiff Santa doll in 1953 was a very welcome sight indeed.  This initial doll was 31 cm, five ways jointed, and had 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 the collector's perspective, it is interesting to note that Santa's head was created from the same molds and patterns used for Steiff's three lucky dwarfs, Gucki, Lucki, and Pucki.) The standard size Steiff Santa dolls appeared in the catalog through 1963. This original beloved Santa Claus doll was reissued in 19 and 28 cm as a US exclusive from 1984 through 1988.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Steiff created a Santa hand puppet based on its successful Santa doll. This puppet was 21 cm and had a molded plastic head, detailed felt hands, and a felt body. He was a little larger in scale than other hand puppet of the time, which generally measured 17 cm. He was dressed in a handsome red felt jacket and hat.  His outfit was detailed with real white mohair trim down the front of his coat, around his hat, and around his cuffs; the hat was "topped off" with a white woolie pom pom. As expected, Steiff's Santa puppet had rosy cheeks, a reddish nose, and a very long, white full mohair beard and hair.  This seasonally spectacular hand puppet was produced from 1954 through 1961. 

Speaking of "hands", Steiffgal would like to use this opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to the collectors all over the world who make Steiff an important part of their lives at this universal time of peace and love.  A sincere thank you for your readership; it is most appreciated. Happy holidays to you, your family, and your Steiff hugs.  Here's to a great 2011 filled with health, happiness, and of course, a few wonderful Steiff finds.  

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

No Downside to This Most Uplifting Steiff See-saw Toy!

Thump.  Did you hear that?  That was Steiffgal's chin crashing to the floor when she started studying this note from a reader from Tennessee.  Take a look at this inquiry from Season, who asks about a family treasure that she already wisely keeps behind glass.  All bets are that you've never seen anything quite like this, either!  Through a series of correspondences she writes:


Can you please help me figure out what we have here?  This was my husband's grandfather's toy.  He was born in 1922 in Rome, Georgia and received it when he was a young child. My husband's mother indicated that it was in a closet while she was growing up.  My husband has said that he and his brother used to roll it down the hill on the street and watch it crash (I know, I'm sure you are cringing right now). 

As the years passed, it was played with by most of the grandchildren and some of the great grandchildren. My husband's grandfather passed away in May 1999 and it was placed in a shadow box for his wife. She passed away in 2007 and it landed at my husband's mother's home.  She had it displayed in the living room for many years and somehow it ended up in the basement.

My husband and I just had our first child in December of 2009.  With her birthday approaching, I saw it in the basement at his parent's house and wanted to have our daughter's picture made with it in remembrance of his grandfather. 

As for the details of the item, I have looked everywhere and cannot find anything that looks exactly like what we have.  I have of course found similar items but the details are just not the same.  The bear does have a button in his ear but there is nothing that I can find on the monkey.  CAN YOU HELP??  WE WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE IT! 

Thanks so much for you time.


Wow, what a wonderful, complete history of this treasure which leaves no room for tongues a (wig) wagging!  What Season has here is called a Wiwag, and it was produced by Steiff from 1922 through 1927. The overall size of the toy is about 39 cm.   The carriage is made from metal and has wooden wheels.  Very possibly when it was new, it had a knob at the end of the pull string that was wood with a Steiff button in the top.  When the wiwag is pulled along, it goes up and down like a see-saw.    

Steiff used two "standard line" animals as its wiwag "riders."  The first is a blond, five ways jointed mohair Teddy.  His article number is 5310, meaning he is 10 cm.  The second rider is a felt monkey wearing a hat and neck ruff; his article number is 4112,0 (12 cm) or 4117,0 (17 cm).  The overall article number for the item is 1008 or 1012.  Steiffgal cannot find any other versions (meaning different species of riders) of a wiwag in her literature library; however, it is very possible that Steiff also experimented with other animals on this charming and innovative pull toy design.

Steiffgal is certain that there is no "down"-side to this most "up"-lifting see-sawing toy! And Season is quite wise to keep it as something to look at as opposed to a plaything. But the wiwag design didn't start out that way. In the 1920's, the Steiff brothers were under major of pressure to fill the product line with very innovative, novel, interesting items as competition in the toy industry was really heating up all over the world. On February 6, 1925, Richard Steiff -who was living in the US at the time - wrote to his brothers in Giengen saying:

"I am asked almost daily for new products, and I always have to answer that we do not really want to develop new products, since we can hardly cope with the delivery orders we receive for our old toys. However, the stiff competition here means we must be on our toes. Our customers here are not simply satisfied with "good German quality" and they are not interested in our problems with fulfilling our orders. They insist on new designs, cheaper products, and more attractive inventory..."

In part to these market pressures, Steiff produced this wiwag and several other models of moving and rolling toys that are most beloved by collectors today. These included record animals, cycling toys, clockwork toys, roly drolys, and gallop pull toys.  Because of their relatively short time in the line, all of these items always generate much interest - and high hammer prices - when they come up for sale.  A wiwag almost identical to Summer's was recently sold at the Christie's Steiff auction in London for $2,770.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's rare wiwags has you nodding in agreement that they are simply marvelous in every way.  

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shepherding You Through The History Of Steiff's Wonderful "Arco" Dogs

Dog-gonit, Steiffgal just can't get enough of Steiff's wonderful canines!  And apparently collectors from all over country feel the same way about these delightful four legged friends.  Check out this note from a reader in California about her "rolling Rover".  Marie writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

I have a Steiff dog on wheels.  I was told it was from 1880s...  but I think this is wrong. Did Steiff make dog that was big enough for small child to get on and ride?  

(He has) no ear tag of course. he is very old with straw fill and rubber tires that swivel. I've not been able to find anything about it.  Do you have some guideline on dating these dogs? I am including a picture for your review.

Thanks, Marie"

This blue-ribbon beauty is none other than Steiff's Reit Arco, or Riding Arco German Shepherd.  This particular model was produced in 43 and 50 cm from 1957 through 1970.  Arco is standing, stuffed with excelsior, and made from long and short mohair which is realistically hand airbrushed with black and brown to resemble the coat of a real German Shepherd.  He has attentive black and brown pupil eyes, a hand embroidered nose and claws, and an open, felt lined mouth with a pink-red felt tongue.  Arco has an internal metal frame, which when new, could support the weight of an average adult!  (But Steiffgal doesn't suggest "testing" this out today - joints and connectors tend to weaken over half a century!)  He glides on four red wheels with white rubber tires. 

German Shepherds are one of Steiff's beloved "Best in Show" dogs that have been in the line since 1923.  German Shepherds were given their "pet" name of "Arco" in 1937 with the introduction of an updated breed design.  The "new" Arco was made from mohair and had prominent, felt lined ears. The previous model was made from wool plush and had smaller, wool plush lined ears.  Pre-war, Arco was made standing on wheels (in 35, 43, 50, 60, and 70 cm), standing (in 14, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm), and sitting (in 17, 22, and 28 cm) from 1937 to 1943.  During this time, Arco was sometimes also referred to as "The Police Dog."  A well loved, faded, pre-war 17 cm mohair Arco is pictured here to the left. 

Early post war, Arco reappeared in the line to sit and stay with collectors who continued to admire his sturdy good looks and solid build.  Steiff produced a standing version of Arco in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1951 through 1956 which strongly resembled the pre-war version.  A 43 and 50 cm standing version on wheels was also manufactured from 1949 through 1956.  

In 1957, classic Arco had his final "makeover" designed to modernize his appearance.  The most noteworthy changes included an overall lightening of his mohair and airbrushing, and the addition of a pink-red felt tongue on larger models. The presence - or absence - of a tongue on Arco is one of the key clues collectors use to date Steiff's German Shepherds!  The "newest" classic mohair Arco was produced standing (in 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm), lying (in 22, 35, and 50 cm - pictured here), and on wheels (in 43 and 50 cm... this is Marie' model) and appeared in one form or another in the line from 1957 through 1976.  

Steiffgal has really enjoyed shepherding you through the history behind Steiff's Arco and hopes that you have a new appreciation for the legacy behind this wonderful classic Steiff design.  

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The "Professor" of All Steiff Puppets

Whhoooo doesn't like to stumble upon a surprise treasure, especially when it was made by Steiff!  Check out this note from a reader who asks about a Steiff puppet found unexpectedly in a high-up hiding place.  Pippa writes:

"Hi there!

I have a vintage Steiff owl hand Puppet that we found in my in-laws attic.  I found your blog and thought I would drop you a quick line to find out more about it. 

The puppet has been kept safe and sound since it was purchased. However,  we are not 100% sure of the year it was purchased or for that matter its manufacture. It does, however, still have its stock tag on and it is perfectly intact. The puppet itself is made of 51% wool and 49% cotton as per the tag.  

Thank you in advance for any information on it, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.



Well, let's all give Pippa a big "hand" for her delightful surprise, a vintage Steiff hand puppet What she has discovered is Steiff's wonderful Wittie owl puppet.  Wittie is 17 cm and made from mohair.  He has two "wings" that can be moved about, a soft pocket-style body, and a solid, excelsior filled head.  His face is finished with a realistic beak, stunning green and black pupil eyes, and little black tufts on the top of his head.  (In nature, these tufts are neither ears or horns; scientists suspect they are aids in a complex series of non-vocal communications amongst the species.)  Overall, this puppet has amazing and beautiful detailing, including colorful, whole body airbrushing. Puppet Wittie was in the Steiff line from 1954 through 1978.

Pippa's puppet is a line extension from a beloved Steiff design introduced in the 1950's.  Shortly after the Steiff factory reopened for business in the late 1940's, the Steiff designers really "went to town" in the shear number of innovative designs they brought to the new global marketplace.  Perhaps the "smartest" was the brainy bird called Uhu Wittie, or Wittie Owl. Wittie as a toy was produced from 1954 through 1977 in four sizes: 10, 14, 22, and 35 cm; a family of Steiff owls are pictured above in a photo taken by collector Michael Lucas. Wittie's body and wings are mohair and his feathers are designed from carefully cut and detailed felt. Like the puppet mentioned above, the original Wittie has marvelous airbrushed detailing on his body, green pupil eyes, and charming tufts of black hair on his forehead. One of the things that is quite remarkable about Wittie as a toy, is that in any size, he has proportionally enormous wired feet.

In terms of value, well, this puppet can help feather your nest, at least a little. As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and feels something is worth what someone else will pay for it.  Puppet Wittie appears to be in very good condition and retains some Steiff ID, which is important.  Steiffgal guestimates, based on other recent sales of like items, that he may value in the $75 to $125 range.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wise old bird has raised your Steiff IQ by a few points!

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Steiff Tiger Mascot Roaring With School Spirit!

There's a definite chill in the air as we head into the winter season around here.  Keeping warm is important - yes, even for Steiff collectibles!  And speaking of bundling up, check out this note from a reader who asks about a blanket for her newly acquired tiger.  Through a series of correspondences, Katrina from the United Kingdom writes: 


We are hoping you can tell us more about our Steiff tiger.  

His physical condition and appearance is excellent - almost like new.  His length is 11" from his nose to the end of his tail and 4" from the tops of his ears to the bottoms of his feet.  He has his button and yellow tag and looks straight away to be a Princeton tiger. However, when we purchased him, he did not have the Princeton blanket, and there is no indication he ever had one, as there is no fading to the area around where a blanket would have been. 

In addition, the Sortiment book does not say the Princeton tiger was numbered and ours is 1314,0. Other than the Princeton tiger, we cannot find any tiger that has eyes like ours.  Any information you can give would be greatly appreciated. 

Many thanks,

Steiffgal can't wait to get started on this "Ivy League" inquiry!  Yes, she is all but certain that this tiger is the Princeton tiger, sans blanket.  Steiff made a series of college mascot exclusives in the 1950's, including a Brown University bulldog, a Columbia University lion and lioness pair, a Duke University devil, two versions of the Yale University bulldog, and three versions of the Princeton University tiger.  Most had felt blankets bearing the first initial of the school. The Princeton tiger was produced standing in 10 and 25 cm and sitting in 25 cm; Katrina's version is the 10 cm standing version.  According to company records, the 10 cm Princeton tiger left the Giengen factory with green and black "squint" style eyes and either an orange and black blanket or a navy blue and white jacket. 

And what about this jacket which appears to have gone missing?  It is quite possible that he lost it somewhere along the way, or that he never left the factory with one (which does happen once in awhile!)  This phenomenon was documented in the catalog of the recent Christie's Steiff auction in London concerning a lot of two "blanket free" items, a US Navy mascot goat and a seated Princeton University seated tiger.  According to the Christie's specialists, "Both these items should have a felt coat, there appears to be no sign where these were attached, so it is possible that they were issued without them." 

This tiger also has some fantastic eyes worth exploring a little more.  Similar style eyes are seen on Steiff's playful character style items - Steiff uses unusual eyes to indicate that an item is jolly, youthful, and not to be taken too seriously.  The use of "distinctive" cartoonish eyes most likely started in the late 1920's when Steiff used them to lend a lighthearted look to their "Petsy" baby bear and "Cheerio" laughing dog designs.  It is interesting to note that Steiff used similar green and black eyes on Katrina's treasure as on their playful series of 1950's era mohair dinosaurs.

As for the listing of this item in the Steiff Sortiment books, well, nothing is ever 100% perfect. Although Gunther Pfeiffer's books are considered the gold standard for Steiff collectors globally, they are not perfect and do have some mistakes and omissions. In this case, this mascot's article number 1312,0 was not included in these reference materials.  Steiffgal supposes that's bound to happen when you need to catalog thousands of items produced over a century plus time frame. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on university mascots and their blankets has left a warm spirit in your heart! 

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paws And Take A Look At These Remarkable Vintage Steiff Dicky Bears!

When Steiff claims their wonderful Teds and animals are "Friends for Life", they really aren't kidding! Although many collectors prefer to keep their hugs within the safe confines of their homes, some (Steiffgal herself included here!) insist upon always traveling with a Steiff companion. Take a look at this note from a reader in Canada who has a very specialized Steiff collection - including one Ted that probably has more stamps in his passport than an international diplomat! Though a series of communications, Dwight writes:
I have a small collection of Steiff which I started acquiring in 1985. The Dicky bear is my favourite – I have twelve in my collection, including two original ones from the 1930's. Here is a picture of my happy Dicky family, whose ages range from teenagers to senior citizens!  I bought my first Dicky in 1986. As soon as I saw him I liked him because of his smile. He’s got a lot of miles on him now, as do I. I have traveled a lot for business and he has come with me.

I have a couple of questions for which I have done some online research and not found any answers. I hoped you might be able to help?

As for the vintage bears, I have always wondered exactly where they were made. Is it possible to find out where the factory was (or maybe still is)? I just thought it would be neat if it were still standing to find it on Google or maybe even see it in person some day. Can you also give me a little history and information about the Dicky Teddy bear design?  There isn't alot of information out there on him.
Thanks in advance for your time and any help you can provide.


What a "paw-fectly" interesting series of questions about a Steiff design known for its remarkable and distinctive hand and foot detailing!   Dicky was introduced in 1930, and appeared in the line in one form or another through 1941. Dwight's two vintage Teds pictured here and below are wonderful examples of this bear.   Dicky was promoted as...

"A new, improved, and less expensive Steiff Teddy Bear.  Attractive design, newly formed head, strong squeeze growler, soft filling, blond or white mohair with painted pads, movable head and joints, famous workmanship."

Dicky was produced in blond, white, and brown in a wide range of sizes.
All were five ways jointed. The blond and white versions were mohair and were made in 15, 29, 23, 25, 30, 32, 35, 43, 45, 50, 65, and 75 cm through the mid 1930's.  A dark brown plush version was made in 25, 32, and 43 cm from 1935 thorough 1941.   Dwight reports that both of his Dicky bears are 13" standing and 9" sitting, suggesting that they are most likely the 35 cm models.  

And just what makes a Dicky, well, a Dicky?   Three key things.  First, his insert muzzle.  Second, his impish, smiling expression.  And third, his elaborately painted paw pads, which were velvet in earlier models and felt in later editions.  (For some reason, not all of the later model brown Dicky bears had painted paw pads.)  The picture on the left, from the Cieslik's wonderful "Button In Ear The History Of The Teddy Bear and His Friends", shows an original blond Dicky bear with samples of paw pad prints and colors. 

Dicky bears, and all other models of the time, were made at the Steiff factory in Giengen, Germany -or- by homeworkers in the general area of Giengen.  This explains in part why the same Steiff design produced around the same time can look so different! Steiff did alot of "outsourcing" of bear sewing and finishing to the surrounding communities which really helped the economic situation in the area.  According to company records, between 1930 and 1936, 14,646 Dicky bears were made in blond and 11,029 were made in white. The Giengen factory is still around and functional. It is a great vacation destination; there is even a fantastic museum and Teddy bear cafe on the campus!  The picture above shows one of the buildings on the property that was built in 1903. If you are a real Steiff enthusiast, it is really worth the trip!
And speaking of "the trip", take a look at Dwight's traveling Ted! This lucky bear has seen the world, and has been photographed at the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, across Canada, including Victoria BC, amongst other great destinations. Perhaps his next goal is a cockpit adventure, as here he is fraternizing with a flight crew on a recent outing. Clearly a trip to Giengen is in order for this cub with wanderlust! 
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wonderful Dicky Bears has caused you to paws and consider adopting one into your Teddy hug.  

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Precious Steiff Ted Says "Tag - You're It!"

Are you "red"-dy for a little Steiff bear fun?  Well, in Steiffgal's mind, it's always the PERFECT time to "talk Teddy".   So to get this fabulous conversation going, take a look at this note from Derrick and Tim, from San Francisco, CA.  They want to know a little more about their wonderful recent red-tagged Steiff find.  They write:

"Hi Steiffgal,

Can you give us a little more information on our "new" Steiff Ted?  We got him at a local antique store. The seller was having a hard time letting him go, but we told her that he will be in a good home and not to worry. She told us that she got him in the Portland area 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, our little one doesn’t have any chest tag. The button in ear has an inscription of the word Steiff with the last letter “f” as an underscore. This lovely bear has a red eartag. The red tag indicates that it is a “Steiff Original” with the word “geschutzt” and number “5315.” It also says that this bear was “Made in Germany”.
In terms of his physical characteristics, he is about 6" standing and 4" sitting.  He has brown eyes with black pupils and a brown (copper gold) hand stitched nose and mouth.  He is five ways jointed. We are not sure of his stuffing, but he is not soft.  Finally, he has s a red bow with black and gold stripes. 

Thanks for your help! 

Derrick and Tim"

This charming cub really embodies all the things that make vintage Steiff bears so universally appealing!   His outstanding condition, classic proportions, diminutive size, and precious expression all add to his appeal, value, and interest from an archival perspective. Early white bears with their brown embroidery - such as this one - have always held a special place in the hearts of collectors.  However, what really stands out on this treasure is his remarkable, crisp red ear tag and old time button.  They appear to be in "like new" condition! In this particular case, together they reveal his almost year - and probably season - of production.  Here's how!

Collectors have always relied on Steiff's numbering, ear tag, and button program to help identify and date their Steiff collectibles.  In general, it is a pretty consistent and reliable system, but it occasionally has gaps during transitional periods.  This is the case here with Derrick and Tim's bear.  This bear has a red ear tag and the pre-war Steiff button with the shorter trailing "F" button.  The red ear tag was used approximately from 1925 through 1934/35, while the shorter trailing "F" button was in the line from approximately 1936 through 1950. If you overlay these two time lines, it becomes clear that this Ted was produced at the very end of the "red ear tag" period and at the same time, at the very beginning of the shorter trailing "F" button period.  It would be Steiffgal's best guesstimate that he probably was manufactured late in 1935, just as the factory was winding down its final inventory of red ear tags!

The imprint on this bear's red ear tag also tell an interesting story.  Starting in 1905, Steiff introduced a product numbering system to help add efficiencies to tracking, inventory, distribution, and customer service processes.  These numbers started appearing on the ear tags from 1908 onward.  In the case of this Ted, whose ear tag reads "5315", the "5" indicates his position, which is jointed; the "3" indicates his material, which is "fine mohair plush"; and the "15" indicates his height, which is 15 cm.  This numerical system was updated in 1931 and 1959.  In the mid 1980's it was replaced by the current six digit "EAN" numbering program, most likely because of the shear volume of Steiff items needing identification and inventory management.  

Steiffgal hopes this "earful" about Steiff's colorful ID program from last century doesn't have you seeing red.

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Steiff's "Brothers In Arms" From The Turn of Last Century

Steiffgal could bear to hide her delight when a fellow Steiff enthusiast contacted her about these marvelous Steiff "Brothers In Arms!" Christopher, from Indiana, recently added these two terrific turn of last century Teds to his collection - and who could blame him for falling for their handsome good looks AND vintage charm!  Although these Teds aren't twins per say, it is clear that they will be "BFFs" from now on!  Let's take a look at each of these bears and what makes them so special.

Going by age (and not beauty, which would be impossible to determine in this case!), here we have big brother Toby, who is circa 1906.  He is 13'' standing, five ways jointed, excelsior stuffed, and made from blond mohair.  Typical for his age and time of production, he has black shoe button eyes, a hand embroidered black nose and mouth, and four claws on each of his felt pads.  His squeaker is present but inoperative.  He has the sweetest look about him, don't you think?  Christopher adopted him from an antique doll dealer who found Toby at an auction in New England.  Other than than, his history is a mystery.  

Let's not paws a moment and check out Toby's little brother! This happy handful is "Ted", who is 12" standing, five ways jointed, made from gold mohair, and is stuffed with excelsior.  Like Toby, he has black shoe button eyes, a hand embroidered black nose and mouth, and four claws on each of his felt pads.  He's the pensive one of the duo. Ted's exact dating is a bit fuzzy.  His original owner - a 98 year old woman named "Ted" who had an extensive collection of antique toys - says he is from 1907.  However, according the Steiff Sortiment Book, Steiff did not start producing 12" (i.e., 30 cm) Teddy bears in this model until 1909.  HOWEVER, they did manufacture 32 cm (about 12.5") bears in this model from 1905 onward.  Older Steiff items, especially ones stuffed with excelsior (which breaks down over time) tend to shrink a bit.  So it is completely within reason that he could have been "born" in 1907 and is just showing the effects of his 100+ years.  

Both Toby and Ted exhibit physical features and proportions that are very consistent with those bears produced by Steiff at the turn of last century.  Their torsos are twice as long as their heads.  They have long limbs and when standing, their hands go all the way to their knees.  Their feet are long and narrow and are in roughly 1:5 ratio to their height. Although not pictured here, it is safe to assume that both have pronounced back humps.

1907, which is around the time of both Toby and Ted's production, was a banner year at the Steiff company.  That year alone, 975,000 bears were produced by Steiff and their cottage workers!  It is interesting to note that about 90% of those bears were exported to America, as the Teddy bear had not yet found a place in the heart of local Germans!  As a matter of fact, the son of the owner of the largest toy store in Berlin recounts of the time...

"One day our store window was crowded with young brown bear cubs.  This proved to be yes another disaster.  The Berliners launched, tapped their foreheads, and muttered "madness, madness". Not one person bought a single lovable cub and our competitors laughed behind our backs."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on turn of last century Steiff cubs encourages you to add a few to your hug too!

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Monkeying Around With Steiff's Playful Primates

As most readers know by now, Steiffgal is absolutely ape over Steiff monkeys in all their various shapes and sizes.  So it is no surprise she went a little bananas about trying to help a reader with a question about a very interesting European monkey pair.  Take a look at this note from Beth, who wants to learn more about a delightful piece of her family's history.

"Dear Steiffgal:

I'm hoping you might be able to help me identify a vintage Steiff monkey toy.  I found this toy in a trunk that was filled with my Grandfather's WWII memorabilia.  No one in my family knows where it came from.

This is a plush toy which looks almost like an orangutan. It has a strange wrinkly face, which doesn't look like the Steiff "Jocko" dolls I've seen online.  

It's 19" long, with a tail, a zipper up the back and a baby monkey inside.  He appears to be made from a soft type of brown fur or material.

The baby monkey mohair and is in excellent condition.  He has a small Steiff button in its left ear.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Best, Beth"

Let's not monkey around and get started on this really interesting inquiry right away!  

First, the easy part of the question... without a doubt, the little guy is a Steiff Jocko.  This monkey pattern has been around basically with a few modifications since 1909.  And what makes a Steiff Jocko, well, a Steiff Jocko? Regardless of size, Jockos have "natural" body proportions and detailed felt hands, feet, and facial features. One key design element on larger models (25 cm and over) is the inclusion of felt eye pockets, meaning that the chimp's eyes are surrounded by raised felt eyelids; not simply sewn onto his face. Additionally, larger sized chimps also sport a white mohair chin. Prewar, Jocko was produced in 15 sizes, ranging from 10 to 90 cm, at various times from 1909 through 1943. It was in 1929 that this ace ape was finally given his “official” Steiff name, Jocko. Post war, Jocko was one of the very first items produced.  He appeared in the line continuously again from 1948 through 1990 in 9 sizes, ranging from 10 through 80 cm.  It appears that Beth's little Jocko monkey is most likely the 15 cm size. 

Now for the big one - and there's no need to sleep on its identification challenge!  Steiff did not make this slumbering sweetheart.  He was actually produced in the UK by an English manufacturer called Merrythought.  This is Merrythought's "Sleeping Beauty" nightdress case, which is basically a child's pajama bag.  The middle portion of the ape's torso is hollow and finished with a silk lining; this pocket closes with a zipper. Its design was based on the illustrations of Lawson Wood, a popular artist of the time.  A sample of Mr. Wood's monkey-themed illustrations is pictured here to the left.

This nightdress bag was produced from 1935 through 1959, which aligns quite well with the timeline Beth provides concerning the history of this family treasure.  The picture here on the left, from a wonderful book entitled "The Magic of Merrythought", shows Sleeping Beauty as she originally appeared in the company's product catalog. Steiff also made a number of PJ bags from the early 1930's onward, but never a Jocko as far as Steiffgal can tell.  Click here to read more about Steiff pajama bags over the years. Perchance, do any readers know of a Steiff Jocko pajama bag or have one in their collection?  Please let Steiffgal know if you do!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of these charming chimps has been more fun than a day at the circus for you.

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

All Ears About This Beautiful Vintage Steiff Bunny!

Steiffgal is all ears when it comes to hearing about collector's favorite Steiff treasures.  So of course her attention turned "quick as a bunny" to this note she recently received from a reader about her beloved rabbit.  Suzanne from California writes:
"Hi Steiff Gal,
Attached is a photo of my "Manni Rabbit." She is straw stuffed, 23 inches tall, has an underscored button with remnants of a red tag under it. It looks orange in picture but it is red. Have you seen one like her? I would love any info you can come up with!
She was bought in Maine by someone at a doll auction and I bought her from them. I think she is so awesome and very old; she seems to have alot of mohair loss. She is my pride and joy.  Thanks so much for your wonderful website and I hope to hear from you soon.
Let's hop right into a discussion on this beautiful bunny!  What Suzanne has here is Steiff's Hase or Rabbit.  This particular Hase model (For better or worse, Steiff named most of their pre-war rabbits "Hase") was made from 1927 through 1941 in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, 36, 44, 50, and 70 cm.  From the measurements provided, it sounds like Suzanne's rabbit is most likely the 50 cm size.  She came in light brown, white, gold, purple pink, and light blue mohair. She is begging and head jointed.  She left the factory with a silk ribbon and a bell.  Steiff also made this same popular pattern in velvet from 1927 through 1932 in 11, 15, and 18 cm in white, purple, orange, light brown, light blue, pink, and yellow. 

Rabbits were a very popular design for Steiff in the early part of last century.  One of the ways Steiffgal was able to identify Suzanne's rabbit for sure was the bunny's distinctive nose stitching pattern coupled with her large eyes.  Additionally, because of her red ear tag remnants, it is clear that she was made in the 1927 through 1934 time frame. It is interesting to note that at the recent Steiff Auction at Christie's, vintage rabbits were a huge category.  Many 1920's era begging, head jointed models similar to Suzanne's Hase went for big money to new homes around the world - clearly documenting their popularity and timeless appeal!
A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet... and such is true for Steiff items as well.  As mentioned above, Steiff really did not give their rabbit designs distinctive names until the early 1950's.  In 1951, Steiff introduced "Niki", a standing, jointed rabbit to the world.  She was made from gray and white mohair and was produced in five sizes:  14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm through 1964.  A few years later, in 1961, "Manni" made her debut.  Manni was made from brown and white mohair; her ears had a distinctive black outline to them.  Manni was begging and head jointed only; she was made in 10, 20, 30, 40, and 55 cm through 1976.  
Although Suzanne's rabbit does resemble the Manni pattern in several respects, she is actually off a few decades to qualify literally as a "Manni"... but she certainly deserves the title of "Manni's Grand-Nanny!"
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on early Steiff rabbits has been a "hare-raising" experience for you.
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Living the SteiffLife At The Steiff Christie's Auction In London!

Live from London... it's the Christie's Steiff "sale of the century" held on October 13, 2010!  And Steiffgal had the amazing fortune to be there from start to finish! It truly was an experience of a lifetime!  Here is probably more than you want to know about her visit, and some auction details that you probably won't read about elsewhere!

First, about Christie's itself.  Christie's is located on Old Brompton Road in South Kensington.  The street is a main thoroughfare with shops, restaurants, parks, and hotels on it; it is a few blocks from Harrod's, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The entrance has two red Christie's flags, so visitors know that they have arrived at the right place.  There is an information desk as in the entranceway on the left to help direct visitors to the right showroom or office.  The building itself is clean, modern, and relatively easy to navigate; there are signs and helpers everywhere!  It is also interesting to note that the interior is quite open as the space is constantly being reconfigured with walls and display cases - highlighting the treasures of upcoming sales.

The Steiff preview viewing was held during the four days leading up to the auction event.  It was in a large room (pictured here) which was towards the back of the building. The actual sale was held in the same space as the preview.  Steiffgal attended the preview the day before the main event; she spent about two hours viewing and photographing the treasures.  The room was well lit and even had a skylight!  All the Steiff collectibles were placed in locked glass showcases, around 8 feet tall each.  Each case held three or four shelves worth of items, depending on their sizes.  These cases were placed around the periphery of the room, as well as in island configurations in the middle of the room.  There was a very helpful team of three Christie's assistants to answer any questions; they were very friendly and outgoing.  Visitors could even hold ANY piece they wanted, including the crown jewel of the auction, the Harlequin Bear!  Such a thrill! 

When it comes to Steiff, size is relative.  For Steiffgal, many items that she thought would be quite large, were actually small or even palm sized!  Or treasures that she thought to be tiny were much larger than she anticipated.  It is hard to judge size via a photograph and description - there's nothing like seeing something firsthand! Interestingly, Steiffgal heard this from many other preview visitors as well.  For example, take a look at this Record Teddy.  How big is he? (See bottom of post for answer!)

Finally, the day of the auction arrived.  It was scheduled to start at 10am, so Steiffgal arrived at 9am.  In order to bid, visitors must register for a paddle.  Christie's requests a passport, a card ID (like a driver's license in the USA), and a credit card.  Visitors are given a client number, which is like an account number, and a paddle, which is about 6" x 8" and made from cardboard.  The paddle has a visitor's bidder number printed on it in big black letters, and is the connection between bids, lots, billings, and purchases. A paddle is pictured here to the left.

Steiffgal entered the salesroom at about 9:30am, and it was already quite full, maybe 75 people were already seated in theatre-style seating facing the wooden auction podium.  By 9:45am, the staff put out several more rows of chairs, which quickly filled with additional attendees.  In terms of set-up, the Harlequin Bear (pictured here on the left) was in its own separate vitrine to the left of the podium; to the right of the podium were showcases containing what were expected to be other auction highlights.  On the walls were flat screen TVs; as each lot came up for auction they would feature the item and its lot number, and then its price in Pounds, Dollars, Euros, and Japanese Yen.  The actual items for sale were not presented live at the auction. 

The auction itself went a bit longer than expected.  It started on the dot of 10am, and finished up around 7:30pm.  There were no breaks at all, not even for lunch! (Tip:  if you ever attend an auction, bring along a snack or lunch... just in case!)  All in all, 652 lots were auctioned off; 641 of these were published in the catalog with an additional "bonus" eleven lots added in after the catalog went to print.  Steiffgal "Tweeted" the auction live for the entire event, sharing the excitement of the real-time happenings with collectors all over the world.  Christie's was kind enough to note Steiffgal's Twitter handle and timeline in their announcement about the sale of the Harlequin Bear! Steiffgal was also quoted in a Bloomberg article about the results of the auction, from the collector's perspective.

Four auctioneers covered the auction, each was very different in his style.  The first one was very energetic and had a fun tie, he got people excited and pumped up at the proceedings.  The second one was very flirty with the audience and really got the bidding going with his coaxing and pace.  The third one was quite funny; he brought along two tiny Steiff Teds and placed them on his podium and made a joke about it.  When a Steiff play duck came up for auction, he put his gavel down, looked puzzled, and asked the audience, "What's that thing on the top of his head?"  The audience quickly replied, "a pom-pom!"  The woman sitting next to Steiffgal, a Christie's regular, said that this auctioneer was known for his comical antics during a sale.  And finally, the last auctioneer was by far the most dapperly dressed, and the fastest talker.  He kept the pace and the bids coming, even into the final stretch of a very long day.

The decorum during the sale was a little different than Steiffgal thought it would be.  In general, the attendees were very quiet and businesslike.  There wasn't any clapping or celebration when certain lots sold (except when Steiffgal won her lots, but she kept her excitement rather private...)  The pace was also unexpected.  The Harlequin Bear sold in what seemed to be less than a minute, blink and you would have missed it.  On the other hand, some more "common" treasures, like the Steiff Bully Bulldogs and woolen miniatures, seemed to take far longer to close.  Much of the bidding action came via phone and internet bidders; there was a bank of Christie's employees off to the side of the salesroom taking these orders from remote bidders.   A woman in a pink jacket bought many items; another woman kept waving a red pen to bid - and was gently reminded by the auctioneer to use her paddle so he would not miss her interest.  The woman sitting to the left of Steiffgal came for the last lot in the printed auction catalog, a group of Steiff Disney animals from The Jungle Book; these are pictured above on the left. Thankfully she did win the grouping - it would have been such a disappointment to go home empty handed after such a long day. 

You can see the entire auction catalog, and the prices realized per item, here on the Christie's website. 

It is hard to say how the prices were overall, as Steiffgal always says, "something is worth what someone will pay for it."  But there were a few surprises; many things that went way over the estimated price were "one of a kinds" and things not listed in the Steiff Sortiment book.  These included a brown Chow Chow Brownie, a large wool plush cat and mouse, and several sample cats (lots 106 and 119), among many other items.  The pre-war woolies in several cases, including a pom-pom cat and mouse set as well as several lots of dogs, birds and bugs,  closed at several times their estimates.  There were also few items that ended up being quite the "bargain" to their new owners; these included a felt monkey on wheels and a mohair bulldog from the 1950's.  Overall, according to Christie's, the entire sale "realised a total of £1,082,356 / $1,713,370 / €1,226,309 and was 89% sold by lot and 94% by value."

After the auction ended, Steiffgal needed to pay up and collect her new treasures, which included a pupp-rabbit pair, a Cocoli doll, and a dressed fox.  (These new friends are pictured here on the left.) There is a special payments office adjacent to the salesroom; winners simply show their paddle number and the assistant pulls together an invoice that lists  wins by hammer price, plus premiums and VAT.  Once payment is made, the invoice is stamped and initialed.  Buyers then take this paperwork to a collections area, where assistants retrieve won items from a storage room.  In the collections area is a self-serve area complete with bubble paper and large Christie's plastic transport bags.  Once a buyer receives their items, they package them up themselves for the trip home.  Steiffgal noticed that several buyers took the Christie's bags and turned them inside out; she assumes they did that so not to "announce" so publicly the nature of their purchases to the outside world. 

Overall, attending this auction was a marvelous, incredibly memorable opportunity.   Steiffgal met many new friends from Europe, several who happened to be staying at the same hotel as she was!  As she was leaving Christie's, a lovely woman from the Netherlands came up to her, and asked in the sweetest voice, "Are you Steiffgal?  I hope you are, but your hair is different than is pictured on the Steifflife blog." It was the personal moments like this - in addition to the marvelous Steiff - that really made Steiffgal's three days in London amongst her most treasured ever.  

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

(....Ok, the Record Teddy is 5 inches only!  How did you do?)
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