Thursday, July 15, 2010

Steiff's Very Own Roman Emperor

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... so Steiffgal can tell you a little bit about a Steiff bear with "ancient" origins!  Check out this note from Harald, from Coppell, Texas, who asks about his noble Steiff bear purchased at FAO Schwarz.  He writes and provides the following information:

"Greetings Steiffgal:

I bought this Roman Bear from FAO Schwarz in Dallas shortly before they closed the store a few years ago.  This particular noble Emperor is number 00756 out of an unknown total quantity.  

His name is Augustus, and he is made of mohair and is dressed in a toga and cape. He stands 9" tall and is fully jointed.  Augustus is one of many Roman Bears. The other Roman Bears were issued in 1992 through 1993 in Germany with different ones issued to different cities and States within Germany. These were to commemorate the Romans coming up from Italy to conquest and govern the Germanic Empire.

Do you know how many were made overall?

Many thanks, Harald"

Steiffgal feels like an empress having the opportunity to research this byzantine inquiry!  And, for better or worse, the answer itself will be patched together like the shards of an ancient vase. 

Harald's Augustus has a very interesting story behind him.  As mentioned above, in 1992 through 1992, Steiff had produced a series of Ancient Roman themed bears for Europe.  These bears were all dressed in a white toga - like dress and had a wreath of olive leaves around their heads.  Each was detailed with a full length red body sash that had the name of the bear embroidered in gold on the back.  Every bear came with a certificate which explained the history and origin of that particular Roman bear.  These Roemer Baeren, or Roman Bears, were each produced for a different retail outlet in Europe, so collectors who wanted the entire set had to go to each store to collect the exclusive bear.  These ten bears are pictured here above; the photograph is from the Cieslik's wonderful Steiff-Teddy Bears Love For A Lifetime book. 

Here is a breakdown of the series, including the name of the bear, the retail store that carried it, its year, and its edition size:
  • Ursulus, Fedhaus Cologne, 1992, edition size of 1,000
  • Severus Alexander, Behle Frankfurt, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Titus Julius Saturninus, Toy Museum of Trier, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Imparator Caracalla, Abele, Aalen, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Cajus Valerius Crispus, Toy Shop at the Market, Weisbaden, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Caius Fulvius Lupus, Puppenkonig, Bonn, 1992, edition size of 300
  • Imperator Vespasian, Wolff, Giengen, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Baccharus, Stiehl, Bacharach, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Drusus, Joosten and Kloeden, Neuss, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Bodvoc, Teddy Bears of Whitney, 1993, edition size of 300

So this wonderful Roman collector's series appeared in the early 1990's and Augustus appeared in the late 1990's.  What's the connection?  It is interesting to note that the FAO Schwarz in Las Vegas opened in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in 1997.  The store had a strong "Roman" theme, complete with a 48 foot tall "Trojan horse" that greeted every visitor at the entrance to the store.  You can see this horse on the picture here to the left.  Steiff has always been an integral partner to FAO Schwarz, so of course FAO Schwarz wanted a great exclusive Steiff product to help celebrate the launch of this new world class destination store.  What could be better than a Steiff Roman Emperor who had already proven his popularity overseas?  Thus, Steiff slightly updated their 1992 through 1993 "Roman" bear model and introduced Augustus to America in 1997 through FAO Schwarz.  What a perfect fit!  (Most unfortunately, this Las Vegas closed a few years ago; the storefront now boasts to be the largest H&M store in the USA...)

Now for the more tactical question... so how many Augustus bears were made?  Steiffgal cannot find any reference to an exact number.  But there are a few clues that can be used to extrapolate a reasonable number.  First of all, this bear was only sold at FAO Schwarz stores.  Historically, around the late 1990's, Steiff would make edition sizes no larger than 2,000 for FAO Schwarz.  The other earlier Steiff Roman bears were produced in edition sizes ranging from 300 to 1,000 pieces... giving an indication of sales expectations for these limited pieces. Finally, we know for certain that Harald's bear is number 756.  Given all of that information, it would be Steiffgal's best estimate (guestimate....) that Augustus was made in an edition size of 1,000 pieces, to keep within the FAO Schwarz edition size guidelines, but on the low size to make sure demand was higher than the supply to generate excitement among collectors.  

Steiffgal hopes this trip through Steiff's land of ancient Roman celebrities has put you in a toga-party frame of mind.

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

2 comments:

  1. This Roman Bear are very funny. I like it very well. Thank you for this pictures happy weekend regards

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so delighted to have found your blog! We are Steiff collectors. I look forward to looking through your archives. Have a nice week! Twyla

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