Monday, August 30, 2010

A Giant Steiff Fish Tale

Steiffgal just loves getting questions about Steiff family treasures, and that's no fish tale! Check out this letter from Arianne from Pacific Palisades, CA, who is fishing for answers about her long time and beloved "aquatic acquaintance." She writes:


My brothers and I have multiple Steiffs which date from the late 60's and possibly early 70's.  I own a fish which is quite large with wheels which I used to ride around on when I was little. I have had this fish my whole life and I love it so much. I can't seem to find any like it anywhere.

The eyes are missing but it is in quite good shape. I have considered repairing it but am afraid of it not being done by an expert. I am afraid to repair it as I am concerned to tamper with the original piece but I would love to have the eyes and make sure the few small tears don't get larger. 

Have you ever heard of large Steiff on wheels? Do you know where I could have it repaired?

Thanks so much!


Steiffgal's got this one down hook, line, and sinker.  What Arianne has here is what Steiff calls Reit Fisch Flossy, or Riding Fish Flossy.  This finned friend is 55 cm and made from mohair.  When she was new, she had marvelous, brightly colored hand-airbrushing and stenciling all over her body, very large puffy peach colored felt lips, and big brown and black pupil eyes.  She has an arched metal grip handle and foot rests for riding comfort. Her wheels are blue and have rubber tires.  Internally, she has an metal frame for stability (like a skeleton).  A rider steers her by adjusting her tail wheel.  Reit Fisch Flossy was made from 1965 from 1974.  To the left is a picture of what she looked like when new; this illustration is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1947 - 2003 Steiff Sortiment book. 

Arianne's Flossy is the "mobile version" of Steiff's well known and beloved "Flossy" fish design.  Although Steiff featured a fish as a hanging pram toy in 1916, it wasn't until almost 50 years later than fish as a species became a regular feature in the Steiff product line.  Flossy was the initial fish design launched post war in 1960.  She was made from mohair and colored either in the blues, reds, or yellows in 13, 28, and 66 cm. All Flossies were joyously hand airbrushed, perhaps to give the impression of swirling color under water.   They also all had peach colored felt lips and larger than life brown and black pupil eyes. Depending on their size, each had mohair or felt fins and tail fins.  A 28 cm Flossy is pictured above on the left. Flossy remained in the Steiff catalog through 1981.  

As for repairing the Riding Fish, Steiffgal is "angling" towards the affirmative in this case.  Although repair work can be expensive (as it is often literally done thread by thread by hand...) she believes if you love the item, and hope to keep it for many years or even give it to a child in the next generation, it is entirely worth the restoration investment.  It is clear that this is the case here with Arianne's Flossy.  Steiffgal has had nothing but good results from Martha Anderson and her work which can be found at  But don't just believe Steiffgal; Martha was recently profiled in Teddy Bear and Friends, a national publication dedicated to the art and craft of Teddy bear collecting.

Steiffgal hopes this column has tackled all of your Steiff riding fish questions!

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Best of Show Dogs at the Upcoming Christie's Steiff Auction

It's the dog days of summer around here, in more ways than one! Of course it is August, and Steiffgal and friends are taking it nice and easy during these sultry days before school and work start full throttle in September. But not all dogs are on holiday right now, especially a few very lucky Steiff ones across the pond! Check out these pristine pooches that will be featured in the upcoming Christie's Steiff auction on October 13th in London. Don't you just want to "fetch" a few of these beauties for your own collection?

This first royal section is worthy of his own crown. Here we have Steiff's Caeser Wire Hair Terrier. According to Christies, he is described as... "1911 Estimate: £500-800. Caeser was King Edward VII's favourite dog. When the King died in 1909, Caeser stole the hearts of the general public by leading the funeral procession in front of nine reigning sovereigns. Kaiser William II of Germany was greatly insulted by this." Caesar is jointed and made from white and black mohair. He has a sweet black hand embroidered mouth and nose and black shading around his brown and black pupil eyes. Steiff produced this princely pup from 1910 through 1917 in 22, 25, and 28 cm. In 1916 and 1917, the 25 cm version was produced with movable glass eyes, which allowed him to exhibit numerous funny facial expressions.

It is true that a dog is man's best friend, and in this case Caeser and King Edward VII were truly "BFFs". It is said that Caeser, who was well known for his canine antics, exhibited mournful behavior throughout the entire burial preparation period and funeral event. A few months after Edward was laid to rest, a book entitled Where's Master? - by Caesar, The King's Dog, appeared in print. It was written from the dog's perspective and talked about grief and loneliness over the loss of a master. The cover of book, which featured a painting of Caeser, was done by Maud Earl, a well known and respected animal artist of the time. The cover of this book is shown here on the left.

These next two cute canines appear to really enjoy horsing around. That's because both are detailed with horsehair ruffs! This "high society" collar-like accessory was popular through the late 19th century, and was commonly noted on smaller dogs such as bulldogs (like the black and white Bully) and pugs (like the orange Pip.)

Let's take a look here at the pick of this litter. According to Christie's, this set is described as... "Orange velvet Pip and black and white velvet Bully, circa 1930 - sold as a pair Estimate:£600-800." Pip is a precious pug who appeared in the Steiff line from 1926 through 1931 - with one notable exception. He was available sitting (in 8 and 10 cm) and standing (8, 10, 12, and 17 cm). Interestingly, Pip made a surprise appearance in the catalog in 1941 as a 17 cm brown tipped mohair purse. He is head jointed and has adjustable white, brown, and black googly eyes. As for materials, this design was made in mohair in pink, maize, lavender, and brown tipped mohair and in velvet in light blue, green, orange, and red. Pip was also produced as a pincushion in the late 1920's. Steiffgal has a sitting blue velvet Pip rattle in her personal collection; this item is not noted in Steiff reference books. 

As noted in a previous Steifflife posting, Pip is based on a dog character from Austin Bowen Payne's "Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred" cartoon series. This popular strip was published from 1919 to 1956 in the Daily Mirror, a British tabloid newspaper founded in 1903.

No bull, its time to talk about this handsome Steiff Bully. The Bully design was introduced in 1927 and appeared in the line through 1939; today Bully one of the most universally desirable and sought after pre-war Steiff designs among collectors. He was produced in velvet and mohair, as well as sitting and standing. This specific velvet sitting head jointed model was produced in 7, 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1927 through 1939.  He came with a horsehair or leather collar.  Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Steiff produced Bully on wheels, with a tail-turns-head mechanism, as a pincushion, with a music box, and as a handbag, among other designs. 

Steiffgal hopes this blue ribbon review of these amazing and historical Steiff dogs has you pacing at the door to attend the Christie's auction!  Hope to see you there!

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

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Four New Treasures From Christie's Upcoming Steiff Auction Revealed!

How fun is this!?  Like Christmas in July... oops, I mean August... we have received a marvelous gift of additional photos concerning the upcoming Steiff auction in in October from our friends at Christie's!  Steiffgal sends a big shout out to "Super Santa" Leonie Ashfield in the London press office for sharing these wonderful Steiff treasures. So, without further hesitation, let's unwrap this fantastic four-some and take a look at the legacy and history behind each one.  

This first item has Steiffgal all a-buzz, and for good reason!  According to Christie's, this is... "‘Trokky’, an extremely rare large Steiff blue mohair Dutch bee with rubber head, made as a promotional item for Paul Bendix a cotton towel manufacturer, circa 1953 Estimate: £3,000-5,000."

Trokky is standing and is dressed to the nines in authentic wooden clogs, felt gloves, and a linen collar and hood.  According to Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1947 - 2003 reference book, Trokky was produced in 12 and 20 cm.  

It is interesting to chart the time line of Bendix relative to the production of this item. The Bendix company was founded in 1824 by Moses Bendix.  By 1923, the company had grown to employ over 1,100 people who primarily worked the company's 1,000 weaving machines.  Although the company had its ups and downs over the next few decades due to economic and political pressures, by the early to mid-1950's, the company was again doing quite well and employing over 1,200 workers.  It is about this time that Bendix contracted with Steiff to produce their Trokky logo as a promotional item!  Unfortunately, Bendix closed its doors for good on June 30, 1993.

Rolling right along, take a look at this bouncing bundle of joy... literally!  According to Christie's, this is...  "A rare Steiff Roly-Poly Teddy Baby, circa 1937 Estimate: £3,000-5,000."  Teddy is made from mohair, has an open felt lined mouth, his original ribbon and bell, and glass pupil eyes.  According to Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1947 - 2003 reference book, this mover and shaker was produced in 20 cm.  

Steiff introduced the Teddy Baby design in 1929 and produced the pattern in 9, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 25, 30, 35, 38, 40, 45, and 65 cm at various times through 1943.  The design proved to be quite popular, and as a result Steiff used the basic Teddy Baby pattern on several additional products.  These included a puppet, doll-bear, night dress bag, and this delightful roly-poly toy.  In addition to this Teddy Baby roly-poly, Steiff also launched a mohair roly-poly rabbit and a felt roly-poly clown in 1937. Steiff debuted roly-polys in 1909, possibly as the next generation of their original Tumbler style toys. 

Like this lucky lion, Steiffgal is on pins and needles to tell you about this next Steiff highlight.   According to Christie's, this is...  "A very rare lion lying on a pincushion, circa 1906 Estimate: £3,000-5,000."  The lion is made from beige colored velvet and has a mohair mane and tail-tip.  He has black eyes, whiskers, and a hand painted mouth, nose, and jowls. He rests on a green velvet pincushion which is detailed with green cording.    According to Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1947 - 2003 reference book, this king of the jungle was produced in 10 and 14 cm.  

It is interesting to note, like several of the smaller, more "elegant" Steiff items at the turn of last century, this lion was available with or without a velvet pillow pincushion.  Other upscale animals with this option included a camel, a deer, a cat, and a Pomeranian.  

It would not be hard to argue that this final item (purple) reigns supreme! This one of a kind Steiff fox is truly in a class by himself.  According to Christie's this is... "A very rare and possibly unique Steiff display seated fox in purple-tipped mohair driving coat with gloves, 1920s Estimate: £7,000-10,000."  

There is so much to admire about this incredible piece.  First of all, despite being almost 90 years old, he looks as if he were made yesterday!  Check out his handsome mohair face, with its brown and black pupil eyes, hand stitched nose and mouth, and lifelike coloration around his cheeks and ear tips.  His coat - which looks like it would be suited for a North Pole visit with Santa - is lovingly constructed from purple tipped mohair and closes with brown semi-spherical buttons.  His mittens are made from matching brown tipped mohair.  His legs are wrapped in what appears to be felt leggings; his mohair feet are detailed with black claw stitching.  

It is interesting to note that this piece did come to the attention of the Steiff product development team several years back when he was considered as a possible candidate as a replica for the worldwide limited edition line.  However, at the time, he was thought to be a bit complicated for replication and production on a larger scale; thus, the project did not take place.  However, it is great to see this old friend again nonetheless... 

And will we be seeing YOU at the Christie's Steiff Auction in London on October 13th?  Steiffgal certainly hopes so!

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crazy Like A Fox Over This Vintage Steiff Collectible

Red-dy or not, here comes another great question from a Steifflife reader about a recently discovered family treasure. Let's not be sly and unfox this mystery right away!  Through a series of correspondences, Lindsey writes...

"Hello Steiffgal,

I recently found a Steiff standing unjointed red fox with button in ear but no other tags. It belonged to my mother in law who is 80 but I have no idea of its age or value and couldn't find anything comparable on eBay.  It is old just not sure how old.

He measures 12 1/2 inches height from tip of paw to tip of ear.  From tip of tail which is quite bushy to tip of nose he is about 16 inches. His head swivels around. The button says Steiff on it.  No other tags. His chest, belly,  ears, and tail are covered in softer fur.  He has black accents. 

Many thanks for your help!"

Let's just say Steiffgal is crazy like a fox over this fabulous family find... and for good reason!  This red fox is very interesting for a number of reasons, let's take a closer look at who he is and the legacy behind him.

First of all, what Lindsey has here is Steiff's Fuchs, or Fox from 1960 only. This red rarity is 29 cm, standing, head jointed, and made from bright red and white mohair.  The tips of his ears and his feet are detailed with black airbrushing.  He has brown and black pupil eyes, simple nose and mouth stitching, and mono filament whiskers.

Well all of that sounds well and good, but what makes him so outstanding from a collector's perspective?  This fox is one of the limited edition products Steiff created for the upscale toy retailer FAO Schwarz.  Steiff and FAO Schwarz have been partners since the turn of last century; the first Steiff products appeared in the retailer's New York store in 1906.  Starting in the mid-1950's, Steiff began creating a series of very special collectibles exclusively for FAO Schwarz.  These toys went "over and beyond" Steiff's usual level of creativity and quality, and often were detailed with exceptional mohair, unusual materials, fine clothing, and other high-end detailing.  These items in general were made in limited quantities and distributed only through the FAO Schwarz stores and catalogs, thus adding significantly to their rarity and desirability to collectors all around the world. 

The period between the mid-1950's and the mid-1970's may be considered the "heyday" of remarkable collaborations between FAO Schwarz and Steiff. Noteworthy exclusive items from that time period, in addition to Lindsey's red fox, include a series of dog and cat families resting on pillows in wicker baskets; the "city mouse, country mouse" playsets; a walrus pajama bag; a series of costumed mice, some appearing as a bride, a clown, and a princess, among others; a standing studio fox, and a series of dressed bears.  In addition to the standard Steiff button, ear flag, and chest tag identifiers, these items also included a red wooden bell shaped tag, indicating these collectibles were from FAO Schwarz.

One of the more unusual Steiff and FAO Schwarz collaborations, a Texas Longhorn, also appeared in 1960, the same year as the red fox. He is 25 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from mohair. His detailing is quite distinctive and includes genuine leather horns, a velvet dewlap extending from his neck to his lower chest, googly black and white eyes, and an open, peach felt lined mouth. He has a rather muscular appearance. Like the red fox, this exclusive collectible always generates alot of interest among Steiff and FAO Schwarz enthusiasts alike!

The designer Bill Blass once said, "When in doubt wear red." Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the red fox puts you in a fashionable state of mind.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, red in color or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Remarkable Steiff Treasures From The Upcoming Steiff Auction at Christies!

Everyone likes to be the first to know about the really important things in life (like Steiff!) So just imagine Steiffgal's "delightful disbelief" when the following email arrived from Christie's in her email inbox earlier today...

"Following your wonderful blog on our upcoming Steiff sale, I thought I would treat you to another couple of highlights... I'll send you a couple each week over the next month or so until the catalogue comes out, just to whet your appetite!

20. A rare Steiff display monkey in fireman's uniform, circa 1920 Estimate: £4,000-6,000

23. A rare Steiff Teddy Bear Hot Water Bottle with original canister, circa 1910 Estimate: £20,000-30,000
Many thanks and best wishes,

Christie's Press Office, South Kensington"

Of course Steiffgal is wasting no time in sharing these absolutely breathtaking items with you!  And it sounds like there are more to come... please stay tuned!  Steiffgal sends big Teddy hugs to the Christie's Press Office for these truly remarkable images.  It is important to note the auction photos belong to Christie's Images LTD. 2010 and are used with their permission. So given all that, let's study these two amazing treasures, and discuss what makes each one so rich from a design and historical perspective.

Because she is ape about Steiff, let's take a look at the fireman-monkey first.  There are so many factors that make this piece so fantastically marvelous and interesting.  Let's take a look at a few highlights.

To start with, take a look at the monkey's face.  He is the post 1909 Steiff monkey design.  This means he has detailed facial features, felt eye pockets (the chimp's glass pupil eyes are surrounded by raised felt eyelids) and an open felt lined mouth with a white mohair chin.  It is interesting to note that Steiff debuted an all white chimp in 1925; however, this pattern has prominent and piercing green pupil eyes, while this fireman-chimp has brown eyes.  Steiffgal found a picture of a Record-Peter (a Steiff monkey on a four wheeled pull cart) that has a white head and brown eyes; this item was produced from around 1913 through 1917. 

Now take a look at the monkey's body and clothing.  It is Steiffgal's very best guess that this body design and clothing was from a Steiff doll called Deutscher Feuerwehrmann or German Fireman.  This doll was made from around 1912 through 1919 and came in 43 and 50 cm.  Deutscher Feuerwehrmann is shown here to the left; the photo is taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892 - 1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  Deutscher Feuerwehrmann is made from felt, five ways jointed, and is dressed in an authentic German fire fighter's uniform from the turn of last century.  In addition to this particular firefighter design, Steiff also made series of six other German firefighter dolls; each was a different specialty (hose handler, climber, guard, water carrier, commander, etc.) and had a slightly varied shaped body and posture.   

Note how from the neck down, fireman-monkey and Deutscher Feuerwehrmann are almost identical... including their rotund bellies! A big difference is that fireman-monkey wears plaid pants while German Fireman has solid ones.  However, one of the other six models of Steiff fireman dolls noted above also wears plaid pants. This may explain from a wardrobe perspective why this example of fireman-monkey is wearing plaid pants and not solid ones.

It is interesting to note that in 1912, according to the Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and his Friends book,  Steiff debuted a large fire-fighting display called "Inferno in Dingharting" at the Bavarian Trade Fair in Munich.  The display was also shown at Gamages in London in 1913.  The almost life-sized vignette featured a realistic street scene, firefighting equipment, and many Steiff dolls in full firefighting attire putting out a faux fire in a residential area.  So clearly the theme of firefighters and firefighting had great appeal for the company early last century in terms of production and display.

So finally, what does all this mean in terms of time line and production for this soon to be auctioned off fireman-monkey?  Based on available research, if you overlay when Steiff was definitely producing brown eyed white monkeys (about 1913 through 1917) and the time they were producing German felt firefighting dolls (about 1912 through 1919) it is Steiffgal's best guessimate that this item approximately dates in the 1913 through 1917 time frame. 

Now onto the product that truly (and literally) warms the heart and soul.  Here we have a wonderful example of Steiff's Teddybaer mit Warmwasserflasche or Teddy Bear with Hot Water Bottle.  This Teddy bear is five ways jointed, 35 cm sitting or 50 cm standing, and is made from mohair plush. He has black shoe button eyes, tan felt paw pads, and black nose and claw stitching. What's especially unique about him is that his belly cavity is hollow, and designed to hold a cylindrical metallic hot water bottle.  The bottle stays in place via a system of brass hooks and crossed lacings across his torso.  How perfect for the cold German winter evenings!  This bear was produced from around 1907 through 1914.  

And besides his obvious charm and good looks, why is this Ted so exceptional?   Although Hot Water Teddy Bear was expected to be a great sales success, only 90 total of these models were ever produced, according to company records.  Given his complex manufacturing process, SteiffgalGiengen, most likely those that were purchased were used as a functional item.  As a result, fewer remain in any reasonable shape today.  Just for reference, Christie's auctioned another Teddybaer mit Warmwasserflasche in December of 2006; it sold for £31,200, or about $61,745!  

Going once, going twice... are you going to the auction on October 13th? 

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