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.


  1. Steiff Gal, this looks just great... don't you love the monkey fireman!
    The hotwater bottle bear is the same one from the Christie's December 2006 auction..


  2. Thank you so much for your comments, they are most appreciated! It is so exciting to learn about these treasures as they are unveiled one by one. I can't wait for what's next!

  3. I LOVE the hot water bottle bear. He is beautiful and such a distinctive, different type of bear. I would so love to have him in my home and snuggle up with him on a cold night. Alas, I don't have the thousands necessary to adopt him, but a girl can dream. Glad to have found your blog today!

    ~Debora, New Avenue Crew


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