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:

"Steiffgal,

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.

Season"

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.  

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