Sunday, March 28, 2010

Loco Over This Steiff Coco!

Hey Steiff fans, are you ready circle the track a few times with a great Steiff find? If so, fasten your seat belts as we go into fifth gear over this monkey on the go. A reader from Brussels, Belgium has a question about his unusual vintage Steiff primate on wheels. Julius writes:

"Hi there Steiff Gal:

Attached please find some pictures of my odd Steiff monkey. It’s a Coco but with a fez hat; he is mounted on wheels. The tag and button are there and the reference is 1325ex.

Coco is 9’’ tall on his own and 13" if you count the wheels; he is 7.5 " long nose to backside. He is obviously made from mohair, the hat is moth eaten felt, and the wheels are wooden.

I have tried to find comparable Steiff items online or in reference guides but have been singularly unsuccessful. Are you familiar with this item and could you tell me more about it? Is it more common than I think?

Kind regards, Julius"

Well, Steiffgal is certainly "loco" over this Coco! This is a great item, a little more unusual than most, but still noted in the Steiff references. What you have here is what Steiff calls Pavian Coco or Baboon Coco. Overall, your Coco is 25 cm, made from grey and white mohair, is standing, and is wearing a red felt fez. Your version has eccentric, or asymmetric rolling wheels. (The "ex" in a product's article number is Steiff's way of saying the item is positioned on these playful rollers.) Coco on wheels was made overall from 1951 - 1961. He was produced in two versions: on regular wheels (1959 through 1961) and on eccentric wheels (1951 through 1957).

As for the fez, that is kind of interesting that Steiff would put it on this Coco.
Steiffgal can think of two reasons why that might be the case:

First is the h
istorical one. Steiff has a long-standing tradition of putting hats on monkeys. At the beginning of last century, Steiff introduced its now beloved "Record Peter", the sweet pull toy of a little seated monkey on four wheels. As early as 1913, Steiff made a felt version of the Record Peter monkey wearing a red felt suit and fez. Then in 1929, Steiff introduced another pull toy monkey on wheels except that he was standing, wearing a red fez, and on eccentric wheels. A picture of this 1929 monkey is here on the left for comparison; the photo is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892 -1943 Steiff Sortiment reference book.

nd is the "themed" one. Steiff also made a Coco baboon as a little bellhop, in a red outfit with a fez. This item was 28 cm and was a standing Coco dressed doll; he was called Pupp-Coco or Cocoli. This item is considered a real prize for collectors. Cocoli was made from 1952 through 1957, the same basic time frame as Julius' Coco on wheels. Steiffgal thinks that at the time, these baboons all got this little red fez as an accessory to keep their "look and feel" consistent. The hat is actually quite darling, don't you think? And really highlights his beautiful green and black pupil eyes. Cocoli is pictured here on the left.

As for value and collectivity, Coco on wheels is certainly a top banana.
As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is worth what someone else would actually pay for it.
Steiffgal has seen this Coco on wheels in a book but never actually in person, for sale, or at auction. That all being said, Steiffgal would guestimate that he would be valued in the $250-400 range, given how little he comes on the market and that the collector's world seems finally to be coming back to life after a very slow 18 months.

Steiffgal hopes this little outing with this "Coco on the go" has been a pure joy ride for you!

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Restoring Your Faith In Damaged Steiff Collectibles

Spring just seems to be the time to freshen up a bit after a long, dark stretch of weather. Ever notice how the number of garage sales, the urge to clean your closets, and some people's desire to tidy up the yard all seem to increase as the temperature does? This all got Steiffgal thinking about "spring cleaning" in relationship to Steiff collectibles. When should an item be professionally cleaned and/or restored? To learn more about these important topics, Steiffgal spoke with a experienced restorer, Martha Anderson, of Mar-Ke Mohair. Martha specializes in the repair and restoration of collectible and antique mohair teddies and toys.

Steiffgal: Martha, first of all, thanks for sharing your expertise with our great readers. Would you be so kind as to tell us a little about yourself, if you are a collector, and your experience with restoration.

Martha: I started collecting bears when I was in college. My collection grew slowly. When I met my husband, he encouraged my hobby and even bought me some Steiff pieces. About the same time, my mom was helping her friend clean out a family member’s attic in 1982. They found a bear folded into a hat box; he turned out to be a 24" blank-button Steiff. He needed major restoration, and I wanted to do it myself. It took me two years but I was finally able to get the work done. That bear is Ted; he is still my pride and joy and is pictured on my website. He has the sweetest expression! My collection has grown to include many animals, not just bears.

(The before and after pictures above show how Martha's restorative talents can bring a family's Teddy bear literally back to life!)

Steiffgal: So clearly you understand the love and passion that collectors have for their Steiff treasures. Now, can you tell us what exactly is "restoration"?

Martha: Restoration is the process of bringing something back to its original condition. In the world of stuffed animals it is more a process of preservation. If you have a lovely mohair bear, but it is dirty and losing stuffing, it needs to be restored in order that it can continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

Steiffgal: What types of services can you provide to collectors with an item in need of restoration?

Martha: There are many things that I can do to bring a special item back as closely to its original condition as possible. These include cleaning; paw pad repair or recovering (Steiff felt paw pads and hands often need this treatment); restuffing part of, or the entire item; and the repair or replacement of noses, eyes, mouths, ears, joints, and even squeaker and growlers. Sometimes, I need to make entirely new body parts for a beloved collectible, usually due to pet damage.

(The before and after pictures above show how Martha cleaned and repaired a terrible facial gash on a beautiful Steiff Teddy bear.)

Steiffgal: Wow, I didn't realize the spectrum of repair work that is possible. Given all those options, when would you recommend restoring something?

Martha: If a toy’s condition can be improved to help it last longer, then I feel it should be restored. My biggest recommendation is cleaning. Some collectors feel that if their toy looks dirty, it looks old and that they like that look. However, would you let your friends track sand all over your favorite Oriental rug? Probably not; you would want to get the dirt out of the fibers to help the rug last. Mohair is a natural fiber that is long lasting, as long as it is clean and not exposed to bugs and direct sunlight. It is important to note that true restoration does not do anything that would in any way diminish the special personality of a toy.

(The before [on the left] and after [on the right] pictures above show how Martha pieced back together and restored a Steiff reclining lion that was "attacked" by a family pet.)

Steiffgal: Yes, that is a great point for us all to understand about restoration. So, what cannot be "fixed" via restoration?

Martha: Toys that are dry-rotted cannot be fully restored. Though I have worked on some severely dry toys, it usually by special request by the owner and often costs quite a bit more than the toy is worth. Once in awhile, I am asked to do work on an item concerning its Steiff "button in ear."

I personally cannot put new - or old - Steiff buttons back into toys where the original is missing. Steiff buttons are a trademark of that company and they do not offer replacements. I have had people contact me to ask me to install old Steiff buttons that they have removed from old worn toys into a different toy. I will not do this, as I feel it is not ethical.

Also, although reweaving is possible, I personally do not do it. This process of putting new fur (mohair) into the fabric backing is a tedious job and my carpal tunnel hand condition will not allow me to do it. There are artists that perform this service, but it is upwards of $325 per square inch.

Steiffgal: Here's a question I am certain many readers are thinking about now... does restoration change the value or resale value of an item?

Martha: This is a difficult question! There will always be collectors that only want the worn and dirty toys, and those that want their toys clean and repaired. I can only go by what my customers tell me. I have been told that restored toys bring more money than those that are not, as a clean and stabilized toy will last much longer than one that is not.

Steiffgal: I am sure that you have wonderful stories about the power of restoration. Can you share one that is particularly meaningful with us?

Martha: Yes, of course. Here's one that really touched my heart. A man contacted me about restoring his mother’s beloved toy. The bear was dry, faded, and had been attacked by the family dog. The mother has recently moved to a nursing home and the son felt it would be nice for her to have her bear with her in her new surroundings. I immediately started to work on the bear, but the mom passed away before I could finish the project. The son was quite moved when the bear returned, and was so happy to have this “piece of his mom” to cherish for years to come. Some family members had tried to throw the bear away!

Steiffgal: Wow, and you were able to contribute to her memory with the gift of restoration. What a wonderful deed! Martha, the readers and I thank you for your time!

Steiffgal hopes that this interview with Martha has given you a clean slate on your view on restoration!

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

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hoppy Steiff Spring To You!

Ah! Spring and all its associated finery have made their most welcomed appearance in Steiffgal's part of the country. That means lots of sprouts, buds, and warm weather bulbs finally emerging from their winter hibernation. And the timing couldn't be better, today being the vernal equinox! Which got Steiffgal thinking, what's the best way to hop into a new season awash with green? Why, with Steiff frogs, of course!

Frogs are a legacy animal species for Steiff; from what Steiffgal can tell, the first frog appeared in the Steiff line i
n 1899. This debut frog was made from felt in a very simple pattern. He was available in 5 and 8 cm and came on a bouncy elastic cord, probably designed as an early "action figure" for children! Other early frog patterns included a velvet frog on a felt leaf designed as a pincushion (later produced in 2004 as a limited edition replica Steiff club piece, discussed below...); a hanging pram toy; green, red and yellow velvet frogs; and a comically designed froggy oarsman. In 1935 Steiff produced a two toned green frog woolen miniature made from Nomotta wool. Fast forward a few years after World War II, frogs again made their appearance in 1953 in velvet and 1959 in mohair. Playful plush frogs have been a mainstay in the catalog since the 1960's.

g to Kermit the Frog, it's not easy being green. (This Steiff Kermit the Frog is made from mohair, 33 cm tall, head and arm jointed, and a 2009 North American limited edition of 1,500 pieces.) However, it is very easy to take look at some of the great frog items Steiff has produced over the years!

Let's get a leg up on this discussion by starting with Frosch Froggy or Froggy Frog. Froggy is sitting, unjointed and made from green and yellow velvet. He is delicately and realistically detailed with black airbrushing all over his back and limbs. He has pert brown and black pupil eyes. His Steiff button is located on his right hand. Froggy was made in 8 and 10 cm (measured sitting) from 1952 through 1986. But looks and numbers can be deceiving; if he were to be measured with his legs extended he would triple his size to 30 cm!

Next, ca
st your eyes over to this happy-go-lucky amphibian named Schlenkerfrosch or Dangling Frog. Dangling Frog is unjointed, very floppy, and is designed in Steiff's iconic long legged "lulac" style. His head is made of PVC and is beautifully hand painted, while his body is made of green and yellow velvet. He has funny, chubby "webbed" hands and feet. His Steiff button is located on his upper right thigh. Dangling Frog is 35 cm and was produced from 1970 through 1974. This identical frog pattern was also produced in a 17 cm hand puppet from 1963 through 1978.

Moving along, here we hav
e Cappy Schlenkerfrosch, or Cappy Dangling Frog. Cappy definitely has a "don't mess with me" look about him. Like his older brother Dangling Frog, Cappy is also lulac styled with his long arms and legs, but his have internal wire armature which allow him to be posed in many ways. Cappy is unjointed and made from green and tan trevira velvet. He has yellow and black pupil eyes and dark brown airbrushing details on his feet, hands, and face. His Steiff button is located on his left foot. Cappy is 32 cm and was in the Steiff line from 1979 through 1984.

And fi
nally, here's a few very old - and very new - Steiff frogs doing what frogs do best, rest on a comfortable leaf-pad. On the far left, here we have Steiff's Frosch als Nadelkissen, or Frog Pincushion. The frog itself is 5 cm and his green felt leaf is about 11 cm. Frog's body and back thighs are made from light tan velvet which has been majestically airbrushed with black, tan, and green stripes. Frog's front arms and back feet are made from tan felt. He has black eyes and a simple black line for a mouth. This really special item is a replica of Steiff's original Frosch als Nadelkissen - produced from 1903 through 1914 - and was one of the Steiff Club's exclusive member items in 2003. A picture of the 1903 version is shown here to the right of the 2003 replica, and is from Gunther Pfeiffer's wonderful Steiff Sortiment 1892 - 1943 book.

Steiffgal hopes this overview of Steiff's wonderful frogs has put a little hop, skip, and jump in your (springtime) step!

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Climb Every Moutain For Steiff

Is it ok to mix business and pleasure? Steiffgal certainly thinks so! Steiffgal was attending a training session in Barcelona, Spain and decided to take a road trip with colleagues a day before the meeting officially kicked off. Everyone piled in the car and made the 90 minute drive to the remote, medieval city of Besalu, located at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountain range dividing Spain and France. Many of the buildings in Besalu date from the tenth through the twelfth century. Steiffguy took the picture here on the left showing one of the views looking towards the city of Besalu.

Upon arrivin
g at Besalu, Steiffgal and colleagues crossed the bridge to enter the city, walked the ancient cobbled streets, visited the historic buildings, and took in the wonderful vistas and auras that only a place with so much history can claim. Most unexpectedly, the team came across a flea market being held in the town's main square. Steiffgal knew what she had to do - and do it fast - as the rest of the group had lunch more than Steiff on their minds at the time. Steiffgal was challenged to walk the flea market in five minutes and find a Steiff treasure in this far away hamlet. Did she succeed?

Steiffgal has a natural homing device for all things Steiff, and in this case she did not buck the trend. Take a look at what she found at the first booth she visited!

This find of mo
untainous proportions is none other than Steiff's Gemse, or Chamois Buck. In nature, chamois are a species of animals native to the mountains of Europe. They prefer living in steep, rugged, rocky terrains at moderate altitudes - much like Besalu itself! This Steiff Gemse is 17 cm, standing, and unjointed. His body is made from very long, brown mohair with silver highlights or tipping. His face and legs are made from short brown mohair. He has green pupil eyes, tan felt ears, and black felt horns. His short little tail is made from straight black woolen fibers. Gemse is detailed with black airbrushing on his face and paws. This particular Chamois Buck was made from 1961 through 1973. He was also produced in 12 cm from 1961 through 1970; the "baby" version was made entirely from short brown mohair and lacked the black felt horns. The pictures here on the left (face and body) are of the buck as found at the Besalu flea market.

Steiffgal's Grandmother would say that there isn't anything that wouldn't benefit from a little soap and water, and in this case, she's more than right. When Steiffgal got Gemse home, she immediately gave him a bath. This pictures here on the left show the buck after a gentle but enthusiastic cleaning. Look how much better his face especially is after a scrubbing! He's one champion Chamois now! Note how a good cleaning fluffs up the longer mohair and brings out its highlights, removes the gray tinge from the shorter mohair, and gives the collectible an overall fresh look and new lease on life. Steiffgal cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting - and keeping - Steiff collectibles as clean as possible to improve their longevity and stability. No excuses! Although they have been stated several times in past columns, again here are Steiffgal's "tried and true" simple steps to clean vintage mohair items:

  • First, remove as much surface dirt and dust as possible by shaking the item vigorously and then vacuuming it very gently and at a distance.
  • Second, clean the surface mohair with a very weak solution of water and gentle dish detergent - just very sparingly moisten a washcloth and rub the item down with the damp cloth. DO NOT soak the mohair or stuffing materials. You'll be surprised how much dirt and dust comes off - just take a look at the cloth! Change the position of the cloth a few times so you don't end up reapplying the dirt and dust onto the item you have just removed.
  • Third, let the item naturally air dry away from the sun and heat sources.
  • Finally, gently fluff up the item with a brush or comb.
Steiffgal hopes this summit level find inspires you to be on the lookout for Steiff treasures anywhere life takes you!

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's The SteiffLife Centennial!

It's the Steifflife centennial! Really! By that, Steiffgal means that this is the 100th Steifflife column to be posted right here on this community site of worldwide Steiff enthusiasts. To celebrate, here is an article that Steiffgal wrote for the wonderful magazine Teddy Bear and Friends that was published earlier this spring. But make sure to read the column to the end... there's a surprise awaiting you!

Introducing Teddy Blum: The First in Steiff’s New “Family Heritage” Series

There is something completely magical about old family Steiff bears. A Teddy that has accompanied multiple family generations though thick and thin is like a repository of family history. Recognizing that collectors treasure bears with legacy, Steiff is introducing its new “Family Heritage” series in 2010. This series is based on real Steiff bears and their stories, contributed directly by today’s collectors. And yes, your family’s Steiff Teddy could be the next in the series!

The inaugural Teddy bear in this exciting new series is a beautiful girl-bear who shares an almost seventy year history with members of the Adler family of California and Massachusetts. Here is her story.

Steiff has been a love and passion of the Adler clan for four generations. Although the family has over 500 vintage Steiff collectibles among them, this big bruin – affectionately called “Teddy Blum” after Erika Blum Adler, the family grand-matriarch – is the crown jewel of the family’s collection.

Teddy Blum has called many places and many countries home. In 1932, Erika won Teddy Blum as a door prize at the annual ball of the German Book Association in Berlin, Germany. She entered the drawing on a whim, and won the grand prize – a huge blond Steiff Teddy bear! It would be the beginning of a beautiful, lifelong friendship. Fast forward a few years, Erika and Teddy Blum fled the growing troubles in Germany to the relative stability of India, where she had family in the textiles industry. Then, in 1946, Erika – along with her husband Hans, their young sons Ralph and Ron, and Teddy Blum – came to America, settling in northern California. Here Teddy Blum lived happily with the growing Adler family and many Steiff friends, including a Jocko monkey and Mecki and Micki hedgehogs, for over forty years. The picture above shows Erika Adler and Teddy Blum together in 1970.

Teddy Blum had many admirers, but Erika’s oldest granddaughter really loved this very special bear and all Steiff animals since childhood. So, in 1988, when the time was finally right, Erika entrusted her lifelong companion to her oldest granddaughter as a college graduation gift. She declared in her distinctive German accent that her granddaughter was “now old enough to handle the family’s Steiff legacy” upon the exchange. Teddy Blum now lives in Massachusetts with her granddaughter and many other Steiff collectibles, including a few from Erika’s collection as well! This picture to the left shows Teddy Blum in 1937, along with Erika's son Ralph, now in his mid-70's. Note the Steiff patchwork playball in the lower right hand corner of the picture!

Sadly, Erika passed away a few years later. Family members who attended her funeral were each given a tiny Steiff bear resembling Teddy Blum. Her eldest granddaughter – Teddy Blum’s keeper - did this as a way to keep Erika’s memory, love of Teddy bears, and passion for Steiff as vibrant as she was during her lifetime.

The Adler family is honored to present Teddy Blum as the debut bear in the Family Heritage Series, and hopes that she brings a lifetime of joy and pleasure to Steiff collectors everywhere. They are certain Erika would be delighted by all of this, and even let out one of her jolly, legendary “ach-yahs!” in approval.

Steiff has done a masterful job in recreating Teddy Blum for collectors. Teddy is 43 cm, five ways jointed, and made from thick, rich blond mohair. Two of the most distinctive features of Teddy Blum – both in the original and the 2010 version – are her prominent muzzle and her engaging pupil eyes. Both of these details are typical to early 1930’s Steiff Teddy bears. Teddy Blum also sports a raw silk ribbon, in homage to the years she spent in India where many of these beautiful fabrics are produced. Teddy Blum is being produced as a 1,500 piece limited edition as part of the 2010 North American limited edition collection.

So Steiff collectors, how would you like your Steiff Teddy to be 2011’s Family Heirloom bear? This series is designed for collectors by collectors, so please join in if you can! To qualify, your bear must have been in your family for at least two generations, have an interesting life story, and photographs to prove it! If you think your family treasure has what it takes, send a photograph and a brief description of your bear, its history, and why you think it would make a great candidate for the series to: Please limit your submission to 250 words or less. The deadline for the 2011 contest is August 1, 2010. Good luck!

Steiffgal wants to know if you will enter your beloved family heirloom to this contest... please do!

So you have finally made it to the end of this story to learn the secret. Well, here it is. Erika Adler is Steiffgal's grandmother of blessed memory, and Steiffgal has the honor of being this generation's family caretaker of Teddy Blum.

Steiffgal wants to extend a sincere thank you to all the readers that make each posting such a pleasure to write. Here's to many hundreds more!

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Seeing Stripes Over This Studio-pendous Steiff Find!

There must be something big in the air. Why, you ask? Steiffgal has been getting loads of fantastic questions about Steiff studio animals lately! Just in the past few days, she has received largely proportioned inquires about life-sized Steiff bears, seals, elephants, and lions. But the one that really caught her eye, and things aren't usually this black or white - was a Steiff studio zebra! Check out this note from a reader from Sedalia, MO.

Mary writes...

"I am in th
e process of going through the estate of a passing family member. They have in their collection - of all things - a life-sized Steiff zebra.

The zebra stands approximately 46" tall and is 64" from head to tail. He has the Steiff button in his ear and is in very good condition. He is stuffed with wood shavings. He has two very small little spots on him - no bigger than half the size of your pinkie finger - that are torn. He must be mohair as he is very stiff and "wooly" feeling. But he really is in great shape, heavy and not worn.

We know nothing as
far as history of this item and can't find anything online with any information on any Steiff items concerning his size, age, edition size, and value. Any possible help would be greatly appreciated as we have a lot of local interest in the piece but just don't know what to do.

Thanks, Mary "

Wow, this beast has r
oamed far from his native plains of Africa to the heartland of the United States! He is indeed fabulous and if Steiffgal lived closer to Missouri she'd be interested in him too!

Clearly, what you have here is Steiff's studio zebra.
He is standing, made from off-white mohair which has been painstakingly hand stenciled with black stripes. He has a shortly cropped white mane down his back; his e
ars and tail are detailed with slightly longer black plush. He was made in 100 cm in 1960 and in 150 cm in 1960 and again in 1967.

These types of vintage Steiff studio pieces are not "limited editions" in the traditional sense of the word. But because of their size, cost, and logistics, very few were made per item. This zebra was carefully hand stuffed with excelsior. This is a delicate and time consuming process given the that the tool used for the stuffing is a long metal or wooden "poker" stick that can easily pierce the mohair fabric. Given his size, it may have taken a strong man up to two weeks or so to stuff and sculpt him by hand. It is very very labor intensive - and as a result costly - to make these studio sized items.

It is also interesting here to note that inside this zebra is a sturdy metal framed skeleton, strong enough when new to hold a regular sized adult. (But don't try this now, as he is vintage and you don't want to test the half century old welding or mohair!)

Steiff studio pieces from this zebra's era were very often used as store window displays.
Steiffgal has also heard that some pediatricians used studio animals during the 1950-70's in their offices, too, to promote a friendly and playful atmosphere. Steiffgal's shoe store growing up had a Steiff studio giraffe as a focal point.

As for value, Steiffgal is not a formally trained appraiser and sincerely believes something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it, especially when it comes to vintage collectibles.
That being said, he looks to be in good shape and assuming he doesn't have any additional rips, smells, sagging, or other issues, Steiffgal would probably value him in the $1,500 to $2,000 range in today's slowly improving marketplace. In 2004, the same zebra sold at action for a little over $1,500, but the market has been up and down so much since then it's hard to be more precise. However, he is unusual and rare and shouldn't lose value over the long run.

Steiffgal hopes that she stayed between the lines in sharing this exceptional Steiff studio treasure with you!

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