Christie's Auction House has just announced one of the largest Steiff auctions in recent memory. According to the company's press release,
"Christie’s announces the sale of a Private Collection of over 1,300 Steiff teddy bears and soft toys, to take place at the South Kensington saleroom in London on 13 October 2010. This one-off spectacular will welcome international teddy bear collectors from far and wide, offering the unique opportunity to purchase fine Steiff toys from the largest and best quality collection still to remain in private hands in the world. The collection documents an academic history of Steiff, with items on offer dating from as early as 1890, right up to the 1970s. Estimates for individual lots range from £300-500 for thirteen small 1950s Steiff Dogs, up to £50,000-80,000 for a unique Steiff Harlequin Teddy Bear with red and blue mohair, circa 1925 illustrated centre left."
You can view the full press release from Christie's here; it contains many details of the auction and other logistics concerning the sale.
The item on the far left is none other than Steiff's version of Peter Rabbit. Steiff created a number of "Peter Rabbit" dolls around the turn of last century. One documented model is a spotted white velvet version wearing a red or navy topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 10, 22, and 28 cm from 1904 through 1919. Another documented model is a white wool plush version wearing a green felt topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 22 cm from 1904 through 1918. These rarities always generate tons of interest at auction; for example at the 2005 Steiff Festival auction in Giengen, Germany, a pristine 28 cm version of a rabbit cataloged as "Peter Rabbit" sold for 19,000 euro! At this same auction, a pair of matching 10 cm spotted white velvet Steiff "Peter Rabbits" in immaculate condition sold for 24,000 euro!
Next to Peter Rabbit are two green Steiff rarities that happen to go together in real life! The grasshopper is Grashuepfer Kalle Stropp or Grasshopper Kalle Stropp and the frog is Grodan Boll. Kalle Stropp is 18 cm tall and made from velvet and felt. He's dressed to the nines in what appears to be a tuxedo with long coat tails. He is standing and has a swivel head. Grodan Boll is 14 cm and made from velvet. He has black and white googly eyes and sports a black and red felt vest. These two friends were made in 1956 only and are characters from a Danish fairy tale that was broadcast on the radio as well as appeared in print as a cartoon in the 1950's through 1960. The grasshopper was portrayed as "a strict but distracted and nervous gentleman" while the frog was "hyperactive, clumsy, and outspoken." Sounds like the plot behind many US situation comedies even today!
No Steiff auction would be complete without a few great Steiff bears, and the white mohair bear behind Kalle Stropp and Grodan Boll certainly fills this role! Although no details are provided on the specifics of the Ted, his body shape, prominent nose (sealing wax, perhaps?), and five claw stitches suggest that he just might be an extraordinarily rare white rod-jointed Baerle from 1904 or 1905. Steiffgal cannot wait to hear the story and provenance behind this remarkable bear.
Just to the left of Kalle Stropp is Steiff's most unusual "Humpty Dumpty" styled doll. This huge-headed arm and leg jointed doll was first produced in felt in 12, 28, 35, 50, 60, and 70 cm from 1906 through 1927. He also appeared briefly in mohair in 28 and 35 cm in 1912 through 1913. "Humpty Dumpty" is an English fairy tale character. Because of some international trade and copyright issues between England and Germany, this piece is sometimes referred to as Steiff's "Man from Mars."
The colorful bear right in the middle of the group picture is the incredibly rare Steiff Harlequin bear. Steiffgal has never seen another bear like it; according to Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff 1892 - 1943 Sortiment description of the piece, "till this day, none of these bears turned up, therefore a picture of "Harlekin" is shown, which was made as design study for the series in 1924." According to Steiff's records, this brightly hued Ted was produced in 18, 22, 25, 30, and 32 cm in blue and red models and 22, 25, 30, and 32 cm in pink and yellow models in 1924 only. Could this be a record breaking bear in the making? Time will soon tell!
Adjacent to the right of Harlequin Teddy is a "purr-fect" example of a turn of last century cat. This is Steiff's Katz or cat. She is unjointed, lying, and holds a woolen ball. She was produced in white or grey velvet which was lovingly hand painted with stripes or spots. She was produced in 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm from 1899 through 1929.
Second in from the right is one of Steiffgal's dream pieces, the adorable Pupp-Charly or Charly Doll from 1929 through 1930. This item is based on the popular King Charles "Charly" dog model from the 1920's; an example of the original Charly is pictured here on the left. Pupp Charly is 28 cm and standing; her head, arms, and legs are made from mohair. She sports a lovely lavender dress and matching shoes. Charly Doll is one of a series of animal-dolls produced in the late 1920's and early 1930's; other popular designs included a Bully Doll, Treff Doll, Scotty Doll, Arco Doll, and Chow Doll.
No one will have difficulty identifying the final item in the picture on the right. Of course this is Steiff's authentic Mickey Mouse. This velvet model of Mickey Mouse was produced in 11, 16, 23, 30, 36, and 48 cm from 1931 through 1936. A similarly styled Minnie Mouse was also produced from 1932 through 1936; the happy couple is pictured here on the left. These "mighty mice" are among the most precious and sought after finds for both Steiff and Disneyana collectors!
So are you interested in attending... Steiffgal certainly is! And, just in case you were wondering, no reservations are required. According to a customer service representative from Christie's... "We do not typically operate a reservation system for our auctions, but you are more than welcome to arrive early on the day of the sale in order to ensure a seat."
Perhaps we'll meet in South Kensington?
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