Friday, January 7, 2011

Drawing A Blank Over A Mysterious Steiff Button

Steiffgal literally "drew a blank" when she got this note from a reader from Massachusetts who asks about a modern looking Steiff bear with a plain button in ear.  Check out this inquiry from Robert, who asks about a new friend with a somewhat unexpected configuration of Steiff ID.  He writes:

"Dear Steiffgal:

I have a bear which I believe to be a Steiff, but I am not sure. This bear is 16" tall, and appears to be in like new condition. 

The button in the ear is blank and there is no ear tag.  There is a chest tag that is red and yellow.  I am not sure how else to describe the bear, please take a look at the pictures.

Can you help?

Thank you, 
Robert" 


Steiffgal's got this mystery all buttoned up for you.  What Robert has here is a modern "blank button" bear.  (He somewhat resembles Steiff's Papa bear, pictured on the left, which was produced in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Steiff company in 1980.  What do you think?) Since the 1980's, Steiff has used a plain metal button on items that are considered "seconds" or part of an overproduction.   Usually with Steiff, an overrun simply means that too many of a limited edition item were produced. So, for an example, if the edition size was 5,000 - and the company made 5,200 - 200 of those produced would be "seconds."  Overall, Steiff's quality control is really good and they would not put out in the market anything that wasn't really Steiff quality, at least when it comes to the collectibles lines in their product portfolio.  What these products lack in ID, possible future value, and rarity they more than make up for in charm.

These "blank button" Steiff items are usually sold at company outlet stores, like the one in Giengen and Raynham, Massachusetts (which recently shuttered.)  And there usually isn't anything physically or structurally wrong with them at all.  For example, on a 2006 trip to Giengen, Steiffgal purchased a blank button version of the  1994 Steiff Circus Bear Replica, which was produced in an edition size of 4,000 pieces.  This delightful cub is 12" tall and has a neck mechanism to position his head in different ways by turning his tail, and is fitted with joints that snap into position so that he can sit, crawl, or stand upright.  He has a "generic" red and yellow chest tag, identical to the one worn by Robert's blank button bear.  There is nothing "second" about him... except that too many of his model were made!

Of course, Steiff has used a "blank button" several times in its product production history.  This plain button made its first appearance roughly in the 1904 through 1906 timeframe.  The specific button measured 6 mm in diameter and was made from iron and plated with nickel.  It goes without saying that most collectors would bend over backwards to welcome a Steiff treasure with this form of ID into their hug!  The blank button appeared again very briefly from 1948 through 1950, right after the company resumed production post WWII.  This button was made from nickel and measured 5 mm in diameter.  This button is also quite rare; Steiffgal only has one item in her entire collection of 500 vintage item with this ID.  The sweet 18 cm bunny from on the left is from 1949 and has the very early post war blank button.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion concerning blank buttons has deleted any questions you may have had about this unusual form of Steiff ID.

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

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful post...I learned something. Love it..Thank you..

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree, this was a wonderful post.I love learning new things and I certainly did this time. Thanks so much for all the great information.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I got a blank button bear yesterday and was searching all over the web for answers. And here I found it. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete

The teddy bear search engine