Saturday, February 26, 2011

No 'Lion... This Steiff Treasure is Queen of the Jungle

Steiff toys are always considered "King of the Jungle" in the eyes of collectors.  But is it possible to be a  Steiff "Queen of the Jungle" and still be one cool cat?  Without a doubt!  Take a look at this note from a reader, who asks about his father's favorite childhood toy.  Steve writes...

"Dear Steiff Gal,

I found you while searching for information about an old Steiff young lion that belongs to my dad. I like the tone of your website; thought you might be able to help.

My father's young lion is in very good condition. It's at least 80 years old, as it was given to him when he was one and now he is eighty one!   He told me he found a picture of this same model lion in the Steiff 1927 catalog. 

I haven's seen anything like it on ebay, Sotheby's, Christie's, Craigslist, etc. Any direction or leads you can provide as to who could best identify and value this lion would be greatly appreciated.

Steve, Steiff would be 'lion if she said she wasn't thrilled to get your note, and to see your pictures!  What you and your dad have here is what Steiff calls Jung-Loewe Lowin or Young Lion Lioness.  She - yes she - is made from tawny colored mohair, is five ways jointed, has black and brown pupil eyes, and a hand embroidered pink nose and black mouth.  She also has black hand embroidered black claws, or she did when she left the factory.  This lovely lady was made in 16 and 21 cm from 1910 through 1942.  Her button is 8mm, which would date her from the 1920's onward; more specifically, since Steve's dad was born in 1930, she was most likely manufactured in 1929 or 1930. 

Steve's Dad as a little boy with the lioness
One mane point with this item is her lack of a mane, which makes her a female - according to her birth year.  From 1910 through 1927, this product was called "young lion", which doesn't really have a gender.  From 1928, Steiff changed the name to "lioness", clearly marking her as female.  Dovetailing this history with Steve's family history all but confirms that this family treasure is truly a "Queen of Hearts!"

Steve's Dad today with the lioness
In terms of value, as always, something is worth what someone will pay.  Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser, but does study the market for pricing trends.  Assuming this lioness has no rips, holes, weak spots, worn mohair, and odors, and is in otherwise pretty good shape from a structural perspective, she MAY value in the $400-700 range.

Steiffgal hopes the discussion concerning this lion's gender has been interesting to male and female Steiff enthusiasts alike!

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Overall, A Most Delightful 1907-era Steiff Bear

Timing is everything, even when it comes to Steiff's "friends for life!" A few weeks ago, Steiffgal was thinking about what she'd REALLY like for her upcoming birthday. And look who appeared, as if on cue... a nearly "perfect" 1907-era Steiff Teddy! Come meet Maxwell, a charming and delightful cub and one of the central reasons why this birthday was one of Steiffgal's most favorite ever!

Well, well, well, this is one very special bear!  Maxwell is 32 cm, five ways jointed, excelsior stuffed, and made from blond mohair.  He has black shoe button eyes, a black stitched nose, and four black claws on each of his hands and feet.  His paw pads are made from light tan felt and are original.  He has long arms with curved wrists, long narrow feet, a back hump, and the proportions of a classic turn-of-last century Steiff bear.  He has a very sweet, slightly upturned nose - not in a snobby sort of way, more in a way that says "I'm sniffing out my next meal!'  And his Pièce de résistance?  Maxwell retains his tiny, 4mm trailing F button, the one used on many Steiff products from the 1906 through mid-1920's time frame.  

Maxwell's history is incomplete, but a few things are known about him. According to his previous owner:

"My Dad was an antique farm toy collector for 20 plus years. We grew up on a dairy farm and milked cows and farmed 800 acres. Dad started out going to flea markets with my Grandma and buying old farm toys until he eventually had the 4th largest collection in the USA.  He and my mother used to travel around the country setting up in large shopping malls with their exhibit.  He acquired many collectibles from these exhibits, one of which is the bear.  I don’t recall exactly where he got him from however."

As noted above, Maxwell is no bare bear.  He came wearing a pair of tiny "Lee" brand overalls, probably originally donned by a now famous mischievous boy with a crooked smile in 1920.   In the nineteen-teens, the Lee company began promoting its denim overall line by producing tiny, doll sized pairs which could be distributed to consumers at country fairs as well as to clients and prospects at business meetings.  These "samples" were scaled down and simplified versions of adult sized overalls, and included large, brass "Lee" branded buttons. They were produced in blue and blue and white striped denim material.  

Then Lee started thinking, "why not doll up this promotion?"  So they did.  In 1920, Chester Reynolds, the sales manager for the Lee's Minneapolis location, came up with the idea of putting the overalls on a doll, which could then be used in a storefront window display.   Thus, the now legendary and beloved "Buddy Lee" character was born.  Buddy made his debut appearance in a Dayton’s Department Store window display on Nicolet Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.    Over time, the doll's popularity really exploded and Lee encouraged the stores to sell or give the dolls away when they were finished displaying them. Soon after, Lee started selling the overall-clad dolls directly to the public.  These early dolls are now a beloved collectible, sought all over the world by Buddy Lee enthusiasts.

Steiffgal hopes that this introduction to Maxwell overall has been a fun and enjoyable experience for you!

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

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Felt So Good To Learn About This Steiff "Rolling Rover"

The dark and dreary winter around here continues to roll on, and on and on.  So you can only imagine Steiffgal's delight when she received this joyful inquiry about a beloved family dog on wheels.  It truly was a "ray of light" on an otherwise totally grey day.  Through a series of emails, Frank from Berlin, Germany writes...


I have what I believe to be a very nice old Steiff Dachshund on wheels.  He is made from felt and about 22 cm long.  The dachshund has a Steiff button in his ear, and under the button you can see the remains of a white flag. The coat has no moth holes and the wheels still work without problems.

I suspect the dachshund is from the period between 1923 and 1926, as that is the time frame my grandma got paid.

I have done a little research on him and found a picture of him in a catalog called "The Universal Toy Catalog of 1924" which was published in 1926. This Dachshund can be seen on page 186 and is noted as "Perro-Basset, brown felt, 1117ex or 1122ex number."

Can you give me more details about this beautiful specimen? I would also be interested in learning its approximate value.  
Attached are some photos and thanks in advance for your efforts.

With best wishes from sunny Berlin :-)


Wow, this is certainly the "wheel deal" when it comes to rolling (Steiff) Rovers!  What Frank has is called Hoppel Dackel or Hopping Dachschund.  And he does just that... because he is mounted on "eccentric wheels", he appears to waddle along as he is pulled.  That is because the axis points on his wheels is are not centered - on purpose. Dackel is is standing on all fours, and made from brown felt.  His simple but very sweet and expressive face is detailed with a black embroidered nose and black and brown pupil eyes.  He is mounted on a metal frame carriage which is supported by four chunky green painted wooden wheels. When he left the factory in Giengen, he had a leather collar around his neck and a pull cord attached to the front of his carriage; it is hard to tell from the pictures if his current collar and pull cord are original.  Hoppel Dackel was made in three sizes:  17, 20, and 22 cm and was produced from 1912 through 1943.

Dog-gonnit, is there any way to narrow down his date of manufacture?  Steiffgal's gonna throw you a bone on this one.  Frank notes that the dog has the traces of a white ear tag under his button.  Steiff used a number of different versions of a white ear from 1905 through 1926.  If you overlay that time frame with his 1912 through 1943 production timeline, that skinnies down his production to between 1912 and 1926.  Given Frank's estimate that he came into the family in the early to mid 1920's, it would make sense that he was mostly likely made in the very early 1920's - perhaps 1920 or 1921. 

In terms of value, as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes something is worth what someone will pay.  Dachshunds are classic and beloved Steiff patterns; they are well represented in the Steiff line as they were a favorite breed of the Steiff family.  A somewhat similar item sold recently at the October, 2010 Christie's auction in London.  The final price was around $800, which seemed a little low based on its excellent condition and the fact that it came with an original leather collar studded with fourteen FF buttons. Given today's marketplace, it is Steiffgal's best estimate that Frank's bobbing buddy is valued in the in the $750 to $1,500 price range.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Frank's darling Dachshund has been a moving experience for you.

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

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The "Store-y" Behind One Sleepy Steiff Poodle

There's nothing much more exciting for a Steiff collector than to receive a much anticipated treasure in the mail.  Opening the box, separating out the packaging, and slowly and carefully removing the new prize from the box are all part of the "getting to know you" process.  But what happens when the collectible has a wonderful surprise story accompanying it?  That's just what happened to Steiffgal when she unboxed a new Steiff friend recently, a little white poodle named Floppy Snobby.  Here's the "store"-y behind her - quite literally!

Steiffgal doesn't want to sound stuck up about this, but her new Floppy Snobby Pudel or Floppy Snobby Poodle is one top dog!  She is one of Steiff's beloved "sleeping style" animals from the 1950's onward.  This little lady is 28 cm, in a most relaxed lying down position, and made from lovely, thick mohair.  Her "fur" is shorter on her torso and muzzle and a bit longer on her arms and lets, ears, and forehead, much like a traditional poodle cut.  Snobby has a black hand embroidered nose, a pink airbrushed smile, and mile-long black felt eyelashes.  She has her original silk ribbon - truly reflecting her "blue ribbon" status!  Snobby was made from 1959 through 1963 in 17 and 28 cm.

So what's the secret story behind "sleeping beauty?" Well, check out the additional tag attached near her yellow ear tag. Stapled to her ear is a very old fashioned looking price tag from a store called "The Rike Kumler Company" and is marked $7.50 with a line drawn through it, then $3.75. (Just in case you were wondering, $7.50 in 1960 had the same buying power as $55.09 in 2010.) So Steiff has always been a premium brand!

And what about her retail origins?  At one time, Rike Kumler, which was called Rike's by many shoppers, was a beloved and popular department store in Dayton, Ohio.  They had a significant toy department on the eighth floor of the building that featured high end products like this Steiff sleeping poodle!  The store had its origins around 1853, and grew rapidly over the years.  It moved to bigger and bigger quarters, finally locating at Second and Main in 1912. In 1915 an addition for menswear was completed, and in 1938 an eighth floor and air conditioning were added to the building.  Rike's opened up branches throughout the area and celebrated its official 125th anniversary in 1978. In 1982 the company merged with Shillito’s Department Store and became Shillito-Rikes. In 1986 that corporation became Lazarus, and then Macy's in 2005.  The Rike-Kumler Company Building in downtown Dayton was demolished in 1999 and is now the site of the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center.   The company's archives and papers are stored at the Wright State University Libraries in Dayton.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this sweet "bedtime" story and that it has inspired you to look for the secret stories that might be hidden within your Steiff treasures as well.

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