Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heads Up on This Prize Winning Steiff Rarity!

Steiff's 60 cm lion trophy from 1958
Heads up, Steiff fans!  Sometimes Steiff made items for such a short time frame - and under very limited distribution - that spotting one deserves a trophy!  Such is the case here with this most unusual jungle jem.  Through a series of correspondences, Yvonne writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

I just checked out your website, wondered if you knew anything about a Steiff lion head mount.  

I think it was manufactured in 1958.  My grandparents gave it to me when I was born and I have had it ever since.  The tag in the left ear says "Steiff original, 60. made in Germany" and "51% wool and 49% cotton" on the other side of the tag.  He is in mint condition, no worn spots at all, no missing parts, and all teeth are intact.  I think he looks great, but he is currently sitting in a closet on a shelf.

Steiff's elephant trophy from 1958
Let's take it from the top... what a great Steiff prize (and a MOST unusual baby gift!).  What Yvonne has here is called a Steiff Trophy.  Her lion model was made in 1958 only, and came in two sizes, 28 and 60 cm; hers is the larger version. The item consists of the head mounted to a wooden, hunting style plaque.  The head itself is made from mohair and stuffed with excelsior.  Lion has his long mohair mane, shorter mohair face, brown and black pupil eyes, and a large, pink hand embroidered nose.  But perhaps his most pointed feature is his large open felt lined mouth - complete with four large white wooden teeth.  

Back of rhino trophy, showing mounting slots
Heading off any confusion about their rarity, this overall design trophy design was produced exclusively for the United States market.  Steiff produced these trophies in the most popular "big game" designs of the time.  These included elephants (see above), bears, rhinos, leopards, lions, and tigers; the heads were based on the size and proportions of standard line large or studio sized animals.  Like the lion trophy, each was produced in two sizes 28 and 60 cm.   The shape of the wooden mounting base varied considerably from item to item.  Sometimes the base just covered the rear of the head, leaving no wood exposed on the front (see picture); other times the plaque was round, oval, or shield shaped with a little brass plaque on the bottom, which could be engraved with the owners name or accomplishment.  

Steiffgal hopes this review of Steiff trophies has been a headline of your day!

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's Face It: Differences Are Good When It Comes To Steiff

Let's face it... Steiff creations really do have the most endearing, well, faces!  Many collectors do base their purchases on how attracted they are to an item's expression.  Because every Steiff collectible is lovingly assembled by hand, each piece naturally has a few differences.  This is especially apparent in an item's face, where the distance between the eyes, the shape of the nose, or the angle of the mouth can add dramatic variation between the same model.  Steiffgal thought it might be an "in your face" experience to take a look at the faces of a series of "identical" Steiff items and see how different they truly are.  These items were all selected for review because they were only produced for a handful of years - minimizing the effects of time and space on their design and manufacturing. 

This first comparison really puts things into black and white.  Here we have two 22 cm post-war Steiff pandas.   Steiff produced this classic and beloved design from 1951 through 1961 in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm; the pattern was based on one launched in 1938, with a few modifications.  Up to 1955 all Steiff pandas had felt paw pads.  Then, from 1956 onward, the company used a suede-like grey rubber material on this panda’s paws and soles. Given both these pandas have rubber paw pads, it is safe to say that they were both produced in the 1956 through 1961 time frame.  The facial variations on these pandas are really quite noteworthy.  Particularly outstanding are the differences in nose stitching, the size and construction of their open mouths, and the quantity and coverage of the black airbrushing around their eyes. 

The eyes have it on this second comparison.  Here we have two Steiff 22 cm Basset hounds.  They were only produced from 1961 through 1963.  Both are head jointed made from mohair that has been carefully airbrushed in multiple shades of tan, brown, and black.  They have wonderfully long, droopy ears; hand embroidered black noses; and realistic, dimensional soft jowls and brown airbrushed claws. It is pretty clear that their most eye-popping feature would be their outstanding peepers! Their eyeballs are realistic and extremely round.  They are embedded into their facial mask structure. Overall, these beautiful Bassets appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1961 through 1963 in 12, 14, and 22 cm.  Despite being produced so close together timewise, the facial differences between these delightful doggies are quite apparent.  The placement and focus of the eyeballs, facial coloration, airbrush detailing, and jowl angles makes these examples more distance cousins than siblings!

Our third and final comparison is one that has a koala-ity all of its own.  Here we have two of Steiff's 12 cm mohair koala bears.  This rare bear appeared appeared from 1955 through 1961 only; overall, they were produced in 12, 22, and 35 cm.  This koala is made from tan and light tan mohair and is head jointed; their larger big brothers are five ways jointed. Koala has pudgy yet well-defined felt hands and feet, much like those of Jocko the monkey.  Koala's face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a small black-stitched mouth, and an inlaid, flat felt nose. His ears are semi-circular and lined in long, fluffy mohair.  Looking these guys straight in the eye, it is clear that they may have originated from the same general design specifications - but quickly diverged from the template.  Notice the dramatic differences in the color, width, and placement of their noses; size and prominence of their mouths; and quantity and intensity of their facial airbrushing, especially with their eyebrows.  

Steiffgal hopes that this "extreme close up" examination of the fanciful facial differences between "identical" Steiff items has been a real eye opener for you.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Steiff's "Perfect 10"

When someone says "a perfect ten", different things may come to different people's minds.  In the case of this "perfect ten"... well, Steiffgal actually means two things here!  It is hard not to fall in love with Steiff's tiny vintage canine treasures, those measuring only 10 cm.  So let's take a look at the top 10 "perfect tens", those petite pooches that have charmed and delighted Steiff collectors over the past half century - or more!  

In no particular order...

Steiff's old Bully, Saras, and new Bully, all 10 cm.
It's not hard to see why enthusiasts howl over these dogs with great jowls.  Here we have a trio of Steiff pooches with marvelously detailed velvet muzzles.  Bully the Bulldog, on the left, is from the late 1920's and is Steiff's pre-war bulldog design. Bully is sitting, head jointed, and made from black and white mohair. His face and mouth are tan velvet. Bully has brown and black pupil eyes and remnants of his black hand embroidered nose.  Bully was produced from 1927 through 1939 in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 cm.   

Sarras the Boxer, in the middle, is head jointed and made from vibrant brown and tan mohair. Sarras has felt ears, a black velvet muzzle, a hand embroidered black nose, and black and brown pupil eyes. Steiff manufactured this boxer design from 1951 through 1961 in 10 and 14 cm. He was called Sarras from 1951 through 1958 and Boxer from 1959 through 1961.   

And on the right is Steiff's postwar Bully the Bulldog.  He is made from tan mohair, standing, and head jointed. Bully has an elaborately hand-painted head, body spots and tail. One commonality between the "old" prewar Bully and the "new" postwar Bully design is his nose and snout construction, which were very similar between the generations. New Bully came with a red leather color and was produced in 10, 17 and 22 cm from 1951 through 1974.

Steiff's Cockie and Pull Toy Cockie Cocker Spaniels, both 10 cm.
You can't help but crack a big smile when you see our next group of "perfect tens."  Here we have a selection of Steiff's wonderful and classic Cocker Spaniels.  On the left is Cockie Cocker Spaniel. She is sitting, head jointed, and made from tan mohair.  Cockie has lifelike brown patches on her sides and back.  Her ears are made from brown mohair. Her face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and her open-mouthed tan velvet muzzle is airbrushed in pink and black.  Overall, this sitting Cockie was produced in 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, and 30 cm from 1951 through 1959.   

Keeping things moving along, on her right is the very sweet Nachzieh-Cockie or Pull Toy Cockie.  Cockie is standing and head jointed. She has absolutely magnificent lush golden and almost orange colored mohair. Her face and muzzle are quite detailed. She has pert brown and black pupil eyes and a hand embroidered black nose. Her muzzle is made from matching velvet. She has an open, pink velvet lined mouth that is highlighted with black airbrushing. In all honesty, she looks like she is having a big laugh!  Cockie glides along on four blue wooden eccentric wheels.

Steiff's Molly Puppy and Foxy Foxterrier, both 10 cm.
Sit and stay and take a look at these next two "perfect tens".  Of course, the sweetie on the left is none other than Steiff's classic Molly, perhaps the grand-matriarch of Steiff’s vast dog world. Overall, Molly appeared regularly in the line from 1925 through 1969; the one pictured here is from the early 1950's. Molly is sitting, made from long white and brown tipped mohair plush, has a swivel head, proportionally large brown and black pupil eyes, and a hand-embroidered black nose and mouth. Pre-war, this model was produced in 12 sizes ranging from 7 through 80 centimeters. She was one of the very first models reintroduced post war, reappearing again in 1949 in five sizes through 1969.

Molly's buddy here on the right is Foxy Foxterrier. Foxy is sitting and made from white mohair plush that has been detailed with black airbrushed spots. He has tiny brown felt ears and black and brown glass pupil eyes, while his black nose and mouth are hand embroidered and are finished with just the lightest touch of pink airbrushing. This particular model is extremely rare; he was produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm versions from 1953 though 1955 only.

Steiff's Biggie, Peky, and Arco, all 10 cm.
Our final three "perfect tens" surely merit a standing ovation.  On the left is Biggie Beagle.  Biggie is head jointed. He has fabulous almond shaped white, brown, and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth... he truly has a puppylike, smiling appearance. Biggie has brown and black airbrushing along his back, sides, and tail, giving him great definition and coloring. Standing Biggie was produced from 1968 through 1961 in 10, 17, and 25 cm. 

Keeping things centered here is Peky the Pekingese.  She is head jointed and made from light brown mohair.  She has black and brown pupil eyes.  Peky is known for her detailed black mohair muzzle and her darling, pouty mouth. Because this design is so expressive, it remains a collector's favorite to this day - as each Peky truly has her own look and personality. Peky was produced in 8, 10, 14, and 22 cm though 1977.  

Last, but hardly least, we have Steiff's Schaeferhund Arco or Arco German Shepherd on the right.  Arco is made from tan mohair that has been delicately hand airbrushed with black and tan to give him a most lifelike appearance.  He has tan felt ears, brown and black pupil eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  This version of Arco appeared in the Steiff line from 1957 through 1961 in 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm; sizes from 17 cm upward had an open mouth and a red felt tongue. 

Steiffgal hopes this review of some of Steiff's tiniest treasures has brought a super-sized smile to your face.

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Raising A Paddle In Support of a New Steiff And Toy Auction!

It seems like the October 2010 Steiff auction at Christie's got Steiff collectors of all sorts - including Steiffgal for sure - totally abuzz about "world class" vintage Steiff treasures.   Enthusiasts from around the globe followed the auction in person, on the web, and even on Twitter to keep up with the excitement associated with bids flying upwards and the hammers coming down.   So imagine her delight when Steiffgal learned that her colleague Daniel Agnew - the brains and talent behind October's event - was launching his own vintage toy auction in May... and that it would feature some never-seen-before Steiff treasures! 

It's not too early to start planning a real - or virtual - trip to this new Steiff viewing and collecting event!  It will take place on May 29, 2011 in London at the beautiful and prestigious venue of Lord's Cricket Grounds, seen here to the left. The venue looks over the pitch and it is a wonderful location for meeting fellow Steiff enthusiasts.  The auction will be in two parts.  In the morning it will feature dolls, dolls' houses, and traditional toys, while the afternoon will spotlight Teddy bears and soft toys.  A color catalog is under production, and remote collectors can follow the auction live or bid at

And what about Steiff specifically in this sale?  Agnew states, "I am keen to promote Steiff as an important collectible, giving them an additional auction platform can only be good for the market. This type of auction generates publicity and hopefully encourage more collectors to take up the hobby."  In terms of inventory, the event already has nine antique Steiff bears, some limited edition examples, and few animals ready for cataloging.  But Agnew is all but certain this number will grow as the auction approaches. Entries for the auction are being accepted through early April. 

Daniel was kind enough to share an exclusive preview of one of his auction highlights, a handsome black Steiff cub.  Daniel points out,  "He's a rare one, as he doesn't have the red felt around the eyes and has red stitched claws, which is normally on the sealskin ones.  He is 13 inches high, as you can see he is missing one ear and has a hole in one arm, but a skilled restorer could sort this out and he would then be a really good example.  I've estimated him at £7,000 to £10,000, based on my experience at Christie's and other important Steiff sales."

It is clear that Agnew has put his passion and experience into this collector-centric auction.  According to Daniel, this will be his second auction in association with his former Christie's colleague, David Convery of Convery Auctions Ltd.  He shares that he hopes to produce one auction per year.  His first took place in November of 2009.  He was anticipating holding one in 2010, but the Christie's Steiff auction took up most of his time over the course of the year.  He explains... "The auction will cater for all pockets with price ranging from £60 to £10,000. It will be nowhere near a Christie's auction, more like a really good quality regional auction. This is something we hope to build, so we can fill the gap that still remains after Christie's stopped selling bears in 2007."

Steiffgal raises her paddle to that!

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

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This Set of Pre-Button Steiff Skittles Will Bowl You Over!

Steiffgal is not playing around with you when she says this Steiff toy just might be the grandest (or at least the oldest!) she has ever seen!  Take a look at this "centenarian-plus" set of antique Steiff skittles and try not to get bowled over yourself!

Who's in the game with this set of museum quality set of skittles?  This remarkable collection may have been manufactured before the turn of LAST century! The set consists of eight pieces total: the kingpin bear, a monkey, poodle, pointer dog, cat, pig, rabbit, and an elephant. All are mounted on wooden bases, designed to totter over if hit just right with a soft felt ball (much like candlepin bowling.) The kingpin holds a wooden rod for support; his skittle base is slightly taller than those of his team. Each skittle is about 22 cm; the kingpin is slightly taller. Each animal is made from felt except the poodle, which is made from a very unusual curled wool plush. 

Steiff began branding its items from 1904 onward with a button-in-ear. Because none of the skittles in this set have an ear button, that would put their production before 1904 - possibly as early as the very late 1800's!  

One of the things that makes this set so interesting from the historical perspective is how it singlehandedly captures the origins of many of Steiff's classic animal patterns.  Each of the skittles in their own right could be the crown jewel in any Steiff collection. As a group, they are a stand-alone Steiff archive, demonstrating the origins of the evolution behind Steiff's most legendary and prolific designs.  For example, take a close look at the monkey.  Despite his simple shape, you can clearly see his detailed hands and feet which eventually show up on our beloved Jocko.  And now the rabbit.  A few years later, with a few minor tweaks, he becomes the basis for Steiff's Peter Rabbit, one of the most desirable Steiff antique collectibles of all. 

It's easy to be on pins and needles when coming across a set of these delightful and incredibly rare skittles. Steiff produced Skittle sets from approximately 1892 (the year of the first catalog) through 1919. Over that period of time, Steiff made the sets with hens, monkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits, poodles, pointers, cats, chicks, dachshunds, elephants, pointers, cats, and bears, among others. In all cases - except the hen and the chick versions - the kingpin wore a felt jacket and crown.  The sets produced for the European market had nine total skittles, while those for America had ten total (as in tenpin bowling). 

It is quite unusual to find a full or partial set of Steiff skittles today, mostly because there are not a whole lot of them remaining in existence, and most collectors who have them really don't move them along. Two sets of skittles sold at the October, 2010 Steiff Auction at Christies: a set of nine felt hen skittles for close to $28,000 and a set of nine assorted skittles for close to $9,500.

In addition to its "Steiff" history, this set also has a deeply personal history attached to it.  According to its owner, a lifelong Steiff collector and enthusiast, it was purchased in the mid-1980's at a doll and bear show in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  At the time, this event was one of the largest "Steiff centric" events in the world.  Dealers from all over the country and world would attend and display their Steiff treasures.  The owner had always wanted a set of pre-button skittles as the "pièce de résistance" in her expansive Steiff collection.  She had searched several decades for a set of "mixed" skittles - meaning that each skittle had a different animal on it.  She had seen previous to this set an early set of Steiff skittles that featured wool felt hens and roosters, but it was not "just right enough" for her to buy.

Good things come to those who wait.  The owner saw this set in a glass case at the Atlantic City show.  She knew it was authentic, based on her experience and comprehensive knowledge of the brand.  As you can imagine, she could not believe her eyes - or luck - in finally being able to fulfill a lifelong Steiff search!  Fast forward a few years post purchase, the owner had a meeting with Jorg Junginger, great-grandnephew of Margaret Steiff and the head of the Steiff design department at the time.  He was "blown away" by its quality and condition, and dated it as early as the late 1800's.  It is pretty hard to impress a Steiff family member - given they have access to the full Steiff archives for viewing -  but this set did just that!

Steiffgal is gaming that this review of Steiff's marvelous and charming skittle sets has been as fun as child's play for you!

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