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.

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  1. Interesting article, as always. I recently purchased a 1905/1906 17cm white Steiff blank button teddy and probably the main reason I chose that particular bear (over others also available at the same time) was I really liked its expression and "face". I have seen other bears of the same size and age (blank button era) but despite cheaper prices, chose not to buy because they didn't look quite right. I also recently purchased a 1950 steiff teddy (without an ear button) and the sole reason I bought this particular bear is I just love his expression. Unlike the 1905 antique teddy, the 1950 is not valuable but I adore his sweet face.
    The face and expression of a vintage or antique teddy is always the deciding factor for me, in whether or not I buy.
    Keep up the blog, I love to read it. best wishes


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