Saturday, April 2, 2011

With Steiff, The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

There is the old adage, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  So is that true with Steiff designs, too?  You decide!  Over the past month or so, Steiffgal has welcomed two "new" 15 cm, blond Steiff Teds to her hug.   One is from the 1930's, and one is from the 1950's.   Let's take a look at both of them and discover their similarities, and differences, and what that means from the design evolution perspective.

Hi, I'm Nemo from around 1950.
This first little fellow, whose name is Nemo, is just a ray of sunshine - literally.  He was discovered at a West Palm Beach, Florida antique fair.  He was hiding in a booth with some other non-Steiff items, but Steiffgal has a nose for finding "buried treasure" like this!  Nemo is 15 cm standing, five ways jointed, and made from Steiff's traditional blond mohair.  He has brown and black glass pupil eyes and and a simple black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  Overall, this popular and beloved design and pattern was produced in gold, blond, caramel, brown, and white mohair in the 1950 through 1966 time frame in 10, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 28, 35, 40, 43, 50, 65, and 75 cm.  

Hi, I'm Oliver from around 1930.
It wasn't so clear that this second Ted, whose name is Oliver, was meant to be part of Steiffgal's hug originally.  He was listed on an online auction, and Steiffgal missed originally adopting him by only a few dollars.   Then, a few weeks later, she received a notice from his owner that he was still available!  Good things - or in this case great things - come to those who wait!  Like his younger brother Nemo mentioned above, older Oliver is 15 cm standing, five ways jointed, and made from blond mohair. He has brown and black glass pupil eyes and and a simple black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  This earlier Ted was produced in light blond, light brown, and white from 1905 through 1933 in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70, and 115 cm. 

Nemo and Oliver - check out the similarities - and differences - two decades can make!
It it clear that Nemo and Oliver are certainly close branches on the Steiff family tree.  Their similarities are quite clear - same construction, same mohair material, same basic facial detailing.  But there are also some obvious as well as subtle differences, too.  Starting from the top:
  • Nemo has a much rounder, fuller face and muzzle than does Oliver.  
  • Nemo's eyes measure 5mm, while Oliver's are 4mm.  
  • Nemo has a much larger, rounder, prominent nose than does Oliver. 
  • Nemo has just the tracing of a back hump while Oliver's is much more pronounced.
  • Nemo's waist measures 15cm while Oliver's is 13.5cm.
  • Nemo's thighs measure 3cm across while Oliver's are 2cm.
  • Nemo's feet measure 3.5cm heel to toe while Oliver's are 2.5cm.
So what does all this mean in term of Steiff's product evolution?  Even though these little fellows were most likely made no more than 20 or 25 years apart in time, those years were critical relative to the company's place in the world.   When the factory reopened for business in the very late 1940's, management was eager to not only return to manufacturing prominence, but to also grow the business in ways not considered just a few decades ago.  One of the ways that they did this was to start creating new lines of smaller, very well designed and manufactured, and relatively affordable collectible items.  These included the now well known dogs of the 1950's, including Sarras the Boxer, Peky the Pekingese, and Snobby the Poodle.  

Brothers in arms from now on.
Steiff's second strategy was to take a close look at their traditional designs, and figure out ways to "update" them to the marketplace of the times.  Such is the case with this basic "Oliver" Teddy bear design, which was "relaunched" at the Nuremberg Toy fair in 1951 as "Nemo".  This very early post-war Ted was designed to be more toddler-ish than the previous pre-war generation design, including his very round head, much more rounded muzzle, stubby and chunkier limbs, and minimized back hump.  Even the newer model's larger eyes hint of youthfulness. These differences are quite clear when you line up Oliver and Nemo, and even more so on larger Teds of the same model and generation. 

Steiffgal hopes meeting Nemo and Oliver has given new meaning to the famous Albert Einstein quote: "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once!"

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

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