Monday, May 9, 2011

Steiff's King of the Canine Castle

Some named button-in-ear designs are like royalty, and there is no better example of that then Steiff's delightful "Charly" King Charles Spaniel Collectors find their long ears, fuzzy bodies, and preciously pouty expressions all but irresistible.  This charming canine only appeared in the line in the late 1920's and 1930's and is considered a blue ribbon find due to their rarity. Let's take a look at this design and see what makes it so interesting from a historical and collector's perspective.

Charly received his coronation into the Steiff line in 1928.  He was produced both sitting and standing; the two versions were head jointed only.  Charly dogs were made from light brown and white mohair; had extremely long fuzzy ears; large, childlike brow and black pupil eyes; a very detailed facial seam structure; and a prominent tail.  Their filling was soft kapok, meaning that they were lighter in weight and more cuddly than other animals stuffed with crunchy excelsior.  Overall, standing Charly was manufactured in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1928 through 1938 while sitting Charly appeared in the line in 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, and 35 cm from 1928 through 1936.  

Charly was an immediate sensation, and it is easy to understand why from a historical perspective.  This design appeared at what may be called the first "dog days" of Steiff, which lasted from 1925 and 1938. (The second "dog days" occurred in the late 1950's and early 1960's). During the 1920's and 1930's,  real - and toy - dogs were the constant companions of high society ladies across Europe.  And cute smaller breeds, like King Charles Spaniels, Bulldogs, and Pekingese, were all the rage as pets as well as accessories!  Understanding this trend, Steiff produced close to 40 new canine species, including a series of lap dogs including the now classic Charly, Bully, and Molly models.  

Charly also proved to be a great source for highly successful “theme and variation” product introductions, due to his popularity with collectors.  He appeared as a 17 cm light brown and white mohair puppet from 1928 through 1939, and as a "handtasche" or child sized purse in 22 and 25 cm from 1927 through 1933 - pictured here on the left.  He was also made in two pincushion styles:  both the sitting and standing versions were mounted on a square mohair pincushion; the sitting version was produced from 1929 through 1932 while the standing version was produced from 1930 through 1932. One of these rarities recently sold at the October, 2010 Steiff auction at Christies for $1,385!  Chary was also made as a 10 cm standing or sitting nomotta woolen miniature from 1935 thorough 1937, and as a playful purple dressed 28 cm Pupp-animal doll from 1929 through 1930.  A pristine female version of this Charly Pupp-animal doll sold for $8,311 at the October, 2010 Steiff Auction at Christie's - you can see her - but probably can't resist her - right here on the left!

Despite his popularity, Charly made his last formal appearance in the Steiff line in the late 1930's.  It wasn't until 2005 that he resurfaced again, as a 28 cm North American Limited Edition replica purse, in an edition size of 1,500. 

Steiffgal hopes this "Charly chat" has your tongue wagging - in a good way-  over this marvelous and rare Steiff design.

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

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