Saturday, June 25, 2011

Who Wouldn't Give an Arm and a Leg For This Great Steiff Collectible?

What's the one Steiff collectible you'd give an arm or leg for?  For some, it might be a perfectly preserved Ted from the turn of last century; for others, it might be the #1 issue of a beloved more recent limited edition replica.  For Steiffgal... well... imaging her surprise - and delight - when a question about her dream piece was delivered directly into her inbox!  Barb writes...

"Hi there.

I have had this little one tucked away from my mother-in-law's collection for quite some time. I am having no luck with identifying the piece so far.

He is 7 3/4" long and has the 'silver' Steiff button in his left ear with the Steiff logo with the last "f" elongated back to the "e" in the name.

Is he a bear, a cat, a lion or what? He is stuffed with excelsior I believe. His head swivels in the neck socket.

I would appreciate any information you can give me. 

Best, Barb"

This "tall drink of water" is Molliette, a design that Steiff produced from 1927 through 1932. He has the original "Molly" mohair puppy head; long, soft unjointed dangling limbs; and mohair hands and paws. His body, arms, and legs are made from velvet, which has discolored over time. He has glass, very large black and brown pupil eyes and an embroidered nose and mouth.  When he was new, his lips were accented with a touch of red and he had a bright, sherbet colored silk ribbon. 

Molliette is one of a series of long limbed lovelies in the Steiff catalog from 1927-1932. These "play and car dolls" included Bulliette, the bulldog, Fluffiette, the cat, Rabbiette, the rabbit, and Cherrioette, the open mouthed puppy. These were based on the most popular named Steiff characters of the time; it is interesting that there was not a bear in this series.  Each play and car doll had the head of the character, mohair paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several bright, happy "jelly bean" colors and in 20, 30, and 43 cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker. It has been suggested that the design of this series was based on a similar line from the Chad Valley Toy Company of England called "Tango Toys." Steiff modified the design to fit their characters and manufacturing processes, and named the line "Charleston Animals", based on the Charleston dance crazy of the 1920’s, with its fast moving arm and leg movements.

A mystery surrounding Barb's Molliette is his original color.   It is Steiffgal's best opinion that originally he was blue.  This is because Steiffgal has a greenish-colored velvet Steiff Pip dog from the same era, but in his armpits and crotch folds, he retains a vibrant blue.  It is possible that the blue chemical dyes used in the late 1920's and early 1930's break down into more greenish hues when exposed to sun and oxygen over time.

Molliette was a popular plaything, both here in the US and across Germany.  Here above you can see an original 1927 trade advertisement for this toy, created especially for the United States.  The copy reads:  

"The new Steiff Button in ear creation.  A cuddly creature - its not a dog, and its not a doll, but a combination of both.  Its saucy face is attractive, and is immediately recognized as member of the famous MOLLY DOG family.  Its feet and hands are of silk plush, as is the head, while the body is made of a good quality velvet, voice inserted in body."

According to the trade prices listed in this advertisement, the 8" versions were $1 each, the 12" versions were $1.50 each, and the 17" versions were $2 each in 1927 dollars.  In 2011 dollars, that translates into $12.38 for the small, $18.57 for the medium, and $24.77 for the large size!  Seems like a pretty penny for a "toy" in 1927, but given that Molliettes in very good to excellent condition today can sell at auction in the $600 to 900 range, this appears to be a very good investment indeed!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Molliette has been a dog-gone pleasure for you! 

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

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