Sunday, September 25, 2011

Casting A Spell On This Darling Steiff Dachshund

What's in a (Steiff) name?  Sometimes big secrets!  Check out this note from a reader who asks about a beloved childhood friend with a most interesting moniker.  Tricia writes...


I'm hoping you can tell me if this is a Steiff Hexie dog.  

I've had it since I was a very little girl and don't remember it ever having that tag on it. Other than that, it's in really good shape. 

Your opinion would be greatly appreciated!   Regards, Tricia"

Gotta give Tricia the "Best In Show" for correctly identifying her darling doggie as Hexie.  This precious pooch is standing and made from short tan colored mohair that is accentuated with darker airbrushed highlights on his back, chest, and head.  Hexie's face is detailed with large, comical black and white google eyes and a hand embroidered nose and mouth.  All Hexies left the factory in Giengen, Germany with a red collar.  Overall, Hexie was produced in 9, 13, 20, and 25 cm from 1954 through 1974.  A 50 cm "studio" lifesized version was produced in 1960 only; this particular piece is very rare and on many collector's wish lists.  

Hexie is a popular and beloved Steiff design that is often confused with another darling Dachshund.  Around 1949-1950, Steiff introduced their first named postwar Doxie named Bazi. Bazi was produced both sitting and standing, as well as on wheels.   The standing mohair version of Bazi was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 through 1975.  The biggest and most obvious difference between Hexie and Bazi are their eyes.   Hexie has goofy black and white google eyes, while Bazi has amber and black pupil eyes.  In general, Bazi is more lifelike than Hexie with "real dog" proportions.  The picture above shows a 10 cm Bazi (left) and 9 cm Hexie (right) for comparison.

So what's going on with the name game here?  It is interesting that this small and playful dog is named "Hexie."  In German, the world "Hexe" means "witch".  It is Steiffgal's very best guess that the name "Hexie" is based on a derivative of the word "Hexe."  Perhaps this Doxie is being "celebrated" for her ability to cast a loving (or mischievous...) spell on her owners.   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's Hexie has been a wickedly fun and interesting experience for you. 

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

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Tiny Steiff Pup With A Hugely Mysterious Past

Little things can make big news, and that's just what happened here this week.  Steiffgal was fortunate enough to win a somewhat "mystery" collection of Steiff items at a local sale.  When she went to pick up her stash at the auction house, she was over the moon when she discovered what actually was in the lot... wonderful, pristine treasures from the 1920 through 1950 time frame!  Here is one of the more interesting - and puzzling - goodies from the collection.  Take a look at this tiny dog and see why he is so interesting from the collector's and historical perspectives.

Size defies when it comes to this little pup.  What we have here is a 7 cm, standing, unjointed Fox Terrier named "Fox".  He is made from white mohair  which is airbrushed with black and gold at the tip of his tail and around his eye.  His ears are black mohair.  He has brown and black pupil eyes and a simple black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  The tips of his lips are highlighted with a dot of red.  He has his original salmon colored silk ribbon and is in all but like new condition.

OK, so far, so good.. now here's where it gets less, well, black and white!  Fox's ID and design and date of manufacture do not line up at all.   It's time to call in the Steiff detectives.... here's why! 

1.  Known ID:  Fox has a white linen US Zone tag (almost as big as he is!) sewn into his front leg seam.  This "dates" him from the very late 1940's through around 1952.  His predominantly red chest tag dates him from 1928 through 1952.  He has a tiny short trailing "F" button, which was used on items from around 1933 through the very early 1950's.  

What this means:  Technically, the US Zone tag and chest tag trump here, as these would be the most concrete proof that he "hit the market" no later than 1952.

2.  Unknown ID:  Fox's crisp ear tag is made from off-white linen.  The exact wording and spacing on it does not match up with any other examples of ear tags Steiffgal can find in any of her many reference books.

What this means:  Hum, the color and the detailing of the tag are interesting for sure, but don't help much in dating the piece!

3.  Design:  Fox Terriers have always been an important part of the Steiff line.  Their design has changed over time, making it somewhat easier to date them.  In the 1920 to mid 1940's time frame, Steiff had several tiny standing mohair Fox Terriers in the line.  Importantly, most had black mohair ears regardless of size.  From 1949 onward, Steiff standing Fox Terriers had dark tan ears, and the smaller ones in the series had tan felt ears.  You can see the fundamental differences in design between these two Fox Terrier patterns here on the left. 

What this means:  It appears that despite the dating of his ID, this piece was manufactured before the factory closed for the war in the mid 1940's.

So just who is this perfect and petite pooch?  It is Steiffgal's best guess that this tiny treasure is Steiff's "Fox" design from 1933 through 1943.  This item was made in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm during that time frame. His number, 1307,0, was used on both the pre- and post- war versions of Steiff's Fox Terriers.  However, this Fox has black mohair ears and doesn't look anything like his post-war counterpart.   

How can this be?  The prewar Steiff Fox Terrier was a very popular design, and as a result, Steiff most likely created many of these items and put them in inventory for future sales.  In this particular case, Steiff probably made this Fox Terrier under discussion in the late 1930's or early 1940's, and put him in storage. After the war, when the factory was open for business again, the company used some older inventory from storage to get back into the market as quickly as possible.  So that may explain his pre-war manufacture and post-war appearance. 

In addition, most branding materials were in short supply in the late 1940's, so the factory improvised with a variety of leftover buttons, make-do ear tags, and older chest tags.   Everything that left the factory in Giengen in the few years after the war needed a US Zone tag by law.  So, it would appear that the company took pieces that were manufactured pre-war and added in the US Zone tag to comply with export rules.  So that may explain his unusual combination of ID.

Steiffgal hopes this review of this little Terrier has outfoxed the mystery behind him.  

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

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quackers Over This Remarkable Pair of 1920-era Steiff Ducks

Steiffgal felt like such a lucky duck when she received this inquiry about a pair of fine feathered friends!  Check out this note from a new collector from the Midwest who asks about her colorful "daffy ducks!"  Lisa writes...

"Hi, Steiffgal,

My name is Lisa and I live in llinois.  just started my Steiff collection, and being a bird watcher I naturally gravitated towards Steiff birds. These ducks are 8 inches tall.They stand on two red felt webbed feet. One has a silver 8mm button on the bottom of the foot with a red tag under the button. The other has a hole where the button should have been. I understand the button and tag mean these ducks were made between the years of 1925 to 1935. 

I think the body is mohair I don't know enough about what the stuffing would have been to tell you what it is stuffed with. The body is painted or airbrushed to give these birds a three dimensional effect and as you can see the colors are vibrant! The eyes are of glass and remind me of googly eyed dolls made around this time. The necks also swivel!

If you could tell me anything about these birds, I'd be very happy! 

Thank You Very Much!  Lisa    

Oh, P.S. Can't forget those pink ribbons around their necks! The silk is showing its age though."     

Steiffgal is totally quackers over these delightful ducks!  What Lisa has here is a pair of Steiff's Enten or Ducks.  The ducks are standing, brightly colored, and have swivel necks.  They are made from delightful "tipped" mohair, meaning that just the ends of the yarn strands have intense coloring.  The ducks have red-orange felt beaks and feet and marvelous goofy round black and white glass pupil eyes.  Their silk ribbons appear original.  These were made in 17, 22,  and 28 cm from 1926 through 1929 only.  Lisa's 8 inch pair is most likely the 22 cm size that has shrunk a little over time 

These ducks have three very typical 1920's era design features that make them really interesting from the collector's perspective.  

First, they are "caricatured", meaning that they were designed with exaggerated proportions in order to appear happy, playful, and youthful.  Other Steiff well known caricatured items of the same period include Pip the dog, the "Charleston" animals, and Cheerio the laughing puppy.  Steiff typically was, and still is, pretty literal when designing and producing their items, but the 1920's saw a flurry of of these comically designed patterns.  

Second, they are very brightly colored.  Steiff started really adding bold or happy colors not seen in nature to more and more of their product line from the 1920's onward.  Good examples of other unusually colored items from around the same time period include King Peng the penguin, jewel toned rabbits, and Teddy Rose.   

Thirdly, they have wonderful, google eyes.  Steiff has used many different styles of eyes over time, as they can really give an item an unique and distinctive look.  One of the very first examples of this was in 1909, when the Steiff chimp was redesigned to have felt eye pockets.  It was in the 1920's, around the time of these ducks, Steiff really started experimenting with eye treatments.  These duck eyes really say "I'm just a little goofy, wouldn't you agree?" Great examples of other really effective eye treatments of the late 1920's and early 1930's include Treff the bloodhound (the use of eye pockets to give an item a heavy lidded look), Petsy the baby bear (bright blue eyes to give a very youthful appearance), and Siamy the Siamese cat (colbalt blue eyes to give a very exotic appearance). 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Lisa's caricatured Steiff treasures has helped you get your ducks in a row when it comes to understanding what makes them so marvelous!

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

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Don't These Stunning Steiff Cats Turn Your Brown Eyes Blue?

The fact that each treasure Steiff produces is made lovingly by hand is one of the things that makes collecting vintage Steiff so enjoyable!  As a result, every piece truly has a look of its own, even if they started out from the identical pattern!  One "purr-fect" design highlights this diversity particularly well.  Siamy, the Siamese Cat, is considered the cat's meow to many collectors because of her beauty, intense eyes, and limited time in the line.  Let's take a brief look at her history and the variety of appearances she can take.

Although most cats supposedly have nine lives, the original Siamy actually has had only two in the Steiff line.  Siamy made her debut in 1930 and was produced in 14, 17, 22, 25, and 30 cm. The next year, this identical pattern was produced with a tail-turns-head mechanism. This early Siamy was made in tan mohair or wool plush. She had a small, vertically hand-stitched, heart-shaped pink nose and a simple pink closed mouth.  Perhaps Siamy’s most well-known, outstanding feature was her incredibly intense, cobalt blue glass pupil eyes—making her quite “a looker!” However, despite her popularity and striking good looks, the early sitting version was last noted in the catalog in 1933.  The picture on the left shows a 14 cm Siamy from around 1931; she sold at the 2010 Christie's Steiff auction in London for $3,760.

Siamy made another cat-nap long appearance in the Steiff line from 1953 through 1954. She was produced in 11, 15, and 23 cm. In addition to the change in sizes available, the post-war pattern did have a few minor design updates over the pre-war versions.  But one thing about her pattern didn’t change one bit over time—she retained her famous trademark blue eyes.  The picture here on the left shows a full set of post war Siamy cats from the 2010 Steiff auction at Christie's in London; the lot went for about $1,200.  Don't you just love their adorable and innocent "Who, me...?" facial expressions!

Siamy is certainly beautiful, and that beauty can take on many forms.  For example, take a look here at this photo of three 15 cm, post war Siamy's from Steiffgal's collection.  Despite the fact that they were all made within a two year time period, and from the same pattern, they have very different facial features and "looks" about them. (The eyes here don't count... Steiffgal had to replace the eyes of the one on the far right one as she arrived with tiny brown eyes, not her traditional "baby blues...")

Three details to consider...

1.  Nose stitching.  In these three examples, nose color stitching ranges from tan, to light brown, to dark brown.

2.  Facial coloring.  The range of chocolate brown highlighting ranges from the entire face to just the immediate forehead and muzzle, to somewhere in the middle.

3.  Mouth.  In two cases, Siamy has an open, peach felt lined mouth.  In the third case, her mouth is closed.  

It appears that Steiffgal has let the cat out of the bag that Steiff is an art, not a science, with this discussion on the company's stellar Siamys!
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.  
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