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.  

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1 comment:

  1. This was fascinating. I love how you help us understand each step of the ID process.


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