Friday, November 25, 2011

Putting a "Spot" Light On These Rare Steiff Disney Dalmatians

It's easy to keep Steiff in the spotlight, and nobody can do that better than these two fantastic - and famous dogs!   After many years of searching, Steiffgal finally welcomed this pair of "spotty dotties" into her Steiff hug.  Take a look at these "movie star" calibre Steiff canines and see what makes them so interesting from the collector's perspective.

These paparazzi-worthy pups are none other than Rolly Dalmatiner or Rolly Dalmatian. Both are  standing, unjointed, and made from white mohair that has been carefully hand-painted with black spots. Each has sweet, playful and baby-like appearance, and wears a red leather collar.  Rolly was made in 12 and 22 cm in 1962 only. 

These delightful Rolly dogs have several very interesting design features that may not be apparent from just their photographs.  
  1. First, their eyeballs, which are made from two distinct parts.   The pupils are made from a black plastic disk which has been inserted into the white plastic backing - not merely just painted or printed on.  You can feel the ridge where the two parts meet with your finger.  Both the small and large versions have these dual part eyeballs. 
  2. Second, the backing of the eyes on the larger Rolly.  Big Rolly's eyeballs are placed over a circle of off-white, shiny plastic material.  The only other Steiff item Steiffgal can think of that uses a similar material are the funny little teeth lining the bill of Piccy Pelican, who was produced from 1959 through 1961.  
  3. Finally, the nose on the larger Rolly, which is lovely, circular, dimensional, and made from black velvet.  Although Steiffgal can think of several dogs of the same period with velvet muzzles, most had black hand embroidered noses.  A velvet nose is a most unusual detail for a Steiff animal. 
Rolly is top dog in Disney’s classic animated movie, “101 Dalmatians.” This family favorite flick debuted in 1961 and was based on the 1956 book “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith. Rolly was of the named baby Dalmatians in the movie, which introduced the world to puppy parents Pongo and Perdita and perhaps the meanest Disney villain ever, Cruella de Vil. Actress Barbara Baird was the voice behind Rolly. As a point of trivia, Disney animators gave each Dalmatian puppy exactly 32 spots—truly confirming their status as "Disney calibre Dalmatians."

Steiffgal hopes this Dalmatian discussion has connected the dots surrounding Rolly's history, design, and Steiff legacy.  

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Royal Steiff Auction Find Worthy Of A Crown!

As a collector, it's easy to feel like royalty when you add a Steiff item to your collection that you only dreamed of some day owning!  Such is the case with an enthusiast from Germany who shares their excitement over a recent auction win.  Karim from Frankfurt writes...

My name is Karim, I am 42, and am from Frankfurt. I really love vintage Steiff pets. Today I write to you because I just bought my very first real vintage Steiff item in the autumn auction of here in Germany. My other Steiff pets, a couple of bears and others, are "just" limited editions and replicas.

Last October I flew to London to join
"the auction of the century" at Christies in South Kensington.  There I felt in love with the 1911 Caesar dog in the catalogue which Steiff produced after the death of King Edward.

That's why I was so touched by item #2141 in the October Poestgens auction catalogue. This lot was described just as "Steiff Hund, Vorkrieg, 22 cm" and in very beloved condition.  Clearly the condition was not nearly as pristine as the one from the Greenwood collection.  As you can see on the pictures he still has his collar but not his tag which would have read "E. VII
Caesar". Nevertheless I was impressed by this little fellow's aura when I unpacked the parcel today.

Do you think he really is an original

Thank you so much for your help!

Best, Karim
Karim, what a blue ribbon find and congratulations on your keen eye!  Yes, indeed, your new old friend is a rare and wonderful Steiff Caesar.  The Steiff Caesar you describe at Christie's sale 5035, which was held in October, 2010, had an initial estimate of $800 to $1,275 and sold for $1,088 (including the buyer's premium).  It is easy to understand why you would fall for such a handsome fellow!  Here is the Christie's dog, pictured on the left.

Caesar has looks as distinctive as his personality and the story behind him. He is five ways jointed and made from white and black mohair. He has a sweet black hand embroidered mouth and nose and black shading around his brown and black pupil eyes. His ears are lined in black fabric, and he has distinctive black claws on each of paws.  Originally he came with a thick brown leather collar.  Attached to the collar was a double sided brass medallion, which had the words "STEIFF CAESAR" on the front and "E.Vll. 1910" on the back. This tag is pictured above.  Steiff produced this wire haired terrier from 1910 through 1917 in 22, 25, and 28 cm. In 1916 and 1917, the 25 cm version was produced with movable glass eyes, which allowed him to exhibit numerous funny facial expressions.

So dog-gonnit, just who was this princely pup?  None other than the best friend of King Edward VII. Caesar was born in 1898 and bred by wire haired terrier enthusiast, the Duchess of Newcastle.  Although the king had many dogs, Caesar was by far his favorite.  He was his constant companion and they frequently traveled together.  Caesar was famous, or infamous, for his canine antics (including running away!) as as such, wore a medallion on his collar that read "I am Caesar. I belong to the King", insuring that eventually he would always "find his way home." When the King died in 1910, it is said that Caesar, who was already well known for his doggie drama, exhibited sad and depressed behavior throughout the entire burial preparation period and funeral event.  He appeared to stay in mourning for many months afterward as well by not eating or drinking adequately, and showing uncharacteristic behaviors.  Four years later, Caesar died and was buried on the grounds of Marlborough House.  His headstone reads...
"Our beloved Caesar who was the King's Faithful and Constant Companion until Death and My Greatest Comforter in my Loneliness and Sorrow for Four Years after. Died April 18th 1914"

And here's a bonus!  Check out this video of the funeral of Edward the 7th.  Look closely around the 2:27 mark - you can make out Caesar in the processional.  Thank you to Karim for bringing this remarkable piece of history to our attention!

Steiffgal hopes this little lesson on Caesar and his royal history is worthy of a crown. 
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, museum quality or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Getting Into The Swing Of Things With This Remarkable Vintage Steiff Duck

Just about anyone interested in vintage Steiff couldn't help but go quackers over today's fabulously feathered find!  This past weekend, Steiffgal had the enormous honor and pleasure of hosting a Steiff collector's event in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the Cambridge Historical Society.  Enthusiasts from five states attended and brought many spectacular treasures from their collections, including "Merry Christmas", a delightful 1920's era Ted; a 1903 era velvet lion with an elephant button; cherished baby kittens from childhood, and many other delightful "friends for life."  However, one attendee from Connecticut brought something Steiffgal had never actually seen in person - a Steiff rattle with a twist, literally.  Let's take a look at this rarity and see what makes it so interesting and unique from the collector's perspective. 

This ducky delight is called a Schwing Ente or Swing Duck.  She is made from from white mohair with a double thick felt orange beak and single thick orange felt legs and feet.  She has black button eyes which are backed by red felt circles.  Her body is unjointed and of a relatively simple design - she appears to be playfully swimming along given the way her legs and feet are angled backwards.  Duck is connected to an approximately 6" long brown hardwood handle.  With a simple wrist rotation, the duck swings along merrily in a circle and makes a whistling sound while doing so.  Swing duck was produced in yellow and white mohair in 10 and 12 cm from 1924 through 1943.  Because this particular model has a tiny, 4mm trailing "f" style Steiff button, it is Steiffgal's best guess that it was produced in the very early part of this time frame, as Steiff introduced a larger, 8mm button in 1925.  

The collector from Connecticut is one lucky duck finding this great item.  Because Swing Duck was designed for exactly that purpose - swinging - is it most unusual to find one in such nice condition that actually still spins and whistles after almost 90 years!  

Swing-Ente is a great example of a product line extension based on a Steiff all time best seller.  Steiff introduced this basic style of "swimming style" duck in felt in its debut catalog of 1892.  In 1914 - 1929, she was produced in mohair in 10, 12, and 14 cm on eccentric wooden wheels as a delightful pull toy.  This pattern was also produced as a duck chain (a mother duck with up to five baby ducks trailing along as a pull toy, pictured here on the left) from 1925 - 1936; a hanging baby carriage toy from 1914 - 1933; and as a series of brightly hued "play ducks" from 1926 - 1933.  Steiffgal can only find reference to two other models of "swing toys" in the Steiff literature; all are based on birds.  These include a 12 cm "swing goose" produced from 1933 - 1934 and a 12 cm "swing chick" produced from 1933 - 1934.  Post war, this basic swimming duck design - with a few updates - appeared in the line through 1978. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this most unusual swinging chick has made you feel like dancing, too!

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Color Your World With This Marvelous Vintage Steiff Clown Doll

Steiffgal's not clowning around when she says that this recent Steiff inquiry really gave her a good case of the giggles!  Check out this note from a reader who asks about a vintage family treasure that can't help but bring a smile to your face as well.   Denise writes....

"Hi Steiffgal, 

I came across you blog while researching a vintage Steiff Clown that was given to me as a child, and I was wondering if maybe you knew anything about it.  I just recently discovered a clown similar to mine online, which was sold in 2001 in the UK.  
My clown has the same features and outfit, so I'm pretty sure it's a Coloro clown, which I think was made in the early 1900's.  I was wondering if you had anymore information regarding these clowns, such as how many were made, and approximately how valuable they are today.  I also recently went to an antique roadshow and they were not able to give me much information or a definite value. 

Thanks, Denise"
It looks like the circus has come to town - literally - with this marvelous and rare Steiff clown doll.  What Denise has here is indeed Coloro Clown.  He is made from felt, fully jointed, and was produced in one size only - 43 cm - from 1911 through 1919.  Like typical Steiff dolls of the era, this one has a vertical seam down the middle of his face, a well fitted mohair wig, and black button eyes.  This style of doll, which was originally conceived by Richard Steiff at the turn of last century, had comical, exaggerated features – such as extremely lean or rotund bodies, huge limbs, or cartoon-like faces.  As you can tell from the photo, Coloro has really huge feet , which add to his charming and playful look. When he left the factory in Giengen, about a century ago, his clothing was much more brightly colored and he had a matching velvet top hat and black ribbon bows on his shoes.   He also did have a neck ruff, but it is impossible to tell from the pictures alone if the one he is wearing now is original. 

One of the things that is really interesting about this doll is his particular design origins.  This doll, and all of his details, were conceptualized and designed by Steiff designer Albert Schlopsnies.  Among many other creative projects, Schlopsnies carefully studied popular circus acts of the time.  He then brought back those details to Steiff so they could be integrated into a new and breakthrough group of circus themed products.  Coloro was part of this large Steiff "circus series" that included a ringmaster, acrobats, other well attired clowns, and a circus band.  With Coloro, every detail of his facial painting and expression, as well as his carefully designed outfit were specified by Schlopsnies.  Schlopsnies even designed Coloro's fabric, and made certain that the marching bear fabric detail was front and center on each and every Coloro produced. 

Steiff has always shied away from naming and crediting specific designers and artists for items in the line.  This is true even today.  However, Schlopsnies really hit it off with Richard Steiff, who was his true advocate among the Steiff family.  Other family members did not share Richard's enthusiasm for Schlopsnies.  Nonetheless, around 1911, "Ilustrirte Zeitung" (Illustrated Newspaper) - a major German publication -  wrote of Schlopsnies' designs, 

"Schlopsnies's nimble fingers have been responsible for the start of a brand new chapter in Steiff's creative program.  New ideas, new designs; each year brings new creations to be added to the pile of Steiff gifts already spilling over the sides of the Christmas table." 
The value behind this lovely Coloro clown is no laughing matter.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser, and strongly believes something is worth what someone will pay.  However, given that this lovely clown is quite rare (not many were produced given the extremely labor intensive steps needed for manufacture, plus the very expensive materials required), has his Steiff button, and has visual appeal from the photos, he would be of great interest to vintage Steiff collectors.  The Coloro pictured here on the left might be the one referenced by Denise in her note; he sold for about $1,000 in 2001.  Given all that, and based on somewhat recent sales of comparable items, the state of the collector's market, and assuming very good to excellent condition, it is Steiffgal's best guesstimate that Denise's Coloro may value in the $1,500 -$1,750 range today. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Coloro has added a splash of color to your day.  

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