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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