Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lassie Come Home With The Answer To This Steiff Mystery!

Steiffgal's a bit of a sassy Lassie when it comes to Steiff riddles about dogs, and this one really merits a pat on the head.  Check out this note from a reader who asks about her adorable Collie with somewhat of a mysterious ear tag number.  Joan writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

I am hoping you can solve this Steiff mystery.  No doubt you can. ;o)

Please see the attached photos of my dear Steiff lying collie.  What's puzzling is the number 2325,90 on his eartag.  Is this simply a misprint? Or? 

I date this 1960-67.  Is that correct or does that strange "9" mean something else?

Any light you could shed would be much appreciated as always!!  Thank you!!


Let's not take this challenge lying down!  What Joan has here is Steiff's simply marvelous lying Collie.  He is unjointed and in a very comfortable, lying down (but still somewhat attentive) position.  His facial mask, ears, arms, legs, and underside are made from short tan mohair.  His back, chest, and tail are made from very long mohair which has been gloriously and realistically airbrushed with black, tan, and grey highlights.  Collie's face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, an open, pink felt lined mouth, and a bright red tongue.  This item was produced in 25 and 43 cm from 1960 through 1975.  

The real mystery, as Joan points out, is the number on his yellow ear tag.  The  number is 2325,90. There is no reference to this product with this number in the Steiff Sortiment Book, the gold standard reference on vintage Steiff products.    Before the comma, this number translates to 2 = lying, 3 = mohair, and 25 = 25 cm.  After the comma, this number means 9 = "display animal or special edition" and 0 = "normal color".  What could this all mean?

Let's play by the numbers.  The ,90 means "special edition", and in many cases, that means that the item was produced for a certain period of time for a very specific market or sales channel.   Then it may have been produced and distributed on a much wider scale after that specific time frame.  A very good example of that is Steiff's bisons.  This pattern, available in 12, 17, and 30 cm, was produced as a United States exclusive in 1960.  A few years later, in 1962 and 1963, this identical design was produced in the same three sizes for worldwide distribution. (Bison with “90” as the last digits of their ear tag article numbers are from 1960; while those from 1962 and 1963 sport “00” as their last digits.)  The 17 cm bison with the ,90 ear tag detail is pictured here on the left. 

Doggonit, let's figure out what we can about Joan's confounded Collie.  As Steiffgal has mentioned many times before, Steiff is an art, not a science, and there are times that it may be impossible to figure out exactly the back story behind something.  But here are a few possible ideas:

1.  Yup, it could be something as simple as a typo on the eartag.  Steiffgal has several items in her collection where the numbering system on the ear tag, which should reflect the make-up of the animal at the time, just doesn't match up.  

2.  It could also be something as simple as an omission in the Steiff Sortiment Books. For better or worse, this does happen as it would be all but impossible to capture the thousands and thousands of distinctive Steiff products in the Steiff archives. 

3. It is very interesting to note that Joan's Collie was also produced in a sitting up pattern in 12 and 22 cm from 1960 through 1969.  These are pictured here on the left.  And, like the bison mentioned above, in 1960 both the 12 and 22 cm sitting Collies were United States exclusives.  These sitting up Steiff Collies produced in 1960 collies each have the ,90 as part of their yellow ear tag identification number.  

Given all of that background, it is Steiffgal's best guess that Joan's Collie was produced in 1960, based on his identification, design, and other things happening with Steiff's product distribution around that time.  It is possible that he was also a United States exclusive in 1960, and that information was just not captured in the publicly available records.  Or, it is also possible that he was just about to be an exclusive, and for some reason the company changed its mind at the last minute, but did not change his eartag to reflect this. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion concerning Joan's cryptic Collie has been a real mind bender for you!

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

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How'd You Like A Bear Hug From This Steiff Ted?

It's time to come out of winter hibernation and take a look at this outstanding Steiff studio (or life sized) treasure!  Check out this question from a reader from Las Vegas who asks about his daughter's "room-mate" of a decade - a huge and friendly Steiff brown bear.  Through a series of emails, Roland writes:

"Dear Steiffgal,
I have a Steiff bear that has a ear tag with hand written number on it of 0409 19.  This bear has been in my family for over 10 years and now it is time to find him a new home. 
I purchased him from a yard sale 10 years ago for my 10 year old daughter.  She is now grown and getting ready to get married.  I know nothing about this guy other that he was built for a display and was never offered for resale to the general public.  All of the books I have, I have looked through them and they do not show him, however a few web sites do as being a VERY highly sought after collectible.  So I'm confused at to the value. He is indeed the biggest Steiff bear I have ever seen.
Any help with information would be really helpful.
Many thanks for the larger-than-life question!  What Roland has here is Steiff's studio brown bear.  He is standing and 190 cm tall.  His body is made from a brown knitted fur material.  His face is made from short tan colored mohair and is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, a black leather-like nose, and a few airbrushed highlights.  His paw pads are made from a trivera velvet like material, and have airbrushed "paw prints" on them.  Both his paws and feet are complemented by lifelike claws; these were most likely made from wood or plastic, depending on the date of production.  The large, handwritten ear tag, pictured above, is very typical for Studio items produced in his era.  Overall, he was made from 1972 through 1980; in 1972 only he was sold exclusively in the United States.
This item certainly gets a "standing ovation" for its size and design origins.  Standing Steiff bears are very distinctive as relatively few have been produced over the years.  It is very possible that Roland's bear is based on themes from Steiff's early Zirkus Baer or Circus Bear that was produced from 1935 through 1939.  This playful, 32 cm bear was designed to stand on two feet and had snapping limbs and a tail moves head mechanism.  He is pictured above.  Fast forward a few years, Steiff produced their 28 cm, standing Zooby bear, who - like Roland's bear - has prominent, 3D claws.  A 120 cm brown mohair studio Zoo Bear - who looks like the BIG brother of Zooby in many ways, was produced in 1967 only.  Rolands' studio bear was produced starting in 1972, and shares many of the characteristics of the studio Zoo Bear, including his color, facial insert design, distinctive claws, and of course, cheerful disposition.  
It is interesting to note that from 1972 through 1975, Steiff also produced an 80 cm standing "bear cub" who looks a bit like the kid brother of Roland's 190 cm version.  And like Roland's bear, the bear cub was only sold in the United States in 1972.  This not so little sweetie is pictured above. 
And now the question that makes Steiffgal want to run into a cave and hide... his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes something is worth what someone will pay.  Clearly, this is a most impressive item and also a bear, which helps his appeal. The real issue with all studio items of these proportions is that finding a buyer can be challenging.  Its been Steiffgal's experience and observation that most people love these items - at a distance.  Many collectors simply don't have the space in their homes for them.  Plus shipping logistics can be very complicated - and sometimes cost many hundreds of dollars - if they require special handling or long distance travel.  That being said, Steiffgal's best guesstimate is that he would fall within the $1,000 to $2,000 range today.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the standing studio bear has keep you on your toes 'till this point.
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.     

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Another Stinkin' Steiff Mystery!

Yipes! Another stinkin' Steiff mystery!  But this one smells much more like roses than anything else!  Check out this little mystery critter Steiffgal stumbled upon during a random Google image search.  She was looking for photos of a Steiff skunk, and this little guy popped up.  When she traced the picture back to the host website, it turned out he was for sale at a little antique store in Maine!  What luck!  But just who is he?

In black and white terms, here's what we do know about him.  Skunk is 10 cm tall, standing in what Steiff refers to as the "begging position", and unjointed.  His hands and feet are made from double thick felt. His body is made from short black and white mohair, while his bushy tail, which is positioned at a 90 degree angle to his body, is made from very long black and white mohair.  He has a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and brown and black pupil eyes.  His tiny ears are rounded and made from a single layer of white mohair.

... and what we don't.  Skunk doesn't have any Steiff ID at all, nor is he mentioned in any Steiff reference books that Steiffgal knows of, including the collector's favorite Steiff Sortiment Books by Gunther Pfeiffer.  However, it is Steiffgal's strongest suspicion that he was made by Steiff.  Here's why!

1.  Mystery skunk has an uncanny resemblance to Steiff's begging Diggy Badger from 1959 through 1966.  The Diggy pattern came in 10 and 15 cm.  Mystery skunk has the same size, physical construction, body position, and facial expression as this well known pattern - except for his dramatic tail!  Here you can see mystery skunk on the left, and Diggy on the right for comparison.

2.  Mystery skunk has the same material and general design pattern as Steiff's classic standing skunk from 1962 through 1963 - except for his felt hands and feet.  Classic skunk is "barefoot" in this regard!  Classic skunk came in velvet and mohair in the 10 cm size, and all mohair in the 25 cm size.   Here you can see the 10 cm velvet version for comparison.

But following the scent of some important clues, Steiffgal is all but certain that this little skunk was made by Steiff. Mystery skunk's ears are extremely tiny, so it is very possible that the button (which would have been the raised script version which fastened on with a few prongs) just fell out over time, as there was not that much fabric to hang onto!  She also feels that he was made as a sample or prototype of a possible general line skunk, based on the already successful Diggy pattern.  

Here's why.  The standard line skunk was only in the catalog for two years.  This means one of a few things.  Either the standard line skunk sales just weren't all that good, and/or from a manufacturing standpoint, they were too complicated and expensive to make.  So the mystery skunk was most likely produced around 1961 as an option to what the standard line skunk could be, or in 1963 as an alternative for the standard line skunk which was on its way out.  Either way, this mystery skunk was not put into wide scale production, and the next skunk  - a cosy version - was introduced in the line a few years later, in 1969.  Cosy Skunk is pictured here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed sniffing out this little mystery with her!

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Green With Envy Over This Unusual Steiff Crocodile

There's nothing Steiffgal enjoys more than a big Steiff smile in her email inbox!  So this particular inquiry got her particularly beaming about the wonder of the Steiff product range.  Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about one of Steiff's more unusual green gentle giants.  Peter writes,
"Hello Steiffgal,

We have a crocodile with a Steiff label on it but no Steiff button. We have had it since new when we won it in a raffle in 1984/85.

Did they ever have any items without the button or does this mean it is not a real Steiff?

It is a large crocodile with an open mouth and the tail returns over the body.

Do you know anything about this item? I have attached a photo of it. 

Yours in anticipation, 

No need to "dial" up the excitement over this rare and unusual Steiff Crocodile!  What we have here is a very large promotional item made for the company LaCoste.  And it just so happens that the logo for this French apparel company - started in 1933 - is a big grinning crock!   This grinning greenie is standing on all fours and has his tail resting on his back.  He made from soft plush woven green fur.  Crock has an open, red plush lined mouth and pert, machine embroidered eyes. His back and tail are highlighted with white airbrushing to resemble the original logo.  This great item was produced in two waves at Steiff.  In 1984 it was produced in 45 cm, while in 1993 he appeared in a whopping 115 cm.  Because Peter says he won the crock in 1984/1985, Steiffgal assumes that his is the 45 cm version.

Now let's button up his details and branding.  According to Peter, he has a Steiff tag, but no button.  Is this possible?  Well, with Steiff, anything is possible.  But buttons are pretty sacred with Steiff.  Steiffgal knows of only two or three products post the early turn of last century that left the Giengen, Germany factory without a button.  And that was because these items were so darn tiny there simply wasn't a place to affix it.  These items included the really small woolie ladybugs and tiny woolen hedgehogs.  On other item, like birds, Steiff would attach the button via an "ankle" bracelet style of identification.  And some dolls with tiny or logistically challenging ears bore a red rubber bracelet with their button and yellow Steiff identification tag; an example of that is pictured above.  Although Steiffgal has not seen Peter's crock first hand, it is her strongest suspicion that he had a button attached at the base of his tag, or placed somewhere around his fingers or toes

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Peter's giant crocodile has left you grinning from ear to ear! 

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