Friday, March 30, 2012

Yapping All About A Very Special Steiff Companion Dog

Good friends are those who follow you around, wherever you may end up.  And it is not surprising to learn about Steiff companions that do the same.  After all, Steiff pals are truly "Friends for Life!"  And such is the case of this little canine... Check out this question from Peter, who writes from Poland:

"Hello Steiffgal,

I'm writing to you from Poland about my little dog. I think he is an Airedale terrier? He is in a sitting position and is about 4.5 inches or 11cm high. He is made from soft mohair (I think!) He has a brass Steiff badge in his ear, but no yellow tag. He has amber coloured glass eyes and what appears to be a black glass or black hard nose. He has a red original collar and is brown with black markings. 

I have had him for some years now and think he originated from Germany. I would be grateful if you could tell me anything about my little companion.

With kind regards Peter from Poland, an Ex Pat from the UK"
What Peter has here is a little dog with a very big name... Klaeff Schaeferhund, or Klaeff German Shepherd.   Yup, a German Shepherd, not an Airedale.  Klaeff is is sitting, made from brownish grey plush, and unjointed.  His face is detailed with little brown and black pupil eyes and a simple black button nose.  He was made only in 11 cm from 1978 through 1981.  Steiffgal has a particular affinity to Klaeff as he was the very first Steiff item she bought from eBay way back in 2003. 
It is interesting to note that the word "Klaeff" in German roughly translates to the word "yap" in English - a noisy term that many dog owners are quite familiar with!
German Shepherds have a long and prominent place in the history of Steiff dog production.  They have been featured almost continuously in the line since 1923.  An early model of the breed is pictured here above on the left.  Perhaps the best known Steiff German Shepherd is Arco, who was introduced in 1937.  Pre-war Arco was made from mohair and had prominent, felt lined ears. He was made standing on wheels (in 35, 43, 50, 60, and 70 cm), standing (in 14, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm), and sitting (in 17, 22, and 28 cm) from 1937 to 1943.  During this time, Arco was sometimes also referred to as "The Police Dog."   A sitting late 1930's Arco is pictured above on the right.  Early post war, Steiff produced a standing version of Arco in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1951 through 1956 which strongly resembled the pre-war version.  A 43 and 50 cm standing version on wheels was also manufactured from 1949 through 1956. 

In 1957, classic Arco had his final "makeover" designed to modernize his appearance.  The most noteworthy changes included an overall lightening of his mohair and airbrushing, and the addition of a pink-red felt tongue on larger models. The presence - or absence - of a tongue on Arco is one of the key clues collectors use to date Steiff's German Shepherds!  The "newest" classic mohair Arco was produced standing (in 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm), lying (in 22, 35, and 50 cm), and on wheels (in 43 and 50 cm) and appeared in one form or another in the line from 1957 through 1976.  A 35 cm standing Arco from the mid-1960's is pictured here on the left.  Klaeff quickly followed in 1978, but clearly did not have the staying power as his forefather Arco. Post Klaeff, Steiff has represented the breed in the line through a series of various soft plush models through the present day. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Klaeff and his legacy has shepherded your opinion about this piece in the most positive direction possible!

PS:  Peter sent along another photo of his Klaeff along with his real-life counterpart Sheba!  It is posted here below... of course you can see the "familial resemblance!"  Enjoy!

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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

There's A Mystery Bruin' With These Steiff-Like Bears

It is said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and that seems to be the case with classic Steiff designs as well.  Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about two of her family's legacy treasures.  Through a series of emails, Lizzy writes...


I have two Steiff bears, one is 12 inches and the other 8 inches tall.   They are mohair and most likely from the early twenties as they were my Grandfather's.  They are very well loved, as you can see by the photos.  Both bears have amber glass eyes and have a velvety padded feet and paws.  

What can you tell me about them?

I appreciate your help!


There is certainly a mystery bruin' with these cubs. They are Steiff-like in some respects, but not actually made by Steiff.  They do share many of the basic proportions and design elements of Steiff's classic Teddy Baby design - pictured here on the left - including flat feet (made of velvet or mohair, depending on their size), a prominent muzzle (also (made of velvet or mohair, depending on their size), down-turned front paws, and an overall chubby, toddler-like appearance.  However, Lizzy's bears also have several facial features that are definitely not original to the Steiff Teddy Baby design, including grey felt lined eyes and little red velvet tongues. 

This darling duo was actually made by another German toy company called Moritz Pappe.  This company was located in Liegnitz, Germany and was founded back in 1869.   They specialized in dolls, bears, and other stuffed animal designs.  Definitely a competitor of Steiff, their product lines often featured similar items to Steiff, such as "traditional" Teddy bears, somersaulting items, and even this Teddy Baby design.  They also made musical Teddy bears.  However, unlike Steiff which had a wide range of international sales partners, including offices in the United States, Pappe's distribution was more regional, apparently only reaching throughout northern and western Europe.  Steiff and Pappe publicly "introduced" the Teddy Baby pattern around the same time, as reference books seem to indicate that design patents for both were filed in 1928 and versions from both companies hit the shelves a few months later.  This competitive spirit over a great new design was very, very common (and still seems to be...) in the toy industry.  

Pappe Teddy Babies appear far less frequently on the secondary market than those made by Steiff.  Pappe produced their Teddy Babies in blonde and brown in 20, 26, 33, 39, and 50 cm. When they were new, they featured a small square shaped tag on their left ear with the letters "MP" in a circle, and the words "made in Germany" below. According to Pappe company documents about this design... 

"The young standing bear with its juvenile facial expression is an animal figure which has movable joints and which expresses its young age by the physical structure of its body, as well as through its facial expression, the form of its head, and its eyes.  In line with the young age of the bear an appropriate plush cloth material was used, which underlines the softness and plumpness of the animal... This article is designed as a toy."   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff and Pappe Teddy Babies has put a little competitive spirit into you collecting interests.

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Larger Than Life Steiff Teddy Baby

Well, it goes without saying that Steiffgal went a little ga-ga when she received this note about one of her favorite Steiff designs, Steiff's classic and delightful "Teddy Baby."  And talk about one heck of a big baby!  Check out this question from Tush, who writes from Austria...

"Hi Steiffgal,

I need your help! I'm on the verge of buying this large Teddy Baby. He's in "all original" condition, and has no holes or tears. As you can see from the photos, his mohair has faded and thinned on the front. He has a button dating him to the fifties, but has lost all his other IDs.

Would you say he's a Schautier (i.e., a "Studio" item)? Apparently the seller had him valued at an auction house here in Austria, and they classified him as a "display animal."  In the Steiff Sortiment Book 1947 - 2003 there is a Teddy Baby display animal, although he's 150  cm. 

Have you ever seen or heard of a Teddy Baby being 80 cm tall? The largest produced Teddy Babies were 65 cm tall.

I find him adorable - but would like to know how "rare" he really is.

Thanks in advance for your help and greetings from Austria,


Oh baby, what a great question!  First of all, let's take a look at his wonderful design to understand his legacy in the Steiff line.  Teddy Baby has been produced in a number of slightly varying designs over the years. However, all Steiff Teddy Baby bears have three things in common: 1.  a distinctive, well defined muzzle;  2.  flat, broad, clawed feet made for standing; and 3.  sweet, toddler-like features. The Teddy Baby pattern debuted in 1929—a very creative, prolific period at Steiff when several of their most recognizable and classic designs (including Molly puppy and Bully bulldog) were also introduced. Pre-World War II, Teddy Baby was made in 13 sizes ranging from 9 to 65 cm.

It is interesting to note that Teddy Baby was one of the very first items Steiff started producing when the factory in Germany opened after the war. Due to limited supplies and logistical complications, he was made in artificial silk plush (a transitional, lower quality material) in 1948. Then, once supplies and operations were back in order, he was produced in blond or brown mohair in 9, 22, 28, 30, and 40 cm in the identical pattern made before the war. All sizes over 9 cm came with a leather collar with a bell. Teddy Baby remained in the Steiff line from 1949 to 1957, although due to his popularity with collectors, has been replicated many times in numerous limited edition series.

Now to his distinctively un-baby like proportions.  As Tush noted, the largest "official" standard line sized Teddy baby was produced was 65 cm, but that was in the 1940's.  And this bear dates from the 1950's.  So why is this brown beauty 80 cm?  And does he qualify as a "Studio" item?   

As with most things Steiff, the understanding the history of a special item relies both on art and science.  In reality, it is impossible to tell with certainty how Steiff would have cataloged this uniquely sized Teddy Baby.  It is entirely possible that he could have been a special customer order, or part of a window display, or a sample.  Here are two mini-clues that MAY shed some light on his past.  

  • First, he has brown feet.  As far as Steiffgal can find and research, brown Teddy Babies traditionally have light feet, so this may suggest that he was created as a sample or customer special order.
  • Second, he has worn areas on his head and chest.  That may suggest that he was part of a display in a store that catered to children.  Why?  Because the wear is at the height where young people would pet and cuddle him.

And what's in a name - especially the name "Studio?"  In general, a Steiff Studio item is life-sized, or designed specifically for display purposes. So in the case of “life-sized” animals, if in nature a tiger is almost 6 feet long, then the Steiff Studio tiger would be almost 6 feet long. In the case of a display product, an item may be produced in exceptionally large proportions in order to make a statement in a window vignette.  Since the early 1900s, Studio items have been produced in a special, high-ceiling building on the Steiff campus.  There is precedence for "Studio" sized versions of classic Steiff Teddy bear designs.  For example, in 1967, Steiff made 80 and 100 cm version of their Zotty Bears, and did call those "Studio items" in the Sortiment books; a picture of a gynormous 80 cm Zotty is pictured here on the left.  

Given that Tush's Teddy Baby was also made in the "studio" building on the Steiff campus... Steiffgal would think that this big bruin would also qualify for studio-status.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Teddy Baby has been as peaceful as a lullaby to you.

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Red Hot Family Steiff Treasure!

The famous American designer Bill Blass was known for saying, "Red is the ultimate cure for sadness."  And Steiffgal could not agree more, especially when it comes to remarkable vintage Steiff treasures.  Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about his family's fantastic forest friend.  Anthony from England writes:


I have searched the internet for information on my Steiff red fox and came upon your site. I would greatly appreciate you giving your opinion of when it was made and the possible value of it.  He is made of mohair, has his ear tag, and measures 11" long and 5" tall.

As far as I am aware, he is pre-1950.  It was my stepfather's mother's fox.  She worked in a country house and on her retirement was offered a Steiff piece from a collection and chose this.  She died in the 1960's at 78 years old.

Please find attached images.  Your valued opinion would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks, 

Wow, what a red-hot question!  What Anthony has here is Steiff's Fuchs or Fox.  He is five ways jointed, standing on all fours, and made from reddish-brown mohair.  The tips of his ears are outlined in back mohair.  His chest, inner ears, and "sideburns" are made from white mohair.  He has brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws.  When he was new, he had a working squeaker in his belly.  This fox design was made overall from 1909 to 1933 in 14, 17, 22, 35, and 43 cm.  A similar sitting and head jointed version of this fox was also made in in 14, 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1916 through 1927.  

This fox is red in more ways than one - which can help to date his actual production time.  Fox has his 8cm "trailing f" button, which was used in the approximately 1925 to 1935 time frame.  He also has traces and remnants of a red ear tag around his button.  This tag was used from the approximately 1925 through 1934 time frame.  If you dovetail the periods he appeared in the line, his button, and his red ear tag, this would put his production in the approximate 1925 to 1933 time frame.

Now for the question that makes Steiffgal want to dive into a foxhole - his value.  Steiffgal is not an official appraiser and truly believes that something is worth what someone will pay for it.   And it is all but impossible to be 100% certain without seeing something firsthand - Steiffgal cannot tell
from the photos if he has any weak areas, rips, tears, bare patches, odors, or structural damage - all important factors in valuation.   However,  he is a great example of Steiff's wonderful turn of last century's creativity and design prowess.  And, early five ways jointed animals are also of great interest to most vintage Steiff enthusiasts.  Assuming that he is in very good condition as presented, with none of the factors above noted, he may value in the $500-750+ range today.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Anthony's red fox has left you bright eyed and bushy tailed. 

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

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rolling Into Spring With This Marvelous Vintage Steiff Rabbit On Wheels

Is anyone else out there about ready to roll into spring and all the delights that come with it?  Steiffgal certainly is, especially after this week's surprise early March snow and ice storm around these parts!  Check out this inquiry from a reader that should help us all of us put a hop-skip-and-a-jump into our seasonal steps!  Brenda writes...
"Dear Steiffgal,
Perhaps you can help me learn a bit about this toy.  Have you ever seen one before?  Is it rare?  What may it be worth?  When was it made?  
 My husband's father got it as a child, in about 1920.  
The rabbit is about 12 inches long and 4 inches high and is mounted on four wooden wheels.  It's body appears to be made out of light brown felt.  It has an ear button on the underside of its long floppy ears.
Thanks for any help you can give me.  
Best, Brenda"
Wow, that's one blue ribbon bunny Brenda's got there! This fantastic treasure is an early Steiff felt rabbit on wooden wheels.  The rabbit is standing on all fours and unjointed. Her face was originally detailed with simple black button eyes, a hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. Her head and body were highlighted a bit of light painting. When she left the factory, she had a red silk bow (the one on her now is probably not original) and a bell around her neck. Her pull cord was most likely a long stretch of red and white twine. This particular pattern was made in light brown in 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1912 through 1936 and grey in 12, 14, and 22 cm from 1916 through 1918.  
This beloved and classic pattern was also available without wheels as early as 1892, the first year of the Steiff catalog!

Continuing on this joy ride, this toy is on what Steiff calls "eccentric wheels."  This means that when the rabbit rolls along, it shimmies back and forth, having the appearance  of a somewhat "natural" gate or movement.  This is accomplished by attaching the wheels slightly off center to the supporting axle. You can see that here on the picture on the left.  Although this early innovation was discovered by accident at the turn of last century, it has become a delightful Steiff  detail that is still used on some items today. 

Now to the question that sends Steiffgal down the rabbit hole... her value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes that something is worth what someone will pay.  This is a classic and delightful item. Early rabbits are right up there with collectors as favorite finds and treasures.  You don't see too many of these around today as they are made of felt, which seems to be a moth magnet.  Moths really can destroy  felt collectibles in what seems like a heartbeat, so give your felt treasures extra special care and protection from the elements.  Steiffgal has not actually ever seen one of these rolling rabbits  in person, which is sort of unusual - and speaks to its rarity.  That all being said, given she is in very good condition (i.e., clean, with minimal if any holes, odors, or structural issues) today vintage Steiff rabbits on wheels from this period may  value in the $750 to 1200+ range if grey in color and $600 to 1000+ range if light brown in color.  

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Brenda's rabbit  has put you in the mood for the joyful upcoming Easter season.
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.   
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