Saturday, May 18, 2013

This Singing Steiff Spaniel Has Things All Buttoned Up

Some Steiff items are worthy of royalty - especially the company's beloved King Charles Spaniels!  So it should come as no surprise that Steiffgal all but rolled out the red carpet when a dear friend and fellow collector brought this musical "Charly" to her attention!  This dog truly is best of show for so many obvious - and not so obvious - reasons.  Let's take a look at this crownworthy canine and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

You can't help but want to break into song over this delightful doggy.  This "Musik-Charly" is standing, head jointed, and made from long mohair.  His body and legs are white mohair, while his tail, long playful ears, and the sides of his face are made from brown tipped mohair.  Charly has a very detailed facial seam structure which really emphasizes his sweet and innocent look. His face is detailed with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a few freckles on his muzzle.  Charly's music box is activated by pulling on his tail.  Overall, this particular model of standing Musik-Charly was produced in 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1928 through 1931.  Steiff also produced a sitting version of Musik-Charly in 17 and 22 cm during the same time frame. 

Charly has two very interesting features that make him top dog.  The first is his musical mechanism.  In the late 1920's and early 1930's, Steiff produced a number of "Musik" animals based on the company's most popular designs of the day.  These included Molly the puppy, Bully the bulldog, Fluffy the cat, and a sweet standing lamb, among others.  These were all activated either by gently squeezing and releasing the midsection or loins of the animals, or by turning the animal's tail.  However, for the standing Musik-Charly, his music was produced by tugging gently on his tail - not by turning it.

It won't take much to muster your attention towards Charly's second fantastic feature.  In addition to his standard Steiff trailing "f" style button in his ear (on the left size of the photo), Charly also sports a second button in his tail area.  This button, called the "muster" button, was used by Steiff pre-WWII on items considered samples, evolving designs, or prototypes. This is pictured here on the right side of the photo. In general, the button indicated that the item was Steiff property and was not intended for sale or distribution.  "Muster" translates loosely from German to English as "pattern" and in a sense, these "muster" items were just that.  This Charly's "muster" button suggests that he was made in 1928 or before, as the company was gearing up to put this model into production.  

It is interesting to note that Charly didn’t start out as a musical animal, but evolved into one. The original Steiff Charly dog was introduced in the late 1920s. He was produced both sitting (10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30 and 35 cm) and standing (7, 10, 12, 14, 17 and 22 cm); the two versions were head jointed only. Their filling was soft kapok, meaning that they were lighter in weight and more cuddly than other animals stuffed with crunchy excelsior. An example of the 7 cm standing version is pictured here on the left.  Overall, the Charly pattern appeared in the line through 1936. 

Charly proved to be a great source for highly successful “theme and variation” product introductions, due to his popularity with collectors. He appeared as a 17 cm light brown and white mohair puppet from 1928 through 1939.  Both the sitting and standing versions were produced as pincushions in the 1929 through 1932 time frame.  He was also made as a 10 cm standing or sitting nomotta woolen miniature from 1935 through 1937, a 22 and 25 cm purse from 1927 through 1933, and as a playful, purple dressed 28 cm Pupp-animal doll (pictured on the left, photo from Christie's) from 1929 through 1930.

Steiffgal hopes the discussion on this most amazing vintage Charly dog has been like music to your ears.   

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

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