Monday, August 5, 2013

It's All Cheers For This Fantastic And Extremely Rare Early Steiff Puppy

Cheers! A toast to great Steiff finds... where ever they are discovered! And nothing could be truer in the case of this exceptionally rare Steiff dog that Steiffgal found in the sales room of the 2013 United Federation of Doll Club's annual convention in Washington, DC! Let's take a look at this "Dom Perignon" calibre canine and see what makes him so spectacular from the design and historical perspectives.


Please raise a glass to Cheerio, "the laughing puppy." Like Molly the Puppy, Cheerio does not have a designated breed, he is simply a young dog.  This totally adorable example is 17 cm, begging, and made from mohair.  He is chunky, proportioned like a toddler, and head jointed only.   Cheerio has three black hand embroidered claws on each of his hands and feet.  Of course, it is impossible to miss his beaming open-mouthed smile which is made from pink velvet.  It is most probable that Cheerio's pink felt tongue is a replacement.  This Cheerio is wearing a vintage silk bandana imprinted with an American flag; this is so as he was "adopted" into Steiffgal's collection in our nation's capital city.

It is interesting to note that Cheerio is one of the earliest open mouthed dog Steiff produced.  The first appears to be an open mouthed poodle on wheels which was in the line from 1912 through 1919.  This open mouth feature is relatively uncommon in early Steiff dogs.  However, it is also noted on some Bully Dogs, German Shepherds, and Arctic Expedition Dogs from the early 1930's as well as Flock and Tino from the mid 1930's through the early 1940's. 

In addition to his smile, Cheerio's round, oversized head has a number of interesting design details that are typical to his time of production. His ears are relatively small and "folded over" and he has enormous brown and black glass pupil eyes, similar to those features on Molly the Puppy. Other Cheerio models have very large blue and black cartoon eyes - the same ones used on Petsy the Baby Bear. Cheerio's eyes are in eye pockets, analogous to those seen on Jocko the Chimp and Treff the Bloodhound. And, his prominent tongue, more friendly than taunting, is also seen on Steiff's other caricatured and cartoon strip inspired dogs including Pip, Mops, and Putzi.


Despite his winning looks and personality, Cheerio only brought good will to the Steiff line for a handful of years.  Steiffgal's Cheerio is the begging version; he was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928 though 1931.   Begging Cheerio was also made as a press and release music pup in 22 and 28 cm from 1928 through 1930.  Cheerio was also manufactured standing on all fours in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928 through 1932.  Standing Cheerio also appeared as a press and release music box in 17 and 22 cm from 1928 through 1930. He is pictured here on the left and sold for close to $5,000 at Christie's in 2010.  Perhaps the rarest Cheerio is "Cheerioette", the long limbed velvet bodied "Charleston animal" that was produced in 30 and 43 cm from 1928 through 1931.  

Cheerio has a fascinating history that is well documented in the Steiff archives.  Cheerio is actually Steiff's version of Bonzo, who was a very popular cartoon character created in 1911 by George Studdy.  Steiff was very interested in creating their own version of Bonzo, and had a very strong and successful record of working with other companies and artists in bringing their characters to life.   Good examples of this include projects with Disney (Mickey and Minnie Mouse), Billy DeBeck (Barney Google), and Pat Sullivan (Felix the Cat).  In the case of Bonzo, Studdy himself was solely in charge of granting licences and approvals to use his characters.  In about 1927, Steiff created a version of Bonzo, but Studdy did not like it at all.  This Bonzo is pictured here on the left; it sold in 2010 for almost $26,000 at Christie's.  According to company records, Studdy described the samples as "vulgar" and rejected them offhand, and gave the licence to the English company Chad Valley instead.  Paul Steiff, who was in charge of the project, apparently wrote, "We can't and don't wish to make an exact replica of Bonzo" on the rejection note.  The company then went on to create Cheerio in the likeness of Bonzo, and registered the design in 1929.  

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion around Steiff's wonderful Cheerio has brought a big smile to your face today!

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

1 comment:

  1. I think the original Steiff Bonzo is adorable! I wonder what on earth made George Studdy consider it "vulgar."(?) I have no clue, but I guess it just made Steiff's Bonzo much more valuable in the end. It's funny how things that are either rejected for production or are quickly discontinued due to lack of sales are the things that end up being the most popular and sought after due to rarity.

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