Sunday, August 18, 2013

Take Note Of These Two Tiny But Hugely Interesting Steiff Treasures

Sometimes the tiniest discoveries can have big and wonderful stories behind them.  Check out the tale behind this pair of petite and precious Steiff prizes!  Robin from the northeast shares...

"After a bit of online conversation and negotiation, I purchased a palm-sized, turn of last century, five ways jointed white mohair Steiff bear from a contact in Germany.  She was selling the cub on behalf of an older lady friend.  

I was delighted with the purchase and assured the seller that the bear would feel right at home in my Steiff collection here in the US.  
Much to my surprise, when the bear did arrive from overseas, I noticed he was packed with a travel companion - the absolutely smallest Steiff woolen miniature I could ever imagine!  Even though the tiny woolie did not have a button, it was clearly made by Steiff. 

Please take a look at the bear and the tiny woolie and let me know what you think.  I have included the letter that accompanied both the bear and the woolie from Germany."   

It is really important to note - no pun intended - the wonderful information included on Robin's note in order to truly appreciate these precious items.  The document itself is an oversized postcard, with writing on the backside and a kitchen scene from an old fashioned German miniature dollhouse - complete with tiny beer steins - on the front. 

The illustration is pictured above; the actual letter exactly reads:

"Hello and gradulations for the ddy.  The old lady says thank you and has a gift for you - a little bird, which has a green head and a yellow body, it's a own creation, because this woman has worked at Steiff in the 1970e years.  These work was at home.  Steiff has brought a lot of wool heads and wool bodies in five different colors and beaks and wings, the women made all together to a little bird.  But sometimes one head was too much in one color and a body in another color, so there are new creations for their own children, not authorized by Steiff.  The little white bear was her companion since over 80 years, but she didn't play with him, her mother has said to her:  "She play with the eyes." There were other time.... have good years with the bear,  Heiner"

There is so much to talk about here, so let's get started first with the Teddy bear.  This popular, classic, and beloved example is about 8 cm standing, although his "official" Steiff measurement is 10 cm. (Because of the handmade nature of Steiff products, and given the effects of time, it has been Steiffgal's observation that the actual measurements and the listed measurements of early Steiff products may vary as much as 20% +/-.) Robin's Ted is five ways jointed and made from white mohair. He has tiny black eyes and a simple brown hand embroidered nose and mouth.  He has a particularly adorable and pouty expression, as well as a slightly upturned nose. He holds a tiny baby rattle; this is darling and appropriate but not original to him. This Steiff bear pattern was produced in light blond, light brown, and white over time from 1905 through 1933 in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70, and 115 cm. Given the bear's long trailing "f" button and the fact he was owned for more than 80 years by the same person, dates him roughly to the late 1920's or so.  

This bear is looking pretty good for a plaything getting pretty close to the century mark.  And why might that be?  According to his note, his original owner was not allowed to play with him, only admire him from afar as a precious collectible.   


Now let's take flight and talk about the woolen miniature.  What we have here, Steiffgal believes, is a Steiff hummingbird.  This bug-sized bird 3 cm and made from dark green, light green, yellow, and white wool fibers.  He is detailed with felt eyes and a plastic beak; his wings and back tail feathers are made from a very thin textured plastic.  He is suspended from a hair-thick clear monofilament fiber.  This design appeared overall in the Steiff catalog from 1969 through 1978; either as a single bird (complete with a pin feature so he could be worn as a fashion accessory) or as four bird mobile suspended from a clear monofilament string.  These birds did not have a Steiff button for size and logistical reasons; as a mobile, the button was attached to the top of the hanging/display apparatus.  Steiff's hummingbirds appeared in red, blue, yellow, orange, and green. 

It's easy to hum a happy tune when it comes to the legacy behind Robin's hummingbird.  It is clear that this design was in production during the same time that the hummingbird's owner worked for the company - in the 1970's.  It is also interesting that the note calls out that the owner was a home-worker for Steiff, a tradition the company has held since before the turn of LAST century!  But what really confirms the authenticity - and the charm - surrounding the hummingbird is this from the note... "But sometimes one head was too much in one color and a body in another color, so there are new creations for their own children, not authorized by Steiff."  Steiffgal thinks that this is the case here - with the bird being somewhat "mismatched" with a green head and a yellow and white body - and not falling into the Steiff standard for a green bird or a yellow bird.  Perhaps this piece was "rejected" by Steiff and the home worker was able to keep it for herself and her family.  Now that's one cool "work perk!"

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Robin's two tiny treasures has been hugely entertaining and interesting for you!

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

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