Sunday, September 29, 2013

Welcome To The SteiffLife Oktoberfest Celebration!

It's the most wonderful time of the year... Oktoberfest!  And even though this fantastic two-plus week long celebration originated in Germany, it has become a global reason for observation around the world.  This weekend, nearly 4,000 miles from Munich, Steiffgal and Steiffguy, (and of course the Steiffpugs!) are hosting 25 friends for an authentic German late afternoon of home brew, a traditional German supper, and good times all around.  And to make the party even more fun, Steiffgal has invited a few Steiff friends to serve as good time ambassadors.  Take a look at these "party animals" and see how they help make any table the best table in the house!

Hat's off, or on in this case, to this great looking Steiff couple! Here we have Steiff's Larifari and Alpa dolls. Larifari is 32 cm and is based on a German book and movie character created by Ferdinand Diehl, the same creative genius who designed the beloved Micki and Mecki hedgehog characters. Larifari is five ways jointed.  His head and arms are made from rubber while his body and legs are made from felt. Larifari only appeared in the line from 1955 through 1957. Alpa is 10 cm and wears a green hat and skirt, white blouse, calico apron, and a black belt. Alpa (and her brother Alpo, who also makes an Oktoberfest appearance in the next photo,) are "cousins" of Steiff's famous Mecki and Micki hedgehog dolls. Alpo and Alpa were produced in this size and in 1964 only, and as a result, are exceptionally hard to find.

Are you in suspense to learn about this next pair of table ambassadors?  Here we have an adorable 25 cm blond, early post war Teddy Baby with felt paws.  He wears a pair of traditionally styled green felt trousers which have brown leather suspenders.  These pants were purchased at the Steiff factory.  This Teddy Baby pattern was produced post war overall in blonde or brown mohair in 9, 22, 28, 30, and 40 cm from 1949 to 1957.  His dinner companion is Alpo, the brother of Alpa mentioned above.  He wears a little felt hat, grey pants, a white shirt, green suspenders, and black shoes and carries a little backpack on his back.  Alpo was manufactured in 10 cm only in 1964.

Here are some sweets for you, my sweet readers!  Here we have Steiff's golden yellow plush 25 cm unjointed Haribo Gummi Bear.  She is unjointed and has a black plush nose and black and white plastic eyes.   Haribo wears a red silk bow. This logo Ted made a short, but clearly sweet, appearance in the Steiff line in 2002 and 2003.  She stands guard upon a vintage silver server filed with - what else - but Haribo Gummi Bears!

It's easy to make small talk with these table friends! Here we have a 30 cm five ways jointed light blond “Münchner Bär” from 1999. He was produced exclusively for Germany in 2001, but not specifically for Oktoberfest. He is wearing very detailed dark grey lederhosen and a grey felt Tyrolean hat. This Teddy also has a wind up music box and plays "In München steht ein Hofbrähaus", a traditional drinking song that roughly translates to "There's A Beer Hall In Munich." And to make sure he's ready for the next round at the Hofbrähaus, he carries his very own miniature glass beer stein featuring the coat of arms of Bavaria. Of course, his faithful companion is a little Steiff Hexie Dachshund, this one is 9 cm but he was produced overall in in 9, 13, 20, and 25 cm between 1954 and 1974.  

Also gracing the main dining room table centerpiece area are two other very special Steiff Dachshunds.  The first is  Bazili the Dachshund Hunter, who appeared in the line from 1950 through 1954.  Bazili is standing and 25 cm tall.  He is head jointed, standing, and wears a little green felt suit and hat.  His jacket is decorated with three leather buttons.  His head and the tops of his hands and feet are mohair, and his body and limbs are made from peach colored felt-like material.  The second, Bazili's date, is Musik-Bazi or Music Bazi.  She is 25 cm tall, unjointed, and standing.   Her body is a simple cylinder and her arms are floppy.  Bazi wears a blue cotton blouse, red cotton skirt, and had a sweet floral corsage when she left the factory in Giengen more than 60 years ago.  She has an internal Swiss music box which plays when her torso is pressed and released.  Bazi was made in 1950 and 1951 only.

Take it to the bar!  Nothing could be more appropriate in the case of Oktoberfest.  And these sweet bier monks are here to welcome party goers to the beer taps, as well as make sure their steins are always full!  These fun loving, trevira velvet “bier monks” are dressed in traditional garb including cotton drawers, long red hooded tunics, and work aprons which are cinched at the waist with a thin rope. The large monk, a whopping 100 cm, has black felt feet, while the smaller 35 cm monk wears tiny leather sandals. These two monks are characters from the Alpirsbacher Klosterbraeu, a 130+ year old brewery located in Germany’s Black Forest. Steiff created these white tag, limited edition drinking buddies in 1999. Just a handful of the 100cm monks were produced, primarily for display and advertising purposes. The smaller version was produced in an edition size of 1,500.

And finally, no need to hunt for a bier coaster at this party!  Here we have a fun collection of every one's favorite beer accessories!  This fun focal point is under the close watch of 20 cm Hubert the Hunter, who was produced in 1978 only as part of Steiff's collection of "dolls in business clothes."  Hubert leans against an authentic 1 liter stein from the Hofbräuhaus - or is it the other way around?  Hubert's sporting friends are Xorry the fox, who was manufactured in 11, 18, and 28 cm from 1960 through 1969, and a tiny 7 cm brown velvet wild boar, who was made only in this size from 1952 through 1973.

Steiffgal hopes this remote Oktoberfest celebration has brought a festive and seasonal spirit to your day!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, found on an adventure or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

To Restore Or Not To Restore, That's The Steiff Question

To restore or not to restore, that is the question!  Steiffgal is frequently asked whether a vintage Steiff item should be restored or not.  Everyone has their own opinion, and there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to repairing vintage Steiff treasures.  Check out this information from a reader in Connecticut, and see what you think about their family heirloom bear who may be a candidate for some expert TLC...

"Dear Steiffgal,

Thank you for looking at our family Teddy bear.  

We believe the bear came into the USA in 1910 when Uncle P. and his mother came here from Europe. We have always been told that the bear accompanied P. on the trip here.  

The bear is 15 1/2 inches long and still has the button that is stamped Steiff in his left ear.  

As you can see from the photographs, his right front paw  has some serious issues.  He is also quite faded and very well loved.

What can you tell us about this bear?

Thanks and best,

Let's get centered and take a good hard look at P.'s bear.  From what Steiffgal can tell from the photos, this is a very early turn of last century center-seamed Steiff bear.  Given his "Steiff" imprinted button in ear, he could be as early as 1906.  This would make perfect sense given the timeline provided by the family.  This Ted certainly has classic early Steiff proportions: his torso is twice as long as his head; he has long limbs with his arms extending to his "knees;" and his feet are long and narrow and are in a ratio of 1:5 to his height. His claw stitching is consistent with his age and his back hump is quite pronounced.  In addition, his facial features are representative of Steiff bears from the very early 1900's:  he has black wooden, or "shoe button" eyes which are set deeply on his face and his nose is vertically stitched on a relatively long pointed snout. For bears his size, the typical nose from 1905 and 1906 is stitched like a bar, with a few stitches in the middle reaching down to join his simple "V" shaped mouth.  
Let's not get ahead of ourselves here and forget to discuss this Ted's great noggin.  This bear has a somewhat unusual head construction.  In the early 1900's, every 7th bear that Steiff made had a seam down the center of his face to make the most efficient use of the fabric. The dimensions of the fabric from the factory were such that they could get six full heads from it, but there was some remaining material from this cutting process. Steiff's production team found a way to "patch" these remainders into another head and therefore not waste any fabric.  Because of their rarity, these "center seamed" bears have great appeal to collectors.

Now let's take a paws and consider the bear's condition.  Of course, it is impossible to evaluate any vintage Steiff collectible with absolute certainty without seeing it firsthand.  Photos cannot show subtle condition issues like if the mohair has dried out; if he has any weak/bad areas; if there are any excelsior or stuffing issues; any bad odors, etc.  Those things most definitely impact value and longevity. What is obvious with this bear is that there is a problem with the felt on one of his hand pads.  This is an issue for several important reasons:  it is bad to have this kind of damage as it invites further damage and insect infestation; it also makes the bear more fragile overall; and it is less attractive to a certain segment of potential future buyers, if the owners ever considering selling the bear in the future.  

There are two point of view when it comes to dealing with gaping, obvious condition issues like this on vintage Steiff items: 

1.  The first is to just let it be.  Some collectors like things in their original, authentic condition and shun any repairs at all.  They feel that restoration detracts from the appeal, and sometimes the value, of an item.  If they were to sell the item in the future, they figure that the next owner can make repairs if they are so inclined.  

2.  The second is to get the item professionally restored.  This will not be attractive to some collectors as mentioned above, but there are those that feel that such repairs can in a practical way add years to the life of the bear, as well as improve the bear's "curb appeal."  

Of course, if any repairs are done, it is critical to document them with the bear's history, and give full disclosure of these restorations in any future transaction concerning the bear.  

It is also important to note that both of these options are completely valid and are simply a matter of personal choice.   

Here are a few factors to think about from the collector's perspective when considering structural (i.e., repairs that deal with holes, rips, breaks, and stuffing) restorations:

  • The item's history:  If the item has a long family history with you - or you know the provenance of the item, which has personal or historical interest - and you want to insure that the item is around for the next several generations, consider structural renovation for its longevity.
  • The item's value:  If the item itself is quite valuable to start with, regardless of your personal connection to it, consider essential restorations to at least stabilize the item's condition.  This in turn should help retain, and in some cases grow, its value over time.
  • The item's rarity:  If the item is quite rare, and there is little or no chance of you finding another one in better condition, perhaps consider some structural restorations.  If the item is relatively common, and does not have personal history or great value, you may want to think about "upgrading" with another example instead of restoration.
So, given all of that, what should the family do in terms of restoration?  Of course, the choice is entirely up to them.  If this bear was Steiffgal's - because he has history, value, and rarity (the center seam and button really help in these last two categories) she would probably would invest in his professional restoration.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this lovely vintage Ted and restorations has helped to repair your day in a most positive way. 

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seeing Stripes Over This Zany Steiff Zebra

My, oh my, what a wonderful day 
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way 
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay"

Steiffgal couldn't help but break into song - that wonderful Academy Award winning Disney tune from "Song of the South" - when she was introduced to this week's blog feature item.  After all, it is possible that this happy fellow just might be the zenith of early post war Steiff items.  No other rarity from this era can match the zip and zeal of this black and white beauty.   Take a look and zee - I mean see -  for yourself!

This tall drink of water is Steiff''s Lulac zebra.  Lulac style animals have comically long arms, legs, and torsos, and are usually very playful and goofy looking.  This zany Lulac zebra is 30 cm tall and unjointed.  He is made from tan mohair which has been stenciled with black stripes all over his body.  His paw pads are made from black felt, and his tail is made from white felt which has also been airbrushed with stripes.  The tip of his tail is finished with a tuft of long black mohair.  Zebra has a tan and black bristle-style mane.  The insides of his ears are airbrushed in pink and grey.  His face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, longer fur around his sideburn areas and forehead, and a smiling, peach felt lined open mouth.  He is complete with his raised script Steiff button, yellow ear tag, and large, colorful bear faced chest tag.

This jungle jem is really rare; so rare that little is known about him.  It is not really even clear what his name is, or might be (Zelac, maybe?) or when he was made.  Steiffgal was not able to find out any more information on him in any of the standard Steiff reference books.  However, he comes with two small clues about his identity.  The first is his yellow ear tag, which has the numbers 7330 on it.  This corresponds to... 7 = in caricature, 3 = mohair, and 30 = 30 cm tall.  The second is his complete set of IDs, its configuration dates him in the early 1950's through late 1960's.  What is striking about him, however, are his physical and structural similarities to another rare and beloved Steiff Lulac character, the Lulac Esel or Lulac donkey, which was a USA exclusive in 1954 only.  Lulac donkey and Lulac zebra are pictured here on the left.  This beloved barnyard buddy is documented at 35 cm and looks almost identical to his zebra cousin, except for a few design details:
  • Lulac zebra is black and white striped while Lulac donkey is shades of grey
  • Lulac zebra has black and brown pupil eyes while Lulac donkey has shiny black button eyes
  • Lulac zebra's ears face outward while Lulac donkey's ears face inward  
It is also interesting to note that even though Lulac donkey is cataloged at 35 cm, he is in reality 30 cm tall, identical to Lulac zebra.

So what's the story behind Lulac zebra?  Well, Steiffgal can't find anything definitive in writing about him, so here are her best thoughts, based on the little that can deduced and some circumstantial evidence.  First of all, Steiffgal has seen one or two other Lulac zebras over the decade, so a few were made; this is not a "one of a kind" rarity.  And, given how close he is in design, look, and feel to Lulac donkey, Lulac zebra was most likely produced at the same time (1954, plus or minus a year or two) as Lulac donkey.  Steiffgal does know with certainty that Lulac zebra was purchased in the mid to late 1950's at FAO Schwarz in New York.  So net net, it is Steiffgal's best guesstimate that Lulac zebra is either a poorly documented United States or FAO Schwarz exclusive edition that was produced in exceedingly small numbers in the mid 1950's.  

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to Steiff's Lulac zebra has been quite "zee" exclusive experience for you!

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Life's Just A Party When It Comes To Vintage Steiff

Every day can be a party when it comes to vintage Steiff!  And nothing could be closer to the truth than last weekend, when Steiffgal invited a few collector friends from the New England area to gather at her home for an afternoon of all things Steiff!  The happening included a tour of Steiffgal's personal collection, a sales table chock full of exciting new vintage items just acquired from two collections, an identification and valuation clinic, and of course seasonal treats and refreshments - including Steiffguy's homemade pretzels!  Here's a little summary of the highlights of this memorable occasion.

Nothing says "welcome" like a family of life sized Steiff donkeys, right?  These two "great Grissys" (as well as a few live pug dogs) greeted our beloved visitors as they arrived at the event.

Everyone had the opportunity to add a few choice items to their collection from the huge range of items available on the sales table.  Steiffgal spent the week prior to the event cataloging, cleaning, and preparing each of these 175 goodies for their grand debut.  Of course, the large monkey in the background is not Steiff, but hired nonetheless to stand guard over the precious treasures.

Almost all of our Steiff friends brought delightful goodies for evaluation as well as group discussion.  Here are some wonderful highlights from this "show and tell" session. 

This little guy is simply a handful of puppy love!  This woolie wonder measures about 4 cm tall and 8 cm long and is made from white Nomotta wool.  He has felt ears, tiny pupil eyes, and a little black nose.  He is detailed with the tiniest red collar!  He is either a white Scotty or a Sealyham; both these patterns were almost identical and made in 8, 10, 14, and 16 cm the 1935 through 1941 time frame.

There's no need to be sheepish about this next visitor.  Here we have Steiff's woolen miniature Lamm or Lamb.  Like her sweet puppy friend mentioned above, she is also made from white Nomotta wool.  Her insides are lined in wire, so she is somewhat poseable.  Lamb has charming pink highlights on her nose and paws.  Her face is detailed with little eyes and felt ears, and she wears a tiny pink bow.  Lamb was produced in 7 and 10 cm in black and white in the 1935 through 1941 time frame.  

Now this is a find worthy of royalty, really!  Here we have what Steiff calls a Spitz or Pomeranian dog. This pensive looking puppy was produced from 1902 though 1927 in 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm. Spitz is sitting and made from long white curly mohair with a white felt face, ears, and legs below his hips. He has black shoe button eyes and embroidered facial features.  He is wearing a bell collar and painted pink ribbon which are period and authentic, but not original to him.  Most likely, when he was new, this Spitz featured a red cord with two pom-poms or tassels around his neck, giving him a “regal” appearance. The breed does have some connections to German royalty, which may explain why Steiff decorated them like “little kings.” This classic design was also produced in several other variations, including a jointed standing version, as a pup on wheels, and as a pincushion on a red velvet pillow. 

Let's paws and take a look at this next beloved Steiff guest, who is just about purrr-fect in every way. This is of course a fantastic example of Steiff's "Fluffy" cat. She is sitting, unjointed, and made in part from bluish tipped mohair, which is just spectacular. Her little tail wraps sweetly around her body. Fluffy's face is detailed with deep green and black pupil eyes and a simple pink hand embroidered red nose and mouth. And check out her fantastic early named metal ring chest tag!  Sitting Fluffy was made overall from 1926 through 1950 in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, 35, and 43 cm. She was such a favorite that she was produced on a pincushion, as a music box, and as a tail turns head model.  

You can't help but feel lovey-dovey when it comes to this final Steiff masterpiece.  Here we have a most unusual example of the company's turn of last century's pigeon or dove.  She is 10 cm and made from soft velvet like felt.  Her feet are made from metal that has been wrapped tightly with yellow string, giving them a most authentic appearance.  Her body has been elegantly and gracefully stenciled and airbrushed with black and grey highlights.  Her eyes are black button and backed in felt; her tiny beak is also made from felt.  She wears a red ribbon with a tag on it which are period but not original to her.  She most likely left the factory in Giengen on a little metal pull cart, but that has been lost to time.  This remarkable item was produced in this size only from 1916 through 1919.

Steiffgal hopes this review of her recent Steiff celebration has been nothing but a party for you... and thanks to all the wonderful guests (collectors and their and treasures) who helped to make it that way!

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