Friday, December 6, 2013

An Exclusive Online Auction Preview, Just For Steifflife Readers!

Pssss.... wanna know a (Steiff) secret?  Steiffgal has learned of an AMAZING collection of vintage Steiff items going up for sale early next year... and she wants to share the details with you!  Check out this breathtaking photo of vintage Steiff treasures that will hit the auction block on January 10-12th, 2014.  They are all part of Theriault's Marquis event which will be held at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Newport Beach, CA.  The image reflects just a small sample of the 100+ treasures from the collection of American Steiff enthusiast Helen Welsh Gastaldo.  Let's take a look at these items and see what makes them so interesting, and exciting, from the collector's perspective.

Items 1, 2, and 5:
In this case, it's very good to get off to a shaky start.  What we have here are marvelous examples of Steiff's early skittles.  Skittles as a game was a turn of last century pastime analogous to bowling.  Steiff produced skittle sets from 1892 through 1919. Over that period of time, Steiff made the sets with hens, monkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits, poodles, pointers, cats, chicks, dachshunds, elephants, pointers, cats, and bears, among others. In all cases - except the hen and the chick versions - the kingpin wore a felt jacket and crown.  The sets produced for the European market had nine total skittles, while those for America had ten total.  All sets came with two felt "bowling" balls. 

These three skittles - an elephant, pointer, and rabbit - are made from velvet and are on a wooden base.  The elephant skittle was made from 1901 through 1916; the pointer was made from 1901 through 1909; and the rabbit was made from 1901 thorough 1916.

Item 3:
Steiffgal is certain most collectors would take a tumble for item #3.  Here we have Steiff's turn of last century tumbling monkey.  Unlike skittles, which were designed to be knocked over, Steiff's tumblers were made to wobble about, but not flip over.   It is interesting to note that the monkey on the top of this tumbler is one of the very earliest Steiff designs ever; it is quite possible that he might even be "pre-button" as this product was made even before Steiff began putting their trademark "Knopf Im Ohr" in all products starting in 1904. 

Tumbling monkey was produced in felt in 17 cm from 1894 through 1917; pre-1912 models resembled the more primitive looking one in the group photo above.  Models produced after 1912 looked much more like Steiff's traditional "Jocko" style chimp, who was debuted in 1909 and received his moniker in 1929.

Items 4 and 14:
These two items will most definitely generate more than just a hare of interest.  These honey bunnies are none other than original Steiff Peter Rabbit dolls!  In 1902, a "little book" written and illustrated by English author Beatrix Potter, hit the market in a big way. This book, Peter Rabbit, became a worldwide sensation due to its simple, universal story and beautiful illustrations. Ms. Potter created a little Peter Rabbit doll and registered it in the London patent office. Despite numerous attempts, she could not find a manufacturer in England to produce her toy. Steiff got wind of this, and soon became the producer of the "official" Peter Rabbit doll for the English market.   

It is generally understood by collectors that a "Steiff Peter Rabbit" is standing and wears a felt topcoat and slippers. According to the Steiff Sortiment, the gold standard Steiff reference book, there are two version of Peter Rabbit. The first is a spotted white velvet version wearing a red or navy topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 10, 22, and 28 cm from 1904 through 1919.The second is a white wool plush version wearing a green felt topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 22 cm from 1904 through 1918. 

Item 10:
Interestingly, at the exact time that Steiff was manufacturing its Peter Rabbit dolls, they also produced a similarly designed white wool plush cat, poodle, bulldog, pig, and elephant.  All were 22 cm, sitting, flat bottomed, begging, and dapperly attired in felt topcoats and slippers identical in design to the one worn by the Peter Rabbit.   

Item #10 in the photo is indeed a nice example of the pig; specifically, this design was manufactured from 1904 through 1918.

Items 6 and 9:
These next two items should be treated like royalty!  Here we have two versions of Steiff's early unjointed Spitz or Pomeranian dogs.  See how #9, the one on wheels, has a red cord around his neck?  Most likely #6 did too, when he left the factory in Giengen over a century ago.  Early Steiff Spitz dogs usually wore a red cord with two pom-poms or tassels around their necks, giving them a “regal” appearance. The breed does have some connections to German nobility, which may explain why they are decorated like “little kings.”   

Spritz on wheels was manufactured in 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from over the 1902 through 1929 time period.  Sitting Spritz was produced in 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1902 through 1927.  This pattern was also produced jointed, as well as on a pincushion.

Items 12 and 21:
Besides bears, dogs are, and have always been, the second most important category in the Steiff line.  There was even a time in the mid to late 1920's where dog production outnumbered bear production at Steiff.  Here we have two exceptional dogs that could be the "blue ribbon" in any Steiff enthusiast's collection. And they even have something quite unusual in common - Steiffgal was not aware of these two items before doing some research on them!   

Item #12 is great for many reasons, including his legacy!  He is Steiff's Lord the Great Dane, who was made from course fabric in 17, 22, and 28 cm from only 1932 through 1936.  Even rarer is item #21, which is Steiff's earliest curled wool plush poodle, which was only made in this brown color from 1892 through 1894.  Overall, this early poodle design was produced in black, grey, brown and white fur in 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm with and without wheels from 1892 through 1905.

Item 17:
Collector's just may get into a cat fight over this most unusual Steiff kitten.  Like dogs, cats are very high up on the company's list of important product cat-agories, no pun intended!  And Steiff's black cats have always held a special place in collector's hearts, due to their rarity and distinctive appearance.  The first black Steiff cat did appear in the company's debut catalog of 1892 in the form of a black standing  plush tabby, with or without wheels.  But this early lying version is a bit of a mystery... 

Despite much searching, Steiffgal was not able to find this small "lying" style black velvet cat in her Steiff archival materials.  However, based on the item's appearance, scale, and placement of bow, it is her best guess that she is an unreferenced black version of the company's early lying cat that debuted in velvet in 1899.  This general style of cat - unjointed, in a relaxed position, with a basic body shape - first appeared in felt in 1898.  Steiff's general line early lying velvet cat was produced in 6, 8, and 10 cm through 1927 in white, grey, spotted, or striped patterns.  It is interesting to note that these lying cats all held tiny woolen balls between their front paws; it is not possible to tell from the photo if this black example has one as well. 

Items 7, 8, and 11:
These three items are the wheel deal indeed.  Here we have three great examples of Steiff's rolling rarities.  Steiff has a very long tradition of producing items on wheels; many felt examples like these were featured in the company's debut catalog of 1892... including #8, the giraffe, and #11, the horse!  Wheels gave an item movement and life, so it is not surprising that Steiff designed some playthings with this feature. The earliest items were produced on metal wheels; wooden wheels made their debut in the 19-teens.  

Rolling right along, the monkey on wheels is Steiff's Record Peter, which was produced in 20 and 25 cm from 1913 through 1938.  His "vehicle" is sometimes referred to as an "Irish Mail Cart." The giraffe was produced with and without wheels in 17, 28, 35, and 65 cm from 1892 through 1909 overall.  And the handsome horse - which was one of the most popular, and prolific prewar items -  was produced overall in 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 80 cm from 1892 through 1943.

Items 13, 18, and 19:
Soft dolls debuted in the Steiff line around 1903, and were known as "karikaturpuppen" or character dolls because of their exaggerated features and cartoon-like proportions.  It was not until the early 19-teens that the company started to make dolls on a truly human scale, usually with childlike or charming looks.  Often times these dolls would be boy-girl pairs wearing "everyday" or "Sunday best" attire; the company also made a series of dolls sporting country specific clothing.  These sweet friends were made in sizes ranging from 22 to a whopping 115 cm - and always dressed to the 9's regardless of height! 

Steiffgal's not kid-ing around when it comes to these adorable Steiff youngsters.  Lucky item #13 is Steiff's Lisl, who was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 75 cm from 1909 through 1926.  It is interesting to note that in the Steiff reference books she is pictured with a miniature zither - which was Margarete Steiff's instrument of choice.  Although Steiffgal cannot find an exact reference to item #18 in her Steiff history books, she is confident that he was made in the 1911 through 1920 time frame and is most likely a student or sportsman.  Steiff made a series of very tall, elegant, and sophisticatedly dressed dolls in this timeframe, and his "look and feel" really overlap with these better-known examples.  And finally, item #19 is Anton.  This beautiful Bavarian boy was made in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm from 1909 through 1927.

Item 16:
Steiff dolls also could have a sense of humor, and this particular example certainly takes the bully pulpit on that point! Here we have Steiff's 35 cm fully jointed Tramp Strolch doll.  It is interesting to note that "strolch" translates from German to English as "Bully."  Clearly, Strolch looks like he's had better days.  His bare feet, patched pants, and "hangover" style eyes accurately reflect, and accentuate, his character. 

Tramp Strolch doll was produced in this size only from 1922 through 1928.

Items 15, 20, 22, and 23:
Finally, Steiff has a very long tradition of partnering with companies, authors, and the media to bring beloved cultural or fictional characters to life - Steiff style! Perhaps the earliest example of this took place in 1913, when Steiff was asked to create “Bibendum” out of felt in two sizes for a company in France. “Bibendum”, or “Bib”, is the Michelin Tire Man! Like the Peter Rabbits discussed previously, newspapers, books, and magazines have also provided Steiff with great ideas for very successful product development ideas.  These four items truly illustrate that point in the best way possible. 

Item #15 is Steiff's Shockheaded Peter doll.  Steiff produced Shockheaded Peter in the 1909 through 1927 time frame in 3 sizes - 30, 35, and 43 cm. He was also available in 20 cm as a ride-on pull toy from 1916 through 1927.  Shockheaded Peter was the central character in a book written by Heinrich Hoffmann in 1845 as a gift to his son. The book was composed of ten richly illustrated tales focusing on children. Each story had a life or societal lesson and graphically illustrated the results of bad behavior in each situation, in an Edward Gorey - like fashion.  

Item #20 is the cartoon strip character "Happy Hooligan."  He was produced in 35 cm only from 1904 through 1927. Happy, who was actually usually unhappy, was character from a comic strip called Happy Hooligan penned by writer Frederick Bur Opper; the series debuted in print in 1900. 

Item #22 is Jack Rabbit, who was produced in 22 and 28 cm from 1927 through 1931.  He was, of course, the central character in a popular series of children's books (of the time) by beloved author Dave Cory. 

Item #23 needs no introduction.  Here we have Steiff's classic velvet Mickey Mouse doll.  Steiff made Mickey Mouse from 1931 through 1936 in 11, 16, 23, 30, 36, and 48 cm. A tail moves head and a 24 cm puppet version were also produced in the same time frame. 

Steiffgal hopes this special preview has put you in the most delightful holiday mood ever!  More information about these items, which are all offered without reserve, will be posted around Christmastime at either or  Or, you can call Theriault's at 1-800-638-0422 to order the print catalog, which is scheduled to ship the last week in December. 

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

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