What's not to love about Steiff's pretty kitties? Especially those irresistible examples that truly capture the legacy of Steiff's early design and production standards! Many Steiff enthusiasts are aware of the upcoming James D. Julia auction featuring the world-class Chuck and the late Cathy Steffes collection of outstanding early Steiff bears on June 13, 2014. But this collection also includes a great number of practically purr-fect Steiff cats as well! Let's take a look at some of these most fabulous felines on offer and see what makes them so interesting from the product development and historical perspectives.
Let's get this review on a roll by first checking out this precious 1930's era 15 cm tall Steiff cat on wooden wheels. This charming cat is standing and unjointed. She is made from white and gray mohair which has been spotted in black with wonderful and distinctive highlights. Cat's face is detailed with green and black glass slit pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear mono-filament whiskers. She has red hand embroidered claws and wears her original bell and bow. She also retains her original long trailing "f" style button. And boy, does she get around... on for four red wooden eccentric wheels, that is! This item was produced in 15 and 18cm from 1934 through 1937 overall and is very seldom seen on the secondary market.
What can be up or down and great regardless?
Steiff's items on eccentric wheels! Steiff has been making items on
eccentric wheels, which have irregular axles - since the early 1900s when
they mistakenly miss-drilled the axles for pull toys, therefore
inventing this distinctive feature. When items with eccentric wheels
are pulled along, they have the appearance of a waddle or natural animal
gait. Eccentric wheels can be found on dogs, cats, ducks, and many
farm animal examples.
This second fantastic feline under review is such a head turner - literally! Here we have Steiff's circa 1930's mohair tail turns head cat. This example is really adorable - even more so in person. She is 22 cm tall, sitting, and has a tail-turns-head mechanism. She is made from white and gray mohair which has been hand striped to give her a most realistic look. Her claws are hand embroidered in red. Cat's sweet face is detailed with green and black slit pupil glass eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear mono filament whiskers. The insides of her ears are gently airbrushed with pink highlights. Cat retains her long trailing "F" button and red ear tag as her Steiff IDs. This lovely item was produced in seven sizes ranging from 10 to 35 cm from 1931 through 1936 and like her wheeled cousin mentioned above, is seldom seen on the secondary market.
This cat really belongs at the head of the class! The tail-moves-head feature was used on a number of the most popular early 1930's-era Steiff items, including dogs, cats, and rabbits. A gentle twist of the tail left or right caused the animal's head to cock in that direction. This technology - which was a big deal at the time - was used to give these treasures a natural sense of movement as well as create a "higher end" tier of Steiff products.
Paws and take a look at this third and most interesting terrific tabby from the Steffe's collection. Here we have an extremely rare and very early velvet Steiff rattle cat with AN ELEPHANT button! This circa 1905 Steiff velvet rattle is truly the cat's meow - yes, the pun is intended! This sweet cat is is 10cm, lying, unjointed, and made from white velvet that has been painted with black and grey spots and stripes. He has a very long tail which sticks out straight behind him. Cat wears a red bow and bell, and most interestingly, his highly coveted and earliest style button is attached to the red ribbon. Cat holds a tiny grey and red woolen yarn ball between his front paws. Cat's pensive face is detailed with tiny green and black slit pupil eyes, a light tan hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear mono filament whiskers. Cat also has a rattle in its belly; Steiff created this feature by inserting a tube with beads into the torso of the item. This cat design appeared overall in the Steiff line in 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm in white and grey velvet from 1899 through 1929.
This pretty kitty is truly "buttoned up" with his original elephant button - most unusually located on his ribbon. This is the first time that Steiffgal has ever seen a button located on a ribbon, as the button is usually located in the left ear of bears and animals. So its placement is a bit of a mystery. If an item does not have ears, or a logical place for a button, it is sometimes placed right on a Steiff tag that is sewn into the seam of the piece. For some dolls with small or inaccessible ears, like Steiff's legacy Micki and Mecki hedgehog dolls, their buttons and yellow ear flags are suspended off of a red rubber wrist bracelet, like a charm. It is amazing that this item retains his button given the delicate and transient nature of his ribbon!
Steiffgal hopes this review of these cat highlights from the Steffes collection on offer at James D. Julia's upcoming Antique Advertising, Toy, and Doll auction has been a wow-meow experience for you!
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