Friday, April 4, 2014

Rocking And Rolling With More Highlights From The Upcoming James D. Julia Steiff Auction!

"Baby let me be,
Your lovin' teddy bear
Put a chain around my neck,
And lead me anywhere
Oh let me be
Your teddy bear..."

Perhaps you recognize those opening lyrics to "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear" by The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. And for many Steiff enthusiasts, Teddy bears understandably are the Kings (and Queens) of their hugs - and hearts. Steiff Teddy bears are taking the center stage, and spotlight, this summer at a number of events, including the sale of the Chuck and late Cathy Steffes collection at James D. Julia on June 13, 2014. Steiffgal's got a "backstage" pass to meet a few of the rockstar bears featured in this amazing auction - so come along and let's shake paws with a few of these celebrity cubs!

Our first superstar Ted, like rocker Rod Stewart, goes back a long, long way.  Here we have an original Steiff rod bear.  This is where it all began - well -  almost! This remarkable bear is an example of the oldest Steiff teddy bear design as we know it in existence today. He is 38 cm and rod jointed, the second type of jointing Steiff experimented with at the very early turn of the last century. This particular rod bear is made from blond mohair and has felt paw pads.  Teddy's body is very solidly stuffed. His early and lovely face is detailed with black shoebutton eyes, a shaved muzzle, a black hand-formed gutta percha nose, and a light brown mouth. And his pièce de résistance... Teddy has his original elephant button in his ear, perhaps the most desirable Steiff ID in the world!  

There are so many things that could put this rod bear in any hall of fame.  But one thing you may not know about his design is the back story to his nose.  Steiffgal has recently learned that original gutta percha noses were hand formed by very slowly dripping the black, rubbery material drop by drop onto the tip of a bear's snout.  The artist would slowly sculpt and form the nose as a critical mass of material formed. So, these original and early noses were not sewn or glued on at all!  Apparently the amount of time this took, and the inconsistent results, were the reasons why Richard Steiff turned to hand embroidered facial features in his designs moving forward.  (And like a true groupie, Steiffgal couldn't help but take a selfie when she met up with her ultimate rockstar hero!)

Singer Jackson Browne has at least two things in common with these next two Steiff rockstars.  Here we have a pair of brown artificial silk plush Teddy bears that were created at a time period when the company was literally "running on empty" - the late 1940's.  These Teds are 23 and 28 cm tall, five ways jointed, and have distinctive tan linen paw pads. Both bears have classic proportions to traditional pre-war designs. Their faces are detailed with black hand embroidered noses and mouths, as well as brown and black glass pupil eyes.  The combination of silk plush material and linen paw pads is unique and dates the cub's production to right after the factory reopened for business post WWII.  And why were these unusual materials used then?  During that time, traditional teddy bear making materials were in short supply or nonexistent because of rationing and restrictions. 

For collectors, these guys are a "one hit wonder," but in the best way possible.  Both Teds are worthy of a Grammy Award in collectibility, given that there is no reference in the standard Steiff Sortiment reference books to their delightful chocolate-y hue!

And finally, like rocker David Lee Roth, here we have a little guy who loves to clown around in a big way.   Please give a standing ovation to this fabulous circa 1912 Steiff rattle bear dressed in tiny clown accessories.  Teddy stands about 12 cm tall, is five ways jointed, and made from blond mohair.  Because of his petite proportions, he does not have any paw pads or claw stitching. He does have a working rattle, which was made by inserting a tube filled with beads into his belly. Bear's face is detailed with black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has a particularly charming expression! Teddy wears a pointed tan felt hat with a reddish colored pom-pom, a matching tan felt ruff which has pinked edges, and a reddish bow and bell.  This item does not appear in the standard Steiff reference books and is only the second one of its type that Steiffgal has come across - the other being a photograph of an item in the collection of the Dollhouse Museum in Basel, Switzerland. 

Like many performers, this tiny Ted is dressed to thrill!  But do his accessories look familiar to you in any way?  His hat and ruff are quite similar to those seen on Steiff's felt monkeys of the period. Steiff had featured a felt monkey in its line from as early as 1894, but in 1912 the pattern was updated as a "modernized model with clown's hat and neck ruff." This felt clown monkey appeared on an elastic cord, on a skittle, and as a tumbler.  A photo of the tumbler is shown here on the left so you can see his felt accessories and compare them to the rattle clown bear; this photo is from Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1892-1943.

Steiffgal hopes this overview of some of the rockstar Teddy bears that will be sold at James D. Julia's June 2014 auction has made you want to break out in song.  The full catalog should be online at in mid-April.  

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

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