Sunday, May 18, 2014

Snap To It And Check Out This Truly Remarkable Steiff Dicky Bear!

Steiffgal hates to be bossy... but she totally encourages you to SNAP TO IT and take a look at an exceptional Steiff Teddy on offer at the upcoming James D. Julia Antique Advertising, Toy, and Doll auction event on June 13, 2014.  This item, produced only as a prototype, is as interesting as it is rare.  Let's take a look at this utterly dandy Dicky Bear and see what makes him so fascinating from the design and historical perspectives.

It's hard not to get bent out of shape over this Steiff "Snap Dicky" Teddy bear. Dicky is 30 cm, made from golden blond mohair and stands on two flat feet.  He is head and arm jointed. His face is detailed with an inset muzzle, brown and black pupil eyes, a brown hand stitched nose, and three stitches to his lower lip. Like many Dicky bears, he has peach colored velvet pads with stenciled paw prints.  But here's where it gets interesting... very, very interesting!  Snap Dicky has spring joints on his hands, feet, legs, and mouth, meaning that they were designed to have movement and snap back and forth into different playful positions.  And, just when you thought things could not get any better with this rarity, they do!  Snap Dicky further comes to life with a working tail turns head mechanism.  A little research reveals that this bear is one of six known examples, three of which are in the Steiff archive.  Snap Dicky retains his long trailing “F” style button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff ID.  Steiff Dicky does not appear in the standard Steiff reference books;  and it is best estimated that he was produced in the circa 1933 to 1936 time frame.

Dicky's unusual jointing was an experiment in the Steiff line that lasted about as long as a finger-snap.  In the early 1930's, Steiff introduced its tail moves head mechanism, which gave their toys movement, interest, and premium status in the line.  Steiff selected some of their most popular items of the time for this feature, including dogs, rabbits, and cats.  The way this worked was when the tail was shifted gently to the right or the left, the head would shake in tandem. To build on this "movement momentum," Steiff experimented with a handful of "snap" style items, which had internal metal joints which allowed these top tier toys further flexibility in their body positioning.  

From what Steiffgal can tell, four such "snap" models were produced. The first, of course, is this wonderful Snap Dicky.  There is little published historical information on him, consistent with his prototype status.  The second, and perhaps best known, was a 30 cm brown mohair Circus Bear with disk jointed arms, leg snap joints, and a tail moves head mechanism.  He was in the line from 1935 through 1939 and approximately 897 models were manufactured.  The third was a grey or white mohair Circus Elephant with disk jointed arms, leg and mouth snap joints, and a tail moves head mechanism.  Like Snap Dicky, he had velvet paws with stenciled pads.  He was produced in 25 and 28 cm from 1931 through 1940 and approximately 1,040 models were manufactured. Circus Elephant is pictured above along with an xray of his amazing (for the time) snap jointing system.  This photo is from Cieslik's excellent book, Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.    

The fourth snap item was called "Dream Baby No. 103" and is so rare that Steiffgal had not even heard of it until doing research for this post.  According to Cieslik...

"The head was made by the Rheinische Gummi Co. (turtle mark) and filled with excelsior.  The body was in good quality felt, and the doll had a "Mama" voice box. The doll had the new jointing in the legs, so that it could assume both sitting and standing positions.  Four versions of the doll were made - all 11 inches tall, with white skirts, colored sweaters and caps:  "Greta" in light green; "Blonda" in light blue; "Rose" in pink; and "Angeli" in orange.  (1934 - 1937 - total production = 4,553."  "Rose" is pictured here on the left; the photo is also from Cieslik.

Even though these snap items were long on appeal, they lasted a short time in the Steiff catalog.  And why would that be?  It is Steiffgal's best guess that alot had to do with timing, finances, and supply and demand factors.  It is possible that towards the later part of the 1930's, the materials needed to manufacture these toys were becoming scarce or even rationed based on the geo-political realities of the time.  Additionally, these treasures were quite complicated to manufacture and required a great deal of time and resources to do so.  As a result, they were undoubtedly quite expensive to purchase.  As such, given the economic situation across the region, demand may not have been terribly high and Steiff may have determined that it did not make financial sense to continue production of these top-tier items. 

Despite their brief - if at all - appearances in the line, Steiff has created relatively recent replicas of their Snap Dicky, Circus Bear, and Circus Elephant rarities. A blond Snap Dicky was produced in 1996 in an edition size of 5,000, a brown Circus bear was produced in 1994 in an edition size of 4,000, and a novel orange tipped Circus Elephant was produced in 2009 in an edition size of 1,000. Each would be a delightful addition to any Steiff collection!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wonderful and rare metal jointed items from the 1930's - including this remarkable prototype Dicky - has added a little snap, crackle, and pop to your day!

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

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