Monday, October 6, 2014

This Rare Steiff Bear - And His Heartwarming Story - Are Truly Hot Stuff!

Does Steiff give you the warm fuzzies? If you are like most enthusiasts, just the thought of a lovely vintage Steiff item brings a smile to your face - and makes your heart race just a bit, too. But some Steiff items are literally "hot stuff" with the real ability to warm cold fingers and toes. Such is the case with this Steiff superstar featured in the upcoming Special Auction Services event in London on November 6th. Check out this toasty Ted and see what makes him so special from the design and historical perspectives.

This heart "warming" bear is cataloged as follows: "A rare Steiff Hot-water Bottle Teddy Bear, with golden mohair, black boot button eyes, pronounced muzzle, black stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs, hump, the front seam opens with four brass eye and hook fasteners, opening to reveal metal cylindrical canister with brown cloth lining, circa 1908 –19.3/4in. (50cm.) high (pads replaced, the originals have been removed, some slight wear and missing some nose and mouth stitching)." This bear is only one of 90 made between 1907 and 1912, and was developed in response to a record cold winter in Germany at the time of his introduction. He has an auction estimate of £10,000 to 15,000, which roughly converts to $16,000 to $24,000.

According to Daniel Agnew, Doll and Teddy Bear Specialist at SAS, "His fur is probably in the best condition of all the previous ones I have sold, and this is the only one with this fastening. The others have been laces.  I also know of one example which has pop-studs."

Despite their huge appeal to collectors, little else is known about these adorable and functional Teddy bears.  Their article number was 5335b, which corresponds to 5=jointed, 3=mohair, 35=cm (size sitting), b=hot water bottle or "Warmflasche."  And just why were so few made?  Given his complex construction, it quite probable that they were expensive to make, and therefore quite a pretty penny to buy.  This may have limited his potential audience of buyers.  In addition, this product concept, although charming and fully understandable today, may just have been too advanced or confusing in the early 1900's - when people had Teddy bears, and hot water bottles, but not a hybrid of the two.  Today, bidding for vintage Steiff hot water bottle Teddy bears at auction usually brings the room to a boil.  And, in response, Steiff has created several recent modern replicas to satisfy collector's interests in these rarities.  

Now let's turn up the heat on this delightful collectible by learning more about its provenance.  

The consignor's grandmother, Mildred Behrendt, received the Steiff hot water bottle Teddy as a gift shortly after she was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1907. While Mildred’s parents were born in Milwaukee, her maternal grandmother was born in Germany in 1868. The winter of 1907 brought frigid temperatures to Germany; the Behrendts and their German relatives shared a common desire to keep warm.   

When Mildred’s relatives sent the Steiff hot water Teddy to her in 1908, they began what developed into a 100 year gift-giving tradition. Mildred cherished the bear throughout her life. She passed it and her love of Steiff animals on to her daughter, Lois, the consignor's mother.  Lois kept the Teddy in pristine condition. This teddy presided over Lois' collection of beloved Steiff stuffed animals. 

As an adult, Lois continued the family tradition by selecting a special Steiff animal to give to her daughter - the consignor - every Christmas.  Over time, this extended to Lois picking out new animals from Steiff’s collection to give to the consignor's two children in a similar fashion.  As such, the consignor's family truly represents four generation of Steiff lovers and collectors.

Lois truly loved all things Steiff, and the brand continued to be so important to her throughout her life.  Steiff's Jocko the monkey, outrageous spotted gecko, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and the growling bear were some of her very favorites.  She watched eagerly as her grandchildren opened the boxes containing the special Steiff animals each Christmas Eve. During the holidays, Lois and and her husband accompanied their two grandchildren to a winter wonderland inhabited by movable and life-sized Steiff animals. The amazing exhibit is a reflection of the Milwaukee community’s fascination with Steiff animals and the marvelous history behind them. An example of a typical Steiff holiday-themed window display is pictured here on the left.

And just how can the consignor "bear" to part with such a beloved legacy treasure?  She says, "Steiff bears have been an important part of our family’s holiday traditions for generations and we are eager to share this remarkable bear with the world."

Steiffgal hopes this background on Steiff's rare hot water bottle Teddy bears and the story of the Behrendt family has added a warm glow to your day!

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

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