Sunday, January 4, 2015

Time Travelling Steiff Auction Highlights - Part 2!

Last week, we took a peek back in time and checked out a few auction highlights from a long ago sale. The event was held on Saturday, April 25, 1998 in Germany and managed by auctioneer Horst Poestgens. Steiffgal recently purchased the catalog from this sale and was just floored at some of the amazing treasures it featured. Here are three more absolute standouts from this wonderful Steiff event.

You can't help but think, "oh, baby" with this first auction highlight under review today. This lot, #49, is cataloged in part as... "Prototype of a Steiff snap-joint teddy baby with neck mechanism, 1936. Pre-war button in ear, corn colored mohair, velvet paws and soles, brown-black painted back glass eyes, turnable arms (discs), nose embroidered vertically with light brown tread, open felt mouth, lower jaw notchlessly movable via a built-in hinge, legs movable by snap joint mechanism, excelsior stuffed, head turnable from tail by means of neck mechanism, known from Steiff (like the circus bears or snap joint Dicky bears from the 1930's), standing 30 cm/12", sitting 24 cm/9-1/2", very nice pot bellied bear shape.  Very attractive friendly expression.  This teddy is the only known specimen in the finish worldwide (sample)!! He dates from the time and trial series the snap joint Dicky of 1936." 

Let's snap to it and see what make this little love such a remarkable bear. In the 1930's, Steiff designed and produced a number of items capable of mechanical movements. This started with a tail-moves-head feature. Several of the most popular dogs, rabbits, and cats of the time were made with this detailing. Steiff then took this "movement momentum" one step further by experimenting with just a handful of "snap" style items, which had internal metal joints that allowed these top-tier toys further flexibility in their body positioning. As far as readily available references and sources reveal, Steiff officially produced four such "snap" models: a 30 cm blonde Snap Dicky (pictured here on the left, photo from Christie's), a 30 cm brown Circus bear, a 25 or 28 cm grey or white Circus Elephant, and four variations of a very rare 28 cm "Dream Baby No. 103" doll.  

The Horst Poestgens Snap Teddy Baby in some respects looks a little bit like a Snap Dicky. It is interesting to note that like Snap Dicky, this Snap Teddy Baby also has velvet paw pads. Teddy Baby models from this period in this size were usually made with felt pads.  However, unlike Snap Dicky, this Snap Teddy Baby's pads do not have stenciled footprints, are round and toddler-like, and lack snap fingers and toes.  There is precedence for previously undocumented snap style items to appear on the secondary market; in 2010, Christie's sold a petite 18 cm Snap Dicky bear (pictured here on the left, photo from Christie's).  So, it is entirely possible, given the exploratory and evolutionary nature of its development, the limited number of snap items produced, and the fact that previously unknown snap-style examples occasionally surface in the secondary market, that this Snap Teddy Baby is indeed an utterly charming, insanely rare, one of a kind, uncataloged prototype.

Although Snap Teddy Baby is indeed a hard act to follow, this next auction highlight also gives a terrific performance.  This lot, #57, is cataloged as... "Somersault chimpanzee, Steiff, circa 1910, button in ear and remains of white tag, cinnamon colored mohair, light brown felt face, ears, hands, and feet, the thumbs on both hands expertly repaired (hardly visible), right hand likewise on back of hand, implanted painted back glass eyes, somersault clockwork functions, absolute mint condition, very rare, sitting size 23 cm/9 inches."  

Doesn't this sweetie just make your head spin?  Steiff's tumblers are all time collector's favorites, and seldom appear on the secondary market in delightful, working condition.   This somersaulting chimp example is actually only the second one Steiffgal has ever seen for sale.  These tumbling treasures are activated by an internal clockwork mechanism and literally do somersaults when their arms are wound up. Steiff produced several types of "purzel" animals, including bears, monkeys, and elephants, and a few doll models, including Eskimos and clowns.  Steiff's somersaulting chimp was produced in 23, 26, and 36 cm overall from 1909 through 1919.  

All of Steiff's purzel tumblers are based on popular standard line items of the time with slight tweaks to their design and assembly.  These items tend to have their arms attached slightly lower on their shoulders than their non-tumbling brothers.  And, the arms can sometimes look slightly less "flush" with the body than with the static versions. Tumblers are also significantly heavier than their non-tumbling counterparts, due to their internal metal mechanisms. You can see the physical differences here with the picture on the left of a regular Steiff bear (L) and the tumbling version (R); both bears are 28 cm and were produced in the 1906-09 time frame.

Steiffgal's just quackers over this final auction highlight from this Horst Poestgens auction.  This lot, #82, is cataloged as... "Doll duck pair, Steiff, 1920's, button in ear and white paper tag, article no. 28, linen body with loosely sewn on wings, yellow mohair head, wing tips and back of felt, painted brown claws, pretty head coloring, turning head, orange felt beaks, white wool pom pom on head, black shoe button eyes, original felt/cotton clothes, slightly used condition, interesting early collector's item."

Steiffgal has a very special place in her heart for Steiff's 1930 - 1950's era dressed animal dolls, and these are no exception.  According to Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book, these duck dolls were produced in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1931 through 1935 overall.  Each size was detailed in one of six styles of clothing, which included a sports shirt and blue trousers (probably the boy duck in this case), pajamas, red patterned trousers, a swimsuit, a salmon red dress (probably the girl duck in this case), or a blue playsuit.  Another more pristine example of the company's duck-doll is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1894-1942 Sortiment. It is interesting to note that the duck in the red shorts does not have a white pom pom on his head, while the pair on offer do.  Another point to consider about the duck couple is their identification.  The cataloging specifically mentioned a white paper tag. However, technically, the white paper tag was only used through 1925/26, and these dolls were made in the early 1930's.  As such, they "should" have red ear tags. In this case, it is entirely possible that Steiff had a bunch of extra "28" imprinted white ear tags in inventory, and simply used the white tags in the place of the red tags for efficiency.   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of three amazing Steiff lots inspires you to find some wonderful Steiff treasures at auction in 2015!

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

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