Saturday, March 26, 2016

Wishing Steiff Collectors Around The World A Very Hoppy Easter!

In the mood for a handful of Easter cheer?  Then this petite post on a small scale Steiff rabbit should do the trick!  There is something so endearing, and so precious, about Steiff's teeny, tiny treasures.  Come see for yourself how size defies when it comes to this happy hopper!

Blink and you might miss this baby bunny.  He measures 8 cm tall (including his ears) and 7 cm wide.  He is unjointed and in Steiff's "lying" position, meaning his hind legs are curled under his backside.  His torso, the front of his ears, and his underside are made from short white mohair.  His body, face, and back of ears are made from tan mohair.  His darling face comes to life with a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth, black and brown glass pupil eyes, and tan airbrushing.  This pattern was made in 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 cm from 1930 through 1943 overall.  This example has a short trailing "f" style button, dating him in approximately in the 1936 through 1943 time frame.  Another example of this pattern was sold at auction in 2014; you can see that honey-bunny by clicking here.

This tiny rabbit has a few really big details that make him quite interesting.  The first is his size.  For the most part, Steiff items are "measured" without ears and without tails, and vertically.  As such, if his ears are taken out of the equation, his "official" measurement is 6 cm.  This puts him in at the smallest size made in this pattern.  However, he is not the smallest size rabbit ever made by Steiff - not by a longshot! In the prewar era, Steiff manufactured rabbits as small as 4 cm in velvet or felt. 

His second feature has been lost to time, but not to history.  When this item left the factory in Giengen, he had two wooden dowels lightly sewn onto his legs - one between his front limbs and one between his hind limbs.  You can see a picture of this to the left; the photo is taken from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book. This somewhat unusual, labor intensive step was done to keep the body position secure and in line during manufacturing, packing, shipping, and distribution.  This same process was also done on some of the company's Scotty dogs of the same era, but Steiffgal is not aware of any other examples of this dowel treatment.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Easter hare-binger has been and egg-cellent adventure for you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hopping Towards Easter With These Great Vintage Steiff Rabbits

Who's got a spring in their step? The Easter bunny, of course! And he's about to be called into action in a very big way on Sunday! Steiff and Easter go hand in hand as the company has made so many beautiful bunnies over the years. One particular model occupies a rare and interesting place in the company's history. She debuted in the late 1930's and stayed in the line through 1976. As such, she was produced in many different materials over time. Check out these three examples of Steiff's "hopping" style rabbits from the late 1930's to the early 1950's and see what a difference the choice of fabric can make!

It's easy to have a plush-crush on this first example. This wool plush hopping rabbit is 17 cm tall, unjointed, and made from tan colored wool plush. This material has a short, bumpy texture to it and is more "continuous" than mohair, which tends to have a more "bristle" feel to it. Rabbit has darker tan airbrushing on her back and black highlights around her tail and on the tips of her ears - which are lined in tan airbrushed felt and highlighted with pink. Rabbit has a simple pink hand embroidered mouth and nose and brown and black pupil eyes. She retains her original bow and bell and her short "trailing f" Steiff button as her ID. 

This exact rabbit is not noted in the Steiff Sortiment, although an identical looking one made from "woolen mohair" and produced in 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1938 through 1943 is. It was not unusual for Steiff to produce popular, standard line items in wool plush in the 1930's and early 1940's. For example, Steiffgal has a charming wool plush Jocko who is also not noted in the standard reference books.  It is most likely that this Jocko is from the late 1930's or early 1940's.  It is Steiffgal's best guess, given her materials and ID, that this wool plush hopping rabbit is from that same time period and is based on the model made from "woolen mohair." 

This second example of Steiff's hopping rabbit is smooth as silk. This example is 14 cm, unjointed, and made from tan colored artificial silk plush. This material has a very smooth, soft feeling to it and catches light well with its nice sheen. Her coat is brought to life with tan, grey and black airbrushing. Typical to the pattern, her ears are lined in felt and outlined in black and her face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth that is highlighted with a touch of pink paint. This example glides along on four red wooden off-center wheels. She retains her original blue ribbon and her short "trailing f" Steiff button and traces of her yellow ear tag as her Steiff IDs. This hoppy-go-lucky charmer was manufactured in this size in 1949 only.  

Artificial silk plush was a popular fabric used by Steiff around and just after World War II. During this period, when woolen fabrics and felt were not generally available for toymaking, Steiff "improvised" with artificial silk plush materials to manufacture some of its most beloved designs traditionally made from mohair - like this rabbit on wheels. Artificial silk plush was a cheaper, lower cost, and poorer quality option, but it was available on commercial scale. And "silk" most likely refers to the shine and softness of the plush. However, this synthetic material tended to lose its sheen and good looks quite quickly; as a result, it unusual to find Steiff artificial silk plush items in great condition today.  

Today's third Steiff hopping rabbit is a charm.  And a charmer!  This sweet girl is 14 cm and made from Steiff's traditional mohair.  She shares her relative's coloring and construction, including the model's distinctive felt lined ears trimmed in black airbrushing.  She appeared in the line from 1949 through 1976 in 8, 14, and 17 cm; she was simply called Hase or Rabbit to 1973 and Hoppy from 1974 onward.  This mohair hopping rabbit was made in the very earliest part of that time frame.

Unlike her earlier relatives, this early post war mohair rabbit is relatively common as many were made over a long period of time.  However, this particular example has a capital differentiator.  Her ear button is the very unusual "block letter" version, meaning every letter in the word "Steiff" on the button appears as a capital letter.  These buttons are extremely rare and appear very infrequently on items from the late 1940's through the very early 1950's.  Steiffgal only has 5 items in her entire collection with this very seldom seen form of ID. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these hopping rabbits has you jumping for joy in anticipation of Easter!

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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

It's All In The Family With This Turn Of Last Century Dutch Doll

What makes an heirloom Steiff treasure even more extraordinary?  When it has been been cherished by three generations of the same family, and its provenance helps connect it with the past and the future!  Check out this note from Suzie in Ireland. who has some questions about her family's "Friend for Life."  She writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

Please give me your advice on this doll! It was given to my Grandmother by a Prisoner of War (POW) who was living in the German POW camp in Dorset around 1910-1914. My Mum was told that the POW had made it. At that time the POWs were allowed to mix in the community and some even helped local trades.

This doll has all similarities of Steiff, though it is stuffed with straw. I was wondering could of maybe have been a Steiff worker who had been captured during war duty. Maybe he had access to a sewing machine (maybe a trade in the village?) and made it? 

She is beautifully stitched and hand stitched up. She came with knitted socks, wooden clogs, bloomers, combinations, a lemon blouse (missing), a petticoat, a skirt, apron and lace edged bonnet. She stands about 50 cm tall, and has human hair woven into her scalp.  

We undressed her for the first time in nearly 70 years, as you can see she is a bit rough but both my Grandmother and my Mum played with her, my Mum mended her broken bits when she was 7-8 so they are roughly done but do the job. I have contacted Steiff and they say that she definitely looks the part. 

So glad my Mum hung onto her, I think she's lovely.  

Best, Suzie"

This sweet doll is a double Dutch treat indeed!  From her appearance, construction, and proportions, it is Steiffgal's gut feeling that she indeed was made by Steiff in Germany.  And her detailing aligns with a well known Steiff doll named Helma, who is pictured here on the left.  The photo is from Pfeiffer's Sortiment 1892-1943.  Like Suzie's doll, Helma is 50 cm, made from felt, is fully jointed, excelsior stuffed, has a mohair wig, and features Steiff's legacy center seamed face construction.  Helma wears a traditional Dutch outfit, complete with wooden clogs.  According to Steiff records, her outfit was made in a variety of different colors and fabrics, which is why Suzie's doll's clothes don't exactly match the reference photo. Helma was produced from 1911 through 1921; her black shoe button eyes put her at the earliest end of this manufacturing timeline.  So if Suzie's Grandmother received the doll in the 1910-1914 time frame, the logistics do indeed align.  

In addition to Helma, Steiff also produced two other 50 cm, clog wearing Dutch adult dolls around the same time period.  The first was Franz, a fisherman.  The second was Knut, who was dressed like a local farmer and wore a fur cap.  Both Franz and Knut had distinctive mohair beards.  These large Dutch dolls were specifically designed as hardworking adults with grown-up personalities. 

As for the mystery of how Suzie's Grandmother's doll got to Dorset, or if the POW made it... well, only the doll knows for certain!  It is most unlikely that the POW personally constructed the doll in Dorset.  Maybe they or a family member worked at Steiff in Germany, and for some reason they had the doll with them when they were sent off to the camp.  Another possibility is that the POW made some of the clothes or other accessories for the doll and not the actual doll... or that they made the money to buy the doll, either in Germany or near Dorset.  The details of any of these scenarios may have simply gotten lost in translation - or time.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Suzie's third-generation doll has been a delightful family affair for you. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

This Great Vintage Steiff Doll Has Heel-Appeal!

Ok team, its time to get to work! So check out this note from a new friend who is asking about an older Steiff doll that appears to take his job quite seriously. Cherie writes,

"Hi Steiffgal, 

Mom has her great uncle John's Steiff grocer doll, and I haven't been able to find out anything about it. Time and bugs have taken their toll, but it's still in pretty good shape.  Do you know anything about it? Thank you, Cherie"


It's an absolute labor of love to help out here. It is Steiffgal's best guess that this doll is Steiff's shoemaker doll. He should be 35 cm, fully jointed, and made from felt. Overall, this doll was made in the 1912 through 1920 time frame. Given his black shoebutton eyes, he is most likely from the earlier end of the time frame.  It is hard to tell from the photo if all of his clothing is original to him.  However, it was not unusual for Steiff to somewhat vary the fabrics used to make the clothing on a doll pattern, especially when the doll appeared for an extended period in the line.

Steiff employed alot of time and effort into this doll and others like it. From around 1912 through 1920 or so, Steiff made a series of "craftsman" themed dolls. These included a stone cutter, host, tailor, butcher, and shoemaker. All were 35 cm, except the butcher who was also made in 50 cm. The shoemaker doll, as he appeared when new, is pictured here on the left. The photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book. These great dolls often appeared in the company's grand window and event displays, especially those depicting "everyday" town and country scenes.  

It's time to buckle up this discussion about this great shoemaker doll with some thoughts on his value. Condition is everything when it comes to Steiff dolls from this era. It's very hard to tell from the photo much about his state and even if he retains his Steiff ID. Additional information about his body, jointing, mohair hair and mustache, etc. would be needed for a more formal analysis. As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. In general, Steiff dolls from the c. 1910 through 1920 era in very good, all original condition with ID seem to be selling for the most part in the $1,500 to $2,500 range today. From the photos, this fellow looks initially to have some wear and losses and issues with his clothing. As such, it is Steiffgal's best guesstimate that he might sell at auction in the $750 to $1,200 range or so. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this shoemaker doll has touched both your heart and sole. 

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

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