There's nothing like a fine Steiff auction to get the Steiff collecting community talking!And many of the excellent selections from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's sale in Germany on September 3rd indeed are causing tongues to wag. It is very exciting when extraordinary Steiff rarities, like the Dicky couple (lot #180, opening bid of 1,500 euro) or the stork holding a basket of babies (lot #188, opening bid of 280 euro), come to light after many years. In addition to these headliners, this sale also offers many other truly noteworthy items. Here are three possible "sleepers" that caught Steiffgal's eye.
This first auction selection sticks out of the crowd like a black sheep. Here we have lot #9, an all black Rocky wild goat. He is cataloged as... "Rocky, ibex, with button, chest label and cloth tag label, No. is halfway torn off, height: 29 cm, length: 25 cm." Bidding for him starts at 30 euro.
Let's shed some light on this black beauty. He is clearly a version of Steiff's beloved "Rocky Capricorn." This impressively horned goat was made as part of Steiff's "Zodiac" series of animals. Standard line Rocky goats are standing, unjointed, and made from tan mohair plush. Their faces are detailed with black and green slit pupil eyes, light brown airbrushing highlights, and a simple black and brown hand embroidered nose. The smallest version has felt ears, while the larger versions have mohair ears lined in felt. Clearly, this pattern's headlining feature is its most impressive oversized horns. The smallest Rocky goats have double thick felt horns, while the larger versions have fully dimensional, seamed felt horns. Standard line Rocky appeared in the line from 1963 through 1976 in 14, 22, and 28 cm.
It is Steiffgal's best guess that this unusually colored example up for sale is a sample or prototype of the standard line 28 cm Rocky in black mohair; or perhaps it was produced in very limited quantities as a special order or as part of a display. Ibex goats indeed can be all black in real life, so this pattern does have some basis in nature.
It's so easy to grin and bear it when it comes to this second auction highlight. Here we have lot #53, a Steiff bear in the form of the well known (at least in Germany) Bärenmarke brand logo. He is cataloged as... "Bärenmarke" bear, with button, chest label and cloth tag label, cloth tag label is halfway torn, 1960, advertising figure, 38 cm, otherwise good condition." Bidding for him starts at 180 euro.
So who is this smiling sweetie? "Bear Brand" is a well known German company that produces a large line of milk and cream products. Bärenmarke specializes in shelf-stable dairy items, especially those that are sterilized, condensed, concentrated, dried, or prepared in a way that does not require refrigeration. Bärenmarke started in 1921 selling evaporated milk; today the company and its logo have a 96% brand recognition rate in Germany. Given the company's name, trademark, and location, it is no surprise at all that Steiff would bring its delightful logo to life!
And what makes this Bärenmarke bear rise to the top? His delightful presentation - with many parallels to Steiff's beloved "Teddy Baby" pattern - is certainly a draw. He was manufactured for one year only, in 1960, which adds to his rarity and appeal. Given his era of production, he should generate some nostalgia, especially for collectors who are in their 40's, 50's, and 60's and grew up consuming Bärenmarke products. And he is made from wool plush, at a time in the company's history when few items were produced from this durable material. Far more items in the 1930's through early 1950's were made from this distinctly "old fashioned" looking cloth.
This final auction selection is truly the cat's meow. Here we have lot #276, an utterly charming crouching cat on a velvet pincushion. It is cataloged as... "cat Tabby, '20s, lying on a pin-cushion, 12 cm x 12 cm, with button, velvet good, mohair except of minimally places in good condition." Bidding for this item starts at 240 euro.
Sew, what's the story with this great pincushion? As far as Steiffgal can tell, this particular example does not appear in any of the standard Steiff reference books. However, Steiff has a great and long tradition of putting some of its most appealing, smaller editions - especially cats and dogs - on mohair or velvet cushions since the turn of last century and then calling the item a "pincushion." This particular example appears to be made from the company's adorable "Tabby" kitten, who was produced in 8 sizes ranging from 5 to 20 cm from 1928 through 1935. She is on a green, trimmed cushion which is typical in design to other Steiff cushions of the period; these appeared in velvet and mohair over time.
Following that thread, it is safe to assume that this rarity will have many collectors feline groovy. Cats have always held a special place in the heart of Steiff lovers everywhere. Her size and appearance are irresistible. And pincushions like this so seldom come onto the secondary market - collectors may recall the Fluffy cat on a pincushion that sold for over $7,000 at a James D. Julia toy sale in 2014. This Fluffy is pictured here on the left. Although this Tabby's condition is not as good as Fluffy's, she's still a mighty fine addition to any Steiff collector's meow mix.
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