Friday, August 26, 2016

This Amazing Steiff Pre-Button Era Skittle Set Is Right On Point!

It's "game on" with this extraordinary auction highlight from the upcoming Premier Toy and Doll Sales Event at Morphy Auctions on September 23rd and 24th, 2016. Although there are many fantastic button-in-ear selections in this sale - including several Steiff automatons - this particular highlight is truly in a league of its own. Check out this amazing set of turn-of-last-century skittles set... Steiffgal is certain they will "strike" a chord with you as well.

Here we have lot #308, a Steiff pre-button era nine pin Pointer skittle set. It is cataloged as...

"This set, designed for the European market, consists of eight begging, unjointed Pointer dogs on wooden skittles and an unjointed Pointer king pin, dressed in a red felt top coat and matching red felt crown decorated with trim and beading. The dogs are made of tan felt and are hand detailed with brown painted patches. Their faces come to life with black eyes, a simple, hand embroidered nose and mouth, and floppy ears. Some of the black eyes may be replaced. All but one dog retains their long, thin tail; these appendages tended to snap off with use. Each pin would have left the factory in Giengen, Germany with a collar decorated with either a small medallion or a bell; all but traces of these accessories have been lost to time. All nine dogs in the set are mounted on wooden plinths with the king pin on a slightly higher platform. The set includes two original skittle balls covered in colorful felt which have significant tears and losses to them. Steiff produced this Pointer skittle set in felt from 1892-1908. This set and assortment is as pictured on page 577 of Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1892-1943 reference book. Because none of the pins have Steiff ID and do not appear ever to have had any, they were most likely made in the c. 1892-1904 pre-button time frame. Condition: As noted. One pin with repairs and patches to the head. Wooden plinths with minor losses from playwear. Otherwise in very good condition given the age and the gaming nature of this rare and unusual set."  This lot is estimated at $6,000-12,000.

Although most turn of last century Steiff items were made for fun and interaction, none better exemplify that then the company's skittle sets.  These bowling games were truly designed and constructed for competitive play. Today, they are quite rare and for many reasons - including their distinct shape - are trophies for most vintage Steiff collectors. This pointer example just one of a few complete sets that have come up for auction in the past few years. In 2014, James D. Julia sold a nine piece set of felt rabbit skittles with ID for $7,110. And in June, 2016, Morphy's sold an early nine piece all original Steiff skittle assortment for $11,590; this set is pictured here above on the left. 

The origin of the game of skittles is unclear, but it has roots in similar games played in ancient Egypt, Greece, Italian, and southern Turkey.  Skittles was particularly popular in Great Britain, where  the game was played over several centuries in public houses or clubs.  There were variations in rules and scoring over time and location, but in most cases the game involved bowling a ball about 6.5 meters at nine pins set in a diamond pattern.  Whoever knocked down all the pins in the fewest tosses was the winner. 

Historians are able to pin down that skittles appeared in Steiff's very first catalog of 1892.  The sets produced for the European market had nine total skittles, while those for America had ten total (as in tenpin bowling).  Each set consisted of a series of pins and one kingpin.  The company produced skittles both as standard looking felt bowling pins, as well as in the form of felt, early plush, or velvet animals perched on wooden plinths.  For the sets with animals, Steiff made the sets with hens, monkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits, poodles, pointers, cats, chicks, dachshunds, elephants, pointers, cats, and bears, among others. The animals appearing on the pins or as kingpins were usually 10 to 15 cm tall, standing or begging, and were otherwise standard line catalog items.  In all practical cases the kingpin wore a felt jacket and crown, and was mounted on a slightly taller plinth, or was otherwise differentiated from the rest of the regular pins. Each skittle set came with two wooden balls that were covered in multicolored felt. Here on the left, you see a c. 1903 "hens and rooster" Steiff skittle set; it sold for $27,702 in 2010 at an auction at Christie's in London.

Steiff began branding its items from 1904 onward with a button-in-ear.  Thus, as in the case of this pointer skittle set, it is possible to find individual pins or even an entire set without the company's famous trademark, given they were produced starting in the very late 1800's!  However, after 1904, all items, including each skittle in a skittle set - would have left the factory in Giengen with Steiff identification. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early skittle sets has simply bowled you over.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

The teddy bear search engine