Sunday, September 25, 2016

It's Twice As Nice With These Two Steiff Tabby Cats From The Late 1920's

Although by nature more of a "dog" person, Steiffgal has started to put a few more Steiff kittens into her meow mix lately. Her most recent additions have something in common - they are both sweet "Tabby" style cats from the late 1920's. Check out these two fantastic felines and see if they have you "feline groovy" too.

Standing Tabby in all of her glory.
This first Tabby has a purr-fectly angelic look to her. She is 10 cm tall, standing on all fours, is head jointed, and made from tan mohair that has been striped with orange highlights. Her limbs and tail are elegant and shapely Her face comes to life with oversized teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of red right on her lips. She has a particularly inquiring look on her face. This Tabby even retains a few of her original monofilament whiskers remaining on her muzzle and forehead. This cool cat was made in mohair in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1928 through 1937.

Lying Tabby closely observing something.
The second Tabby appears to be lying down on the job, but that's ok in this case. She is unjointed and measures 5 cm tall and 10 cm long (not including her tail.) She is lying in a very relaxed way, as if she's observing something very interesting in the room - perhaps a dust bunny, or a window shade moving in the breeze? Tabby is made from tan mohair that is striped in more tan or light brown colored highlights. Her sweet face comes to life with oversized light teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of red right on her lips. She retains most of her original monofilament whiskers. Lying Tabby, in all honesty, was made in 8 sizes ranging fro 5 to 20 cm from 1928 through 1935.

Close up of standing Tabby's face.
Both of these Tabby patterns reflected Steiff's approach to cat design and production in the 1920's. It was at this time that the company started diversifying their cat offerings, as well as matching their cats’ appearances to the cultural preferences of the time. Steiff’s cats from the mid-1920’s onward were distinctly feminine, fluffy, and playful in appearance - much like all things popular from the “roaring ‘20s.” Felines from this period often had oversized, childlike eyes; were made from brightly colored materials; and had youthful detailing or textures. They were in great demand both as playthings for children as well as companions for adults. It is also interesting to note that it was at this time that the company began giving “real” names to its cat designs, with the first one being “Fluffy,” a blue-tipped mohair sweetie who was introduced in 1926. Prior to that, any cat in the line was simply named “Cat." Fluffy was a smashing success, and remains a collector's favorite today.

Close up of lying Tabby's face.
It is safe to say that Fluffy let the cat out of the bag in terms of creating a huge demand for Steiff's cat offerings. As such, Steiff quickly followed up on Fluffy’s popularity with a number of additional cat introductions. Like Fluffy, these were all designed and named to evoke softness, gentleness, and cuddling. These included the adult “Kitty,” who was standing on all fours, fully jointed, and featured a “tail moves head” mechanism; baby “Tabby,” who was standing on all fours or lying; the exotic, blue eyed, sitting “Siamy” Siamese Temple cat; and “Susi,” a very pretty sitting, head jointed tabby cat. Kitty, Tabby, Siamy, and Susi were all manufactured through the early 1940’s. And due to their popularity, they all reappeared in the line in the late 1940’s after the factory reopened for toy making business at the conclusion of WWII.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's early Tabby cats has made for a pleasant paws in your day.  

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This Remarkably Costumed Steiff Doll Is Rarer Than Hen's Teeth!

How egg-citing is this?! That was egg-actly Steiffgal's response when she was presented with this most remarkable Steiff rarity.  Check out this not so "Spring Chicken" doll and see what makes her so egg-straordinary from the design and historical perspectives.

Bird's the word with this fantastic Steiff doll which dates from the early part of the 20th century.  She wears what can only be described as a fitted "mohair chicken suit." This most unusual costume cannot be removed from her body and is detailed with sleeves finished like wingtips and a hood featuring a red felt comb and a top and bottom yellow felt beak. Her legs are bare, and it is unclear if she is wearing any undergarments. Steiffgal has never seen anything like this before, have you?

This costumed cutie appears to be one of Steiff's "children" style dolls that debuted in the line around 1908-09. These beloved dolls are best known for their realistic proportions, charming personalities, and angelic faces. They are made from felt, solidly stuffed and fully jointed, and have youthful facial details - including a center seam, pert expressions, rosy complexions, mohair wigs, and black button eyes (the earliest models) or glass pupil eyes (from about 1910 onward.)  Both little boys and little girls were produced, in sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm over time. All of these standard line children dolls were dressed head to toe in handmade outfits that ranged from school clothes to sporting attire to “Sunday best”; for the most part, girl models also came with matching hats.  Except, of course, for this novel example!

Although Steiffgal has only seen this doll through pictures, and not firsthand, it is her thinking that the chicken suit is most likely original to Steiff. This suspicion is based on three somewhat random and historical facts and coincidences.  These include:

Time frame and concept. There is historical precedent for Steiff to make childlike dolls in mohair suits and costumes, especially in the early 1900's. For example, the company produced a series of fully jointed felt Eskimo dolls from 1908 through 1919. These were made to piggy-back on the commercial excitement surrounding Admiral Peary's race to the geographic north pole. An example of an early Steiff Eskimo doll is pictured here on the left; you can see the similarities in appearance, materials, and presentation between this model and the one under discussion today. 

Materials: The mohair used on the costume is perfect in terms of its scale and texture to resemble feathers. It is also quite playful, and gives the piece a most delightful appearance. It is interesting to note that the same yellow mohair was also used for the same "lighthearted" purpose on another beloved Steiff character doll of the time, Puck the Gnome, who is pictured here on the left. This petite treat was made in 20, 30, and 40 cm from 1914 through 1943.  Although his clothing changed and evolved over his three-decade long appearance in the line, his cheerful yellow mohair cap remained a constant in his design. 

Culture:  For some reason that Steiffgal cannot exactly figure out, dressing up like barnyard fowl was a popular trend in the 19-teens and early 20's. Both adults and children seemed to enjoy doing so, with costumes ranging from simple head wear to head to toe feathers! In 1919, Ladies Home Journal featured an article on party costumes designed after chickens, owls, and peacocks!  This remarkable story is pictured here on the left for your enjoyment.  Net-net, dressing a Steiff doll as a chicken - although a little out of the ordinary today - was not out of the question almost 100 years ago, and Steiff indeed has a strong legacy of reflecting what's happening in the popular culture in its products and designs.  

Another chicken and egg question is, "what's the back story to this adorable doll?" As far as Steiffgal can tell, she does not specifically appear in any Steiff or doll reference books, and there is no formal history on her.  As such, we can only speculate how she came to be.  Here are a few possible scenarios. Perhaps she was created as a sample or trial, and never put into production.  She could have been originally made as part of a one of a kind special order or window display.  She also might have been made as a "whimsy" or "end of day" item - these are one of a kind pieces that Steiff employees created on their own on work breaks or before or after formal work hours just for fun.   Unfortunately, only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic Steiff dressed doll has been more entertaining than a chick flick for you.

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Steiff's Roaring 20's Come To Life With This Fantastically Illustrated New Reference Book

What's old is new again... especially when it comes to Steiff! Steiffgal was thrilled to learn that her friend and colleague Carsten Esser from Teddy Dorado just published a book about Steiff from the 1920 through 1929 time frame. For many Steiff collectors, this decade represents the company's "golden age" of design, creativity, and manufacturing. Many new and appealing patterns, such as Teddy Clown, Petsy the Baby Bear, Molly the Puppy, Bully the Bulldog, and Fluffy the Cat were introduced during those ten years - and remain absolute collector's favorites to this day.

The 384 page book is called "Steiff Catalog 1920-1929" and is a wonderfully illustrated archive. It includes information from a wide variety of Steiff company ephemera - including catalogs, brochures, fliers, and price lists, among other records. Visually, the book is a treat - in any language. The pictures and illustrations are charming and so nicely reflect the "look and feel" of the roaring '20's. It is interesting to see how the company's print materials and graphic designs became increasingly more sophisticated over the ten year period of the book. Although German is the predominant language in the text, there are many documents in other languages, too. It is not important that readers speak German to learn alot from this publication. 

One of Steiffgal's favorite illustrations in this new book is from 1929 and is a leaflet featuring the company's newly launched "Teddy Baby" pattern. This brochure shows three playful closed mouth style cubs. Versions in mohair and alpaca are offered in six sizes ranging from 15 to 45 cm. The alpaca versions are roughly 20% higher in price than those made from mohair. Given the conversion rate of about 4.2 German marks = 1 US dollar in 1929, the prices for these Teds at the time ranged from $0.67 to $5.47 each. To put that in context, the "average” American in 1929 made about $0.70/hour or almost $1,400/year. In today's dollars, $0.67 to $5.47 from 1929 would be roughly equivalent to $9.27 to $75.66.  

Who wants to join Steiffgal on a time traveling, Steiff buying adventure to 1929? 

In addition to featuring photos and illustrations of the product line, the book also has "behind the scenes" images of really interesting business materials. These give readers and collectors insights into the company's priorities and scope of operations at the time. For example, one of the documents pictured in the book is from 1924 and lists the names and addresses of the company's worldwide sales and distribution partners. These include organizations in Germany, New York City, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and Turkey. Also on the list but crossed off in a black pen line are Brazil and Egypt. Remember, this was almost a century ago, and business development tools like email, the internet, and reliable and international telephone services just were not available. So these accounts - many thousands of miles away from Giengen - were discovered and nurtured the "good old fashioned way" of extensive travel, face to face meetings, and relationship building. Members of the Steiff family and their most trusted colleagues did much of this heavy lifting themselves.

For more information on this great Steiff reference book and ordering details, please see

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic new Steiff reference book has opened up the gates of learning for you.

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

Saturday, September 3, 2016

This Well Accessorized Steiff Infantryman Has Uniform Appeal!

Do you need a few marching orders? Then Steiffgal insists you take a look at this perfectly accessorized Steiff Infantryman doll! The detailing on this miniaturized military doll is simply astounding. Check out his great presentation and posture, among other highlights. Steiffgal's certain you will agree he has uniform appeal!

This youthful Steiff fellow is called Infantryman. He is 28 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from felt. He has truly human proportions. His olive green uniform is integral to his body. It is trimmed in red felt and tiny brass buttons that are detailed with tiny stripes. His matching felt hat is "stenciled" with the number 28, most likely to coordinate with his size in cm. He wears light brown oilcloth boots that have tan felt heels and soles. His face and hands are made from flesh colored felt. His face comes to life with piercing blue and black glass pupil eyes, a pert nose, a painted mouth, and rosy cheeks. Infantryman was made in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1914 through 1920 overall. 

In addition to his breathtaking appearance and condition, this doll also deserves a salute for his absolutely incredible, and all original, field equipment. It is really unbelievable that all of these tiny objects have survived together, and intact, for a century. These include two perfectly scaled wooden ammunition boxes on the front of his leather belt; a wooden rifle with a leather shoulder strap; a grey felt water canteen; a buttoned canvas rucksack; a metal sword suspended from a decorated leather scabbard; a rolled up, grey felt blanket wrapped with leather ties; and a brown short pile plush backpack on leather straps. This fully functional backpack closes with metal fittings. The canteen, rucksack, and sword and scabbard all hang from the back of his leather belt on leather straps.

Steiff made many military themed dolls in the early part of the 20th century.  In a span of about two decades, starting in the early 1900's, Steiff produced examples representing German, Scottish, Moroccan, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, American, Belgian, French, Italian, and Austrian armed forces, among others. Well over 100 distinct designs were produced over this time frame; most of these patterns were produced in multiple sizes. In tribute to some heavy hitting militaries, like Germany, England, and the USA, Steiff produced dolls at numerous ranks and in various uniform types.  The doll's uniforms, for the most part, closely matched those of their real-life counterparts, down to colors, trims, and styles. 

However, this particular Infantryman style doll is among the most detailed of all the models produced, given the amazing attention given to its accessories, scale, and overall presentation.  

It is interesting to note how distinctly "friendly" and youthful this doll appears. This is absolutely on purpose. As mentioned previously, this doll design debuted in 1914. At this point in history, World War I had begun. Because of this geopolitical reality, Steiff’s doll designers were instructed to update their soldier doll patterns - which to this point were somewhat caricatured - and make them good looking, charming, and credible.  The company's previous, more "cartoonish" soldier designs were seen as disrespectful to the real life men fighting in the trenches for their country.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this well accessorized Steiff soldier has filled in all the details for you. 

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