Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This Distinctive Steiff Teddy Baby Is One International Sensation!

Teddy hugs from London! Literally! Steiffgal has just returned from a very quick hop "across the pond," where she attended the delightful and inaugural London International Antique Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy Fair. Many thanks to friends Hilary Pauley and Daniel Agnew for their great job in bringing this brilliant event to life. Held on November 19th and 20th, 2016, this weekend happening featured a full day of seminars, speakers, and learning on Saturday, followed by a collector's fair in Olympia Hall on Sunday - showcasing a dizzying array of the finest antique dolls, plush, trains, and toys.  And, of course, Steiff!  

Steiffgal was walking the fair when - oh baby! - did this distinctive Teddy catch her eye! So much so, that this cheeky cub is now happily residing in the United States as part of her collection. And, as a nod to her adoption location, she's been named "Olympia!" 

Olympia is an example of the iconic Teddy Baby pattern, which was produced as a standard line design in the Steiff catalog from 1929 through 1957. This particular Ted is 28 cm standing and fully jointed. Her body is made from brown cotton plush, her muzzle and the tops of her feet are made from very short tan mohair, and her paw pads are made from tan linen. Her always happy and smiling mouth is lined in peach colored felt. She has four black hand embroidered claws on each paw. Her precious face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose. Her squeaker works loudly and clearly! Olympia was produced around 1950, give or take a year or two, and just a handful of years after the Giengen factory reopened for toymaking business after the conclusion of WWII.

Olympia has several design and physical features that truly are worthy of a gold medal, as well as reflective of the period in which she was made. 

First, its easy to have a plush crush on her very unusual material. Her body, head, and limbs are made out of brown cotton plush. This fabric has both a cotton backing and a cotton pile. The best way to describe it is that it feels like a cotton bathroom towel that has been through a number of wash and dry cycles; a little bumpy in texture but with an overall and somewhat smooth feel. It is not like mohair, which can be distinctive and prickly; or silk plush, which is shiny and smooth feeling; or wool plush, which is continuous in texture and more "dense." It is Steiffgal's guess that this material was used instead of the company's more traditional fabrics on her body as these were in very short supply or extremely expensive at the time.  

For the most part, cotton plush does not appear all that durable, at least on this Teddy Baby example. Although Olympia has a little playwear to her, her plush has a few losses, and seems more matted and worn than it should be, especially given how sound and hearty her body is otherwise. Usually paw pads and feet seams show wear and tear, but Olympia's are all original, and in excellent, even like new, condition.  

Second, her pad pads are hands-down interesting. They are made from tan linen. This material was used as a substitute for wool felt when it was in short supply. Steiffgal has a number of c. 1950 Steiff bears with the same linen material on their pads, including one made from artificial silk plush. It is interesting to note that a similar linen fabric was used in the place of felt on the bodies of Steiff's 19-teen doll line around the time of WWI for probably the same logistical and supply reasons.  

And finally, her ID really buttons her up as a rarity. Olympia proudly bears an "all capital" Steiff button, which was used for just a handful of years in the very late 1940's and early 1950's. Steiffgal has just a few other Steiff treasures in her collection with this style button; some sport a US Zone tag, other do not. Clearly, the early postwar years were a period of great transition and evolution for Steiff in terms of design and IDs. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Olympia, the cotton plush Teddy Baby bear from London, will be met with international appeal!

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

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