Friday, December 16, 2016

Outfoxing The Mystery Behind This Very Vintage Steiff Dog

Who doesn't love a surprise? Especially when it may have to do with Steiff! Check out this note from a new friend who writes about a "foundling" discovered in the home of a relative. Caroline shares,

"Hi there,

I was wondering if you could help me identify this charming straw stuffed dog? It was found in the basement of my mother-in-law's house back in the 60's but clearly it's a lot older. It has a hole in the right ear (there is velvet inside the ears) which made me think it could be Steiff if there was once a button there. I'm not sure if they were ever stuffed with straw or made of this material?

Anyway I know he's not not worth a lot but I love him and I'd love to know a bit more about him. Thank you so much for your time. 

Kindest regards,

Well, let's pull up a chair and check out this sitting sweetie. From what Steiffgal can make out from the photos, it is her best guess that this is an early Steiff Fox Terrier. It is not clear about his measurements, but based on his remaining materials, it is most likely that he originally was made from white mohair; the woolen covering has entirely been lost to time in this case. If he has a "crunchy" feeling to him when he is squeezed, then he is stuffed with excelsior, which would be consistent with his era of production. 

This early and beloved Steiff pattern is known for several design features.  These include one white ear and one orange one; pert black shoe button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth; a black circle drawn around the dog's right eye; velvet lined ears; and adorable, perfectly-to-scale prominently formed back leg haunches. Steiffgal has also seen several of these early Fox Terriers detailed with an orange airbrushed ring around their tail end, although it is not clear if this model has this based on these limited photos.  

Steiff has a long history with Fox Terriers, and they have always been an important breed in Steiff's kennel club. They made their first appearance in 1899, just a handful of years after the company's debut commercial catalog launch in 1892. This particular sitting version, named simply "Foxterrier," has its origins as far back the very early 1900's, when a similar model was produced in felt in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1902 to 1924. This sitting pattern was produced in mohair in 7, 17, 22, 28, and 35 from 1902 through 1929, as well as lamb's wool plush in 12, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1903 through 1917.   

This basic sitting Foxterrier pattern made a somewhat interesting "solo" appearance in 1928. For that year only, this design was also produced in mohair in 7, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm but was specifically given the name "Spotty." This name appeared on a white tag with a metal wire rim worn as a chest tag. Two of these 1928 Spotty dogs are pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.    

And what's up with this name-game? It is Steiffgal's best guess that this update from a generic breed to a more "playful" name in 1928 was not random, but part of a larger strategy. In the mid- to late 1920's, Steiff began producing a great number of beloved dogs and giving them endearing, child-like names. This was a directive straight from company management and was made to help reinvigorate the product line and align design priorities to the societal trends and preferences of the time. This marketing tactic proved quite successful, starting with the introduction of "Molly" the puppy dog, who debuted in 1925. Other named pups introduced around this era include "Treff" the Bloodhound in 1928, "Fellow" the puppy dog in 1928, and "Bully" the Bulldog in 1927.  You have to admit, the name "Spotty" is much sweeter and appealing than "Foxterrier!"

In 2013 - perhaps in honor of his 85th birthday? - Steiff produced a charming 17 cm replica of 1928's Spotty in an edition size of 1,000 pieces for the worldwide market.

Unfortunately, due to its condition, it is difficult to put a firm date on Caroline's Steiff dog. However, given the information available about the pattern and assuming that it did have a button-in-ear at one time, it would be safe to say that it was manufactured in the 1904 through 1929 time frame.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Caroline's vintage Foxterrier has made you sit up and take notice!

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

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