Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ready Oar Not, Check Out This Amazing Steiff Rowing Frog!

This week's fantastic Steiff find has Steiffgal jumping for joy! And you probably will be too, after learning about this amazing amphibian. Steiffgal heard about this extremely early and rare Steiff frog through another Steiff enthusiast who just happens to have an amazing eye and great taste. Check out this lean green rowing machine and see what makes him so extraordinarily (but not obviously) interesting from the design and product development perspectives. 

The information available about him online simply notes"From my personal collection, here is a rare model of the Steiff factory period 1904-1905 with the original elephant button. Stands at about 11 3/4" (30 cm) tall without the feet. I collect the Steiff animals since 30 years and i have found only 4 models with the elephant button, Here is for sale one that i had found 20 years ago in the south west of France. This model was made only between 1903 and 1908. Unfortunately the feet are missing but the button is always present and the velvet is in good condition (just need a little repair at 2 seams), the felt at the hands is used at the extremity of the fingers (see pics). the swimsuit in red felt has some little holes. the outfit is missing. It is always a rare and very interesting item. it is possible to restore the feet if you ask to a Steiff specialist."

Let's leapfrog to the details behind this remarkable rarity. As described by his owner above, he was indeed produced between 1903 and 1908. Because he does not have ears, his treasured and earliest elephant button is located in his red shorts. Today's example is missing three design elements. His elaborate finger digits, which originally appeared like "lollipops," have been lost to time. He also had long, thin feet, which according to a few photos, could have been designed as simple athletic shoes. He also left the factory in Giengen holding an oar, suggesting he was designed to be a rower or a member of a crew team. When he was new, he appeared as the photo on the left, which is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

This hoppy-go-lucky fellow has enormous historical relevance, and could be the topic of a several hour talk all unto himself. However, there are two really, really cool things about him that confirm his gold medal status. 

The first is his "doll like" form. Given his anthropomorphic (i.e., sharing human characteristics) presentation, including his standing body position, red shorts, probable shoes, and oar accessory, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he was made as part of Steiff's earliest and little-known all cloth doll line. In 1903, Richard Steiff designed and produced a series of soft cloth play dolls designed to replace the company's somewhat generic bisque-headed dolls. This new line, as far as Steiffgal has been able to research, was entirely, or almost entirely, consisted of only male dolls, including soccer players, policemen, farmers, military personnel, natives, and early cartoon characters. This appears to be the only "animal doll" produced as part of this series. It is exciting to think that Richard Steiff himself may have made this frog doll! An advertising photo of this early collection is pictured above; this illustration is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear book.

Things also line up with this frog's form relative to other dolls being produced at the time. Here on the left you can see a photo of another early Steiff doll; he is called "Negro" and appeared in the line from 1903-1904. This doll is 35 cm, string jointed, and was made in either velvet or felt. His face comes alive with a prominent center seam, black button eyes framed by embroidery, and a hand embroidered mouth. Steiffgal does not think that it is a coincidence that both the frog doll under discussion and this doll are wearing very similar red shorts with a white tie around the waist, and share many of the same proportions. The photo of the black velvet doll is from the collection of Nancy Smith. 

The second important and key element to this frog doll is "the company he keeps." This frog appears in a 1903/04 catalog photograph used to debut the company's new editions at the annual Leipzig Spring Fair, along with the "Negro" doll and other masculine themed string jointed dolls. But what's so special about that? It's the same picture that debuted PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear. Talk about being at the right place at the right time, eh? A snapshot of this catalog page is shown here on the left; you can spot the frog with the oar in the very far right of the picture. You can also click on the photo to make it larger. According to the hand written notes on the photo, these frog dolls were 21 Deutchmark per twelve. This picture is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear book.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early and athletic frog doll has got your pulse racing!

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Boys To Men: Three Awesome And Extraordinarily Rare Steiff eBay Finds

Rare beyond compare! That was Steiffgal's thought when looking back at a few really captivating and recent sales on eBay. Shopping on this platform is like going to a giant antique mall or store - you never know what's going to turn up. And once in a blue moon, world class collectibles do indeed make an appearance. Here are three recent WAH-HOO good Steiff items that recently traded hands on this ubiquitous global auction website.

This first fantastic find is the wheel-deal indeed. According to its description, "For your consideration is this rare pull toy Record Boy by Steiff. Plush bean character with felt clothing. He is riding a tricycle and when rolled he moves his torso and heap up and down to action tricycle's propelling lever. Toy has a bellow underneath that produces sound as toy moves. Toy is about 9.5 inches tall by 7.5 inches long by 4.5 inches wide." 
This boy on the go had 4 total bidders, 7 total bids, and sold for $2,150.75.

Does his sale price shock you? It shouldn't, given this character's rarity and cultural status! This item is actually Steiff's Shockheaded Peter doll on a four wheeled cart, from the famous German book of the same name. "Record" refers to these pump and go hand-driven vehicles. This mobile marvel appeared in the Steiff line from 1916 through 1927. Steiff also produced a Shockheaded Peter doll in in 3 sizes ranging from 30 to 43 cm from 1909 though 1927. It is interesting to note that Steiff's Peter dolls had long leather fingernails (like the boy in the book) but this version on a cart does not.  Here on the left you can see a 1916/1917 advertising photo featuring Peter and other "record" friends of the era; the photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

Shockheaded Peter is a German folkloric treasure. It is written in distinctive, versed “chapters.” The book debuted in 1845 and was authored by Heinrich Hoffmann, a German psychiatrist who penned the tale for his three year old son as a Christmas gift when he could not find one he liked commercially. Each of the book’s ten tales has a distinct lesson, with the story demonstrating what happens when that lesson is not followed. For example, in story #3, a girl plays with matches and burns to death. The book’s title refers to story #1, where a boy (Peter) does not follow hygienic practices (for example, trimming his fingernails, combing his hair, and bathing) and as a result is an outcast. 

It's no game when it comes to this next auction find - a turn of last century Steiff footballer. He is described in part as, "Rare Antique Steiff Felt Jointed Doll. Doll was handed down from my Great Grandfather 30 - 40 years ago. I have not been able to find another one so that I would be able to describe it. Looks like a rugby player or hobo? Doll is in original condition just like I received it. I believe the inside composition is straw. Clothes show wear and fading in areas. Missing Right Arm. Eyes are glass and the right eye has come unattached but sits in the socket quite well. Leather Boots are very detailed. Top of Boots are split but are still intact with the doll as pics show."

This sports star scored 8 total bidders, 27 total bids, and sold for $1,402.77.

It's a life goal for Steiffgal to add one of these marvelous dolls to her collection! These student athletes were produced in 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm from 1913 through 1920 overall. These were designed to resemble American Ivy League soccer players. Their outfits were available in a variety of different color combinations, including blue for Yale, crimson for Harvard, orange or black for Princeton, and light blue for Columbia. The one under discussion here is probably a Harvard model, given the hue of his sweater. The dolls themselves were playfully configured to have a distinctly youthful, collegiate presentation with their chunky proportions, cherubic faces, and google-style black and white glass eyes. And their outfits reflected the uniform styles of the period; it is interesting to note that their leather shoes had inlaid "treads" on the soles, most likely a nod to early sporting cleats. Here on the left you can see a two early Yale players; the photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

Things are going to really heat up with this last Steiff surprise. It is simply noted by the seller as, "This auction is for a vintage Steiff Man figure chimney sweeper. This item is in Very Good condition and is being offered at No Reserve, Final Sale." 

This little fellow caught fire with 9 total bidders, 21 total bids, and sold for $1,276.13.

The lucky winning bidder did indeed hit the sweep-stakes with this petite treat.  This doll, made entirely from felt, is 15 cm tall and was designed to hang from the rear view mirror of a car. His unjointed body and traditional top hat are made from black felt and his charming flesh colored face comes to life with black button eyes and simple hand-painted features. He carries his own to-scale ladder and hand-brush.  This sweep appeared in the line from 1936 through 1943.

Chimney sweeps have a long and interesting history, especially in Europe. It is considered quite auspicious if a bride sees one on her wedding day. And friends often exchange chimney sweep toys and tokens as good luck charms, especially during the winter holidays. Another example of this pre-war Steiff chimney sweep sold for 474 British pounds at an auction at Christies in London in 2010. This roughly translate into about $750 in today's dollars.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these three very rare Steiff finds has helped to sharpen your treasure hunting skills!

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Steiff Dreams Do Come True!

Look what I got! All collectors know that fabulous feeling when something from their Steiff wish list finally makes it into their hugs for real! Check out this note from a new friend from Europe who recently scored her dream piece - at a dream price! Ann-Charlotte shares,

"I wanted to tell you some exciting news. I just added a very special treasure to my collection - an original Steiff Jackie for only $85! Her mohair is intact and she retains her original pink bow, button in ear, and US Zone tag! I have been looking for an original Jackie for a long time but the few I've found have been too expensive. And she is almost in mint condition!

I got her at a nice local auction house specializing in local antiques and folk art at affordable prices. They sometimes have "odd" objects like toys. They hold country auctions every two weeks. The items for sale are posted on the Internet the preceding Friday and you can bid online up until the live auction begin at noon on Sunday. The auctioneers didn’t know what it was. It was advertised as "Steiff softie" - which doesn't sound very interesting - and no one other than me was interested.

Best wishes from Sweden,

Such great news has Steiffgal tickled pink! Yes indeed, this is Steiff's delightful Jackie bear. These were produced in 17, 25, 35, and 75 cm from 1953 through 1955 overall. Regardless of size, all original Jackie bears were made from blonde mohair, had felt paw pads, and were five ways jointed.  Their irresistible faces came to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a touch of airbrushing.  These special cubs are also known for their their lone horizontal pink noses stitches, airbrushed belly buttons, and distinctly impish expressions and personalities.

Jackie has always been a party animal! Steiff produced this design in honor of the golden anniversary of the Teddy bear - specifically the 50th anniversary of the registration of 55PB at the Heidenheim district court in 1903. As such, she was intentionally designed to look significantly different then the company's other Teddy bears of the time. You can't help but notice Jackie's distinctly stocky proportions, especially in reference to her torso and limbs. (This is meant in the most loving way possible - no judgement intended!) And, her chubby arms don't have the clear break at the wrists as many early 1950's Steiff bears do. All original Steiff Jackie bears left the factory in Giengen with a special 50th anniversary chest tag and a celebratory booklet as part of their branding and IDs. Most Jackies also have a US Zone tag, which appeared on Steiff's postwar items through about 1953 or 1954.

Steiffgal has always considered Jackie to be Steiff's unofficial "First Lady." As such, she has for a long time suspected that Jackie may have been named as a nod to another soon-to-be first lady, Jackie Kennedy.  Jackie married Jack Kennedy in 1953.  This wedding and her escalation on the social scene at the time seemed to usher in a new era of optimism, style, and beauty - much like Steiff's hopes for this bear and its post-war business success.  

To keep the company's anniversary celebration twice as nice, Steiff also produced another special edition.  These were a series of "Nimrod" Teddy bears from 1953 through 1954. The Nimrod bears were all based on the company's early postwar, newly redesigned "Original Teddy" pattern. Overall, four Nimrod bears appeared in Steiff's catalogs. These included a 22 or 50 white version which donned a green cap, an orange felt shirt, and brown boots; a 22 cm gold version which wore a green cap, a brown felt shirt, and brown boots; and a 22 cm caramel version detailed with an orange cap, green scarf, and very tall brown "wader" style boots. All carried wooden rifles suspended from a leather cord. 

Although Jackie and the Nimrod brother bears are early post war anniversary editions, they are not the earliest. In 1947, Steiff produced a blonde, fully jointed 10 cm Teddy bear with a special square shaped tag to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Margarete Steiff. The tag read, "To commemorate the 100th birthday of Margarete Steiff on 24.7.1947." As far as Steiffgal can tell, this 1947 Teddy bear edition may be the earliest Steiff commemorative or anniversary item ever produced on a commercial scale by the company. You can see the 1947 bear here on the left, the photo is from Pfeifer's 1947-2003 Sortiment.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Ann-Charlotte's Jackie auction find has generated lots of goodwill with you!

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Is This Cheerful-Earful Rabbit Made By Steiff?

Be a honey-bunny check out this vintage mohair rabbit mystery! Steiffgal recently heard from a new friend over email about a few vintage toys she had just added to her hug. One of them, a striking dark brown/black and white mohair bunny, really caught Steiffgal's eye given its impressive presentation.  But was this great example - clearly without a hare out of place -  made by Steiff?  Let's burrow into the research right now!

The rabbit's owner shares... "The Bunny has the style of a begging rabbit, entirely made of two colored mohair, pink stitched nose, swivel head, has a squeaker in the stomach, the whiskers are made of natural fiber similar to horse hair but thinner, probably pigs hair which is finer. The total high of the Bunny when sitting to the top of the ears is 36 cm or 14 inches.  

The Bunny does not have a button, but it does have a dirty hole in one ear which could have been caused by the button's discoloration due to rust.  This item came from an estate, and has been in the same family for generations.  Some of the toys from this estate had Steiff buttons, and some don't have any indications at all.

Thank you for any help or identification you can provide."

At first glance, this happy hopper has much in common with one of Steiff's most beloved and popular rabbit patterns which launched in 1927. This bunny was in the begging position and head jointed.  Her large, triangular ears were lined in wires and were posable. Her face came to life with oversized glass pupil eyes, clear monofilament whiskers, a hand embroidered simple mouth, and a distinctively shaped, triangular shaped nose. She was manufactured in light brown, white, gold, purple, pink, and light blue mohair. According to Steiff records, she was made through 1941 in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, 36, 44, 50, and 70 cm overall. Steiff also made this same popular pattern in velvet from 1927 through 1932 in 11, 15, and 18 cm in white, purple, orange, light brown, light blue, pink, and yellow. All models left the factory with a pastel colored silk ribbon and a bell. 

Here on the left you can see the 1929 catalog listing for the begging rabbit; the illustration is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Kataloge 1920-1920. Please click on the image to enlarge it. The page includes both the velvet and mohair version of the item, as well as a 20 cm version on wooden eccentric wheels.  Also check out the well dressed "Jack Rabbit" featured at the bottom of the catalog page.  This great rarity, based on a popular children's book character of the time, is one of the rarest and most sought-after Steiff rabbit of all times! 

Upon close review, there are several subtle differences which suggest the handsome hare under discussion today was not made by Steiff.  

Limbs:  Steiff's larger mohair begging rabbits in this pattern have one color feet with the color ending in a seam right at the rabbits ankles, and one color arms, which are shapely and distinctively downturned. The one under review today has two color feet, and straight, chunky, two color arms. 

Face:  Steiff's begging rabbits in this pattern have very large, childlike brown and black glass pupil eyes; the albino ones have red and pink glass pupil eyes.  All have triangular shaped noses, often outlined in red or black. They also all have triangular-shaped, wire lined ears. The one under review today has relatively proportional eyes, a simple round shaped nose, and long and lean ears.   

Color: Steiff's begging rabbits in this pattern were made in brightly hued, feminine "jellybean" colors, to match the cultural norms and preferences of the "roaring 1920's."  Although a brown version was also produced, it was actually made from brown-tipped mohair, similar to the fabrics used on the popular Teddy Clown and Petsy bears of the time.  There is no indication that Steiff would have made their begging rabbit in a dark color like deep brown or black, as that would not have aligned with the popular trends of the time. 

So for these reasons and just gut, having handled many of the Steiff versions - including this off the chart marvelous light purple example pictured here on the left - Steiffgal thinks that the rabbit under review today is from the late 1920's or early 1930's. And, it was most likely manufactured by another European high-end toy company either to look like a Steiff item, or just because it is a delightful and happy pattern.  

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Steiff's late 1920's begging rabbits has been a hare-binger of good things to come. 

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Age Is Just A Number When It Comes To Steiff's Delightful Prewar Teddy Bears

You've certainly heard the expression, "What a difference a day makes." Well, with Steiff, design changes over time took a little longer than that for the most part. But pre-war, these changes did happen, but in a very slow and subtle way. So how can you tell when an early Steiff bear was "born?" Let's take a look at two petite treats to get some general guidelines.

First, please say hello to lovely Lilly. She's about 25 cm tall standing, and 18 cm tall sitting. She is made from white mohair and is fully jointed. She has four hand embroidered brown claws on each of her paws; her pads are made from light peach colored felt. Her pensive face is detailed with a somewhat pointed and shaved muzzle, black shoebutton eyes, and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. Lilly retains her blank Steiff button and white ear tag as her Steiff IDs. On her ear tag, you can see the numbers "53" but the last two digits are under the button; given her height these are most likely "17." The 17 refers to her size sitting, which is how Steiff measured their bears through through 1933. (To calculate a bear's approximate standing height given this number, multiply its sitting height by 1.46.) Also printed on Lilly's tag is the word "geschutzt" which means "patented" in German. Given all of this data, it is most likely that Lilly was manufactured around 1906.

Second, but only in chronological order, is sweet Sigi. Like Lilly, she is also about 25 cm tall standing, and 18 cm tall sitting. She is made from white mohair and is fully jointed. She has four hand embroidered brown claws on each of her paws; her pads are made from light peach colored felt. Her sweet and more "toddler-esque" face comes to life with a full and rounded muzzle, brown and black glass pupil eyes, and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. Sigi retains her long trailing "F" button and traces of her red ear tag as her Steiff IDs. Her presentation and ID configuration all seem to suggest that Sigi was most likely made in the late 1920's to early 1930's timeframe.

So, about a quarter century of time separates the birthyear of these two cute cubs, with only a few obvious design details differentiating them. This is sort of interesting to think about in terms of product development of other items and technologies over time - imagine fashion styles, car designs, or even smart phones NOT being updated on a yearly, if not monthly, basis? 

Heads up! It's clear that the most striking physical differences between Lilly and Sigi appear in their faces. Steiff's turn of last century bears, like Lilly, (on the left) are beloved for their shoebutton eyes, pointy and shaved muzzles, and distinctly "old fashioned" look, for lack of a better term. Fast forward a few years, Steiff's bears began to take on a more youthful appearance, like Sigi (on the right). By the early 19-teens, most had glass pupil eyes, and by the 1920's they had fuller and rounder faces, usually with unshaven muzzles. 

Another set of metrics to evaluate between these two cute cubs are their body proportions. Of course, Steiff bears are all made by hand, so there will be differences between bears and over years, just by the nature of their production. However, Steiff's earliest bears are well known for their long, slender limbs (as they were originally designed to stand on all fours) and long narrow feet. Due to cultural preferences and company directives, Steiff bears became rounder and more playfully proportioned over time, while keeping the same overall heights in the line for consistency. You can see this trend in Lilly and Sigi's measurements here.  

Lilly's measurements:
  • Legs, top of leg to heel: 11 cm 
  • Arms, top of arm to paw tip: 14 cm
  • Foot size, heel to toe: 5 cm 
  • Head height: 7 cm 
Sigi's measurements:
  • Legs, top of leg to heel 10.5 cm
  • Arms, top of arm to paw tip: 13 cm
  • Foot size, heel to toe: 4.75 cm
  • Head height: 8 cm
Because these bears are relatively small, the differences are somewhat subtle; however, they are much more pronounced on larger examples, especially from about 35 cm onward. 

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed this Steiff special edition of "The Dating Game!"

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Feeling Bullish Over This Fantastic and Early Steiff Comic Strip Dog

It's no laughing matter when it comes to Steiff's early cartoon-based creations!  And this one is a canine comic legend.  After many years of searching, Steiffgal finally welcomed this blue-ribbon buddy into her collection.  And besides a few really senior Teddy bears, he is now amongst the oldest Steiff items in her hug. Please say hello to Tige the Bull Terrier!
Things couldn't be merrier when it comes to this Terrier. Tige measures 17 cm tall standing and 25 cm long from head to fanny, not including his long, skinny tail. He is five ways jointed and made from brown short pile plush. This material feels like an itchy old coat or blanket, with its fibers smooth to the surface instead of vertical to it, like mohair. His broad chest and front two paws are made from traditional white mohair. He has three black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws and floppy, brown felt lined ears. Tige's face comes to life with black shoe button eyes, a prominent black hand embroidered nose and mouth, dimensional jowls, and a white stitch to indicate a tooth at the intersection of his mouth lines. He also has black painted lines all over his face most likely to suggests folds and coloration, as well as a few spots and lines on his body and limbs. This Tige was produced in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1906 through 1917 overall. Tige retains his long trailing "F" button and traces of his white ear tag as his IDs. He left the factory with a collar and leash which unfortunately in this case has been lost to time. He was also available with a muzzle in the place of the collar for a few years.

Steiff went a little bull-istic on this wonderful Bull Terrier design.  In addition to the short pile plush version, he was also produced in the same pattern in brown mohair with a white mohair chest and white front feet.  Like his short pile plush cousin, the mohair Tige was made in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm but appeared in the line from 1907 through 1918.  Both the short pile plush and the mohair versions were also available with tri-colored (white, brown, and black), round, movable glass "eccentric eyes." These eccentric eyes were available only for a handful of years and are rarer than the shoe button eyes, especially on the short pile plush versions.  

Tige of course is modeled on the forever friend of the comic hero Buster Brown.  This American comic strip debuted in 1902 and was penned by Richard F. Outcault.  It starred the earnest prankster Buster Brown, his gal pal Mary Jane, and a host of well meaning society adults. The cartoon proved so popular and was such a commercial success that the characters were soon used to sell shoes, as well as clothing, books, baked goods, and a huge range of other novelties for children. Did you know that girl's "Mary Jane" style shoes with straps are named after the female lead from this beloved comic strip?

For a wonderful overview of early and original Buster Brown comic strips, please click here to view a great document provided by The Smithsonian Libraries. It takes awhile to load, and the cartoons start around page 7, but all of this is totally worth it!

Seeing how popular Bull Terriers were in America - perhaps because of the "Buster Brown effect" - Steiff began producing their own version of this dog breed for national and international distribution.  However, the company did not secure a licence to produce a Buster Brown or Mary Jane felt doll.  Over time, Steiff produced a few special order dolls in the likeness of Buster Brown for customers in London and New York.  It wasn't until 1913 that the company added their versions of Buster Brown and Mary Jane to their standard catalog offering.  Named Willy and Lilly, both were 43 cm and fully 
jointed. They were designed as elegant playthings and as such, each was detailed with elegantly tailored velvet clothing and long, hand-rooted hair. Lilly is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH. However, according to company records, in 1913 Steiff only sold 27 Willy dolls and 26 Lilly dolls, so their time in the line was extremely short.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early Tige Bull Terriers has left you feeling bullish.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This Bitty Steiff Adventure Promises To Be A Boatload of Fun!

Anchors aweigh! It's time for a little road trip with one of the biggest troublemakers of all - Bitty Bub! This weekend, Cambridge, Massachusetts hosted the 53rd annual Head of the Charles Regatta. This fantastic race, the world’s largest two-day rowing event, draws more than 11,000 competitors from all around the globe every year. These top notch athletes compete in 55 different race events over the course of the weekend.  And its no fish tale to report that it takes 1,700 loyal volunteers to help make make this water race possible every year.  Bitty Bub lives just a stone's throw from the Charles River and the main venues of this race.  Come take a look at this event through his mischievous eyes - and be sure to click on any photo to make it larger!

It's hip to be square, especially when it comes to this classic annual fall event. All venues related to the event are situated right outside of Harvard Square, which itself is a huge year-round tourist destination known for the Harvard University campus, a number of world-class museums, fun shopping, and great restaurants. Bitty Bub is pleased as punch to be an ambassador for his beloved home town. 

The Charles River weaves along the edge of Cambridge and is an important part of the city's identity, character, and history.  For a map of the Charles River, and the race course, please click here. During this race, the banks of the Charles overflow with visitors cheering on their favorite teams and rowers. Dogs, strollers, skateboards, and picnics are all key elements of this city-wide celebration.  Here you can see Bitty Bub viewing the races from his luxury box seating. 

Care to see a what a snippet of the race looks like - and sounds like?  Then check out this video for a first hand account (at least from this cub's perspective.) Or, click here!

There are race observers, photographers, and referees along the entire stretch of the river where the rowing occurs. According to the race officials, the course is three miles long and stretches from the start at Boston University's DeWolfe Boathouse near the Charles River Basin to the finish just after the Eliot Bridge and before Northeastern University's Henderson Boathouse. For some reason, Bitty Bub was particularly drawn to this official area. Could it be the red warning cones and "caution tape" calling to his natural inclination towards mischief?

Of course, it would not be a party without some fine refreshment options.  Food trucks, booths, and "pop up" restaurants plant themselves on both sides of the river during race weekend. Around these parts, "chowda" is sort of slang for "chowder," a creamy fish or clam based soup. It is very popular in New England, especially with visitors. Bitty Bub particularly liked this stretch of offerings, and even volunteered to be the official taste tester for the event. And with a mouth like his, who could resist that offer!

It's a bit late for Oktoberfest, but it's always a good time for a cold brew outdoors. Several organizations and breweries set up outside biergartens along the event venue.  Bitty Bub forgot his ID, and could not flirt his way past security.  Given his irresistible good looks, he is usually successful in such attempts. In this case, unfortunately, he could only observe these drinking areas from afar. 

Vendors selling all sorts of services, home goods, clothing, souvenirs, nutritional supplements, and insurance, among other things, set up tents alongside the food and drink areas.  Bitty Bub could not help but make friends with the giant blow up gecko lizard from the Geico Insurance company.  Here they are; within a few moments the lizard had Bitty Bub in the palm of his hand.  When asked what he thought of all of this afterward, Bitty Bub replied, "He looks smaller on TV."

Bitty Bub thought it also would be a boatload of fun to hang out at the US Coast Guard's display on water safety.  Can you spot him amongst the floatation devices, oars, and other aquatic articles?

Prime places to watch the boats go by include the several bridges that span the river. People line up two or three deep to cheer on the boats that zip by every 15 seconds or so.  Here you can see Bitty Bub taking it all in from the Western Avenue Bridge, looking towards Harvard Square and the University. 

It truly was a beautiful and memorable day, and Bitty Bub managed to stay out of the river - as well as out of major mischief, at least for the most part.  He trusts that you enjoyed your virtual visit, and encourages you to come and see this fall New England splendor in person some day!

Steiffgal hopes that today's adventure to the 2017 Head of the Charles Regatta has been a watershed moment for you.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Things Are Spot on With This Delightful Pre-War Steiff Giraffe!

Steiffgal's gonna stick her neck out here and say that you will undoubtedly develop a plush-crush on this week's blog friend. She bought him based on a photo from a sale in Europe, as something about him really called to her. As a fellow collector, she is certain you know that feeling all too well! So how about following a tall order and checking him out?

Things are spot on with this delightful pre-war Steiff giraffe. He is 35 cm tall, unjointed, and made from light orange wool plush. He is hand spotted with darker orange spots. His mane is made from short light orange mohair, while the tip of his tail is made from longer orange mohair. His face comes to life with two pert horns, black button eyes, a painted orange mouth, and ears lined in peach colored felt. This pattern was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1936 through 1943.  

Despite his simple and charming appearance, this delightful example is actually outstanding in two ways. 

First, material matters. Giraffes are a legacy pattern for Steiff. Giraffes were featured in the company's debut 1892 catalog. Wheeled and simple standing ones were available in sizes ranging from 17 cm to 65 cm overall through 1909. This pattern was updated in 1909 and produced in an even greater spectrum of sizes - from 28 to 260 cm through 1942 overall. The larger sizes were designed for riding and were constructed with a stabilizing internal metal frame and detailed with steering and leather saddles. Except for a lone 110 cm example made in 1933, all of these gorgeous giraffes were made of felt.  Given the elegant lines of these animals, as well as their need for precise spot detailing, this makes perfect sense from the manufacturing, economic, and design perspectives. 

So then, what's the big deal with this little guy? This giraffe under discussion today is really the first non-felt version produced as a standard line item for any length of time. And its fabric - wool plush - aligns perfectly with its period of manufacture. Its detailing materials - felt on the ears, and mohair on the mane and tail tip - are used as minimally as possible, yet really add to the giraffe's appeal and sense of quality. Felt and mohair were beginning to become less and less available for toymaking in the mid-1930's due to geo-political reasons. As such, Steiff was very careful with the limited quantities of these upscale fabrics they had available to them. Here on the left is the catalog entry for this giraffe in Steiff's Hauptkatalog (main catalog) dated D 1938/39.

Giraffe's second fantastic feature is a heavy-metal favorite. His "knopf" is the most unusual BRASS colored Steiff button. It is the short trailing "f" style and 6 mm in diameter. This button appeared on some Steiff items from 1933/34 through 1943. This are pretty uncommon; this is only the second item in Steiffgal's collection of vintage Steiff treasures bearing this distinctive trademark. Most of the time, for items produced in the mid 1930's through early 1940's time frame, Steiff used a silver colored short trailing "f" button.  You can see this brass button, with traces of the yellow ear tag, here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this delightful tall drink of water has whetted your appetite for Steiff's late pre-war wool plush rarities. 

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

This Mystery is More Fun Than A Barrel Full Of (Steiff) Monkeys!

Steiffgal goes bananas over interesting Steiff mysteries! So she was delighted to receive an inquiry from a dear friend who asks about a new chimp-champ he recently welcomed into his hug. Would it be possible to figure out the origins of this mystery monkey? Tim from the East Coast writes,

"Hi Steiffgal,

I just wanted to know if this monkey was made by Steiff, and how old he might be. He’s in excellent condition and is fully jointed. He has excelsior stuffing and I believe is centered seamed. He measures 23 cm sitting and 33 cm standing. He has no evidence of a button in ear or a chest tag. To me, he looks more like one that might have been shown in the in older Sortiment volume riding a tricycle.

Best, Tim"

Well, let's dive right into this monkey business. It is Steiffgal's best guess that this primate was not made by Steiff. Steiffgal does think that he was designed after Steiff's beloved Jocko chimp pattern but has subtle design differences. These variances are different enough that they probably avoid patent or pattern infringement, but small enough that the average consumer would not notice them. They include detailing on the the monkey's felt face, ears, hands, and feet. For comparison, let's take a look at these features compared to a known, "standard" Steiff Jocko that measures 25 cm sitting and 32 cm standing.

Face: Steiff's 25 cm sitting Jocko monkeys have open mouths, and their white mohair chins are far more prominent than the one on Tim's monkey. There is also too much "distance" between Tim's monkey's nostrils and his mouth line - these proportions are also not typical Steiff. The Steiff example is pictured here on the left, the "mystery monkey" is on the right.

Ears: Steiff's 25 cm sitting Jockos with felt ears have distinctive "earlobes" which are rounded at the bottom and not sewn into the head. They also have airbrushed highlights and black edging. This mystery monkey's ears are not typically shaped and seamed, and its earlobes appear to be flush to the head. The Steiff example is pictured here on the left, the "mystery monkey" is on the right.

Hands and feet: Steiff's 25 cm sitting Jockos have elegant felt hands and feet, with long, narrow thumbs and big toes. The hands and feet before the digits are graceful and lean, and the digits lie flat and are unstuffed. They are detailed with fingernails. Tim's monkey has "thick" hands, feet, and digits. The Steiff example is pictured here on the left, the "mystery monkey" is on the right.

Steiff's Jockos have a long and wonderful legacy. Jocko was basically "born" in 1909, making him one of the longest running patterns produced by Steiff in their history. It was in this year that Steiff updated a version of their basic 1903 model monkey towards an even more lifelike appearance. This new chimp design featured natural body proportions, as well as detailed felt hands, feet and facial features. One key design element on larger models of the new chimp was in the inclusion of felt eye pockets. This meant that his glass pupil eyes were surrounded by raised felt eyelids; they were not simply sewn onto his face as before. Additionally, larger sized chimps also sported a white mohair chin. The updated pattern was produced in 15 sizes, ranging from 10 to 90 cm, at various times from 1909 through 1943. Post war, Jocko was one of the very first items produced; this model appeared in the line continuously again from 1948 through the 1990's.  Here on the left you can see a collection of post-war Jockos in various sizes. 

Given his longevity, actually identifying the production date of a Jocko sans a button or other ID is quite hard. This is because his basic pattern really didn't change over about eight decades. Some collectors think the older, prewar models have a more "soulful" look, but that is more subjective than objective. A more objective metric would have to be an example's eyes, with glass eyes found on "earlier" Jockos and plastic eyes on "later" Jockos.  Here on the left, you can see three "earlier" Jockos, dating from the mid-1930's through around 1950. 

One final note on early Steiff Jocko monkeys. In reality, Steiffgal finds chimps to be one of the absolute hardest animals to identify if they are not Steiff. Elephants are a close second! A version of a brown mohair monkey with felt features was produced by practically every fine European plush company from the 19-teens onward, given how popular monkeys are/were. These happy primates appealed to both boys and girls as playthings, and to adults as companions as well as home decorative items. As such, when you are looking to identity an unbranded mohair "mystery monkey," always especially study the felt areas of the piece, usually the face, ears, hands, and feet. These are the few areas that toy companies could "tweak" to differentiate their products from Steiff's world-class offerings. It is Steiffgal's best guess that Tim's monkey is from the c. 1920's or 1930's, and was produced in Europe, but can't get more specific than that.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Jockos and their lookalike buddies has not thrown a monkey wrench into your collecting endeavors.  

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

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