Friday, August 11, 2017

A Vintage Steiff Find of Possibly Titanic Proportions

Hey, what's black and white and read all over? Hopefully this post on this remarkable Steiff rabbit! Steiffgal found this bouncing beauty in Orlando, Florida in the salesroom of the 2017 United Federation of Doll Clubs annual convention. Here's what makes him so outstanding from the design and historical perspectives.

This honey-bunny is called Steiff's Dutch rabbit. He stands 28 cm tall (not including his ears) and is made from black and white mohair. He has early Steiff rabbit proportions, including a chunky torso and limbs. His pattern is relatively basic and more playful than realistic. He is fully jointed, meaning his head, arms, legs, and ears can be rotated 360 degrees. His face comes to life with pink and red glass pupil eyes and a very simple pink hand embroidered nose and mouth. This pattern was produced in white, brown and white, and black and white overall from 1907 through 1916. The black and white version was produced overall from 1912 to 1916, with the 28 cm version appearing only in 1912.

There are three key details about this rabbit that make him the ultimate Dutch treat.

The first is his eyes. They are hand blown, red and pink glass pupil style eyes. You can see tiny air bubbles in the glass if you look at them closely under a loop. Steiff used these eyes on a number of rabbits from the c. 1907 through 1943 time frame. Glass eyes started appearing on a wide scale on Steiff items around 1908, so these really are an early and elegant example of this detailing. It is also interesting to note that the example of this black and white rabbit pictured in the Steiff Sortiment book has black eyes backed in red felt. But it is not unusual for Steiff to produce the same item with slightly different features, and that is probably the case here. But more on this in a bit.

The second is his jointing. This bunny really gets around - pun intended. He is fully jointed, which is not terribly unusual. However, the fact that each of his ears can be rotated in a full circle is quite rare. This is different than having the ears poseable because they are lined in metal wires. As early as 1904, Steiff started to experiment with a number of designs that really took advantage of emerging joint movement technologies. In some cases, these animals were six or even seven ways jointed. Franz Steiff was very interested in creating and patenting a system that would help to replicate the natural movement of an animal's ear. After several years of trial and error, he finally designed such a specialized joint and received a US patent for it on September 8, 1908. Over time, Steiff used this technology on items including cats, squirrels, and this rabbit pattern.

Finally, it is key to mention this rabbit's material and coloring. He is made in part from black mohair. Steiff made only a handful of items from or with black mohair at the early turn of last century; these included a crow, a goat, a few dogs, and black mohair patches on their early guinea pig and rabbit patterns. The company also introduced a black mohair Teddy bear in the early 1900's but it was not commercially successful. Early black mohair items really are few and far between, and seldom if ever seen on the secondary market. 

The black and white version of this rabbit debuted in 1912. This is the same year that the Titanic disaster struck, and Steiff responded by producing black mohair "Mourning Bears" with red felt backed eyes. An example of Steiff's Mourning Bear is pictured above on the left; the photo is from James D. Julia. These black bears from 1912 are considered the "holy grail" for many Steiff collectors. Although the Holland rabbit under discussion here has "albino" style glass eyes, the one pictured in the Sortiment has the same red-backed eye detailing as the company's Mourning Bears of the identical period. Given the timing of all of this, it is possible that the company's black and white mohair Holland rabbits from 1912 were made from the same lots of black mohair as the Mourning Bears, and that perhaps the red felt backed eyes that appear on some examples are a nod to this tragedy as well. It certainly is a mystery of Titanic proportions!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's black and white Holland rabbit has been a hop, skip, and a jump for you.

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

This Unusual and Early Steiff Doll is Cut From a Different Cloth

For Steiffgal, the best week of the year is almost upon us. That is because she's off to Orlando, FL to attend the United Federation of Doll Clubs annual national gathering in just a few days. This world-class event celebrates dolls and playthings from every era, is a fantastic opportunity to meet new collector friends and visit with old ones, learn about everything A to Z about dolls, and of course, pick up a few new collection treasures! If you are not a member of UFDC, public day will be held on Friday, August 4th; if you are a member and are attending, Steiffgal hopes to meet you there!

To honor the celebration of all things dolls, Steiffgal would like to introduce you to a very interesting Steiff little child who recently jointed her hug.

This sweet boy is everything snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Please say hello to Rudi (at least that's what his name is now). Rudi is 35 cm, fully jointed, and truly looks like a sweet schoolboy. His face comes to life with striking blue and black glass pupil eyes, a little nose, pouty mouth, and a brown inset mohair wig. His mohair hair has faded to silvery blond over time, but the brown cotton backing has remained quite dark. Collectors see this sometimes with brown mohair bears which fade over time and have a distinctly "silvery" look to them.

Rudi is dressed to the nines. His clothing is all original to him, and consists of a white cotton shirt with a drawstring neckline, black and blue cotton onesie, blue cotton shirt, and a tan linen apron. The clothing is beautifully made, with fine tiny stitches and hooks and snaps. His shoes are made from black felt, and his blue and white stripe socks tie his entire outfit together handsomely. It is Steiffgal's best guess that he started out life as Steiff's "Erich" - who was made in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1912 to 1927.

Of course, it is never polite to ask someone their age. But the time frame 1912 to 1927 is pretty broad. Rudi is pretty private, but a few of his secrets are very helpful in better determining his "birthday." When Steiffgal purchased Rudi, she adopted him purely for his charming presentation and size. Like all new collection acquisitions, Rudi was given a close inspection. It turns out he has a pretty remarkable body composition which is not obvious from just pictures. For the most part, Steiff's felt center seamed dolls are truly that - made of felt from head to toe. But, occasionally collectors find Steiff dolls made from alternative materials, and those are generally datable to "hard times."

Rudi is cut from a different cloth - literally. His face and well formed fingered hands are made from felt, his shapely limbs are made from fine flesh colored linen, and his simple core body trunk is made from poor quality linen that has a blue or grey tint to it. Steiff detailed this little boy with the best fabrics they had on hand at the time of his production - keeping the most visible parts of his body as aesthetically pleasing as possible. His construction, along with his teeny tiny trailing "F" button, suggest that he was produced at a particularly challenging time during or just after WWI, when the company's access to higher quality fabrics, including felt, was severely sanctioned. As such, Steiffgal suspects he was made around 1915 or 1916. 

So does any of this make any material difference? Yes, fabrics are one way to get an idea of approximate production when it comes to Steiff's early doll production. Steiffgal has a number of other Steiff cloth dolls in her collection from the first quarter of the 20th century; most are all felt, one has a felt face and limbs and a linen body. The all felt ones were made in "good times" (or relatively good times) while those with linen bodies and/or limbs suggest otherwise. Steiffgal also has seen a Steiff cloth Puck Gnome made with a linen face, and suspects he is an extreme "wartime production" example. He is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.  Puck appeared in the Steiff line in 20, 30, and 40 cm from 1914 to 1943 and is one of the company's most charming prewar doll designs (in Steiffgal's humble opinion.)

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's early cloth dolls can be woven into the fabric of your life!

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Steiff's Tiniest Teddies Are A Big Deal Indeed!

It's funny with Steiff - in many cases, the smaller an item is, the more appeal it seems to have!  Almost every collector would have to agree that this is especially true when it comes to the company's smallest Teddy bears.  These teeny-tiny treasures are like potato chips (or fill in your most favorite goodie here) and you can't have just one - or two - or three!  Steiffgal particularly loves Steiff's 10 cm and smaller bears, as they take up very little space to display, look great posed with other Steiff animals and dolls, and usually have very distinctive - and endearing - expressions.  Here are a few uber-favorite petite treats from her collection and the stories behind them.

Face it, you can't resist this adorable cub either!  This little fellow is called Brimfield, because he was purchased at the Brimfield Antique Fair in Brimfield, MA a few years ago.  He is 10 cm, fully jointed, and made from white mohair.  His nose and mouth are hand embroidered in brown, and his eyes are tiny black buttons.  He does not have any IDs, but is suspected to have a birth date in the 1960's due to his chunkier proportions.   His face truly is as presented - a little crooked - or perhaps a little pensive, depending on what's on his mind.  

Brimfield's pachyderm pal is also made by Steiff.  He is an almost flat, printed blue elephant made out of velour.  He is identical on both sides, and wears a great red headdress and matching blanket.  He measures only 5 cm long and 4 cm tall and has his original Steiff tag, but no button.  This elephant started out life with two other siblings as Steiff's Elephant Pram Toy, a hanging plaything for a baby's stroller or crib.  Steiff's Elephant Pram Toy was made from 1982 through 1985; the company also made a similar themed toy made from printed ducks in the same time frame.

You don't need a Mensa IQ to recognize this next fine fellow as pure genius! Here we have Smarty Pants, named for his big, big head. Steiffgal purchased SP at auction; he was one of several fine treasures in the lot. SP is 10 cm, fully jointed, and made from gold colored mohair. His nose and mouth are hand embroidered in black, and his eyes are tiny black buttons. He has all of his IDs, including his red imprinted chest tag, raised script button, and early and fully legible ear tag reading 5310, dating him to the very early 1950's. He is sort of perfect in every quirky way.

SP likes to horse around with a little wooden rocking pony from F.A.O. Schwarz. The toy itself is beautifully detailed and finished with high gloss paints and stains. It measures about 7 cm long and 7 cm tall. One side reads "100 yrs in Toys 1862-1962" and the other side has the famous F.A.O. Schwarz bell logo printed in gold. The bottom has the word "Germany" printed in black letters. This piece was produced for the toy retailer in honor of the company's centennial, and probably sold through F.A.O.'s world-famous dollhouse department.  

Oh baby! Collectors everywhere will recognize this pouty pal as an early Steiff Teddy Baby. Steiffgal purchased him many years ago on eBay for a song. This Ted is 9 cm tall and fully jointed. His feet and muzzle are made from blond velvet and his body, limbs, and head are made from blond mohair. He has a black hand stitched nose and mouth, and tiny black and brown glass pupil eyes. He retains bits and pieces of his red ear tag and his long trailing "F" style button - dating him in the late 1920's or early 1930's. He has a distinctly old fashioned look to him; he does more closely resemble an older gentleman than a baby.

Bird's the word with Teddy Baby's fine feathered friend. This bitty bird is Steiff's 4 cm woolen miniature Finch bird. He is made from red, black, white, brown, and black Nomotta wool. His beak is made from grey felt and his tail feathers are made from brown felt. He stands upon two darling, bronze colored metal legs and feet.  Finch retains his ankle bracelet style button and tag. This pattern was produced prewar in 4 and 8 cm from 1933 to 1943 overall. This particular Finch was made from 1937 through 1943.

Now its time to hold everything and check out these two adorable pre-war brothers. Isn't it nice how well they play together? Both are 10 cm, fully jointed, and have black bead eyes. The one on the left, Honey Baby, is made from a dark gold colored mohair and has a black nose and mouth. Pip, on the right, is made from white mohair and has a brown nose and mouth. Both were purchased at auctions, several years apart. Honey Baby and Pip retain their long trailing "F" buttons as their Steiff ID. Given their general appearance and proportions, Honey Baby is probably from the 1920's or early 1930's; Pip may date from the 19-teens onward.  

Despite their age difference, these two cubs always seem to have a ball between the two of them! Their bitty ball is made by Steiff and was purchased in the Steiff Sommer sales tent in Giengen a few years ago. It is made from tan and brown mohair and measures all of 2.5 cm in diameter. It was probably manufactured in the last 5 to 10 years as an accessory for another modern Steiff edition. 

Our last miniature highlight never leaves home without a hair out of place. That's because she doesn't have even one left on her supermodel skinny body! Here we have the totally bald yet totally terrific Mouse. Steiffgal adopted Mouse from an estate maybe a decade ago. She is 9 cm tall and fully jointed. She probably was made from white mohair, given her brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. She has particularly petite proportions, as well as the general appearance of Steiff's earliest Teds. Given her long trailing "F" button, she could date as early as 1912.  

If you think Mouse is "minnie," please consider her constant cat companion, Donna. This pretty kitty is only 2.5 cm tall and is made from printed cotton fabric.  Her tiny body is stuffed with cotton, and she wears a perfectly to scale blue ribbon and gold heart pendant. Although Donna was not made by Steiff, she has all the quality and integrity of a Steiff creation. Donna was given to Steiffgal by a good friend who specializes in making historically accurate miniature dollhouse furniture and accessories. 

Steiffgal hopes this miniature bear discussion has warmed your heart in a gigantic way.

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Cattle Battle Is On With Steiff's Fantastic Vintage Oxen

Ok, it's time to get to work! But don't worry, this task is a labor of love. Let's take a look at an interesting Steiff pattern that really pulls its weight when it comes to its interesting design and history. Without further ado, please say hello to Steiff's Oxy Oxen!

The cattle-battle is on with this truly novel Steiff collectible. Oxy is standing and unjointed. His body is made mostly from tan mohair with great brown airbrush highlights and stripes on his back, legs, and face. His horns, very prominent nose, and dewlap are made from tan velvet. His face comes to life with pert mohair ears and black and white style google eyes. This pattern was made in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1953-1957. The smallest version has a cord tail, the medium version has a velvet tail tipped in mohair, and the largest version has a mohair tail tipped in mohair. The largest version also has a long mohair forehead area. This Oxy pattern is quite endearing - and also quite interesting, given his mix of fabrics and whimsical presentation.

Oxen are traditional laboring animals, and are usually castrated adult male cattle. However, sometimes females and intact males are given jobs to do as well. Research suggests that oxen were first harnessed and put to work around 4000 BC. Oxen are a legacy pattern for Steiff. They first appeared in the line in 1897 made from spotted white felt and on wheels. The following year they debuted freestanding in 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm. By 1903 they were also being produced in velvet. Although Steiff started significantly integrating mohair materials into their product design and development around 1903, it was not until 1909 that the company produced their first mohair ox. This pattern was made from patched tan and reddish brown mohair and appeared on wheels; it was produced overall in 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 80 cm through 1943. An example of Steiff's mohair ox on wheels from the 1920's is shown here on the left; it was sold in 2015 at James D. Julia for $830. Steiff's freestanding mohair ox appeared in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1929 through 1943 overall.

But there's even more to this cattle call. You cannot help but notice that Steiff's postwar Oxy pattern has a number of design and material similarities with another, and even rarer, special edition. This is the company's Texas Longhorn, which was produced as an exclusive for the upscale US toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz. This treasure, made in 1960 only, is considered by many enthusiasts to be one of the most collectible Steiff and F.A.O. Schwarz collaborations of all times.

Steiff's Texas Longhorns usually causes a stampede when one appears on the secondary market. This big boy is 25 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from mohair. His detailing is quite distinctive and includes a velvet dewlap extending from his neck to his lower chest, googly black-and-white eyes, and an open, peach felt lined mouth. Only a handful of Texas Longhorns were made. Some had prominent faux leather horns, while others had rubber horns. These rubber horns are similar to those seen on the company's Yuku Pronghorn Antelope, which appeared in the line 22 and 35 cm from 1962 to 1963.   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Oxy has not been heavy lifting for you.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

It's A Dream Come True With This Amazing And Adorable Steiff Pajama Bag

Hold everything! Well, that's exactly what this rarity was designed to do.  Check out this Steiff pajama bag designed after one of the company's most beloved dog patterns of the time. Steiffgal is certain you'll be experiencing puppy love at first sight!

This darling doggie has a great bedside manner. She is 60 cm (measured from the tip of her nose to her toes) long, lying, unjointed, and made from black and white mohair. Her head and the tips of each of her paws are softly stuffed. She has dramatic and floppy ears made from extra long mohair. Her back paw pads are made from short white mohair that has been stenciled with puppy-footprints on them. Her face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes backed in white felt; a black, hand-embroidered nose; floppy jowls; and an open, pink velvet lined mouth. Her pert tail is surrounded by a black mohair patch. Her belly is soft and unstuffed, and hollow like a bag. It is lined is teal blue silk, and closes with a 28 cm metal zipper. She retains original red silk ribbon and her illegible yellow ear tag and raised script button as her IDs. 

This functional friends refuses to unzip the answers to a few mysteries about her. A very similar item, called Zipper Cockie, appears in Pfeiffer's Sortiment book and a pristine, like new example was sold by Teddy Dorado as part of that company's summer auction in 2014. That auction highlight is pictured here on the left and the photo is from Teddy Dorado. The article number on the Teddy Dorado version is identical to that listed in the Sortiment book - 0330,06 - and has relatively aligning measurements. The zipper on those examples is at the crotch of the animal, and the bag appears to be lined in simple cotton fabric. This standard line Zipper Cockie pajama bag was produced in 30 cm in 1964 only. Steiffgal's version has its zipper down the belly of the dog, and the lining bag is made from silk. Steiffgal's version is also proportionally larger overall than the Teddy Dorado and Sortiment examples, and has a much more detailed mouth structure.

So just who is this kooky Cockie? Clearly, her pattern is designed after Steiff's beloved black and white Cockie Cocker Spaniel. Black and white Cockie was produced lying, standing, a music box, a tail-turns-head version, and as a display piece in the 1955 - 1976 overall timeframe. A 12 cm black and white Cockie from 1960 - 1976 is pictured here on the left. 

Now let's try and figure out the origins of this mysterious mutt. Steiffgal adopted this larger Cockie pajama bag from its original owner, who received it as a special gift from F.A.O. Schwarz as a child. In the 1950's through 1970's, Steiff often made "over the top" exclusives for F.A.O. Schwarz based on standard line designs - for example, a series of Dalmatians based on the Dally design, a grey alpaca Poodle based on the Snobby design, and a standing, open mouthed Beagle based on the Biggie design. Steiff produced another fantastic pajama bag as an exclusive for F.A.O. Schwarz from 1962 - 1972, a walrus which also has a zipper down its belly and a silk lined interior. All of this converges on the probability that this elaborately constructed Cocker Spaniel pajama bag may indeed have been produced in a very small edition size for F.A.O. Schwarz in the early to mid-1960's, and perhaps is undocumented. But only she knows for sure - and she's too busy counting sheep right now to talk.

Steiffgal hopes this pajama bag discussion has given you a good case of bed-head!

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

Three Cheers For Steiff's Red, White, And Blue Teddy Bears!

Happy July 4th to friends and fellow collectors in the United States. Steiffgal hopes your holiday is full of colorful fireworks, yummy cookouts, fun gatherings, and of course, beers - or in this case, bears! To celebrate this beloved and much anticipated day of tradition, Steiffgal thought it might be fun to check out the story behind three "patriotic" Teds from her hug - a red one, a white one, and a (sort of) blue one. So without further ado, please meet Pocket Alphonso, George, and Penelope.

Size defies when it comes to Pocket Alfonzo, our "red" representative. He is 15 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from bright red mohair backed in apricot colored fabric. His paw pads are tan felt, and he has a black hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws. His face comes to life with black button eyes and a prominent, trimmed muzzle. His head and limbs are softly stuffed with polyfill while his belly is stuffed with metal pellets, giving him a hefty, robust feeling when you hold him. Like the original and legendary Alfonzo, he wears a white trimmed, light orange Cossack outfit. This happy handful was made in 2008 in an edition size of 1908 for Teddy Bears of Whitney in the UK.

It's always party time when Pocket Alfonzo appears - really! A dear friend  - you know who you are - gave Steiffgal this petite treat as a birthday present a few years ago. Steiffgal and pal met up in New York City for a trade event that happened to be at the same time as her special day. The bear came wrapped up in a spectacularly dolled-up box, complete with colorful tissue and a bow large enough to decorate the roof of a car! Apparently the giver took the bear to a special store famous for its over the top wrapping. Boy, was it noticed AND so appreciated. Steiffgal will never forget this gift or its breathtaking presentation.  

By George, Steiffgal is certain you will enjoy this next introduction. Now please say hello to this early white Teddy baby, who just happens to be named George - but more on that later. He is 43 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from long, white mohair which has mellowed to a vanilla color over time. His muzzle and feet-tops are made from white mohair, which has also darkened a touch. Typical to his pattern, George has an open, felt lined mouth; flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing; downturned paws; and a distinctly, childlike appearance. His irresistible face comes to life with oversized brown and black pupil eyes and a brown, hand embroidered nose and mouth. George retains his large trailing "F" button and traces of his red ear tag, dating his production to the c.1929-35 time frame.

George has a capital history. Steiffgal purchased George in the saleroom associated with the 2016 United Federation of Doll Clubs national event in Washington, DC. She adopted him from her friend and colleague John Port, an expert dealer in antique bears and toys. George was sitting in John's booth with a few other bear buddies. George's fantastic size, charming expression, and wonderful, vintage condition literally called to Steiffgal across the pavilion floor like a siren song - but in the best way possible. Visiting John's well stocked booth at the UFDC event is one of Steiffgal's favorite shopping experiences of the year, and she looks forward to seeing what goodies he has on offer at the upcoming 2017 event in Orlando. And yes, George is named after George Washington, in a nod to his presidential status among Teddy babies, as well as the location where Steiffgal adopted him. 

This final colorful cub just might turn your brown eyes blue! Here we have Penelope, a 25 cm tall Teddy baby doll and our blue representative today. She is standing and head jointed. Her arms fall loosely at her sides, and her legs are solid and rigid. Her body is made from a flesh colored velvet like material. Her head, hands, and the tops of her feet are made from brown mohair. Her feet are flat and lined in cardboard allowing her to stand; the bottoms are made from tan linen. Penelope's head is in the typical Teddy baby style with a tan inset muzzle; an open, felt lined mouth; and oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes. She retains her raised script button-in-ear and traces of her US Zone tag sewn into the seam of her leg. Penelope was probably born in the c. 1950-52 time frame, given her configuration of IDs and materials. 

This blue-belle did not start out life this way. Like George, Steiffgal found Penelope in the showroom of the 2016 UFDC national event in Washington, DC.  However, Penelope was partially hiding, upside down, and in the bottom of a pile of vintage toys in another sales booth. Steiffgal saw her two legs sticking up in the air from across the aisle, and went over to investigate. And there she was! However, she was wearing a poorly fitting and unflattering, unoriginal outfit that did nothing to bring out her natural beauty and playfulness. Never judge a book by its cover! Steiffgal immediately adopted Penelope, and then went on a mission to find her the perfect outfit. Luckily, there were several dealers specializing in vintage doll clothes also in the showroom. Steiffgal located a few options for Penelope, but quickly realized a combination of dark blue velvet pants, a light blue Peter Pan collar shirt, and a blue and white striped apron suited her to a T.  Don't you agree?

Steiffgal hopes this red, white, and blue bear discussion has put you in colorful - and festive - state of mind. Happy birthday, America!

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Unearthing A Few Hidden Gems From The July, 2017 Steiff Sommer Auction

Wouldn't it be nice to stumble upon an overflowing treasure chest of unusual vintage Steiff treasures? And even better, wouldn't it be divine if they were available to add to your collection? Such is the case with Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's upcoming Steiff Special Auction to be held on July 1st, 2017 in Giengen, Germany as part of Steiff's annual summer celebration. It's worth checking out the catalog, even if just to dream big. You can find it online here. A few outstanding "hidden gem" lots amongst the offerings really caught Steiffgal's eye. Here are three that truly make her heart skip a beat - or two!

This first pick will have you singing the blues - in the best way possible. This is lot #1704, a blue tipped circus elephant with a starting bid of 650 euro. It is cataloged as:

"Circus elephant, mohair plush, grey/blue flamed, jointed, with neck mechanism and snap joints, velvet paws with toes, with felt down below of the snout and also at the point of the trunk, blue glass eyes, 32 cm, there is no snap mechanism in the snout, the elephant was X-rayed at Steiff, many parts of the mechanism are identical to the subsequent serial model, this is a test version, it is known that a similar elephant was in possession of the family Steiff (Klara Steiff, great second cousin Magarete Steiff) and a few years before it returned to the Steiff-archive, after that was a replica produced with red flamed mohair, in Giengen it was common practice that this test models were presented to relatives of employees or on the occasion of special events, version without tusks, small places with pelt loss, this version isn't listed in the Pfeiffer catalog."

And just what makes this petite pachyderm so unforgettable? It is always thrilling to learn of one of a kind Steiff treasures, and it is clear to see where this particular model fits in with the company's line of "snap" models. These high end novelties had spring joints and were designed to have movement and snap back and forth into different playful positions. Snap jointing could appear on an item's hands, feet, legs, and mouth. Original Steiff snap style items are all extremely rare to begin with, so to find a sample or prototype of one is really extraordinary. Standard line models produced included a Snap Dicky, a Snap Circus Bear, this general style of Snap Elephant, and a little known doll with snap jointing in her legs, enabling her to stand or sit easily. All of these variations were produced in the 1930's.

The blue mohair color of this sample is also very interesting. Steiffgal can only think of a handful of standard line prewar Steiff mohair items were produced in blue - including a few novelty rabbits and dogs. It is possible that this item was not produced in blue was because blue mohair was expensive, challenging to work with, or just not available on a commercial scale. 

Rolling right along, now let's have a go at lot #1583. This is a Steiff Record orang-utang, No. 320, 1929 - 1933, with a starting bid of 750 euro. It is cataloged as:

"Record orang-utang, No. 320, 1929 - 1933, mohair, felt face, glass eyes, 18 cm, with button, felt is except of minimally places in face and a small place at one hand in good condition, good mohair, the color on the wheels is worn, rare, voice is faulty."

This monkey on the go is the wheel-deal indeed. A few details about this item are certain to send collectors on a joy ride. The first, of course, is his form.  Orangutangs are extremely rare in the early Steiff line. The most familiar pre-war version is the company's playful and very appealing Mimocculo. This great pattern was produced in 11 sizes ranging from 8 to 50 cm from 1930 through 1936 overall. The middle and larger sizes featured a most unusual "pull the ear and the eyeballs move" feature. In 2010, a 13.5 cm example sold for close to $10,000 at an auction at Christies in London.  

The second is the fact that this first class example rides upon a four wheeled "Irish Mail Cart." This means that the carriage appears to be propelled by the rider pumping a handlebar back and forth with their arms. These "record" style animals on carts were introduced in 1912 and were an immediate hit. Bears, rabbits, monkeys, felt novelty dolls, and even Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse appeared on these rolling carts. It is easy to understand why early items on working carriages seem to always drive auction bidders into fifth gear! 

And finally, let's pay full attention to lot #1551, a felt Steiff Hungarian soldier doll. His opening bid is 360 euro, and he is cataloged as:

"Caricature figure, Hungarian, produced between 1912 - 1917, felt, jointed, national costume, item description "Ung 50 Völkertypen", shoe button eyes, traditional costume and also head with holes in the felt, original leather shoes with tassels, nailed shoes, c. 50 cm, without hat, left arm is mended and also a small red felt insert, otherwise good condition, rare."

This fine example has uniform appeal, especially among the small army of Steiff military doll enthusiasts. Steiff’s uniformed dolls were a significant percentage of the company’s line and business in the early part of the 20th century. All of these dolls had most or all of their clothing integral to their bodies and were five ways jointed; some 50 cm and larger also had jointed knees. In a span of about 20 years, Steiff produced examples representing German, Scottish, Moroccan, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, American, Belgian, French, Italian, Hungarian, and Austrian armed forces, among others. All were known for their well tailored and authentic clothing, extraordinary to-scale accessories, and, of course, their perfect posture. Check out this soldier's fantastic jacket buttons and embroidery as well as the tiny tassels on his well constructed boots! Steiff made over 100 distinctly designed military dolls over time; most of these patterns were made in two or three sizes each. In tribute to some countries, like Germany, England, and the United States, Steiff produced dolls at numerous ranks and in various uniform types. 

Steiffgal hopes this auction preview tour has been a highlight of your day!  And good luck if you do bid on any of the sale's fantastic treasures!

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cataloging Steiff's Display Rarities From The Mid 1960's

A great way to learn more about vintage button-in-ear rarities is to go to the source - literally! Steiff has always been consistent in producing sales materials, catalogs, and literature about their product line over time, and these original documents are like miniature time capsules of information for collectors. Steiffgal recently purchased a specialty catalog from 1967 which features the company's vast range of lifesized animals produced 50 years ago. The cover, which has a family of display orangutans, is shown here on the left. These include a 130 cm or 52 inch papa, a 120 cm or 48 inch mama, and a 40 cm or 16 inch baby. Let's take a peek inside this great reference and see what it has to say!

The catalog cover itself measures about 23 cm wide and 17 cm tall and is designed like a binder, with metal rings holding the hole-punched sheets in place. The introduction page - which is written in German, French, and English - reads: "Besides the famous toy animals we also manufacture animals in natural until twice natural size. They are most popular for shop windows and stores to draw the attention of the buyers of our mark. Those animals are made of the same good mohair, plush, or nylon  and have a metal frame. If a person wants to sit on them, it would be better to add a metal ring which unites the four legs. This ring must be paid extra.

The catalog is beautifully illustrated with full color photography throughout. The pages are printed single sided, with blank backs. The catalog contains mostly "beauty shots" of the company's display line, but also has a few pages in the front which offer sales and shelving items, including price tags, lighting, signage, and merchandisers. Perhaps the most interesting page is shown here on the left. Check out the range of display pieces for smaller items, including what looks like green metal "cots" for the company's sleeping style cosy items. Steiffgal has never seen these in real life, have you?

Now let's make a big deal over some display animal highlights. The catalog has over 80 individual pages featuring these lifesized lovelies, so its difficult to pick out just a few. Several species, like elephants and the big jungle cats, were well represented with several models of each on offer. Here are some examples that really caught Steiffgal's eye - for their rarity, beauty, or just plain goofiness. (You can click on all the photos to make them bigger and read the catalog page details.)

It's never too early to start putting together your Christmas wish list! And Steiffgal bets just about every vintage Steiff collector would love to find this almost lifesized Santa Claus doll under their holiday tree! Santa stands 150 cm or 60 inches tall and is based on the company's beloved standard line postwar rubber faced Santa doll, who was produced in 13, 18, and 31 cm from 1953 to 1963 overall. Steiffgal has only seen one example of this display sized man in red firsthand - he's as rare as his namesake!

There's not a hare out of place when it comes to this next display highlight. This great mohair pattern looks to be for the most part a prehistoric proportioned Manni rabbit, given his begging position and coloring - with a little bit of Niki rabbit's facial detailing in the mix for good measure. And given that Steiff traditionally does not include ear length when measuring rabbits, this honey bunny is even larger than his 80 cm or 31-1/2 inch "official" size. Just for comparison, check out the teeny tiny Perri squirrel in the photo - he's probably only 12 or 17 cm! 

Now let's cool things down a bit with this jolly sitting polar bear. His body position is quite distinctive - he seems to be squatting on his bent legs. He must be carefully balanced, given the size and scale of his portly midriff. Another picture of him that Steiffgal has seen shows a metal rod base stand mounted strategically on his "bare bottom," probably to help keep him upright. This 180 cm or 72 inch perky polar bear has really prominent rubber claws, faux suede pads, and a million dollar smile. 

This busy pair only want to be your beasts of burden. The display catalog features two donkey designs, but Steiffgal thought this dralon, open-mouthed pattern was a bit more interesting than the other, given its seldom seen accessories. Steiff does a great job with farm animals, and their donkeys have broad and universal appeal. Sometimes they are produced "au naturel," while other models feature brindles and/or saddles. The company's early "Democratic" donkey mascot don a blue felt blanket. Whatever your political affiliation, it's very easy to get carried away over these 120 cm or 48 inch and 90 cm or 35 inch Steiff donkeys adorned with functional, hand-woven raffia baskets!

No need to trash-talk over this fantastic, lifesized black and white mohair Steiff Cockie Cocker Spaniel. It is interesting to note that Steiff's mid to late 20th century sitting black and white Cockers are in the form of rare novelties, including a tail turns head model and a musical version. There is no "standard line" postwar black and white sitting Cocker. So this guy must be pretty special! This catalog page illustration has it all - a great and seldom seen 80 cm or 32 inch display rarity, an authentic situation all dog owners can relate to, and little Steiff friends hidden in the mess.  

Anyone care to dance? It's hard to resist these two humongous and utterly charming mohair Zotty bears. Clearly these big bruins are based on the company's legacy mohair Zotty Teddy bear pattern, which appeared in the line from 1951 through 1978 in sizes ranging from 17 to  100 cm. These cavorting cubs seem to be having the time of their lives. Could that have something to do with the large beer keg and two porcelain steins in the background? These display items measure 80 cm or 35 inches and 100 cm or 40 inches, respectively. 

Bird's the word with this final display pick. Here we have two royal looking Crown Crane birds, measuring in at 140 cm or 56 inches each. Both are standing, unjointed, and elaborately detailed in various colors and lengths of mohair materials. They balance elegantly on metal framed legs that are covered in felt and realistically airbrushed. Steiffgal has seen and handled a number of Steiff display birds from this period, including a flamingo and an ostrich, (both also featured in this catalog) but never the company's cranes. It is her strongest suspicion that like the flamingo and the ostrich, these cranes were designed with removable heads and necks for ease of packing, shipping, and storage. 

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on Steiff's 1960-era display items larger than life.

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