Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Exceptional and Early Steiff Bear Is Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice!

Well, hello handsome! Yes, it's OK to stare... he's used to it! This week's blog special guest is not a Hollywood hunk, although with some Steiff collectors, his good looks are on par with many of the leading men of the big and little silver screens! Steiffgal recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a magnificent and early Steiff bear, and wanted to share his perfect and period (and irresistible) detailing with you. 

This sweet and all original cub is sugar and spice and everything nice! He is fully jointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and measures 16 inches tall standing and 11 inches tall sitting. His felt pads are tan and he has four hand-embroidered claws on each paw. You can't help but notice his unusual color, which is a magnificent cinnamon hue. Although it is challenging to absolutely capture almost any color on film and on screen, his eye-catching color really does match the deep orange-brown glow of a cinnamon stick!

Ted's proportions make him one sexy senior citizen. Steiff's early bears have a relatively consistent scale. As such, its no numbers game to determine if a vintage Teddy bear may have been manufactured by Steiff many years ago. For the most part, Steiff’s early 1900’s bears have torsos (measured from neck to crotch) that are twice as long as their heads (measured from crown of head to neck.) This bear's torso and head measure 8" and 4", respectively. Steiff's bears from this era have relatively large feet, in a ratio of 1:5 to the bear’s height, measured standing. This bear stands 16 inches tall, and his feet, measured heel to toe, are c. 3-1/4" long. And these bears have extra long limbs, with their arms extending to their "knees” when standing. And why is this? Because they were originally designed to stand on all fours, as illustrated in the photo to the left. This Cinny seems to fits the mold to a "T" here!

Let's face it, you can't help but fall in love with this bear's handsome expression. His face comes to life with several features that have captured collector's hearts for over a century. His black wooden shoe button eyes, faded black nose and mouth stitching, and trimmed muzzle area are delightful and so typical to Steiff. And heading off any doubt about his authenticity, this bear also retains his still shiny "trailing F" style button and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. It is interesting to note that his mohair coloring inside his ears, as well around other areas "where the sun don't shine" is an even more vibrant cinnamon color. This is likely because these places were protected from any light or other environmental conditions that trigger fading.

Although it is impolite to ask about age, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this terrific Ted was born in the 1908-1910 time frame. Here's why. From his provenance, it is known that he was given to a little girl who was born in 1903. Ted's classic detailing, including his curved wrists, pronounced back hump, and long thin feet with narrow ankles are clearly early 20th century. His black shoe button eyes, for the most part, date him no later than 1910 or so. His button and ear tag are also completely consistent with this dating. Ted's prominent, hand-sewn chest seam also hides a clue to his date of manufacture. He has a non-working growler in his torso; these were invented by Margarete Steiff's nephew Paul Steiff and debuted in the company's bears starting in 1908.

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to this delightful and rare cinnamon Steiff bear has spiced up your day just a pinch!

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This Tiny Steiff Bully Dog Has Enormous Wheel-Appeal!

Don't you just love it when you come across a Steiff treasure that you didn't realize even existed? That's the case with this week's fine find, a tiny and early post war Bully Bulldog on wheels. Steiffgal found him hiding amongst a delightful collection of vintage playthings at a booth at a regional doll and antique toy show in the New England area. Come take a look at this petite treat and see what makes him so dog-gone charming from the collector's perspective. 

This diminutive doggie has enormous wheel-appeal. Bully on wheels is based upon Steiff's smallest standard line postwar Bulldog pattern. He is 10 cm, standing, made from tan mohair, and is head jointed. His head, body, and tail are gloriously hand-painted with delightful brown and black spots and striping. He has brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, felt ears, and an elaborately and realistically constructed velvet muzzle. His airbrushed claws are black. Bully retains his original red collar and raised script style Steiff button as his ID. Steiff's overall Bully Bulldog pattern was produced in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1951 through 1974; Bully on wheels was produced in 10 cm only from 1954 through 1957 and then again in 1960.

Rolling along, now let's take a look at Bully's dynamic details. Bully glides along on four red off-center wooden eccentric wheels.  The wheels are connected with two silver metal rods - one in the front and one in the back. This wheel configuration gives Bully the appearance of bobbing up and down as he is pulled along. Each of his four feet is connected to the rods with tan thread stitching. There are little grooves in the rods that secure the stitching in place. Bully had a matching pull string attached to his front rod when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany; this unfortunately has been lost to time.  

Steiff has a long and lovely history of putting their most popular animal patterns on wheels. The earliest rolling Steiff treasures were on metal wheels; by the nineteen-teens to early 1920's most if not all examples had wooden wheels. Wooden wheels were sometimes left natural in color, other times they were brightly painted in bright, primary hues including red, green, and blue. 

Strangely, Steiff's "eccentric wheel" detailing debuted in 1912. Steiff even holds a patent for this unusual wheel and axle configuration! Eccentric wheels were "invented" accidentally, but Steiff quickly realized the opportunity created by their roller drilling mistakes. Steiff's dogs, cats, birds, and farm animals look particularly charming on eccentric wheels, given the way they waddle and jiggle in real life! The photo on the left shows two of Bully's eccentric wheeled 10 cm "canine colleagues" from his same general timeframe. Bazi the Dachshund (on red wheels) was made in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 to 1961 overall and Cockie the Cocker Spaniel (on blue wheels) was made in 10 cm from 1954 through 1957 and then again in 1960.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual Steiff Bully on wheels has been enjoyable to you, even in a roundabout sort of way.  

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steiff in Bloom at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts

Spring has hit with full force here in New England, with new flower surprises appearing daily on front yards, in parks, and around other outdoor spaces. In the Boston area, The Museum of Fine Arts celebrates this time of year with its annual "Art in Bloom" event, which pairs collection highlights with floral arrangements designed to coordinate with the theme of the pieces. Steiffgal took Bitty Bub, a Steiff inspired tiny Teddy baby doll made by the talented artist Elizabeth Leggat, along with her to see "Art in Bloom" and to tour the museum. Of course Bub, known for his mischief, thought the show was called "Art With Bub." As such, he decided to "participate" in the exhibits, as only he can. Here are some of his favorite works - flower related and other - from his visit to the museum today. Can you find him in each of the photos that follow? You can click on them to make them bigger!

Being cut from the finest cloth himself, Bub found this floral arrangement inspired by an original Frank Lloyd Wright textile particularly appealing. 

Bub sez, "I'm tickled pink to be part of this fine gallery room display!"

Bub's just one of the guys when it comes to this perfect pairing of Max Beckmann's painting of Perry T. Rathbone with a tall, dark, and handsome floral arrangement.

Bub sez, "The flower artists really put the pedal to the metal in this colorful arrangement celebrating this great painting by Frida Kahlo." 

Size defies when it comes to these monumental blue and white Japanese vases that are featured in John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," also shown in the photo. 

Bub is certain that this fine arts patron from Mary Cassatt's "In the Loge" only has eyes for him. 

Bub basks in the glow of this sterling portrait of silversmith and patriot Paul Revere, painted by John Singleton Copley in the 1768-70 timeframe. 

Bub sez, "There's plenty of extra room in that painting for me!" in regards to this 1796 portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.

Bub sez, "It's five o'clock somewhere!" to toast this elegant and period sterling silver cocktail tray, martini shaker, and goblets interpreted in flowers. 

Honestly, did you know that Bub has White House connections? This small bronze statue was made from Daniel Chester French's original plaster cast of the seated Abraham Lincoln, which served as the scale model for the larger than life marble version at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Drama... this marble statue called "Meg Merrilies" by Edward Thaxter tried to kidnap Bub!  Mischief attracts mischief for sure!

And finally, if this tour has tuckered you out, that's completely understandable. Here Bub sleepily eyes a c. 1800-30 English Regency bed detailed with two greyhound dogs! Its complementary floral arrangement does a great job in capturing its form in exotic greenery. 

Steiffgal - and Bitty Bub - hope this tour of Boston's MFA has helped to make your day even more beautiful!

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Calculating The Importance Of This Rare Steiff Walther Poodle

Do you know the saying, "April showers bring May flowers?" Well, if that's true, than the month of May is most certainly going to be "coming up roses," at least around these parts. It's been raining cats and dogs for the last few days, so Steiffgal has spent some time indoors checking out interesting Steiff eBay auction listings. You never know what you'll find listed on this worldwide marketplace! One Steiff rarity caught her eye and inspired her to learn more about it. Check out this prized poodle and see what makes it so outstanding from the design and manufacturing perspectives. 

This eye catching and unusual dog is a special promotional item made for Carl Walther GmbH. The poodle is head jointed and made from grey mohair and wool plush. His face is made from rubber, which was a popular Steiff manufacturing material starting in the early to mid 1950's  When the Walther poodle left the Steiff factory, he wore a blue "Walther" logo tag hanging off of its blue leather collar.  This customer special poodle design was produced in 17 cm and 40 cm in 1955 only.  This is the larger version; the smaller version used grey velvet in the place of grey mohair in its design.  

The Walther brand has deep and broad roots across Germany and the world.  The company, still in business today, is most associated with firearms production. Walther started out making guns at the end of the 19th century. It expanded its production to office machines, like calculators, starting in the 1920's. They continued their calculator line of business through the 1970's.  The poodle was the company's logo for the office division of the company, although its probably no coincidence that poodles are good hunting dogs, too! Walther's poodle came to life with a few black lines, and showed the dog running on his hind legs and effortlessly juggling numbers. The logo tried to demonstrate how easy dealing with numbers could be when you have a Walther machine on your desk. You can see this poodle logo here on the left.

Despite its obvious condition issues, this poodle listed on eBay is still a prince among Steiff's rare promotional items, and is only the second one Steiffgal has ever seen. It aligns to its period of manufacture in three interesting ways.  

First, poodles were a very big deal in Steiff's line in the early 1950's. In addition to the company's standard line selections, including Tosi and several iterations of Snobby, Steiff also created a number of exclusive poodle designs for FAO Schwarz here in the USA. These included fully jointed wool plush poodles and an 80 cm Snobbylac poodle. The Walther poodle has a French trim and most resembles the body shape of Steiff's 1952 wool plush Snobby. You can see the Steiff Walther poodle featured on the cover of one of their business machines catalogs here on the left. 

Second, Steiff started producing items with rubber heads, instead of traditional felt, velvet, or mohair heads, in the early 1950's.  This was done in part to decrease costs and labor, as well as to add flexibility to production and design options. Mostly dolls were produced with rubber heads; favorites from this period are HorZu's Micki and Mecki; the gnomes Pucki, Lucki, and Gucki; the Maggi chef, and LariFari, among others. Steiff's animals with rubber heads include Koko the Cat for the magazine TV Hoeren & Sehen.  

And third, the Walther poodle was manufactured at a critical juncture in the company's history. After many years of hardship and war-induced shortages, Steiff again had the infrastructure to partner with other world-class companies and to produce absolutely custom, top tier items without constraints. This all ushered in a very auspicious period in the company's history.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Walther poodle has inspired a little puppy love with you!

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sending Hoppy Easter Greetings From Our Home To Yours!

Well, the big day is almost here - Easter! And Steiffgal is sending you her "official" greetings via a friend who is more than qualified to handle that public service responsibility. Please say hello to "The Mayor," a perfect ambassador to Spring's most anticipated holiday!

So just who is this impressive Easter-beaster?  The Mayor, a 60 cm boy rabbit doll, gets his name from his impressive size, serious expression, and business attire. His "birth" name, given by Steiff, is Hansili. He is standing on flat cardboard lined feet, head jointed, and primarily made from wool plush fabric. His core body and paw pads are made from a flesh-colored, lightly flocked fabric. The Mayor's face comes to life with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a red hand embroidered nose and mouth, clear monofilament whiskers, and skillfully placed brown and tan airbrushed highlights. His ears are entirely wool plush, lined in wires, and are posable. His all-original outfit consists of blue felt shorts with red felt suspenders, a white polyester, collared, buttoned shirt, a red and white neckerchief, and a floral corsage. This big bunny retains his named chest tag as his Steiff ID. The Mayor was made in this size from 1951 through 1966; a matching 60 cm girl rabbit doll version was also produced at the same time. 

It's easy to see how The Mayor won his leadership role by a landslide vote. He has several noteworthy features that make him quite the man about town.

First is his size.  The Mayor, as far as Steiffgal can tell, is the largest standard line, dressed animal doll Steiff ever produced on a commercial scale.  A Steiff animal doll is different than a dressed Steiff animal; an animal doll has a special, distinctly humanly styled and proportioned body and a traditional Steiff animal head.  A dressed Steiff animal may be any animal in the Steiff line dressed by the company or dressed by a collector.  Steiff produced a fantastic series of animal dolls starting in the late 1920's.  Early versions are highly coveted among collectors. 

Second is his material. The Mayor is made from wool plush.  That in itself is not remarkable, but the timing is. This fabric is usually associated with Steiff's production before, and then for several years after, World War II.  It is often considered a substitute fabric for mohair, and is beloved for its distinctly old fashioned look. The Mayor could have been produced as late as 1966, especially given his shirt is made out of a relatively modern polyester material. It is possible that The Mayor is one of the last, if not the last, mid 20th century item to reflect design elements and materials associated with war-era production.  

The third is his condition.  Despite possibly being over a half century old, The Mayor has managed to keep himself in fine and youthful shape overall.  He hardly has a hare out of place!  His coloring, especially on his head and ears is vibrant, and his materials show a little playwear, but no losses or damages.  It is pretty amazing that he retains his original floral corsage and named chest tag.  These are two very ephemeral items that are lost to time more often than not.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on "The Mayor" helps to govern you towards a delightful Easter weekend!

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Getting Ready For Easter With Some Remarkable Steiff Rabbit Auction Highlights!

Hoppy almost Easter to you! Let's celebrate this much-loved holiday with a look at several really interesting and seldom seen rabbits that recently sold at auction in Germany. This sale, held by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion on March 31, 2017, featured about 125 lots of vintage Steiff. Here are four "bunny-honeys" to get you in the mood for next week's celebration of renewal, peace, and all things spring.

This first auction highlight is certainly the wheel-deal. Here we have a delightful rabbit on eccentric wooden wheels. He is cataloged as, "hare on wooden excenter-wheels, with button, long stretched F, white/brown mohair, felt paws and shoe button eyes underlaid with red felt, length: 14 cm height: 11 cm, unusual." According to the website, who hosted the auction online, this rabbit was estimated at 150 to 300 euro and hammered at 800 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 968 euro or about $1,025.

This happy hopper is so appealing in many ways. This wheeled design was made in 6, 8, 10, and 12 cm from 1924-1928 overall. Its hard not to fall for his petite proportions, life-life eye treatment, and patched-in coloration, which is quite typical to his period of production. This model incorporates a standard line Steiff rabbit on all fours which was produced in white and brown mohair or black and brown mohair in 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm from 1923-1928 overall. 

Our second rabbit highlight deserves a standing ovation. Here we have a wooden begging rabbit on wheels. He is cataloged as, "wood hare, on wheels, produced between 1922 - 1934, button, with long stretched F, 15 cm, slightly used, unusual." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 120 to 240 euro and hammered at 1,100 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 1,331 euro or about $1,410.

What's not to love about this egg-cellent Steiff rabbit? This ideal Steiff Easter rabbit toy was made in 15 and 20 cm from 1922 through 1934. His colors are bright, fresh, and happy, and his design can't help but make you smile. Although not as well known as their soft plush and mohair dolls, bears, and animals - at least here in the USA - Steiff's wooden toys, scooters, blocks, games, and other playthings were prominent production categories from the late 19-teens through the early 1940's.

Wooden it be nice to add this next rabbit rarity to your Steiff bunny hug? Here we have a delightful and really unusual rabbit cart. He is cataloged as, "Haswag animal car, c. produced between 1927 - 1936, button, with long stretched F, wood paws and tail mechanism are intact, lenght: c. 25 cm, height: 17 cm, depth: 10 cm, unusual, rare." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 150 to 300 euro and hammered at 2,800 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 3,388 euro or about $3,588.

This particular rabbit has Steiffgal moving and grooving for sure. This finely constructed and painted cart was produced in this size only from 1927 through 1936, as noted in his cataloging. What's so cool about this piece is that when he is pulled along, the rabbit's paws and tail move in response to his wheels spinning about. Steiffgal suspects that this movement is triggered by some simple gear connection, located on the underside of the cart. Steiff has a long and interesting history of creating movement associated with wheeled items. These including its beloved arm pumping "Record" animals on Irish mail carts and its head bobbing/nodding examples on wooden wheels, among others. 

If candy is dandy, than this last Steiff rabbit auction highlight is simply sugar heaven. Here we have a very large begging Steiff rabbit that truly looks as if he may be made from chocolate! He is cataloged as "hare, produced c. 1927 - 1937, with button, long stretched F, 44 cm, squirted mohair, in very good condition, nice strong colors, swivel head." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 300 to 600 euro and hammered at 2,000 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 2,420 euro or about $2,563.

There's not a hare out of place in this delightful Steiff bunny! This begging pattern was produced in light brown, white, gold, purple, pink, and light blue in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, 36, 44, 50, and 70 cm from 1926 through 1941 overall. The white versions were produced with outstanding pink and red albino eyes; all left the factory with a big bow and a brass bell. This rabbit's coloration is interesting for two reasons. First, it is the only "non-jellybean" color in the series. All the others produced were lighter, more celebratory, and childlike in hue. Second, his fabric is specifically noted as "squirted mohair."  Steiffgal is guessing that this may mean "tipped." It is hard to tell from his photo if the brown fabric on this example is all brown or brown tipped. If it is indeed tipped, than this detailing aligns quite closely with the production time of other beloved Steiff designs of the 1920's that also feature tipped fabric. These include Happy, Petsy, and Teddy Clown - all who are known for their delightful and interesting brown and white mohair.

Steiffgal hopes you have enjoyed this overview of some of Steiff's more unusual Easter-Beasters.

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tag, You're It With These Frozen-In-Time Steiff Treasures

For many collectors, Steiff remains timeless in a fast changing world. Some of us have family heirloom treasures that have been passed down from generation to generation. Others collect vintage pieces that may represent a little piece of childhood, happy memories, or a favorite decade. Given the company's extensive ID system and records, it is pretty easy to date a piece of vintage Steiff. But sometimes, a great vintage item in "tissue new" condition also comes along with a big bonus - its retail price tag from the store that originally sold it. These tags help shed more information on the origins of the piece - and often generate a little nostalgia, too. Here are a few items from Steiffgal's collection with these great original sales tags.

All panda-monium broke out when this sweet cub joined Steiffgal's hug. This of course is Steiff's smallest fully jointed, post war panda. He is 15 cm, made from black and white mohair, and has an open, peach colored velvet lined mouth lined in black. His absolutely irresistible face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose; the black circles around his eyes are airbrushed. He retains his original pink silk ribbon. This particular model was made in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1951 through 1961. This panda was produced with grey felt paw pads from 1951 through 1956 and suede-like grey rubber material paw pads from 1956 onward. This panda has felt pads, dating it from the early 1950's. 

Panda retains his original white string tag from the high end, national department store Lord and Taylor. This store is still in business, and still sells Steiff items in their larger stores with toy and baby departments. The tag itself has four rows of numbers and codes. The only ones that Steiffgal can decipher is a code the second row - "5315" which matches his ear tag number, "6" on the third row which probably corresponds to 6 inches tall (his height), and 1.95 on the last row, which is most likely his price in dollars. Assuming that he sold in 1951, $1.95 in 1951 had the same buying power as $18.83 in 2017.

Now let's add this fantastic Tabby cat into this meow mix. Here we have Steiff's largest "Tabby" cat. She is 17 cm from head to toe, standing, unjointed, and made from off white mohair. Her back, arms, legs, tail, and the sides of her head are beautifully airbrushed with grey shading and black stripes, making her truly the cats meow! She has black and green plastic slit pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear whiskers. She retains her original red ribbon and bell and purple hang tag indicating that her exterior is washable. Tabby was produced from 1949 through 1977 in 7, 10, 14 and 17 cm. This particular example, with her lentil style button and article number 2700/17, was made in the 1969-1977 time frame.

Tabby has her pricetag from Marshall Field and Company, a department store that began in the Chicago, IL area but expanded rapidly to other states in the mid to late 20th century. Steiffgal grew up in the Chicago area, and spent many happy hours in these stores, often nibbling on their legendary "Frango Mint" candies. Sadly, Marshall Field does not exist anymore, having been bought by the Macy's chain in the early 2000's. This tag has three rows of numbers. The only one that Steiffgal can decipher is the last row, being "18.00," most likely her price at the time. Assuming that she sold in 1969, $18.00 in 1969 had the same buying power as $122.42 in 2017.

Given Easter is on the horizon, let's take a look at a fine bunny as our last example of "tag, you're it!" Here we have the smallest example of Steiff's sitting rabbit. She is 8 cm, not jointed, and made from tan mohair that is airbrushed with tan, brown, pink, and black details all over her back, sides, and ears. She has beautiful black and brown pupil eyes, a red hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear, playful whiskers. She retains her original blue silk ribbon and bell. This particular pattern was produced 8, 9, 15, and 18 cm from 1950 through 1974; she was called Rabbit from 1950 to 1966 and Sonny from 1967 onward. This particular example is numbered 3308,03, dating her in the 1965 to 1967 time frame.

This petite treat has her pricetag from Hahne and Company. Hahne's was a chain of department stores that was based in Newark, NJ and had branches throughout the central and northern parts of the state. The company was purchased by Lord and Taylor in the late 1980's. Rabbit's tag has three lines of numbers and codes. The last one, "3.00," is most likely her price at the time. Assuming she sold in 1965, $3.00 in 1965 had the same buying power as $23.21 in 2017.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on retail tags on vintage Steiff treasures didn't leave you hanging!

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Steiff Mystery of Olympic Proportions

Now this latest Steiff find may just test your mettle - your Olympic medal, that is!  Steiffgal recently acquired a most unusual Steiff purse, one that she had only read - and dreamed - about.  The item itself is sort of interesting, but its possible history and origins just might be world class!

Hold everything and check out this sports-themed handbag.  This round purse has a diameter of 18 cm.  It is basically made from two circles of white plush which are sewn together on a blue and white canvas fabric edging. On one side of the bag is the five ringed Olympic logo in black. The other side is detailed with the words "1980," and "Lake Placid" and that game's mascot logo, Rocky the Raccoon. Rocky is grey, white, and black, with white and black pupil eyes. All decorations on the bag (except the inserted eyes) appear to be stenciled. The bag strap is a long blue cord which matches the color of the fabric edging. The bag closes with a simple silver metal zipper.  In terms of Steiff ID, the purse has a generic, unnumbered late 1970's style yellow ear tag, but no chest tag or button.

Here's where the mystery kicks in. According to Pfeiffer's 1947-2003 Steiff Sortiment, this item - called a "disco bag" - was in the line in 1979 and came in two color themes. These include the blue one as described above, and a similar one with red and white canvas edging and a red cord bag strap. The red version did not include the date "1980" on the Rocky logo side of the bag. The purse's article number is noted as 6354/18. For the most part, items that appear in Pfeiffer's Steiff books have been produced and distributed on a commercial scale.

However, according to beloved Steiff authority Dee Hockenberry's reference book, Steiff Bears and Other Playthings Past and Present, this item, and a plush Rocky raccoon logo toy never went into production. Specifically, for the purses, she says...

"Olympic Pocketbook Prototypes: 7 inches in diameter. Plush with zipper closure. Never in production. The only examples ever made."  

The photo on the left of the purses is from the Hockenberry book. 

And for the Rocky logo toy, she notes... 

"Prototype Raccoon: 11 inches. In 1978 and 1979, Steiff, through their US representative, made presentations to the American Olympic Committee in order to obtain a licence to make 1980 Olympic souvenirs. Three prototype were made incorporating the Lake Placid mascot and Olympic logo. Although the samples were attractive, an official licence was never granted.  These are the only examples ever made."  

The photo on the left of the Rocky logo toy is from the Hockenberry book. 

Just how rare are Steiff 1980 Olympic souvenir handbags? The Pfeiffer and Hockenberry references seem to suggest opposite sides of the story. What Steiffgal does know for sure is that in 40+ years of collecting Steiff, she has never seen or even heard of another example of a Rocky Lake Placid Olympic item. And this item's generic yellow Steiff tag without numbering does suggest that this particular example may be a very early example or prototype. However, Rocky's face painting on Steiffgal's version does not exactly match up to the painting on the one pictured in Dee Hockenberry's book. As such, the ones pictured in the Hockenberry book are NOT the only examples ever made. It seems that the mystery behind this unusual "disco bag" - like many Olympic achievements - is one for the record books.  

Steiffgal hopes you've taken this discussion on Steiff's Rocky handbag quite purse-sonally.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Singing A Happy Tune Over This Unusual Steiff Musical Tiger!

Well, this interesting find should be like music to your ears if you like Steiff tigers. And why is that? This wonderful jungle gem has a secret - he's got a special and most unusual music feature hidden in his belly. Check out this terrific tiger and see what makes him one of the coolest cats around!

It's easy to break out in song over this pretty kitty. "Music Tiger" is unjointed and about 20 cm tall and 30 cm long (not including his tail.) He is in Steiff's "lying" position, meaning he is curled up with his legs resting gently to his side. His face is detailed with piercing green and black eyes, a pink embroidered nose, a black embroidered mouth with a touch of pink airbrushing, and tufts of longer mohair around his jowls. He has many long, clear, monofilament whiskers.  He is made from short mohair, which has been hand airbrushed and stenciled to give his coat a most authentic and realistic look.  Even his paw pads have charming "footprints" on them.  On his underside, there is a small brass winder that activates his happy tunes; it is in working condition. 

Collectors will recognize this beloved pattern as the one identical to Steiff's popular lying tiger cub design, which was produced from 1953 through 1978 in 17, 28, 43, and 60 cm.

Let's take a look at some of the special IDs of this singing sweetie, which does not appear - as far as Steiffgal knows of - in any regularly referenced Steiff book. The first is his eye-catching chest tag.  It is Steiff's regular, colorful bear faced version with his name on it.  Given the "secret location" of his music box, and the fact that his basic pattern is relatively standard in the Steiff line, this tag is essential in identifying him from pictures as something really unique. The second is his special musical item tag.  The tag is metallic silver, red, and blue, and features a Steiff logo and the word "Musicanto" on each side. It is in four languages, and reads, "Contains a genuine Swiss music box. To wind: Turn knob in the tail or underneath tummy."  

It's not polite to ask someone their age, so let's figure out another way to date this Music Tiger. Steiffgal has two other Steiff musical animals that have this tag. The first is the company's Music Kitty. This fancy feline is 17 cm, head jointed, and resembles Steiff's beloved sitting Susi cat pattern. Music Kitty was made in 1955 through 1957, and then again in 1961; she is pictured here on the left. The second is Steiff's Music Cockie Cocker Spaniel. Cockie is 17 cm and sitting. She is made from black and white mohair and is head jointed. She has a large, open, smiling mouth. Her face is detailed with large, friendly brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose.  Music Cockie was produced from 1955 through 1957 only.  Both Music Kitty and Cockie's music features are activated by winding up their tails.  And of course, who can forget Steiff's fabulous Music Teddy, which was made in 35 cm from 1951 through 1957?

Given all of that, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this Music Tiger, like his other talented and performing cousins, was most likely made in the 1955 through 1957 time frame, give or take a pinch.

It was not terribly unusual for Steiff to take some of its most popular patterns and try "theme and variation" items from them. Some of these "experiments" were produced on a commercial level and appeared in the catalog; others were made in extremely limited quantities if at all. For example, Steiffgal also has a larger lying tiger made as a silk-lined and zippered pajama bag. This also does not appear, as far as Steiffgal knows, in any standard Steiff reference book. In 2009, Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion featured two marvelous musical rarities; a musical Lulac rabbit and a very large musical tiger.  The auction house dated each from approximately 1952. Both are pictured here on the left - click on the photo to enlarge it!

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

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Music Tiger has been a high note in your day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

This Unusual Steiff Curled Wool Pachyderm is Simply Ele-Fantastic!

Oh baby!  A new vintage friend has arrived from overseas and Steiffgal can't wait to introduce you to him. Steiffgal was checking out some online auctions and came across an interesting find on offer from an auction house in The Netherlands.  The stars aligned and she won this somewhat rare prewar Steiff elephant.  And, it turns out, he has several very charming and unusual design features that are not obvious from photos or cataloging.  Let's check out this petite pachyderm and explore his interesting assembly. 

Steiff calls this beautiful baby "Play Elephant." He is 14 cm tall and 20 cm long, standing, and unjointed. His body is made from an interesting material called "curled wool plush."  This fabric has the look and of bumpy Persian lamb material, but with a softer, friendlier feel to it.  The backing is a dark grey or black, and the front is light grey in color.  He has red airbrushed highlighting on his ears, as well as nails on each of his feet. His distinctly babylike face comes to life with simple black button eyes that are backed in pink-airbrushed felt; an open, peach colored felt mouth; and a posable, wire lined trunk.  He is excelsior stuffed and has a working squeaker  Play Elephant retains his long trailing "F" style Steiff button. When he was new, he had a colorfully striped blanket; sadly, this has been lost to time.  Play Elephant in this unusual material appeared in the line from 1935 through 1941 overall in 14 and 17 cm; the 17 cm version was also produced as a pull toy on eccentric green wooden wheels.  

Above on the left you can see a c. 1935 German print advertisement featuring Play Elephant; also pictured is the little known "Dream Baby No. 103" which appeared in the line from 1934 through 1936 and a mohair ball duck, which appeared in the line from 1932 through 1943.

So let's take a closer look at three subtle features that make this elephant a jungle gem.  

The first is the use of additional, unusual fabrics on this period item. Elephant's paw pads, tail, and ear backing material is not felt, but another light grey material that has a cotton backing and a soft, velvet-like nap to it. It feels very much like the flesh-colored material used on the bodies of the company's pre- and early postwar animal dolls.  The tip of his tiny tail is also detailed in long, soft black material. It looks somewhat like mohair fabric that could be used to represent the mane on a horse or zebra, but it is much softer, easily bendable, and doesn't feel like wool in any way.  

The second is some unique stitching detailing on his oversized, floppy ears.  Each ear has six simple grey seams which fan out from where the ears join to his head.  These are both decorative as well as hold the front and back fabrics making up the ears together.  Because of the texture of the curled wool plush, the stitches are not visible on the front of the ears.  Steiffgal has several prewar elephants in her collection based on this "Play Elephant" pattern - including a 22 cm silk plush version - and none have this distinctive ear stitching detailing.   

The third is a mouthful - literally!  Steiff is famous for how the company inserts and secures the eyes on its bears and animals.  This is usually done by inserting the eyes into the front of the head, pulling the threads to the rear of the head, and knotting them firmly in the back at the base of the neck.  In the case of this particular pre-war curled wool plush elephant, this distinctive knot is located right inside the baby's mouth. This was really hard to photograph but hopefully you can see this feature here on the left. It is the first time Steiffgal has seen this assembly detail on any Steiff item. 

Steiffgal hopes you find this sweet baby elephant as unforgettable as she does!

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