Saturday, January 7, 2017

Getting Around To Solving This Unusual Steiff Mystery

Well, here's a little Steiff history-mystery! Check out this note about Steiff bear with some cryptic writing on his belly. Could this bear be a musical prototype? A new friend, in part, writes...

"I found your blog and thought I would reach out. Today I acquired what, from your blog, I have determined to be a mohair Musical Teddy. Unfortunately, it does not have the ear tag, though still has the made in Germany on the back, and has been signed on one paw by Hans Otto and the other paw is dated 1983. 

Interestingly, there is also writing on the red musical circle that appears to say 1954-55 and then has a series of numbers underneath that. The antiques store where I bought it seemed to think it was a "salesman sample". I just wondered if you had ever run across such a thing?"

Well, let's strike up the band and see what we have here. This bear is 
definitely an example of Steiff's Music Teddy. This bear was produced from 1951 through 1957. He is 35 cm, five ways jointed, and made from caramel colored mohair. His hand and foot pads are made from tannish peach colored felt. His face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. Smack dab in the middle of his belly is a red felt circle; when he was new, it had the word "music" in printed in white on it. When this spot was squeezed and released, it played a sweet lullaby. 

Let's paws for a second here and check out the information on the bear's feet. From the writing on the bear's lower pads, it appears that this piece was brought to a Steiff sponsored event in the early 1980's and signed by Hans Otto Steiff. Hans Otto Steiff was the former President of Steiff in Germany and a direct descendant of the founder, Margarete Steiff. Hans Otto and and his wife Brigit toured the USA several times in the 1980's, meeting collectors, attending events, and signing Steiff items.

Now let's circle back to the strange marks on his red felt belly patch. After thinking about this for awhile, it is Steiffgal's strongest suspicion that these numbers do not indicate that this bear is a prototype. The date on the patch, which reads 1954/5, doesn't really align with anything in this bear's production history. This bear was introduced in 1951 and was in the line from 1957. So if it was a prototype, meaning that it was produced prior to general line introduction, the date on the red circle would probably read 1950 or 1951. Or if it were a piece designed for the archives after manufacturing was complete, the date might read 1951/7, or something like that.

So what does this all mean?  Although there is no way to tell for sure, his presentation suggests that he was a beloved toy at one point in his life, based on his playwear pattern. Steiffgal speculates that that the date 1954/5 refers to the year that he was purchased or adopted, and the other numbers (12 9335,3) refer to the numbers that were on his original ear tag, which has since gone missing. These correspond to 12 = bear, 9 = mechanical, 3 = mohair, 35 = 35 cm, and 3 = with music box. Perhaps his owner put the dates and numbers on the red circle so they would forever be attached to his history, as the ear tags very often get lost to time. Or, it is possible that someone bought him from the owner, and asked them about the year they purchased him, or it could have been information from an antique dealer provided to someone at purchase. Besides his red felt circle, there really is no other place to record any writing or marks on him.

Steiffgal hopes her evaluation of this red-bellied mystery has been spot on with you.

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