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.
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