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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