Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Penny For Your Thoughts On This Steiff Copper Canine

Mark Twain once wrote, “The more I know about people, the better I like my dog.” Is it possible he was referring also to Steiff's wonderful line of pooches? As most collectors know, canines have been well represented in the company's product mix from the late 1800's onward... and are probably second only to Teddy bears as Steiff's most favored collectibles worldwide. 

A penny for your thoughts here! Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of welcoming one of the company's blue-ribbon beauties to her collection - a lovely, early 1950's copper-colored "Cockie" Cocker Spaniel. Although not terribly vintage, or extremely rare from the collector's perspective, Cockie's presentation, construction, and detailing really make her one top dog. Come take a look and see if you too don't also feel the "puppy love!" 

It's easy to have a plush crush on this canine-cutie! Cockie is standing on all fours, head jointed, and is made mostly from mohair. Her soft and floppy ears are made from long mohair, her head is made from short mohair, and her body is made from medium length mohair. She simply glows with well executed, fabulous, and realistic looking airbrushed copper colored highlights. She has three black hand embroidered claws on each of her paws. Cockie's expressive face and muzzle are quite detailed. She has pert brown and black glass pupil eyes and a hand embroidered black nose. Her muzzle and mouth are made from mohair and velvet and are remarkably constructed with dimensional jowls. You can see this detailing in the close up photo here on the left. Cockie retains her raised script button, fully legible ear tag, and US Zone tag as her Steiff IDs. This design was manufactured in 10, 17, and 25 cm between 1952 and 1957. 

Knowing copper Cockie was on a roll, Steiff also produced the 10 cm version of her on blue eccentric wooden wheels from 1954 through 1977, and then again in 1960.  She sashays back and forth, much like a real dog, as she is pulled along on her off-center carriage axles and wheels. This happy handful is pictured here on the left.

Steiff's Cocker Spaniel production can be measured in dog-years. It is interesting to note that this breed did not appear in the Steiff line until the early postwar era. However, the company quickly made up for lost time starting in 1951 when the first Steiff Cocker Spaniel was introduced. The company's earliest Cocker Spaniel, also named Cockie, is sitting, head jointed, and made from brown and white mohair. Like her copper colored cousin, debut Cockie has an elaborately constructed muzzle and a smiling, velvet lined mouth. Sitting brown and white Cockie appeared in the line from 1951 through 1959 in 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, and 30 cm.  The smallest version of this pretty puppy is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed learning about this wonderful copper (show) stopper of a pooch!

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Horsing Around With This 1930's-Era Steiff Pony On Wheels

Whoa Nelly! Can one simple digit make all the difference when identifying and dating vintage Steiff?  In this case - yes!  Check out this lovely vintage horse on wheels. Everything about her goes by the numbers!

This pretty pony belongs to one of Steiffgal's Steiff pals. The horse measures about 28 cm by 28 cm. She is standing, made from soft, very lightly textured brown and white fabric, and comes to life with a black plush mane and tail. She is authentically dressed in red leather reins and a saddle, along with a green felt blanket. She rides upon four red wooden wheels. This is one of Steiff's most beloved and legacy pre-war patterns, and was produced in a number of materials and sizes - ranging from 12 to 80 cm - in the c. 1892 through 1943 time frame. Early on, she was also available paired with a number of complementary items, including a doll, jockey, cart, or sled. Pony retains her long trailing F button and her fully legible red ear tag, dating her initially in the broad c. 1926 to 1934 time frame.

Given her materials, presentation, and age, this is one excellent equine indeed!

But there's something really interesting about this horse that sent Steiffgal into a full gallop. At very first glance, both Steiffgal and her pal thought she was made from felt. If that were the case, her condition truly would be outstanding, given how prewar items made from felt or with felt detailing (like paw pads) almost always have at least a few holes or nibbles in them. But this fabric was flawless! So what's going on here? Check out her red ear tag, which reads "1228." This corresponds to: 1=standing, 2=short pile plush/coat plush, and 28=28 cm. 

Hold your horses! It turns out that Steiff was making their horse on wheels pattern in another fabric called "coat plush" in 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1932 through 1934.  It is interesting to note that in the 1930's, the company started using alot of "substitute" fabrics like wool plush, curled wood plush, and artificial silk plush on some of their most beloved patterns. That was most likely due to supply chain and socio-political issues of the era. These alternative fabrics were still available and affordable. And except for artificial silk plush, all were really quite durable - which helps to explain in part why this horse is in such nice shape. If you look closely at the horse's fabric, you will see that indeed it has a light "fuzzy" texture and feel to it.  And, because the surface is not flat and almost completely even like felt, the seams are not as smooth and "fluid" between the different fabrics. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great 1930's Steiff horse has set you a'blaze!

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

This Rare Steiff 50th Anniversary Booklet Is Worth Its Weight In Gold!

It's easy to celebrate all things Steiff! Steiff introduced the world to its fully jointed Teddy bears in 1903. In honor of the golden anniversary of this accomplishment in 1953, the company designed and produced an entirely new and novel Teddy bear design. It was named Jackie and she was made in 17, 25, 35, and 75 cm from 1953-55 only.

Collectors could bearly get enough of Jackie. For many reasons - including her charming appeal, airbrushed belly button, pink-highlighted nose, and short time in the line - Jackie remains one of the most beloved Steiff bear designs of all times. Accompanying Jackie was a small celebration booklet, which told the history of the company in words and pictures. To find a mid century Jackie bear in very good condition with IDs is a dream come true for many collectors; to find one with this original booklet is practically unheard of!

But sometimes wishes do come true, at least in part. Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of finding one of these original Jackie booklets for sale, and was delighted to add it to her Steiff ephemera collection. The piece itself is very small - measuring 10.5 cm x 7.5 cm closed, or 10.5 cm x 15 cm opened up.  There are 14 total printed pages, and all words are in German. The booklet is bound by one staple. It is printed on paper which has most likely mellowed to a tan color over time. Let's take a peek into this time capsule and see what secrets it might hold about the company we all know and love. 

You can click on any of the pictures of the spreads to make them bigger on your screen!

Here is the front and back spread of the booklet. As you can see, the cover features the delightful Jackie bear, complete with her special anniversary chest tag. It is interesting to note that she is pictured without her Steiff button or ear tag. The front reads, "a small teddy travels in the wide world," probably in reference to Steiff's humble beginnings which progressed to international standing and recognition. The back very roughly translates to, "This is the story of the Teddy bear with the button in ear by Margarete Steiff GmbH."

Featured on pages 2 and 3 of the booklet are two iconic Steiff images.  The first is of company founder, Margarete Steiff.  The other is of the two very distinctive church steeples which are the prominent features on the Giengen horizon - even today. The headline of the spread reads, "The history of the Teddy bear." 

Pages 4 and 5 are graced with the headlines, "At the beginning was a small felt elephant" and "Richard Steiff, the inventor of the teddy bear." The illustrations include a small grey felt elephant, which was Margarete's first "toy," a picture of her in her wheelchair hand sewing something, and a handsome headshot of Richard Steiff. Richard, Margarete's nephew, came up with the idea of the fully jointed Teddy bear after studying how real bears move and interact at a local zoo.  

The next pages - 6 and 7 - are dedicated to 1903, the year Steiff Teddy bears really went global. The headlines roughly translate to, "In New York from 1903 onward" and "The Leipzig Fair debut in 1903." The page is illustrated with a skyline of New York City, an early and very fuzzy Steiff Teddy, and a man hammering shut a wooden crate, presumably filled with Steiff Teddy bears heading to the USA. This page most likely references how 3,000 early Steiff bears were ordered by an American distributor (The George Borgfeld Company of NYC) at the 1903 Leipzig Fair. The whereabouts of those Teds have been lost to time. This mystery is still ongoing today.  

Pages 8 and 9 are all words. Given the headline, which translates to "Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt gave him his name," these key passages probably explain why Steiff's Teddy bears from Germany were branded after the famous American President. Roosevelt refused to shoot a baby bear cub on on a hunting adventure in Mississippi at the turn of last century.

Next up on pages 10 and 11 are a charming series of illustrations featuring Steiff's "Nimrod" bears. Like Jackie, the Nimrod bears were produced in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Teddy bear. They appeared in the line in 1953 and 1954 in 22 and 50 cm. Four versions were made in a variety of hunting themed outfits. These "outdoorsmen" bears are a gentle nod back to President Roosevelt - who was instrumental in his own way in helping Steiff grow and thrive in the early 1900's. 

The headline on page 11 translates to "The Steiff factory is built entirely of glass" and is referencing the illustration that is found on page 12.

And here on page 12 you can see this glass factory. This feat of architecture is sometimes referred to the "1903 Building" because that's when it was built, or the "Maiden's Aquarium," because you could see from the outside of the building all of the beautiful seamstresses working inside. The headlines roughly translate to, "Steiff animals, the beloved toys of all children," "Only the best for our children," and "Steiff button in ear - adorable playmates." These statements, now over half a century old, still ring completely true today.

The final spread of the booklet, which includes pages 14 and 15, present a playful quartet of photos featuring company's now most iconic designs of the early 1950's. Most of these charmers were completely new post-war introductions. The items pictured are:

  • A standing duck, made in 11 and 18 cm from 1952-76. 
  • A grey elephant, made in 7, 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm from 1950-78.
  • A Niki rabbit, made in 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1951-64.
  • A Zotty Teddy, made in 9 sizes ranging from 17 to 100 cm from 1951-78.
  • A young lying lion, produced in 17, 28, 43, and 60 cm from 1953-59.
  • A Mecki hedgehog doll, produced from 1951 onward in 17, 28, 50, and 100 cm over time.
  • A Papa lion, made in 14 and 22 cm from 1949-61.
  • A Jocko, made in 9 sizes ranging from 10 to 80 cm from 1949-81.
  • A Disney Bambi, made in 14 and 22 cm from 1951-1972.
  • A Pucki dwarf, made in 13, 18, 30, 55, and 115 cm from 1963-73. 
  • A Peky dog, made 8, 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1952-77.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this quick time-travel adventure back to 1953!

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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Satisfying Your Rabbit-Habit With These Two Great Easter Finds

What would you like to find in your Easter basket? A chocolate bunny, some neon-colored marshmallow Peeps, and jelly beans would be a good start for sure. But how about a Steiff rabbit surprise as well? No Steiff collector would say no to that! Steiffgal recently welcomed two Steiff rabbit rarities into her hug. Given the Easter rabbit is about to make his grand annual appearance, she though it would be a perfect time to share these honey-bunnies with the Steiff loving community.

It's a clothes call with this first cheerful-earful. Here we have Steiff's "Zappy" rabbit. He is 25 cm, head jointed, and made mostly from tan and white dralon. His footpads and the lining of his ears are the same dralon color - a very light peach. He is wearing green felt shorts and rust-brown felt suspenders. Little silver buttons join the suspenders to the shorts. His face is detailed with large brown and black pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, pink airbrushing, and lots of clear monofilament whiskers. His IDs include a raised script button, a fully legible yellow ear tag which is numbered 8625,00, and a colorful, named, bear faced chest tag. His article number corresponds to 8=dolls and figures, 6=dralon plush, 25=25 cm, 00=without wheels and "normal color." Zappy was produced in this size only from 1966 through 1974.

So what secrets does Zappy hide deep within his rabbit den? It is interesting that at least from his numbering, we can tell that Steiff categorized this design more of a doll than a rabbit. And, a close look through the Sortiment reveals that he does indeed "live" in the dolls and figures chapter, not in the rabbits chapter. Awhile back, Steiffgal handled another example but that Zappy had lentil style Steiff buttons on his shorts, not plain ones like the example under discussion today. Zappy is one of the very last dressed animal dolls Steiff produced as part of its standard line. Steiff's animal dolls debuted in the late 1920's and were noted for their hybrid animal/human proportions and great outfits. Over time, their designs and clothing were simplified; the debut animals were made of mohair, fully jointed, and dressed to the nines. This dralon version with basic felt shorts truly represents the end of the line for Steiff's legacy animal doll production.

It's easy to warm up to this second Steiff rabbit rarity. This bunny is begging, unjointed, and measures 22 cm without ears and 28 cm with them. Her face, arms, legs, and ears are made from long tan dralon. The lining of her ears is made from apricot colored dralon. Her muzzle area is made from velour-like material. Her face comes to life with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth augmented with brown paint, and clear monofilament whiskers. Bunny's body, which is shaped like an egg, is hollow and made from short green dralon. It is decorated with a red and yellow felt flower on a green felt stem. Her Steiff IDs include a lentil style button, a fully legible yellow ear tag, and a red and yellow split style generic chest tag. Steiffgal cannot find any mention of this item in any of the standard Steiff reference books. Given her arrangement of IDs, it is her best guess that this mystery rabbit was made in the c. 1972-1977 time frame. 

So just why is this rabbit hot stuff? It is Steiffgal's best guess that she was originally designed as a hot water bottle animal for a small child, given her size, appearance, and form. Her belly is hollow, and you can open and close it up on the back via strips of velcro. Her belly is also lined in an unusual, rigid material that probably has some heat-regulating properties to it. This fabric was probably put inside the rabbit to insulate it, as well as protect a child from getting scalded if the hot water bottle inside the rabbit's belly was extremely hot. However, this example did not come with the interior bottle, so it is impossible to guess what it looked liked or how it actually navigated within the the body cavity.

Steiff has a long history of creating fun and functional items, including purses, pajama bags, egg cozies, and other rarities - including hot water bottle animals. Most collectors are familiar with the company's adorable and fabulous hot water bottle bears, which were originally produced at the turn of last century in response to record cold winters in Berlin. Only a handful of these lace-up, mohair cubs were manufactured, and they always garner enormous collector's interest when they appear at auction. As far as Steiffgal is aware, this relatively modern hot water bottle rabbit is one of the few (if not the only) postwar hot water bottle animals made by Steiff.  

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on these two rare Easter bunnies has satisfied your rabbit-habit!

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