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.

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