Sunday, June 3, 2018

Thumbs Up Over This Fantastic Paddy Walrus Hand Puppet!

It's all hands in the air for Steiff's great mohair puppets - especially the really rare ones. Steiff started creating these high quality puppets in the early 1900's in the likenesses of some of their most popular characters and designs. This tradition was carried out for the most part through the 1970's; after then, the company's puppets were mostly constructed from plush, plastic, and other materials. Let's take a deep dive and check out one of the most unusual post-war mohair examples and see what makes him so interesting from the product design and historical perspectives.

It's not unusual to see collectors fighting tooth and nail over this walrus hand puppet. This unjointed rarity is 20 cm tall and made from tan mohair that has been airbrushed with brown and tan spots, shading, and highlights. He has a pair of dimensional flippers; the tips are stuffed with excelsior. His oversized, very round head is solidly stuffed with excelsior. His face come to life with two black and white google style eyes, jowls, a long, brown tipped mohair beard, a pink hand embroidered nose, and two white tusks. This walrus puppet was made in this size only in 1962 as an exclusive for high end toy retailer FAO Schwarz.

This perky puppet of course is based on the company's standard line Paddy walrus design. Paddy was produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm in the 1959 through 1965 time frame. It was not unusual in the 1950's and 1960's for Steiff to retool popular items as exclusives for FAO Schwarz. By "retool," Steiffgal means making an item in a bigger or smaller size; sitting instead of standing (or vice versa); dressing a piece in a fancy outfit or giving it a distinctive accessory, or taking a basic design and producing it in another toy category. That's what you see here - the Paddy design being reinterpreted as a puppet. 

To keep things twice as nice, Steiff also produced Paddy as a pajama bag as an exclusive for FAO Schwarz from 1962 through 1972. This delightful and functional collectible was 45 cm nose to tail; made from short brown mohair or dralon plush which was carefully airbrushed on its face, flippers, and tail; and was lined in blue colored silk material. He had a zipper up his belly and was "hollow", meaning that you could indeed store your adult sized pajamas inside of his torso!

Steiffgal's Paddy puppet clearly was someone's best friend at one point in his life, which is a good thing. He has some play wear to him, his beard is quite thin, and he lacked his traditional tusks upon arrival. So the question is, how important is condition when making a Steiff purchase? Of course, everyone has their very own algorithm for this, and it always comes down to personal choices and preferences. But if it is helpful in any way, here are three key things that Steiffgal considers when making a purchase decision for her own collection.

1. Do I have this item in my collection already? If not, then it may be a good choice, all things being equal. If you already do, is this example in better shape than the one you already have? If yes, then consider purchasing it and rehoming your lesser quality example. If no, then maybe pass on the opportunity.

2. How often do examples of this item come up for sale? If the item seldom if ever appears on the secondary market, condition plays somewhat of a lesser role in the decision making process. If the item is almost never seen for sale or at auction, consider adding it to your collection. If you have seen examples of the item come up for sale two or more times in the last year or so, and the item you are considering adopting today is not in great shape, consider waiting for the next purchase opportunity.

3. How "bad" is the condition? In the case of this puppet, he was really dirty, had a small tear in his beard, and had lost his tusks to time. These things can be fixed or restored, and that's exactly what Steiffgal did here. She cleaned him, stitched his beard, and made him tusks out of white Fimo clay. (After all, its not uncommon to need custom tooth implants over the age of 50 these days!) If you (or someone you know) can fix the item's condition to a state that you are comfortable with, and/or stabilizes it so it is around for many more decades to come, then consider the purchase. Just make sure that you fully disclose these repairs if you move the piece along sometime in the future.

If the item is in really rough shape, may attract insects, or has other condition issues that make its time on Earth quite limited, perhaps consider waiting for the next big find - which is always just around the corner!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Paddy walrus puppet has been a happy handful for you. 

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

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