Sunday, June 23, 2019

On the Up and Up With This Tiny Steiff Pup!

Friends for life! Collectors will recognize this slogan as one of Steiff's tag lines in terms of its toy production. But this "promise" also extends to the company's business relationships with other beloved brands and characters over time. Check out his note from a new friend on the west coast who asks about a tiny Poodle that appeared mid-century with dolls from the Nancy Ann Storybook Company.  She writes, in part...

"Several of my doll collecting friends have been helping me research the question of Steiff's Poodle being the dog that Nancy Ann Storybook Company used. 

...I have acquired all the reference books available for Nancy Ann and the company catalog photos that they contain, and even though the salesman's sheet doesn't say that the Poodle in the container is Steiff, my fellow collectors all agree that it is a Steiff Poodle that we see in the containers. You can see the Steiff tag around the belly of the dog.  

...Who knows why Nancy Ann didn't say in their catalog that it was a Steiff Poodle? Vogue Doll company didn't say in their Ginny catalog that Ginny's dog was a Steiff either. The Poodle was available in Muffie catalogs from 1956-1960. it was available in 3 colors from (what I understand): white, gray, and black."

What a best-of-show inquiry! So let's first paws and take a look at the Poodle in question, which is INDEED made by Steiff. This model was made as part of the company's very popular post-war woolen miniature collection, and could be one of the smallest dogs Steiff ever made! These are 6 cm tall, standing, leg and arm jointed, and made from wool and felt. Their faces, arms, and legs are like pom-poms, while their ears and body are felt. They come to life with a little black cord tail and black bead eyes. All models left the factory in Germany wearing a tiny red cord collar. This Poodle was produced from 1955-1978 in grey, black, and white. You can see all three here on the left. They are so tiny that they wear their yellow "eartag" like a bracelet around their middles; this is secured with a tiny Steiff button. These IDs were often lost to time, as noted on the dogs in this picture. Because of their size, they never had a chest tag. 

This precious design remains a collector's favorite today, given how nice they look posed with small to medium scaled mid century dolls.

As far as Steiffgal's understanding and research reveals, Steiff did not specifically make a dog for dolls in this line. However, it is entirely possible that the Nancy Ann Storybook Company "adopted" this dog pattern into its line and made it part of its merchandising and product line - given how delightful the two go together! The Nancy Ann Storybook Company most likely purchased a bunch of these woolen miniature Poodles then boxed them and distributed them through their regular sales channels from their own business headquarters. Steiff usually includes some Steiff branding on their packaging that is factory original. Steiffgal can't tell if there is Steiff branding on the Nancy Ann Storybook Company packing on the photos above, but it is not obvious. It also appears that some of the Nancy Ann packaging for the accessories is quite similar. That also suggests that the packaging was done by Nancy Ann in house and not Steiff. Finally, it is not clear why the Nancy Ann Storybook Company did not promote these as made by Steiff... perhaps for some sort of licensing or business reason? 
The Poodle design "adopted" by the Nancy Ann Storybook Company was not a "company exclusive" and was available through worldwide sales channels. You can see the 1961 Steiff catalog page showing these in white, black, and grey, here on the left. (You can click on the photo to make it bigger.) So what would make a product an "exclusive?" It has been Steiffgal's experience that company exclusives often are standard line items with a little something different to them. For example, in the case of these Poodles - if the collars were a different color or style (say blue or green, etc.), or they came in a different color, like brown - that could suggest an exclusive.  But Steiffgal has not personally seen any examples like that, at least not yet! Have you?

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's woolen miniature Poodles has been enormously interesting for you!

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Tune In For More Information About This Superstar Steiff Cat!

Look who just appeared on little cat's feet - really! This pretty kitty was a surprise find on an online auction. And, when she arrived, she was an even FINER feline than advertised! Check out this 1920's Steiff superstar. Steiffgal is certain you'll agree... she's simply the cat's meow!

This marmalade Tabby turns Steiff's legs to jelly! She is 10 cm tall, standing on all fours, head jointed, and made from tan mohair that has been striped with fantastic and realistically detailed orange highlights. Her limbs and tail are elegant, proportional, and shapely. Her face comes to life with oversized teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink embroidered nose and mouth, a bunch of clear, monofilament whiskers, and a spot of red right on her lips. She has a particularly pensive look to her. She retains her original blue silk ribbon and bell. This cool cat was made in mohair in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1928 through 1937. 

Tab - you're it - when it comes to this cat's outstanding and original IDs. She retains her long trailing 'F' Steiff button, crisp and fully legible red ear tag, and perfectly preserved red imprinted chest tag with its "watermelon" shaped bear face. The numbers on her ear tag, 1310,0, correspond to: 1 = standing; 3 = mohair; 10 = 10 cm (standing height); and ,0=without wheels. All of these IDs strongly suggest that this kitten left the factory in Giengen in the late 1920s or early 1930s. And what a well preserved specimen she is - we should all look so good c. nine decades onward! 

Although Steiff had been selling its items in the USA since the turn of last century, it appears that the company really started investing heavily in American consumer advertising a few years after the conclusion of WWI. In the late 1920s, Steiff was promoted on the radio by an on-air personality named "Uncle Andy Claus" as part of a program sponsored by Erwin-Wasey and Co. Erwin-Wasey was an international advertising company that specialized in radio advertising; the agency was famous for its product sampling campaigns. Although it would be challenging, and expensive, to "sample" Steiff products nationally, Erwin-Wasey and Co. came up with the idea of sending Steiff letters, pins, and brochures to children who responded to a direct on-air marketing campaign promoted through Uncle Andy Claus. Here on the left you can see the letter that went out to children as part of this very early "Steiff club." You can click on it to make it bigger. Personally, Steiffgal finds it a little weird that Margarete "signed" this note from the late 1920s, given that she passed away in 1909. Details, details... 

The letter also talks about a little brochure that accompanied the mailing. This cheerful, orange and black printed pamphlet gives a brief history of the company and calls out the "superstar" items of the era, including Treff the Bloodhound, a horse on wheels, Fluffy cat, a bear on wheels, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, an elephant on wheels, Molly the puppy, a donkey on wheels, Bully the Bulldog, Teddy Clown, a mosaic ball, stick horse... and this very Tabby cat under discussion today. Her description reads, "A most lifelike cat with a "come hither" expression in standing position. Fine quality plush, most natural coloring, sewn in glass eyes, assorted colored ribbons." You can see this illustration and description here above on the left.

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this marmalade Tabby a sweet treat.

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

Monday, June 3, 2019

This Antique Steiff French Soldier Doll Is Five Stars All The Way!

It's safe to say that this week's topic will have uniform appeal! Check out this absolutely handsome Steiff doll that recently marched into Steiffgal's collection. He was an attic find and listed on eBay, which only proves there's no telling where the next great find will surface.

This soldier doll truly stands and delivers. He is 50 cm tall, five ways jointed, and made from felt. His face comes to life with blue and black glass pupil eyes, a prominent nose, and a ginger inset mohair mustache. His inset mohair hair exactly matches the color, length, and density of his mustache. Soldier's body, legs, and feet are super long and skinny while his ears and nose are exaggerated. He retains his tiny button-in-ear as his Steiff ID. Given his overall presentation, Steiffgal would consider him a "transitional" doll in terms of Steiff's early doll production. This means meaning his aesthetic and production falls between the company's earliest and more cartoon-like "Karikaturpuppen" dolls (c. 1903-1914) and their truly human scale dolls (c. 1908 - 1930).

Not surprisingly, this soldier's timing and production align with military precision here. This doll, called "Kuerassier" and secondarily noted as a French soldier, was only made in this size - about 20 inches tall -  in 1912. Cuirassiers were cavalry equipped with armour, swords, and well embellished helmets. They appeared in late 15th-century Europe through the beginning of WWI. Today they may attend state occasions for ceremonial, non-combat related purposes. When this Kuerassier doll left the factory in Giengen, Germany over a century ago, he did indeed carry a metal sword, much like his namesake. Unfortunately it has been lost to time. 

Kuerassier's military outfit is five stars all the way. It aligns with the uniforms worn by French Calvary soldiers during the late Franco-Prussian era. His fitted jacket is made from blue felt and is integral to his body. It has a loose peplum on the bottom. It is detailed with tiny buttons up the front and on the sleeves, red embroidered piping, and red felt patches on the wrists and collar. Another eye catching features of his coat include its epaulets, which are made from felt, ribbon, and string. They attach to his shoulders via metals buttons that match the ones down the front of his coat. His pants are made from red felt and resemble jodhpurs, which make room in the legs for movement. His black, knee high boot are handmade from leather and have brown leather soles. They are pictured here on the left. His stunning solid brass helmet is decorated with a now lilac colored woolen fringe and resembles the helmets worn by his namesake French Cuirassier Troopers in the late 1800s. It has a partial metal chin strap. You can see an illustration of an early 20th century French Calvary soldier a little bit up and on the left; the similarities between the uniforms are so interesting! The image is from the The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Steiff’s soldier dolls were an important segment of the company’s line and business in during the first quarter of the 20th century. In a span of about 20 years, Steiff produced examples representing German, Scottish, Moroccan, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, American, Belgian, French, Italian, and Austrian armed forces, among others. Well over 100 distinct designs were produced during this time frame; most of these patterns were made in multiple sizes. However, after WWI, interest in soldier dolls understandably plummeted. The company filled this void in the 1920’s by realigning its doll production efforts towards a series of toddler dolls, dressed animal and bear dolls, popular cartoon inspired dolls, and other happy go lucky novelties.

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this Kuerassier soldier doll worthy of a 21 gun salute.

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Overall, A Most Delightful And Unusual Steiff Rabbit Doll!

Hop to it and check out this delightful Steiff rabbit doll with a somewhat mysterious origin. Steiffgal saw this charming fun-bun for sale on an online auction, and was lucky enough to win her (or him, but more about that later.) Its animal doll configuration was typical to 1930s construction, but there was something a little different about this example. But what was it?

This standing sweetie measures 28 cm tall (not including the ears) and is head jointed. Rabbit's body is made from a soft fabric that has a velvet-y touch to it. It has flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing. The tips of its hands and feet, and its head and ears, are made from a woolen type of fabric - it is short, with a continuous, semi-rough feel to it. Rabbit's long "sideburns" (or side-buns?) are made from long mohair. Bunny's face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth, and traces of airbrushing. The ears are lined in wire and are poseable. Rabbit doll retains its long trailing "f" button and traces of a red ear tag as its IDs. 

So just who is this rare hare? This exact rabbit doll pattern does not appear in the Steiff Sortiment books. Steiff did make a series of wonderful rabbit dolls - toys with rabbit heads and human-like bodies like this one - starting in the 1930s. But none had the dramatic facial "hair" of the one under discussion here. This sideburned head pattern was produced on at least four other rabbit bodies. These included sitting and begging tail-turns head models, and two begging models - an unjointed version, and one wearing a little jacket. All appeared in the line from 1931 through 1940 overall. Given all of this, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the rabbit doll was indeed made in early to mid 1930s.

It is easy to go down a rabbit hole when it comes to learning more about Steiff rarities, and that's exactly what happened here. After looking through an original 1938 Steiff brochure, Steiffgal spotted a rabbit doll with mohair sideburns. Much to Steiffgal's surprise - as she thought the rabbit may be a girl - the bunny doll is actually called "Haspapa!" This literally translates to "Rabbit Father." He is shown next to another rabbit doll called "Hasmama," or "Rabbit Mother." Papa and Mama were made in 22 and 28 cm. The brochure does not mention their materials. However, it is interesting to note that they are posed with a woolen mohair duck. Woolen mohair was often used in the place of mohair plush on Steiff toys in the c. 1930-1950 time frame. It is considered an alternative, war-era fabric. So it is plausible that Haspapa was originally intended to be made out of woolen mohair and not traditional mohair plush. The picture from the brochure is shown here on the left, you can click on it to make it larger.

Finally, its a clothes call with Haspapa's darling outfit. According to the brochure picture, Haspapa left the factory wearing green overall style pants and what appears to be a checkered shirt. Fast forward eight decades, Haspapa did arrive wearing his wonderful red overalls; they are original to Steiff but not to him. The red fabric features lots of Steiff's most beloved toys and designs on a teeny-tiny scale, and looks great with his red nose and mouth . But given his age, and the New England weather, Steiffgal though he needed a few more layers. So Steiffgal's sister went right to work, making him comfortable cotton underwear, knitting him a sweater, and even "cobbling" him a pair of tie shoes. Isn't he a handsome devil? A big Steiff shout out to Steiffsis for the great handy work.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Haspapa has been a hare raising experience for you.

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Hans-Down, This Is One Amazing Antique Steiff Doll

Well hello, handsome! Country life certainly agrees with you. Today's special guest is a delightful example of Steiff's extraordinary, first quarter of the 20th century cloth doll production. Please say hello to Hans, the Swabian farmer.

Hans-down, this is one delightful doll. Hans has human proportions and stands 35 cm tall.  He is made from felt and is fully jointed. His hands have stitched fingers. His face comes to life with a brown mohair wig which has faded to silver over time, black button eyes, a prominent vertical facial seam, light blushing to his cheeks, and two horizontal seams by his eyes. His lips and nostrils are delicately defined by pink paint. Hans wears a traditional southern German (Swabian) farmers outfit, including a red buttoned felt vest detailed with five tiny Steiff buttons, black felt pants, a white cotton collared shirt, black tie shoes and white socks, and a black felt hat. He retains his tiny long trailing "f" button-in-ear as his Steiff ID. Hans was made in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 75 cm from 1908-1927. 

Hans appeared in Steiff's line for nearly two decades - and for good reasons! His charming presentation, regional outfit typical to southern Germany (where the Steiff factory is located), and ties to a popular Brothers Grimm fairy tale probably explain why - but more about that in just a bit! So given his long production period, how can you tell roughly when he might have been made?  Here are a few general guidelines to help approximately date Steiff's center-seamed faced cloth dolls from the early 1900s-late 1920s.

1.  Body: The earliest ones had cartoon-like or exaggerated features; starting around 1908 the company started producing children, adults, and soldiers with human proportions.

2.  Clothing: The earliest ones had clothing mostly or entirely integral to their bodies; starting around 1908 children and adult dolls with removable clothing were introduced on a large scale. Soldiers usually had most or all of their uniforms integral to their bodies.

3.  Eyes: The earliest ones had black shoe button eyes; starting around 1910 or so glass pupil eyes became the norm.

4.  Hands: The earliest ones had "fist" style hands; starting around 1910 or so fingered hands became the norm.

5.  Materials: The earliest dolls were produced in felt and/or velvet. Dolls with felt heads and linen bodies and/or limbs were produced during the WWI era (around 1914-1919). All felt dolls appeared in the line from around 1905-1914 and then again from around 1920 through the late 1920s.

If you overlay these guidelines on the Hans under review today, this model was most likely produced in the c. 1909-1911 time frame, give or take a bit.

Colleagues who study both Steiff and the history of literature suggest that Hans just might be the Hans of the Brothers Grimm "Clever Hans" story. The title of the story is meant to be ironic, as Hans is pretty much the opposite of clever. In a nutshell, Hans is "a day late and a dollar short" on a number of common sense tasks. These mis-steps ultimately result in the loss of his fiance. You can read, or listen to that short tale here. In 1913, Steiff created a print ad titled "Clever Hans" featuring this farmer doll doing something both foolish and endearing at the same time. This marketing piece is featured above; you can click on it to make it larger. The picture is from D. Ayers & D. Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears & Playthings.

Steiffgal hopes you've found this Hans the Farmer quite the charmer!

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

Monday, May 6, 2019

Care To Feather Your Nest With This Steiff Woolen Miniature Parrot?

Bird's the word with this next great Steiff find! Literally! This perky little parrot is really the best of all words, and was produced during the heyday period for Steiff woolen miniature pets. Let's take a bird's eye view of what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Look who arrived on a wing and a prayer! This woolen miniature Steiff parrot measures 8 cm long and 12 cm long including his tail feathers. He is sitting, head jointed, and made from red, blue, green, yellow, and grey Nomotta wool threads. His tail is made from delicately cut, single-thick red, blue, and orange felt fabric. His tiny, irresistible face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a double thick grey felt beak. He truly has the most appealing presentation and personality!

Now let's take a seat and check out his great accessories. Parrot is perched on a 23 cm tall wooden and metal stand. The base and his perch are wood and the rest is formed and shaped rods. The base is 8 cm in diameter. Everything is painted the same shade of light green. The little silver chain connecting him to the perch is all original. A few stitches connect the parrot to his perch, which can swing gently from side to side. Parrot's button and tag have been lost to time. They could have been located his felt tail feathers, around a metal rod, or embedded in his circular base - only he knows for sure, and he's not talking! Parrot on a stand was produced in this size only from 1936-1941. The company also made the almost identical parrot standing on metal feet from 1936-1940; his tag and button would have been located like a little bracelet around one of his legs. 

Steiff began creating their line of woolen miniatures in the early 1930s. In response to geo-political, economic, and social pressures of the time, Steiff was looking to produce smaller items at accessible price points that a broad German audience would find desirable. The woolen miniature concept fit that strategy perfectly, as they were ideal as collectibles for adults as well as playthings for children. Birds and rabbits translated especially well to this new product format, given their natural shapes, body positions, and textures. Because they proved so popular, Steiff would go on to introduce animals from practically every category as woolen miniatures through the late 1930s.

This parrot novelty perfectly marries the company's strengths in woolen miniature production, authentic design, decorative use of felt, and it's lesser known core competencies of woodworking and turning. Other Steiff factory original woolen miniatures in "vignettes" with accessories such as this one included a bird tree decorated with flowers and birds, a bird's nest with babies and a proud mama, and a series of congratulators - charming dressed miniature animals mounted on round wooden bases that could be "personalized" with a greeting or inscription for the lucky recipient.

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed hanging out with this great antique Steiff parrot today!

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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Rolling Along With This Marvelous Miniature Steiff Donkey On Wheels

It's easy to be young at heart, even if you are not technically "young." And Steiff collectors have a knack for being youthful, as these beautiful toys make everyone feel like a kid again! This week we are taking a look at a lovely baby donkey who just happens to be over a century old. Check out this fantastic foal and see what makes her - and her ride - so lovely from the design and historical perspectives.

This happy handful packs alot of detail into a small space. She is about 13 cm tall and 15 cm wide, standing, unjointed, and made from grey mohair. Her mane and the tip of her tail are made from black mohair. Her all-mohair ears are pert and cheerful, and her face comes to life with black button eyes and a touch of airbrushing. She retains her original leather saddle, which is connected to her via two strips of linen ribbon. The saddle is detailed with three buttons, which probably helped to keep additional reins - which have been lost to time - in place. She glides along on four blue wooden wheels that are connected by metal axles.

Buttoning things up here, donkey retains her long trailing “f” knopf im ohr as her Steiff ID. This mohair donkey on wheels pattern was made in 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 80, and 150 cm from 1914 through 1943 overall and is one of Steiff's most beloved and endearing prewar patterns. It is Steiffgal's best guess that she is a petite version of the 14 cm edition. Given her configuration and detailing, it is suspected she is from the 1920s.

Wooden it be good to know a little more about her great blue wheels? Steiff's earliest wheeled toys were made with metal wheels. But starting in the 19-teens, the company began producing items on wooden wheels, like this darling donkey. Why is that? Steiffgal can come up with three possible business reasons for this significant and material change.

The first was to enable design flexibility. Wooden wheels, unlike metal wheels, could be painted in fun colors, adding to an items appeal, appearance, and perceived value. They also could be drilled slightly off center, becoming the company's beloved "eccentric" wheels. When an eccentric wheeled toy was pulled along, it waddled or shimmied in motion, just like the real animal would. To grow and stay competitive, Steiff needed to constantly come up with new and interesting products for the marketplace. Early wooden wheeled items lead to other rolling toys, including "Record" style, gallop, roly-poly, and wi-wag novelties.

The second was to create distribution efficiencies. Wood is lighter than metal, and that needs to be taken into consideration in terms of transportation. By the 19-teens, Steiff was indeed sending its toys and playthings all over the world. The lighter they could be made, the cheaper it would be to get them from here to there.

The third was to take advantage of available resources. The Steiff factory is located in an area with many trees and forests. Towards the end of WWI, and through the 1930s, Steiff significantly increased the number of exclusively wooden toys, and toys with wooden features, in their catalogs. It is a little known fact that Steiff produced a small line of painted, wooden furniture for children in the early 1920s. Steiff also figured out a way to create stuffed toys made from wood-plush when traditional woolen fabrics were not readily available around 1919. There is no question that the use of wood simplified the supply chain, created efficiencies, and provided factory jobs at a critical time in the company's history.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of donkeys and wheels has been a real go-getter for you.

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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

All Smiles Over This Latest Steiff Teddy Baby Find!

Baby love! It's no secret that Steiff's wonderful prewar Teddy Baby bears and their novelties really float Steiffgal's boat. Like many Steiff enthusiasts, she simply cannot resist these dear cubs and their impish, carefree, and endearing personalities. And because of their unique construction, no two ever look exactly alike, only adding to their collectibility. Here's her latest adoption - a precious, pint sized cub with a distinctly old fashioned look and feel to him. It's hard to believe that he's nearly nine decades old despite his youthful name and appearance.

There's no question this is one beautiful baby. Teddy Baby is made from brown mohair, stands 17 cm tall, and is fully jointed. He has all of the beloved characteristics of Steiff's legacy Teddy Baby pattern: a distinctive, well defined muzzle; flat, broad, feet made for standing; downturned wrists; and sweet, toddler-like features and proportions. His irresistible face comes to life with an open, smiling mouth detailed with red (in his mouth) and brown (around his eyes and mouth) airbrushing; a black hand embroidered nose; and proportional brown and black glass pupil eyes placed right on the seam where his velvet and mohair facial fabrics come together. 

This smiling sweetie is also one well accessorized cub. He wears a red leather collar that is decorated with six dimensional metal studs, two long trailing "f" Steiff buttons, and a little brass bell. These wonderful and period compliments are all original to him, and are often lost to time. Teddy Baby retains his long trailing "f" Steiff button in ear and named chest tag with the words "ges. gesch" right under the words "Teddy Baby." "Ges. Gesch" is shorthand for "Gesetzlich Geschutzt." These German words translate roughly to the concept of a "trademark" as we have here in the USA. Teddy Baby examples with "ges. gesch" chest tags suggest that they were manufactured around 1930 or shortly after. It is Steiffgal's guess that the Teddy Baby under discussion here is a large 15 cm version, given his construction and detailing.

Keeping it all in the family, Steiffgal thought it would be fun to compare two versions of Steiff's 15 cm brown mohair prewar Teddy Baby bears - one with an open mouth and one with a closed mouth. Today's open mouth, standard line Teddy Baby bear debuted in 1930 and was produced in 9, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 25, 30, 35, 38, 40, 45, and 65 cm through 1943 overall. Steiff also made a closed mouth version of its brown mohair Teddy Baby bear. These were manufactured in 15, 20, 25, 30, 38, and 45 cm from 1929 through 1931 overall. Here are a few subtle design differences between the two cousins...

  • Muzzle: The open mouth version has a velvet muzzle and the closed mouth version has a mohair muzzle.
  • Hand pads: The open mouthed version has velvet hand pads and the closed mouth version has felt hand pads.
  • Feet: The open mouthed version has all velvet feet and the closed mouth version has mohair feet and felt foot pads.
  • Claws: The open mouthed version has painted foot claws and no hand claws, and the closed mouth version has black hand embroidered foot and hand claws. 
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's 15 cm prewar brown Teddy Baby bears has been sweeter than chocolate!

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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Check Out This Fez-tive Steiff Rarity!

Have you ever felt really good about a Steiff purchase? Well, Steiffgal recently has - in  more ways than one! Check out this marvelous, and marvelously dressed, Steiff monkey on wheels. There's no question you'll enjoy the ride!

This early 20th century Steiff "Record Peter" is the wheel-deal. First let's talk about the chimp. He is fully jointed, made entirely from felt, and is stuffed with excelsior. He measures 20 cm tall sitting, not including his cart. His face, hands, and feet are made from brown and dark tan felt. His body is made from red felt and is designed as if he's wearing a one-piece outfit that is integral to his design. It is decorated with a large, scalloped edged collar. The edges of his collar and outfit are trimmed in yellow floss. His face comes to life with black shoe button eyes, seams to indicate his nose and mouth, and a little pink and black paint highlighting. His proper-topper is a removable red felt fez with a black tassel. It is absolutely amazing that he still retains this accessory probably a century or more after he left the factory in Giengen, Germany! Felt Record Peter retains his tiny, long trailing "F" button-in-ear as his Steiff ID.

Rolling along, let's take a look at his fine ride. The carriage itself is made out of metal and is painted black. It glides along on four natural colored wooden wheels. The monkey does not actually "sit" directly on anything; he is mounted to the carriage via his backside and legs. This configuration allows his torso to move back and forth when the cart is pulled along. He holds the cart handle with both of his hands; his fingers have been sewn into place to hold this grip position. His "seat" is a red painted wooden rectangle that also doubled as a "squeaker" when he was new. The up and down motion of the wheels would have caused the bellows on the bottom of the wooden seat to let out a little noise with each rotation. Overall, this fantastic felt monkey on the go appeared in the line in 20 and 25 cm from 1913 through 1938. 

Let's dig a little deeper into the record of this legacy Steiff design. “Record” refers to a Steiff item on an "Irish Mail Cart" style vehicle, while “Peter” is the name of the monkey design. Steiff introduced its "Record" range of products in 1912, starting with an all brown mohair chimp on wheels. This "newfangled" design proved extremely popular. Record-style Teddy bears, rabbits, and dolls, including Max and Moritz, appeared in the catalog soon after. Over time, even Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat were made in "Record" form! Like Record Peter under discussion here today, each of these wonderful Steiff novelties rode upon a black metal, four-wheeled cart with a handle. When any Steiff "Record" item was rolled about, his arms and torso would pump back and forth vigorously, giving the appearance that he was working hard to keep his cart moving.

And finally, picture this. You can see red felt Record Peter's debut image here above. You can click on it to make it bigger. The photo is taken from an original Steiff catalog for the American market dated 1913. At the time, the 20 cm version cost $1.50 and the 25 cm version cost $2.00. In 2019 dollars, that's the equivalent of $38.52 and $51.35. 

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this rare felt Record Peter quite moving.

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

Sunday, April 7, 2019

This Petite Steiff Pachyderm Is Simply Unforgettable!

How can something so small be absolutely jumbo at the same time? Well, that's a riddle most Steiff collectors have no trouble answering. The very first "plaything" Margarete Steiff produced - albeit by "accident" - was a felt elephant in 1880. Since then, the company's elephants, regardless of size, have always garnered lots of love and interest from collectors worldwide. Steiffgal challenges you NOT to fall in love with this petite prince under discussion today!

There's not room for much junk in the trunk when it comes to this happy handful. Here we have a 10 cm standing baby elephant. He is unjointed and made from blue mohair. His little face come alive with simple black button eyes, proportional ears, a slightly tucked under trunk, and ivory tusks. His mohair tail is tipped in what feels to be like woolen yarn. His red saddle cloth is vintage, but probably not original to him given its "homemade" presentation. It is decorated with gold colored embroidery. Elephant retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff IDs. 

This little guy is absolutely ele-fantastic, but exactly who is he? It's a little confusing. He doesn't EXACTLY appear in Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. Steiff did produced a blue standing 8 cm elephant as a "pram toy" in 1926 through 1933. He came with a bell on the tip of his trunk, a cord, a pom-pom decoration, and an ivory hanging ring. However, this pram toy did not have tusks and had black and brown glass pupil eyes. So as they say, close but no cigar with a match here. 

A bit more research finds a 10 cm blue mohair elephant with black button eyes and ivory tusks pictured in the Sortiment. However, this model is described as having eccentric wooden wheels. That wheeled model was made in 1924 only. The elephant under discussion today looks very much like the one pictured in the Sortiment, but shows no evidence of ever being on wheels - there are no stitches, holes, or indicators on the bottom of his feet that would suggest he was once "on a roll." It is Steiffgal's best guess that the elephant noted in the Sortiment was produced with or without wheels, and that was just an oversight in his cataloging. This can happen on items that were produced in limited quantities, and/or for a short period of time. 

Now for a little color commentary. Although this elephant looks grey today, if you look in his "nooks and crannies," his baby-blue coloring is obvious. Steiff introduced many items in the mid to late 1920s in happy, jelly bean colors like this, so his hue perfectly aligns with his production period. These colors - especially pink and blue - tend to really fade over time. This probably has to do with the chemistry and properties of the pigments used to make fabric color dyes last century.  

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this little blue elephant absolutely unforgettable. 

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

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Getting All Dolled Up Over This Pretty Steiff Kitty

It's not often that you come across something that is the best of all worlds. But such is the case with this week's special My Steifflife blog visitor! Check out this simply adorable - and remarkable - Steiff cat doll. There's no question you'd want to welcome her into your meow mix!

This pretty kitty is the whole package. Her official Steiff name is PuppKatz Cat Doll. She is is 22 cm tall, standing, and head jointed. Her body is solidly stuffed and made from tan flesh colored fabric that has a slightly velvet-like finish to it. Her feet are flat and designed for standing; they are lined in cardboard. Her arms hang softly at her sides. Her feet and the tops of her paws are made from white mohair. Her mohair head is typical to Steiff's early 1930s cat head designs and is gently tabby striped. Cat's pert ears are lined in felt. Her pensive face comes alive with teal green and black slit style pupil eyes and a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth. Cat's clear monofilament whiskers have been lost to time. PuppKatz was made in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1931-1943 overall.

This PuppKatz is part of a series of animal dolls Steiff produced in the 1930s and 1940s. Other species represented included bears, rabbits, dogs, elephants, and ducks. All shared the same stationary human form body. Most were made in 14, 22, and 28 cm and had removable clothing. As such, the original clothing was often lost to time, which is the case here with this PuppKatz. However, PuppKatz's current outfit of white underwear and a pretty belted dress, is perfectly scaled and adorable on her. She also came with a little pin with the name "Amy" on it. As such, that is her new name moving forward. 

The strategy behind the PuppKatz, and other animal doll patterns, is quite interesting and reflective of the prewar period in which they were made. These items launched in the early 1930s. Germany at this time was in a period of high unemployment and financial uncertainty. As a response to poor economic conditions, Steiff started making items that were simplified in design, used less expensive or even alternative materials, and were "theme and variation" in nature. The change in tone from items introduced from the end of the 1920s to the early 1930s is absolutely striking. Steiff's 1920-era items for the most part were colorful, fluffy, feminine, and childlike. Their early 1930-era items tended to be a bit glum looking, longer, narrower, and thinner

Steiff's animal dolls fit the needs of the 1930s business environment to a T. They were all on the same easy body that was made from inexpensive fabric and could be detailed in countless ways. In the case of this PuppKatz, she was made in three sizes, and each size was available in up to 11 different outfits over time. This one design ultimately represented 29 different SKUs in the product line. These outfits included sporting clothes, pajamas, suits, dresses, traditional clothing, and swimsuits, among others. These outfits were numbered and noted by a distinct code in the animal doll's article number. By having so many options for this one simple design, the company was able to fill its catalogs efficiently when product design and development resources, as well as raw materials, were severely limited by factors beyond the company's control. Steiff's 1938 catalog featured a whole spread of their animal dolls and various outfits; you can see that page here on the left. Please click on the photo to make it larger and more legible. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on PuppKatz has tickled your whiskers in the best possible way.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Just Who Is This Cunning Little Vixen?

It's easier to solve a mystery when you have material evidence at hand. And such is the case with today's Steiff conundrum. Check out this sweet, albeit sly, little gal. She's clearly a fox made by Steiff. But she does not appear in any reference books Steiffgal can find, and something about her is quite unusual. Read on to learn more.

This foxy friend is 12 cm, sitting, and unjointed. She is made from dralon and mohair; tan dralon on most of her body and tail, white dralon on her chest, and mohair on her muzzle. Her ears are lined in peach colored trivera velvet. She has lost her button, but has a small hole in her ear where it once resided. The backs of her ears, her feet, and her back are highlighted with black airbrushing. Her pensive face comes to life with brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a bit of black airbrushing to highlight her eyes.

So just what makes this fox a cunning little vixen? She certainly has a strong resemblance to Steiff's beloved Xorry Desert fox pattern. This sitting, unjointed fox was made in 12 and 17 cm from 1957 through 1970. Xorry Desert fox is different than the company's standing, unjointed Xorry fox, which was produced in 11, 18, and 28 cm from 1960 through 1969. Both Xorry patterns were made from mohair. However, the Xorry under discussion here is made from mostly dralon, and other 1970-era fabrics.

Let's try and outfox her material-mashup. In the 1960s and 1970s, Steiff produced a great number of toy items in dralon materials. At the time, it was a good solution for toy making as it was relatively easy to work with, very durable, washable, and less expensive than fine woolen fabrics. Starting in the early to mid 1970s, Steiff included a touch of mohair fabrics on items that were predominately made from synthetic fabrics - perhaps to give them a more "upscale" presentation. For example the company's 12 and 18 cm Snuffy rabbit from 1974-1982 has mohair on the back of his ears, top of his tail, and on his two front legs. And their mostly dralon 18 and 25 cm Tapsy Bear Cub from 1972-1978 features a mohair muzzle.

Given all of this, it is Steiffgal's best thinking that this little dralon fox with mohair detailing was made as a sample, or in a very low production run, in the mid-1970s. Its mix of materials and familiar pattern strongly suggest that it was designed as possible lower-cost, next version alternative to the company's 1957-1970 timeframe mohair Xorry Desert Fox - but never released on a commercial scale.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual Desert Fox has given you the warm and fuzzies. 

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

It's Sofa, So Good When It Comes To Steiff's Unusual Prewar Couch Animals

Steiffgal promises today's blog will be as laid back as possible. That's because we're going to put our feet up and look at a very cool Steiff rabbit who would want it no other way. Check out this lovely honey bunny and see what makes her so interesting from the historical and product development perspectives.

It's sofa, so good when it comes to this Steiff "Couch Rabbit." Rabbit is 11 cm tall and 20 cm wide. She is head jointed, made from white mohair, and solidly stuffed with excelsior. Her ears are lined in tan velvet. She has wonderful, well designed, long, skinny legs and feet; each padless foot has three hand embroidered claws on it. Her oversized head and face come to life with pink and red glass albino eyes, a pink nose, light pink mouth, and traces of her original monofilament whiskers. She left the Steiff factory wearing a silk ribbon and brass bell, and lying on an oval shaped felt mat finished with a ruffled ribbon edge. Couch Rabbit was made in 11 and 13 cm from 1928 through 1930.

The truth is - as far as Steiffgal can tell - is that Steiff made very few versions of these lying pets. It is possible that this design concept emerged as the company was actively pursuing all sorts of "novelty" patterns in the mid-1920s; these included a series of pull and clockwork toys on wheels. The only other documented sofa animal she can find is the company's "Couch Cat." This chill-axing cat was also made in two sizes (10 and 12 cm) and during the 1928 through 1930 time frame. Their names, body positions, and accessories suggest that the company's "couch animals" were designed as decorative items to display on living room furniture like sofas. After all, that's where you find household pets resting comfortably in real life, right? The page from the company's 1929 catalog advertising these sweet treats is here on the left, the photo is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Katalog 1920-1929.

Despite its relative rarity, Couch Rabbit has many details that are typical to the company's rabbits of the period. For example, her childlike appearance, with an oversized head and eyes, exactly mirrors the company's design aesthetic of the late 1920s. Her long, skinny, padless feet and chunky thighs are almost identical in shape and proportion to the company's beloved Record Hase. And her nose and mouth stitching, consisting of a solid triangular outlined nose and a simple cross-style mouth, is also seen on many rabbits of her era. You can see these design elements here on the Record Hase (made in 25 cm from 1926 through 1943) pictured here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's Couch Rabbit has been a restful experience for you.

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Prettier Than A Picture!

Picture the next great Steiff mystery! It might involve an unusual shape, size, or color of one of the company's beloved antique rarities. Or, it just might be about... a photograph. Check out this note from Kathryn from New York about this antique family image of her Grandfather and his Teddy bear. How would you frame your response? She shares:

"I’m sending you this beautiful photo of my grandfather who raised me. Unfortunately we do not have the bear anymore. I’m doing an oil painting of this photo and I want to do justice to the Teddy bear in the picture. I think it looks like a Steiff.

The mystery is why is the tag on the right ear instead of the left? It seems to have all the other features of a Steiff. I was hoping for your thoughts on this if you don’t mind.

My grandpa Henry is of German decent and was born in Jersey City in 1899. The photo was taken by a photographer in New York City. I think he is under the age of 10 in the photo so that would give us an idea of the bears age. I would also like to know the color you think it is for the painting. I started to paint it in a beige color with dark brown nose and lips and black eyes which are hard to see from the angle. This is the clearest copy I can get.

I just think this is such a beautiful photo of a child with his beloved Teddy bear.

I’m anxiously looking forward to hearing what you think. Is it some kind of rare thing? Or is it an imitation?

Thank you for your time and knowledge.
Sincerely, Kathryn" 

Ok, let's first focus our attention on the actual photograph. It is Steiffgal's best thinking that the picture was actually "flipped" at some point. This might have happened years ago, during the printing from the negative, or sometime more recent, via an "electronic" step. If you take the mirror image of the photo, the button is clearly in the right place and in the correct ear. And, if you look really, really closely, Steiffgal thinks you can even make out some part of an ear tag, too. You can see both versions of the photograph in the image here - both the "original" and "mirror" image. 

Now for a little color commentary. Given the hue contrasts, appearance, and scale of the bear in the photograph, it is Steiffgal's best thinking that he is most likely a white Steiff bear in the roughly c. 25 to 35 cm range from the c. 1906-1909 timeframe. And why is that?  

(For reference, here on the left we have two white Steiff cubs from about the same era as Henry's; the big boy is 40 cm tall and the little guy is 22 cm tall.) 

1. First, the date is pretty clear given the information provided by Kathryn. The photo is from about 1909. The bear could have been made a few years earlier than that - as early as about 1906, given its presentation. The Schwarz brothers started carrying Steiff in their stores here in America in 1906, and were the first stores to do so. 

2. Now the size. This has to be estimated purely through "back of the envelope" techniques. Today, an "average" 10 year old boy is 55 inches tall or about 140 cm. Henry could have been much taller, or shorter, than this - there is is no way of knowing. But given he was "average," his bear appears to be roughly about 20 to 25% of his height, putting his bear in at c. 28 to 35 cm tall. And although it's impossible to tell with certainty from the antique picture, it appears that Henry's bear may have a horizontally stitched nose - given there is no "prominent" vertical center stitch visible. This also hints that the bear is less than 40 cm tall. 

3.  And last but not least, his color. The bear is pretty much the "lightest" object in the shot. And his nose is not very dark - like Henry's hair or eyes. This suggests the nose is brown - and in turn, that the bear was white. 

Steiffgal hopes this photograph has given you a delightful snapshot of Steiff's enduring quality and appeal.

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