Saturday, December 2, 2023

Playing Doggy Detective Over This Unusual Steiff Wartime Era Canine

Paws and take a look at this interesting dog made during a really challenging time in world history. He has a familiar ring to him, don't you think... but his fabric is quite different than his standard line relatives. Just who is he, and when was his birthday - in dog years or otherwise? 

His lucky owner - Patricia from Europe - shares:

"I would be very grateful for your expertise concerning this Spitz dog. He is not catalogued in any of the Steiff Sortiment books. 

I have absolutely no idea if he is prewar? 

My concerns are his alternative coat. This is definitely not mohair plush. This is very lightly woven and the pile is flat, not fluffy.The airbrushing is bright and vibrant and his coat has full coverage. 

He is completely perfect with no damages at all. Unfortunately, he doesn't have his Steiff ID. He has beautiful glass eyes and is quite lovely. He is 22 x 22 cm in size. Any information on this little treasure will be greatly appreciated."

What an interesting find!
Some of Steiff's items made just before, and just after, WWII are not captured in the Sortiment books. This could be because very few were actually made and sold, they are extremely rare today, they might have been produced only as samples or test items, or they simply fell through the documentation cracks during a complicated geopolitical period and its aftermath. The Sortiment books are great references, but they are not a complete and comprehensive accounting of Steiff's production. And, they were not validated or published by Steiff - but by a third party. 

That being said, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this dog is a version of the company's standard line Wolfspitz dog series that was officially in production from 1934-1943 overall.
These canines were made standing on all fours in 22 and 35 cm; on eccentric wheels in 22 cm; and sitting in 17, 21, 22, and 25 cm. They were all unjointed and stuffed with excelsior. Their face, ears, and legs were made from shorter mohair while their backs, tails, and torsos were made from very long matching mohair. Each was detailed with lifelike brown and black shading on their backs and tails and had three embroidered black claws on each paw. Their faces came to life with felt lined ears, brown and black glass pupil eyes, a black embroidered nose and mouth, and brown airbrushed highlights on their foreheads. For reference, you can see the 22 cm mohair sitting Wolfspitz here on the left; the photo is from Steiffgal's collection. 

Patricia's dog appears to check many of the boxes to the company's basic prewar Wolfspitz pattern.
These details include things like the use of long and short materials to replicate the dog's coat; three painted folds on the dog's forehead; airbrushed shading on his back and tail; and a very similar facial expression and rendering, among others.

From c. 1934 - the early 1940s, and then again from c. 1946 - 1949, things were really tough from the materials, supply chain, and operations perspectives at Steiff. Premier, traditional toy making materials including mohair and felt were in short supply and were often allocated to military purposes. As such, Steiff did everything it could to keep its toy making production lines supplied and active during these times. One way to do this was to use fabrics and materials that were available in the place of felt and mohair. These often were in the forms of artificial silk plush, wool plush, cotton plush, and other hybrid fabrics that blended wool, mohair, and other fibers. 

Given its presentation, materials, size, and detailing, it is Steiffgal's best thinking that this Spitz dog dates from the late prewar period and is made in part from some type of substitute plush that has wool as an element of its weave.
 He might have been a sample or prototype to test how his design would turn out in the plush available at the time. There is no indication (as far as Steiffgal knows of) that this pattern was produced in any form in the early postwar era.  The fabric on Patricia's pooch appears somewhat similar in texture and density to the unusual "lumpy-bumpy" plush on an otherwise standard line standing play duck from Steiffgal's collection. This fine feathered friend - like the Wolfspitz - was in the line from the early 1930s through the early 1940s. You can see this duck here on image on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this interesting Spitz dog has you barking up the right tree!

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

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Can Steiff's Jocko Chimps of Yesteryear Speak French?

Given how adorable and appealing Steiff's dolls, bears, and animals are, it is no surprise that antique advertising featuring these photogenic superstars can be as collectible as the items themselves. Early Steiff catalogs, mailers, and advertisements give unique insights into the design and marketing priorities of the company over time. They can also provide interesting metrics like prices, weights, and minimum orders, and even company or distributors' names, addresses, and contact information.

Check out this amazing piece of ephemera featuring Steiff's legacy Jocko chimpanzees.
There is much to learn from this simple 3" x 5" card. This all original example was produced around 1912 for Steiff's business partner in Paris. The front of this double sided, cardboard card shows a full color image of six Jockos playing in a miniature bedroom. The space is furnished with three wooden chairs and a bed. There is also a framed and matted picture on the wall. Three Jockos don turn of last century style dresses detailed with pleated fronts and decorative embroidery. Two others wear blue playsuits with white trim. And one is just simply in his birthday suit. The Jocko on the far right seems upset, and her friend just to her left appears worried about that. Steiff always had a great way of capturing these emotional subtleties in their early images. You can also see Steiff branding on the top left side of the image. The vignette is simply irresistible.


The back of this time capsule is equally as interesting, but for different reasons. It has a simply rendered map of turn of last century Paris, with a red square indicating the location of the Steiff distributorship at 23 Rue des Petites-Hotels. The words on the card summarize as: "Fabric Toy Factory, Margarete Steiff, located at 23 Rue des Petits Hotels in Paris with the head office in Giengen on the Brenz River in Germany. Offering toys and animals, dolls, kites, and pincushions made from felt, plush, velvet, etc. Winner of the grand prize at the World's fairs in Saint Louis in 1904 and Brussels in 1910."

The actual intended purpose of this card is not clear. It doesn't have a space for an address or stamp, so it could not be mailed like a postcard as we know them today. And it is a little large for a standard business card. It might have been put in an envelope as a mailer, or it could have been handed out at a trade show or exhibition as a mini brochure. The map on the back suggests that the location may have been hard to find, and/or that the location encouraged visitors.


A simple google search finds that today, 23 Rue des Petites-Hotels in Paris is occupied in part by the Al Dente Agency. According to their website, Al Dente describes itself as: “We are an integrated creative agency based in Paris and Rome, believing in the cultural aura of luxury brands.” Perhaps its principals could feel the Steiff love - and aura - when they considered this location for their business in the City of Lights? Above you can see what the street looks like today from the on-the-ground perspective; the image is from Wikipedia.org.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Jocko card has given you a little insight into the company's turn of last century monkey business.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

This Antique Image Featuring Steiff's Record Peter Is Pretty As A Picture

This reader's question is the real-wheel-deal indeed! And just goes to show you how far back, and how deeply, some of Steiff's legacy patterns resonate with people all around the world. Zuzana from Slovakia writes,

"Good evening,

I have a very special question for you and would be really grateful if you can help me. I am a restoration and conservation student from Academy of Fine Art and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. I am working on this gelatine photograph of two girls with a goat in the middle. One of the girls has a pull toy monkey and I am guessing it's a Steiff toy. I was just curious, if you maybe will have any kind of information about this specific toy. This photo is the only I have and no more information was attached. Maybe you as a professional will see something I cannot.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you and thank you so so much.

Have a nice day and Greetings from Slovakia, Zuzana."


This delightful inquiry falls beautifully at the intersection of antique ephemera and Steiff history.
It is always fascinating to see Steiff items appearing in photographs of yesterday - or even last century. What you see here in the photo from Zuzana is definitely one of Steiff's most beloved and signature items - a chimpanzee on a four wheeled cart, or what is traditionally called a "Record Peter." Here on the left you can see a very early Steiff print advertisement for this very product, the image is from D. Ayers and D. Harrison's, Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

Let's focus on the history and details of this marvelous monkey.
Steiff's Record Peter is unquestionably the most well-known novelty based on the company's legacy Jocko the Chimp pattern. This plaything consists of a Jocko riding upon a metal chassis hand cart which glides along on four wooden wheels - usually painted red. When Record Peter is pulled, his arms and legs swing back and forth in synchrony, giving the appearance that he’s working hard to keep his vehicle in motion. Record Peter made his debut in 1912 in 25 cm. As such, this photo was taken in 1912 at the earliest. Here on the left you can see a lovely legacy and most likely mid-century Steiff Record Peter with his original box, the image is from Invaluable.com.

The Record Peter design was an immediate sensation upon its introduction. Steiff's 1912 catalog described him as: “Record Peter, in silky brown mohair plush, seated on a self-drive chassis with sturdy wooden wheels and automatic sound box. Virtually unbreakable mechanism. Simply has to be pulled along by attached cord.” This novelty also came in a number of cataloged and colorful forms and size variations through the early 1940s. These included examples ranging from 10 to 30 cm, as well as rarities made in red, blue, yellow, white, green, red, and black mohair. Each of these colorful characters was decorated with a festive neck ruff. Given his longevity in the line, he also appeared once in a blue moon in some unconventional and/or not cataloged fabrics, including artificial silk plush and cotton plush. These "non-mohair" fabrics usually suggest that the item was made just before, during, or after one of the world wars. You can see two prewar variations on Steiff's Record Peter design below; the one on the left is made from all felt and wears a matching fez and the one of the right is made from cinnamon colored mohair. The image is from the author's collection. 

Due to his popularity, it is no surprise that Record Peter was one of the first items Steiff manufactured when the factory reopened for toy making business post WWII.
A 25 cm version was produced in brown silk plush in 1949, then in brown mohair through 1970. Even though he has not "officially" appeared full time in the line for nearly half a century, he remains one of the most cherished and timeless Steiff designs amongst collectors today.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fabulous photo (and its contents) has been a picture perfect experience for you.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Barking Up The Right Tree With This Petite And Princely Steiff Pinscher

And they call it puppy love! And for good reason. This sweet sitting pup recently joined Steiffgal's hug. He came in a giant box lot. But as all collectors know... sometimes these types of purchases contain unexpected treasures like this.

Sit and stay and check out this sweet pup.
He is a sweet example of Steiff's Pinscher dog. He is 17 cm tall, sitting, and unjointed. He is made from long tan mohair that was tipped in brown when he was new. You can see this tipping in his armpits, folds, and other places where the sun does not shine! Pinscher
 has black hand embroidered claws on his front and back paws. His face is detailed with charming proportional brown and black glass pupil eyes, a black hand stitched nose and mouth, a spot of red on his lips, and a center-seamed muzzle. His pert triangular mohair ears are lined in tan felt, and as is customary to the breed, he has a proportionally very small tail. He has a nonworking squeaker in his belly. 

Like most of Steiff's creations, this Pinscher is lovingly and authentically rendered.
He in a very appealing and authentic sitting position; his back legs are angled and bent in the way a real puppy sits - especially when they are trying coax you into giving them a snack! This guy retains his long trailing "f" Steiff button and bits of his red tag as his Steiff IDs. This tipped mohair Steiff Pinscher pattern was produced in 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1914 though 1931 overall.

Pinschers are few and far between in the Steiff line. Over time, three versions were produced prewar. As far as Steiffgal can tell, there has not been one in the line after the early 1940s. It is interesting to note that Steiff's debut Pinscher was produced at the same time as the company's rod jointed bears. Like the rod jointed bears, this guy was also fully rod jointed, had black wooden shoebutton eyes, and a handmade black gutta percha nose. He appeared in 35 cm from 1903 through 1906. He had a distinctly Teddy bear look to him but his limbs were more slender and he did not have felt paw pads. You can see a picture of him here on the left; the image is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

After an eight year hiatus, Pinschers again graced the Steiff catalog. The Pinscher under discussion here today followed the rod jointed version. Steiff's final Pinscher was similar to the tipped version, but made in long grey brown mohair in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1935-1942. 

Pinschers are a distinctly German breed, so it should be no surprise that Steiff chose to produce a few for their line.
These dogs originated in southern Germany (also where the Steiff company is located.) They were first officially recognized in 1885 and accepted into the American Kennel Club in 2003. German Pinschers were one of the foundation breeds in the origins of the Doberman Pinscher and the Miniature Pinscher as we know them today. German Pinschers were almost lost to time both post WWI and WWII. According to the AKC, there were no litters registered in West Germany from 1949 to 1958. Due to the heroic efforts of one man, the breed was rescued via intensive breeding and conservation efforts.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this petite Pinscher has brought a little more happiness to your day.

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