Sunday, May 15, 2022

Hold Everything And Check Out This Unusual Steiff Novelty!

Now for something completely different! Steiff is well known for producing functional novelties for home, school, and work use in addition to the company's plush animal, doll, and bear production. This tradition goes back to the late 1800s, when Margarete Steiff produced and marketed a series of oversized, embroidered felt "pockets" designed as newspaper holders, bed wall bags, duster holder bags, and brush holders, among others. You can see some of these fantastic items here on the left. Today's blog feature, despite its unconventional form and psychedelic hues, has its roots in these early and legacy products.

Hold everything and check out this unusual Steiff "thing-a-ma-bob."
This is the first and only example of this oddity Steiffgal knows of or has handled. It measures 25 cm long and is made of yellow and red knitted fur. These colors reflect Steiff's corporate branding hues of the period. It is unjointed and unstuffed. It comes to life with oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a red fabric nose, red felt ears, and a red mouth. It has a 15 cm red zipper on his back which has a silver pull ring. According to Pfeiffer, this item is identified simply as an "accessory case" and appeared in the line from 1979-1981 in this size only. The case retains its button, eartag, chest tag, and hang tag as its Steiff IDs.

So of course there are two mysteries associated with this item. The first is, what animal is it supposed to be.... and the second is... what exactly is it designed to hold?  Neither has a clear cut answer. 

Let's take a closer look at both questions here. As for its identity, it has the physical qualities of several species. It is long and narrow like a snake or eel. Its round ears and muzzle shape sort of have mouse qualities. And its rear end fin is fish-like. So it would be safe to say that it is a "happy hybrid." And for its functionality, it is Steiffgal's best guess that it might have been proportioned to hold pencils and pens for a school child as a pencil case. However, he could just as easily hold a nail file, makeup, and a comb for an adult as a cosmetics bag. Unfortunately, only he knows for sure - and he's not talking!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual Steiff novelty case has held your attention from start to finish. 

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

Sunday, May 8, 2022

This Prewar Steiff Bear Doll Is Simply Picture Perfect!

This next great Steiff find is dressed for success. Steiff's prewar animal dolls are beloved by collectors but are quite rare - especially in their original clothing. They are among Steiffgal's most favorite button-in-ear novelties of all time, so she was thrilled to welcome this irresistible cub into her collection recently. Check out this handsomely attired example and see why he's just about picture perfect!

Here we have Steiff's a-maiz-ing Puppbaer or Bear Doll. He is 22 cm tall, standing, and head jointed. His arms hang loosely at his sides. His body is solidly stuffed and made from a soft flannel material. His head, in the form of the company's beloved Teddy Baby, is made from shaggy maize and white wool plush. The tops of his hands and flat feet are made from white wool plush. His earnest face comes to life with an open, felt lined mouth, a brown hand embroidered nose, and glass pupil eyes. He wears well fitting red, blue, orange, white, and green plaid calico pants, a long sleeved red cloth shirt, and a blue and white fringed calico scarf. He retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his red ear tag as his IDs. This design was produced in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1931-43 overall; Steiffgal suspects this cub was born around 1933-34. 

It is interesting to note that over his 12 year prewar production period, this Teddy Baby bear doll was available in 11 assorted clothing options. These finely tailored outfits included play and sporting outfits, pajamas, dresses, swimsuits, and traditional Germanic attire. This particular example under discussion here is in outfit #7, which is documented simply as, "winter suit, checkered trousers." The scarf is definitely "winter-y", and there's no question his pants are plaid! Outfit #7 was manufactured from 1933 through 1942. 

And just why is this fashion plate "picture perfect?" Check out this page from the company's 1938/39 catalog. On the top of page 40 of this great reference, you can see Bear Doll modeling in the exact outfit as he wears today. In 1938/39 - according to this catalog - he was available in six total outfits and in 22 or 28 cm. 

The approximate translation of this catalog text is...

"Soft body, floppy arms, firm body, plush head, funny clothes in different versions. 

#1 is sports shirt, blue trousers. #2 is blue suit, sand colored apron. #3 is polka dot dress, belt, red cape. #5 is loose salmon red dress. #6 is red and white smocked dress. #7 is winter suit and plaid pants. #8 is green trousers and a red blouse. #9 is a blue patterned dirndl dress. 

Please specify the outfit number and the doll size when ordering this item."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Bear Doll has been the best of all worlds for you.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2022

There's No Need To Make A Long Story Short Over This Rare Steiff Rabbit!

Talk about a hare-raising find! A Steiff-loving friend from Europe has just added a super-sized rabbit to their hug, but wants to learn more about it. There's no tall tales when it comes to this distinctive and legacy Steiff design! Bojan from Serbia shares, 

"This time I got this long-legged rabbit, which I got by exchanging for one little Steiff pig. Unfortunately, his left foot is damaged, so if you can give me some advice, what should I do, fix it if possible, or leave him like this? He is filled with some solid material, he is fully jointed and the dimensions (standing) from the top of the head to toe are 50 cm (with raised ears 60 cm). I would say that the button is made of nickel and has a diameter of 8mm. His fur is made of mohair. His eye color is a combination of blue and black and he has an open mouth."

This long and lanky fellow is Steiff's fun and hard to find dangling lulac rabbit in the largest standard size made. This model technically is cataloged at 60 cm tall, is five ways jointed, and is made from caramel and light orange mohair. His hands and feet are made from shaggy mohair. His mouth is open and lined in peach colored felt; his pink nose is hand embroidered. He has blue and black google eyes. These can be twisted and turned about to give the rabbit's face comical expressions. This large sized lulac hare was in the line from 1964-66. Although lulac rabbits are of interest to collectors, this big guy is highly sought after due to his short time in the line. Also charming, but more common, is the smaller version of this fun bun who was made in 43 cm from 1952-74.

Most collectors are familiar with Steiff’s cartoonish “lulac” creatures. These are animals like Bojan's rabbit with exaggeratedly long limbs and torsos. The name "lulac" probably came about through the combination of the German words for laughter, smiling, and lanky - suggesting that this unconventional design was designed to have a goofy appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner. You can see one of the rarest midcentury lulac style animals in the form of a zebra here on the left. He is 30 cm tall, made from mohair, and is unjointed. Although the history of this particular black and white beauty is not entirely known, it has been suggested that he was produced as an exclusive for the upscale toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz in the mid-1950s. The photo is from Steiffgal's personal collection. 

Now let's talk about the big bunny's foot issue; he seems to have lost most of his felt pad over time.
Given the rarity of this item, and how much Bojan clearly likes it, it would be Steiffgal's recommendation to have the pad repaired. For the most part, this fix is pretty simple and not terribly expensive in the hands of a skilled restorer. Sometimes it is challenging to find felt that closely matches the original fabric for the patch given how natural and organic materials age and fade over time. It is just really important that all restoration work is documented, and communicated to potential future buyers, as "all original condition" is important to some collectors. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Bojan's big bunny has been a good learning "hop"-portunity for you!

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

Sunday, April 24, 2022

This Charming Steiff Prewar Find Is Certain To Put A Tiger In Your Tank

Take a seat and check out this darling and little known Steiff tiger!
Tigers are a popular, legacy item in the Steiff catalog, with the first big beasts of their type debuting in the company's line in 1915. They translate well from real life to plush, and their handsome looks and wild origins bring out the animal instincts in most collectors! Steiffgal stumbled across this unusual prewar example on an online auction. The fates smiled upon her, and now he's part of her permanent hug.

This striped sweetie is quite the looker.
 His official name is "Tiger Cub." He is 22 cm tall (measures vertically from head to toe), sitting, and head jointed. He is made primarily from tawny colored wool plush. His long sideburns are made from longer white mohair. Tiger is stenciled and airbrushed in typical tiger style; he is highlighted in orange with prominent black stripes on his limbs, back, tail, and head. In true cat fashion, his little tail curls up around his backside. He has black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws. His distinctly youthful face is detailed with teal green and black glass eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of pink paint on his lips. His ID is a short trailing "F" Steiff button. Overall, this big cat appeared in the line in 17 and 22 cm from 1939-1943.

It's always fun to discover new Steiff surprises, and this tiger cub definitely qualifies as that for Steiffgal.
This is the first of his kind she's ever handled, or really knew about. According to Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment, this model is cataloged as, "woolen mohair, tawny-colored, tiger striped, sitting, soft, young, funny." It is unusual for Steiff or Pfeffer to use endearing adjectives in their descriptions - usually they are quite literal and objective. So the word "funny" really pops here, and in a way it is accurate. This guy does have a playful and mischievous look to him.

Tiger cub's shape and presentation also may ring a bell with collectors interested in Steiff's sitting big cat production over time.
His sitting, head jointed form is also noted on the company's pre- and postwar Young Lion design. This mane event was made in 17 and 22 cm in wool plush from 1938-1943, in artificial silk plush in 17 cm from 1948-1949, in 10 and 17 cm in wool plush from 1949-1954, and finally in mohair in 10 and 17 cm from 1955-1961. You can see the 17 cm, early postwar artificial silk plush version of young lion here on the left. Clearly the sitting young lion design was more popular than the sitting young tiger design, which only appeared in 10 cm from 1951-1961.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this prewar, wool plush cub has put a tiger in your tank!

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