Friday, August 10, 2018

This Steiff Woolen Miniature Bunny Is A Shoe-In!

There is no question that size defies when it comes to Steiff's wonderful woolen miniature animals, especially those produced before World War II. It is absolutely amazing how much personality and detailing the company was able to include in the design of these tiny treasures - some no more than a few centimeters tall or wide! A few of these charming, larger scaled pets also featured internal wire skeletons, so they were practically as posable as the company's standard line Teddy bears and animals. Steiffgal recently added one very special palm-sized example to her collection, and she's sure you'll be all ears to learn more about him. Check out this handsome hare and see what makes him so special!

This petite treat deserves a standing ovation! He is 9 cm tall, begging, and made from Nomotta wool. His head, upper body, and tail are made from tan colored threads, while his lower body is made from red colored threads. His ears are made from tan felt and his arms, which have been lot to time, would have been made from the same material. He is fully string jointed, meaning that he can move his head and body side to side. His face come to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and traces of a pink airbrushed nose and mouth. He had clear monofilament whiskers when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany eight decades ago. Rabbit's legs are made from metal and he retains his adorable, all original tan felt slippers, which you can see here on the photo to the left. He retains his tiny, long trailing "f" style button-in-ear. This happy hopper was made in this size only from 1936 through 1941.

This boy bunny was actually produced as a hare pair - really! Steiff launched this little Romeo as half of a "his and her" rabbit couple. The girl, who was the same size and had the same construction as the boy, differed in her coloration. Her upper body was made from red colored thread and her lower body was made from tan colored threads - just the opposite of the boy. And her slippers were red instead of tan, like the boy's footwear. You can see this cute couple on the photo here on the left, it is taken from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

Given their popularity, the number of woolen miniature bunnies in Steiff's pre-war line multiplied like, well, jackrabbits. They were produced in all sorts of sizes and configurations, including lying and hopping versions. A great rarity is the company's "ski rabbit," a 17 cm woolen miniature bunny wearing a scarf and accessorized with wooden skis and ski poles. Others were made into "congratulators" which were designed as gifts to be personalized with messages from the giver to the recipient. A tumbler featuring a 10 cm white or brown woolen miniature begging rabbit was also produced from 1936 through 1941. You can see a few of these variations, along with the rabbit under discussion today, in this page from Steiff's 1938 catalog. You can click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this woolen miniature rabbit in slippers has made you smile from head to toe. 

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

This Charming Steiff Doll Is Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice!

It's smooth sailing when it comes to this week's Steiff treasure! Steiffgal was asked by a friend to handle a wonderful vintage doll. When this sweetie arrived at Steiffgal's home, she was even more adorable and interesting than advertised. Come take a look at this early 20th century felt doll and see what secrets she holds!

This charming little girl is sugar and spice and everything nice. She is 28 cm, fully jointed, and made from flesh colored felt. Her precious and youthful face comes to life with a traditional Steiff center seam, blue and black pupil eyes, a 3D nose, set-in mouth, and proportional ears. Her mohair wig, which has faded to a silvery color, was most likely brown, given the color of its cotton backing. She wears a simple white cotton dress, a white cotton sailor's shirt trimmed in dark navy or black, great striped knitted socks, and red felt tie shoes with leather soles. Steiff produced this happy, childlike style of doll from around 1908 through the mid-1920's in standard sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm.  

It's no clothes call when it comes to this beautiful girl's outfit. Steiffgal is not able to exactly match her dress and top to any listed in the standard Steiff reference books. However, given their materials and design, it is her best guess that they are original to her. One clue is the hook and eye construction on her dress. This closure system is very typical to Steiff doll clothing from the first quarter of the 20th century. It is also Steiffgal's suspicion that at one point she had some sort of underwear or underpants, as her dress length is a bit "revealing," at least for the period in which she was made. Steiff also usually produced their girl dolls with hats, and Steiffgal also thinks that this doll's hat, like her undergarments, must have been lost to time.

This doll is definitely a sole sister. Her red felt shoes appear original, except for a replaced tie. This shoe style was very popular on Steiff dolls from her time frame, but this is the first time Steiffgal has seen a pair in red. However, another Steiff doll wearing identical red shoes is pictured in Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book. Her socks are also original and really eyecatching; Steiffgal has a doll in her personal collection wearing very similar hosiery.

Now let's talk about this doll's birth year. As noted, this style of doll was produced in the general line for nearly two decades.  But she has a few clues that hone down this time frame a bit.  

First, note that her hands are very simple, almost fist-like. This style of hand was updated to a more distinctive hand with pronounced finger digits starting around 1910 or so. You can see a close up of this doll's early hands here on the photo on the left. 

Second, this dolls is made entirely from felt. This is a subtle, but important detail. Starting around 1915, Steiff started changing the fabrics on these dolls as a response to material shortages associated with WWI. Felt was an important fabric and was being used for uniforms and blankets at the time. Steiff's dolls, which were traditionally made from all felt, started to appear with felt faces, but their bodies and/or limbs could be made from linen or even inexpensive muslin fabrics. The body parts made from the substitute materials were mostly hidden under clothes. You can see a little boy doll here on the left with this World War I construction... his head and arms/hands are felt; his legs are linen, and his torso is muslin.

Third, this little girl doll has glass pupil in eyes. Steiff's earliest dolls had black shoe button eyes. Starting around 1909 or 1910, most were detailed with more lifelike, and more endearing, glass eyes.

All of these factors converge her year of origin to roughly 1910. The combination of fist hands and glass eyes is interesting, and indicates that she was made at a transitional time in the design and development of this beloved pattern.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great sailor girl doll has been oceans of fun for you.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Let Me Call You Sweetheart!

Won't you be my Teddy bear? All Steiff collectors agree - there's no better six words in the entire world! And that's just how Steiffgal felt when a new vintage friend joined her hug a few weeks ago. He was purchased at an auction in Germany sight unseen, and when he crossed the pond and arrived at his new home, he was even BETTER than expected. Don't you just love when that happens? Come meet Marshmallow, and learn why he is so interesting from the historical and product development perspectives.

This precious cub is as sweet as sugar! Marshmallow is 30 cm standing, 20 cm sitting, and fully jointed. He is made from white wool plush and is solidly stuffed with excelsior. His pads are made from flesh colored felt that has faded considerably. His simple but beautiful face comes to life with round black and brown glass pupil eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has four brown claws on each of his paws. He has a non-working squeaker in his belly. Marshmallow's IDs have been lost to time, but it is Steiffgal's best guess that he was made in the mid-1930's to early 1940's, given his materials and presentation.

Now let's dive into material matters. Although wool plush is a lovely and very durable material, Steiff has usually made items from this fabric just before, during, or after periods of war or hardship. It is considered a "substitute" material, used in the place of more expensive and higher quality mohair. Sometimes these items also have linen or lesser quality felt on their pads or lining their ears as well.  Wool plush has a really old fashioned look to it, and has a "continuous" but bumpy feel on its surface - not like mohair which can feel softly "prickly" like a hooked rug. 

It is interesting to note that Steiff created many of its beloved and most popular 1930's-era designs in wool plush. Sometimes these items, like the company's Teddy baby bears, are specifically called out in the standard Steiff reference books. But others are not. For example, Steiffgal has a wool plush Jocko monkey in her hug; he is identical to the mohair version we all know and love. And as far as Steiffgal can tell, this white wool plush Teddy bear is not noted in the Sortiment books.  She handled a similar blonde wool plush Steiff bear for an auction client several years ago - so they were produced in some volume - but probably not many overall. 

Another factor that makes this wool plush bear quite the "looker" is his general appearance. His body has a distinctly long and lean look to it, and his dear face has quite a pensive expression. After studying bears from every decade, it has been Steiffgal's observation that bears from the mid-1930's to the early 1940's do indeed have this more "austere" look to them - perhaps matching the socio-economic climate of the time in Germany? Bears from this era also are usually produced in very basic hues, like white and blonde. Just for comparison, check out this photo on the left.  It features a similarly sized c.1906 Ted, a c.1929 Teddy Baby, and Marshmallow from the c.mid to late 1930's. What a difference a decade or two makes!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this wool plush cub has been beary enjoyable for you.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Patching Up The Story Behind This Early 1930's Steiff Pony

Every girl wants a pony at some point in her life, right? Well, good things come to those who wait. Several decades past childhood, Steiffgal has finally welcomed the perfect horse to her collection.  This particular barnyard buddy doesn't require boarding, special shoes, or exercise, and she certainly won't eat Steiffgal out of house and home! Check out this excellent equine and see what makes her so lovely - and interesting - from the design and historical perspectives. 

No horsing around - this pretty filly is the mane event. She is 17 cm, standing, and unjointed. She is made from short white and brown mohair. Her tail is very long and made from white mohair threads. It's literally a "pony tail" in so much that it could be braided or combed! Her mane is made from short white mohair. Her face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, little white felt ears, and a pink airbrushed mouth and small nostrils. She was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1931 through 1939.  This example retains her long trailing "f" button and traces of her red ear tag; you can see those IDs in the picture towards the end of this post. 

Pony was produced at a very interesting transition point in Steiff's history, and has a pair of design elements that span two distinctive periods at Steiff - the 1920s and the 1930s. 

The first is her coloration. Through the very early 1930's, when an animal was multicolored, the company often patched in different hued fabric as part of its construction. As in the case of this horse, her distinctive brown coloring is made from its own piece of brown mohair. Over time, this more expensive, more labor intensive way of constructing multicolored items was replaced by a less expensive method - airbrushing. For the most part, if you see a vintage item that was constructed by dramatically patched or seamed mohair in different colors, it probably dates from before the early 1930s. You can see a great example of that here on the left in this play duck in terms of his construction and detailing. He was produced in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1925 through 1932.

The second is her general presentation. Starting in the early 1930's, when most everything in Germany started getting more difficult due to the emerging socio-political climate, Steiff also adjusted their design and manufacturing processes to be more economically conservative. You've probably noticed that items designed and produced in the 1930's are far less complicated, jointed, colorful, and detailed than those produced during "the roaring '20s." For example, Teddy bears from the 20's are "fuzzy, fat, and feminine;" some appeared in jellybean colors and tipped mohair. Those from the 30's are leaner, more serious in expression, and made from short mohair or substitute fabrics, like wool plush or artificial silk plush - and usually in more subdued hues. The same is true with this horse pattern, which is clearly designed for simplicity and efficiency. It's lines are very basic, it is unjointed, does not have embroidered features, and doesn't have accessories like a saddle or reins.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Steiff pony has set your heart a-blaze.

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