Sunday, March 29, 2009

If I Had A Money Tree: Auction Highlights 3/23-3/29/09

Steiff greetings to you on this dreary, rainy east coast Sunday.

One of the great things about being a collector today is that online auctions can bring the entire world of whatever you collect right to your desktop... even if it's just to observe, track, and dream! Let's brighten the day by looking at some of the really interesting Steiff collectibles that sold on online auctions this week. In no particular order, these four Steiff items really caught my eye...

1. The 1955-1957 "Music Cockie" cocker spaniel
This item, number 3317,3 in the Steiff catalog, is a 17 cm black and white mohair sitting cocker spaniel with an open felt mouth and a swivel head. She has a music box which is activated by moving her tail, and appears to be in good to very good condition with her button from the picture and copy associated with the auction. This collectible had 11 bids and sold for $203.57.

Why a highlight?
This hard to find model seldom comes up for auction, especially with a music box that still works after 50+ years. Additionally, she was only produced for a handful of years, significantly increasing her collectibility.

2. The 1964 "Susi Sulac" cocker spaniel
The same breed as above but a dramatically different presentation. This item, number 7340,00 in the Steiff catalog, is a five way jointed 40 cm blonde mohair dangling cocker spaniel with "lulac" style long playful limbs and a red leather collar. She appears to be in good to very good condition from the picture and copy associated with the auction, but it is not clear whether or not she still has her button. Susi had 13 bids and sold for $208.32.

Why a highlight?
"Lulac" style animals have been around since 1952, (the first one produced was a 43 cm mohair blue eyed rabbit) and are still being produced today. In the 1950's and '60's, Steiff produced a handful of extremely unusual "lulacs"- including a donkey, elephant, poodle, and Zotty-style bear - in very small numbers with limited distribution. This Sulac model is one of these hard to find styles, and many vintage collectors would literally give an arm and leg to welcome her to their hug.

3. The 1968-1974 "Elektrola Fox" fox terrier
This item, number 4420/17 in the Steiff catalog, is a 17 cm white Dralon sitting fox terrier with brown mohair ears and very expressive pupil eyes. This delightful dog is none other than Nipper, the logo of the RCA Victor record label, famous for listening to "His Master's Voice." According to the pictures and copy associated with the auction, he has his button and looks to be in very good to excellent condition. Nipper had 12 bids and sold for $228.86.

Why a highlight?
Steiff has a long history of producing logo'ed themed products for promotional and commercial uses. These items, perhaps because of their "familiar faces" and limited distribution (they were not available to the general public as companies often gave or sold them to their customers and employees) are considered rare gems to many collectors. In addition, this particular sized Fox was only made from 1968-1969, making him even more desirable.

In case by now you think I am biased towards canines, hopefully this final highlight will prove you wrong.

4. The 1953-1954 "Siamy" Siamese cat
This item, number 3323,2 in the Steiff catalog, is a 23 cm light and dark chocolate brown mohair sitting Siamese cat with a pink stitched nose and piercing cobalt blue glass pupil eyes. She has an open felt mouth and appears to be in very good to excellent condition with her button according to the pictures and descriptions associated with the auction. Siamy had 26 bids and sold for $383.21.

Why a highlight?
Siamy historically never fails to be a crowd pleaser among collectors. Originally produced by Steiff in the 1930's and early 1940's, Siamy's distinctive coloration, usual eye color, and adorable presentation have maintained their appeal - and value - with feline fanciers for almost 80 years. In the 1950's, Siamy was produced in three sizes - 11, 15, and 23 cm. This large size is a super-rarity; it would be fair to say she'd be "the cat's meow" in my collection if I ever had the good fortune to own her.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teddy bears every-wheres

I had the pleasure of meeting and informally appraising two new Teddy friends last weekend; one expected and one via pure serendipity.

The expected friend:
A colleague who works on a volunteer board with me mentioned that she had an old Teddy in the family, and she thought that perhaps he was a Steiff. She offered to bring him down from the attic if I were interested in viewing him. She mentioned that the Teddy was her father's, and was probably at least 90 years old, and was in "pretty bad" shape. With great excitement, I said "of course!"

We agreed upon a meeting time, and I walked to her home, my trusty Sortiment reference book and a vintage Steiff Teddy of my own in hand.

All I can say was that it was love at first sight. When I entered her living room, there he was... a magnificent c. 1907 60cm cinnamon Steiff Teddy in almost pristine condition! This museum quality bruin had all the "right stuff"; thick curly mohair, black shoebutton eyes, prominent upper back hump, a vertically stitched nose, long curved paws, big toddling feet, and that unmistakable Steiff look, feel, and construction. The frosting on the cake was his remarkable, handmade jacket and suspender pants, somewhat reminiscent of those worn by the famous red "Alfonzo" of Teddy Bears of Whitney fame. His only signs of age were the unfortunate loss of his button and a tear in the mohair on one of his legs. Not bad for a 102 year old cub!

I explained to the owner why her treasure had far more than family and sentimental value, and gave her some preservation, display, and repair suggestions. I think she felt as if the team from "Antiques Roadshow" had paid a surprise visit to her living room... and really liked what they had to say.

The serendipitous friend:
As I left my friend's house, vintage Teddy and Sortiment in hand, I felt that the day simply could not get any better. Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.

As I was walking back towards my home, two lovely women who were out for a Sunday stroll dashed across the street to take a look at my Teddy. I told them that I was knowledgeable about Steiff and had just paid a Teddy housecall to one of their neighbors. They started talking quite animatedly about their own Steiff Teddies, and one of them asked if I had time to visit her home right up the street to see her old family Teddy. How intriguing... I couldn't get the word "yes" out of my mouth fast enough!

We entered her beautiful home, went up stairs to the guest bedroom, and there he was ... my second "love at first sight" of the day. Holding court in an antique wooden chair was her c. 1920's 60cm blonde mohair Steiff Teddy. Unlike my first Teddy introduction of the day, this Steiff was more patches and stitches than anything else, but he had a wonderful sense of dignity, age, and history. His ears had been reattached to his head and you could find a little black stitching on his nose and mouth area, if you looked really closely. His disk jointing could be seen through the delicate cotton backing of his mohair. This Teddy lived life "paws on", and had certainly seen alot of things through his wobbly eyes which had been replaced several times over. Augmenting his charm was his handmade vintage Santa Claus suit, which his owner kept on him permanently to maintain holiday cheer year-round.

Although this Teddy lacked the collectibility and certain book value of the earlier bear, he more than made up for it in legacy and character.

So Steiff lightning CAN strike twice in one day.

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

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