Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Great Steiff Bedtime Story

Steiffgal hopes this post doesn't put readers to sleep, but she just needed to share a very special Steiff treasure she recently welcomed to her collection!

On her Steiff "dream list" since forever, Steiffgal was fortunate enough to "adopt" this unusual vintage walrus Steiff pajama bag over this past summer! This delightful and functional collectible is 45 cm nose to tail; is made from short brown mohair which has been carefully airbrushed on its face, flippers, and tail; and is lined in blue colored silk material. He has a zipper up his belly and is "hollow", meaning that you could indeed store your adult sized pajamas inside of his belly!

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this rarity is his gorgeously detailed face - much like Steiff's classic and well known "Paddy Walrus" but on a very large scale. His fantastic details include googly large pupil'ed plastic eyes, a pink vertically stitched nose detailed with black airbrushing, a copious and fuzzy string beard, and two white wooden tusks. According to the Steiff Sortiment book, this walrus pajama bag was supposedly made from the synthetic dralon, but Steiffgal's is most certainly pure woolen mohair!

This item
was produced from 1962 through 1972 as an exclusive for the high end toy retailer FAO Schwarz. Additionally, this toy store chain had a 20 cm Steiff mohair walrus hand puppet (identical to the pajama bag, just scaled down and in hand puppet form) as an exclusive product in 1962. The pajama bag - (and the puppet, and all other FAO Schwarz/Steiff exclusives at the time) - would have been sold with a small red wooden tag, in addition to their original Steiff identification, stating this exclusivity.

Pajama bags are not produced currently and have always been considered a "novelty" item for Steiff.
However, they were launched in the line almost 80 years ago and have made a few appearances over the years. This first series was produced from 1930 through 1937 and were called "night dress bags". These bags measured 30 cm x 30 cm in size. Square in shape and made of m
ohair, each had a zipper, velvet lining, and featured the head of a famous (at the time) Steiff character sewn onto the corner of the piece. These included Teddy Baby, Bully the Bulldog, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, a Scotty, Molly the Puppy, and Siamy the Siamese cat.

Steiff pajama bags made their next appearance in the 1960's with Zipper Cockie (a cocker spaniel) Zipper Zotty (a Zotty bear) and Zipper Nauty (a polar bear). All were 30 cm, had hollow bodies, were lined in plain cotton material, and closed with a zipper on their bottoms. Cockie and Zotty were made from tipped mohair while Nauty was produced in white dralon. Nauty features long grey felt claws. All were produced in the 1964 through 1966 time frame. Nauty (don't you just love that name, Steiffgal does!) and Zotty are pictured to the left.

As far as Ste
iffgal can tell, pajama bags made their final appearance in the Steiff line from 1970 through 1976. Three models were produced: a Zotty bear, a panda bear, and a rabbit. All were made in washable dralon, had hollow bodies, were lined in plain cotton material, and closed with a strip of Velcro on their bottoms. The panda pajama bag is pictured here to the left. The actual "bag" volume associated with the 1960's and 1970's versions is really quite small - enough to hold the tightly folded nightwear of a toddler!

Readers, that's the end of the bedtime story for now. Thanks for burning the midnight oil and tucking into this review of Steiff pajama bags. Pleasant Steiff dreams, all!

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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Making Beautiful Music Together After All These Years

Strike up the band... the Steiff band, that is! Even if you can't carry a tune, check out this note from a reader in the Netherlands who writes about a very "playful" collectible from the 1960's...

Hello 'Steiffgal',

First, sorry for my bad English, it's horrible, I know. Recently I have bought a bimbobox. How do you call that in English; monkeybox???

He wor
ks on 'teflontape', it is a original machine? I am very glad, but I know nothing about where it's made and where it's come from, etc. etc.

I think, the seven monkeys
are made by Steiff? They are dressed like sailors, but I don't recognize them, from when I was a kid. Please, can you tell me more about the machine and especially the monkeys?

Greetings from Zutphen and thanks, Margreet"

Hello and many thanks for your note; what a great find! Steiffgal tried to do some research on these bimboboxes but there is not much information out there. These items are definitely European and not well known in other places. But, she did find out a little and here it is.

First, to answer your big question; no, sorry, the monkeys are not made by Steiff. Although Steiff is well known for their display animals, fantastic department store window displays, and mechanical displays, your happy bimbobox players are not Steiff Jockos. (Which doesn't mean that they are still not awesome!) But more about them a bit later.

Now, here's a little history on the bimbobox
. These were built in Koln, Germany i
n the late 1950's and early 1960's. Some other sources say they were also made in the Netherlands. Originally the music came from a "Tefifon", which is an early version of a tape recorder that worked sort of like a record player, with a needle and a groove. These were replaced by an eight track tape system. Most of these machines played popular 1960's tunes, with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass being a common soundtrack. Once someone dropped a coin into the machine, the monkeys would "play along" to the music with their miniature instruments. Click here and here to see some YouTube videos of these classic machines in action!

Working Bimbo Boxes are few and far between; they can still be seen in a handful of German and Dutch locations. A survey in 1991 says that there were 22 working Bimbo Boxes in Holland. There is also a working Bimbo Box at the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco, California. During their heyday, bimbo boxes were often located at highly trafficked family locations, such as department stores, playgrounds and amusement parks. They were made a little lower to the ground than a jukebox so small children could watch the fun at their own height.

Now for the m
onkeys. Steiffgal has researched many popular German plush brands of the 60's - including Kersa, Clemens, and Grisly - and none really have the look, feel, dimensions, and appearance of the bimbobox monkeys. The clothing is somewhat like the attire used on Schuco's yes-no monkeys of the period, but the face just doesn't match up. It is also possible that the monkeys could also be imported from Japan.

However, Steiffgal's best guess is that they may be made by the Austrian manufacturer Berg. There are three main reasons for this.

First, Berg was very interested in mechanical toys, and bimbobox monkeys certainly were "movers and shakers!"

Second, the monkeys in the bimbobox have deep set brown pupil eyes with very prominent black semi-circles around them.

And third, the hands. The bimbobox monkeys have relatively simple hands with stitched fingers and airbrushed fingernails as do Berg monkeys.

Take a look at this closeup of a Berg mohair monkey from the 1960's above... notice a facial and hand resemblance to that of the bimbobox monkey?

Margreet, Steiffgal hopes that this concert of information about your bimbobox is nothing but music to your ears!

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Long Legged Lovely

Most Steiff collectors have a wish list, and Steiffgal is no different! Topping her list are items that were only made for a year or two, are a little "unusual", and that have a fun story or history behind them. Here's an item that she recently welcomed to her hug that certainly fits all three criteria. Take a "long look" here!

This tall drink of water is called Zotty Zolac. He is five ways jointed and 40 cm tall, with his legs claiming about half that height! Zolac's head and body are made from shaggy caramel tipped mohair, while his feet, hands, and bib are detailed with apricot colored mohair. He has an open felt lined mouth, brown pupil eyes, and a hand stitched nose. Zolac was only made from 1964 through 1966. If Zolac were an athlete, he'd definitely play in the NBA!

Zolac is the offspring of two very well known, and loved, Steiff designs. The bearish part of his design is the classic Steiff Zotty. Zotty was one of the first new bear designs introduced post war, in 1951. The word "Zotty" is from the German word "Zottel", which means shaggy. Zotty was initially produced in nine sizes, ranging from 17 through 100 cm, in brown tipped mohair. As his popularity grew, so did his range in the line; he has appeared as a sleeping animal, a play rug, and a pajama bag among other items. In 1960 a white mohair version was introduced; Zotty has also been produced in several different forms of plush over the years. A variety of newer and vintage white and caramel-colored Zottys are pictured here.

And just what makes a Zotty a Zotty? Zottys all have an open felt lined mouth, a front insert bib made of a complementary colored mohair to his body, and of course, are shaggy!

Zolac gets his height and body shape from the other side of his family, the Lulacs. These fun-loving creatures all have exaggeratedly long limbs and torsos. The German verb “to laugh” is lachen, and the word for smile is Lächeln; suggesting that this style was designed to have a goofy appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner.

The first lulac animal, a rabbit, appeared in 1952, and is still being produced in modified form today. A large menagerie of species have been produced in the lulac style over the years, including frogs, dogs, tigers, and cats. Pictured here are a variety of newer and vintage Lulac style animals : (L to R... Joggi jogging rabbit, Lulac rabbit, Sulac spaniel, Mobby rat, Lulac tiger, and mini Lulac rabbit).

So Steiff readers, what special piece tops your wish list? Or is already part of your hug? If you want to learn more about it, let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hungry for More Information on an Old Steiff Friend

Steiffgal loves to help readers reconnect with childhood Steiff treasures. Check out this note from Jeani, who hungers for some information on her favorite Steiff plaything.

"I found your website while searching online and am hoping you can help me or get me headed in the right direction.

I have had a cherished Steiff animal since I was a young girl in the 60's. I can't find information about it anywhere. The ear tag is worn and the only number I can read are "73". It is a yellow tag
and I know the ear tag is from the 1960-1972 collection.

I believe the animal was called Dormie the mink
. It is a mink that is lying curled up. I would love to know a value and perhaps find a way to purchase another.

Many thanks for your reply."

The item you describe is not a mink, but what Steiff calls Dormy Siebenschlaefer or Dormy Edible Dormouse - really! Dormy has huge black eyes, rounded simple ears, a pink airbrushed nose, and clear mono-filament whiskers. Her body is made from short tipped mohair; her tail - which is as long as her body - is made from very wavy mohair; and her head is made from airbrushed dralon. Dormy was made from 1966 through 1974 and came in two sizes: 12 and 20 cm.

One thing that is really interesting and unique about Dormy is her shape. She is curled up upon herself; literally all body and tail. If you look on her flip side, as seen here, she was not manufactured with any arms or legs at all. As far as Steiffgal can tell, Dormy was the first ever Steiff animal made in this really unusual configuration. Moving forward, Steiff has made raccoons, huskies, cats, and foxes in similar spooning - sans limbs - positions. The common denominator here is that all of these species have large, prominent tails which allow the designers to configure the animal in this nesting shape.

So just who is the inspiration behind this unusual Steiff collectible? The edible dormouse, also known as the fat dormouse, is a rodent but not technically a mouse. She is pictured here. The species is found primarily across continental Europe. The word dormouse means “sleeping mouse”; these mostly nocturnal creatures have large eyes, short legs, and prominent bushy tails. They range in size from 8 to 19 cm (about 3 to 7 ½ inches) and weigh up to 180 grams (about 6.3 ounces). They spend a great deal of time sleeping and hibernating; as you can see from the picture here they do use their tails as a pillow! Historically, edible dormice were bred as a food source and eaten as snacks by the ancient Romans. Today, wild edible dormice are consumed in Slovenia, where they are considered a special treat and dormouse hunting is a cultural tradition. The country has a long history with edible dormice; Slovenians have used the animals for food, a fur source, and their fat for traditional medicinal purposes since the 13th century.

As for the value of this darling collectible and where to find a replacement... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. A good place to start your search is eBay, both the US and the German site. And now since you know Dormy's "official name" and legacy, you can search for her online via Google and other search engines. In terms of pricing, Steiffgal has recently seen vintage Steiff edible dormice sell at auction in the $30 - 75 range, depending on size and condition.

Jeani, Steiffgal hopes that this background and history on your edible dormouse has "sated" your appetite for more information!

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

Feline Groovy About Vintage Steiff Kittens

It's always the cat's meow when a reader asks about a favorite Steiff item. Take a look at this note from Dawn, who wants to learn more about her tiny, beloved kitten.

"So here is my little gal~

I bought this little Gussy Steiff cat many years ago when I was a little girl at a yard sale, for $0.25.

She didn’t have her button or tag, so I didn’t know she was a Steiff until last year. She is about 4 inches tall and 4 inches long. I believe she is stuffed with excelsior as she is very firm and makes that little crackling noise when she is squeezed.

She has what looks like clear nylon whiskers and her little head turns left and right. Her fur is plush and her ears are felt. She had a little blue ribbon that she wore around her neck, but it was loved off long ago as I gently played with her.

I used to take her everywhere with me!
What do you think of my little cat? I'd love to know how old she is. Thanks, Steiffgal!"

This fabulous feline is none other than Junges Kaetzchen Gussy or Young Kitty Gussy. Gussy is head jointed and made from mohair. Her four paws, tail, and ears are black, while her body is primarily white with a few black airbrushed spots. She has piercing green pupil eyes and a pink embroidered nose and mouth. One of the features about Gussy that makes her so lovely, and in-demand with collectors, is her very light pink velvet muzzle. Gussy was produced from 1952 through 1969 in two sizes, 12 and 17 cm. Dawn's Gussy is the 12 cm sized version. The 17 cm Gussy features an open mouth, which is extremely unusual for Steiff cats.

Cats are a very important breed for Steiff; they have been
in the catalog since it was first published in 1892. As a matter of fact, at least 6 cat designs were featured in the charter edition! Post WWll, Steiff began including more petite scale mohair animals to their product line. This was done in part because around this time, collecting Steiff in the US - a key target market - really started to become popular and the smaller items were more affordable and easier to display. Cats, of course, played a big role in this expansion. Some of the most popular and well known felines produced during this period, in addition to Gussy, include:

Susi: a sitting, head jointed cat, produced from 1948 through 1978 in 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm (pictured here wearing a little bell).

Kitty: a five ways fully jointed cat, produced from 1949 through 1970 in 10, 17, and 22 cm (pictured here in her original pink ribbon).

Tabby: a standing, head jointed cat, produced from 1949 through 1977 in 7, 10, 14, and 17 cm (pictured here cuddling with the larger curled up Fiffy cat).

Tapsy: a standing, head jointed cat, produced from 1959 through 1966 in 8, 11, 15, and 18 cm.

Snurry: a lying down, sleepy eyed head jointed cat, produced from 1964 through 1966 in 15, 20, and 25 cm.

Fiffy: a curled up, head jointed cat, produced from 1955 through 1962 in 12, 17, and 25 cm (pictured here with her head resting on Tabby cat).

As for the value of your dear friend... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. A perfect example is this very Gussy... Dawn paid $0.25 for it, yet it has brought several decades of love and enjoyment... which can't really be measured in dollars and cents. However, if readers were interested in purchasing or selling a Steiff Gussy cat today, Steiffgal has recently seen them sell at auction in the $30 - 75 range, depending on size and condition.

Dawn, Steiffgal hopes this information is having you "feline groovy" about your darling Steiff cat!

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bear-er of Good News

Big Teddy hugs to a reader from the mid-Atlantic area who wants to know more about his vintage Steiff bear. Through a series of emails, Fred writes:

"Do you think this guy is interesting? He looks blondish in color and is jointed. He is 12 inches tall and has a blue ribbon around his neck, which appears to be original.

The eyes lo
ok original; they are brown with black in the middle. He has his metal button; it's small with the last f trailing backward between the "E" and "I" in STEIFF. There are no tag remnants under his button.

His growler doesn't work anymore.
He is crunchy, probably straw filled. His nose stitching seems to be's worn. His nose is one and a half inches long."

Steiff Teddies in many families are part of the family legacy; this darling bear is practically old enough to take the role
as great-grandfather! What we have here is a charming example of a well loved Teddy that was most likely made in the 1920's. There are many design features which help to date him. Here's how Steiffgal determined his approximate "birthdate":

First, his button: Steiff used this 8 mm iron nickel-plated button, with the long arching final "F" in "STEIFF", from 1906 through around 1936. The button is usually the first - and the best - place to start when dating a vintage Steiff collectible.

Next, his eyes and nose stitching: Steiff started using glass pupil eyes on their Teddies, in place of the traditional black shoe button versions, in the early to mid- 1920's. His (worn away) black stitching is period consistent with his dark blonde mohair; brown stitching was used on white bears.

Now his "shape": Many of the Steiff Teddies of the mid to late 1920's had a rounded, more "feminine" shape to them and a less realistic, more "playful" appearance, much like Fred's Teddy. As a matter of fact, a mid-1920's model that has a similar appearance to the reader's bear was used from 1925 onward as the basis for Teddy Clown (pictured to the left), one of the most beloved Steiff designs of all times.

And his mohair and stuffing: long, lush wavy mohair became much more available in the 1920's and instantly became a favorite among Steiff buyers and fans. Although these "playful" happy Teddies of the 1920's were often stuffed with lighter kapok filling, excelsior stuffing (as seen on the reader's Teddy) was still quite common as well.

And finally, his bow (which appears to be original): In 1922, Richard Steiff, nephew of Margarete Steiff and the manager in charge of the US market wrote, "... I would be inclined to enhance all the teddies we currently have in stock with beautiful silk bows in appealing colors..."; a practice that continues to this day!

As for the value of this precious Steiff Teddy... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. These poor economic times seem now more than ever to favor buyers over sellers and prices for Steiff collectibles at all price points seem unusually low... so don't sell unless you have to! On the other hand, Steiff bears from the 1920's are universally loved by collectors worldwide and will only become more desirable and valuable over time. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen 12" Steiff bears from the 1920's in similarly worn condition sell at auctions in the $500 to $1200 range.

Fred, Steiffgal hopes she is the bear-er of good news for you concerning your wonderful vintage Steiff friend.

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

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dreaming of a Childhood Friend

Old friends make good friends, old Steiff friends seem to make the best – or most nostalgic - ones! Check out this wonderful note from a reader from Stamford, Connecticut, who asks for help in identifying one of her favorite childhood playthings.

Susan writes thr
ough a series of correspondences:

“…I had a small collection of Steiff when I was little, some from my mom, that I mostly still have. My great aunt worked in a German candy store in New York City for 30 or so years, that sold Steiff...and now I collect them (as an adult).

I had
a polyester, foam filled sleeping leopard...but I don't know his brand, I remember him really well, his eyes were closed, sewn with black thread, and I think he had a floss nose, it was pink… he was really cute!

I think I got him when I was at least 2; I was born in November 1963… (to help with dating).

(Here is a picture of me with him taken at a department store at the holidays when I was a little girl); it was right after this picture was taken that I put him down and we left the store, and while in the car I remembered that I had put him down; I lost him right after the picture was tak

He was my favorite toy and I'd love to find him… can you help?”

Although Steiffgal only has "spotty" information to go on here, she thinks she can! Today, Steiff collectors tend to think of the company’s products as fine collectibles. However, it is important to remember that Margarete Steiff said herself “Only the Best For Our Children”, meaning that the company's founding mission was, and still is, to produce wonderful playthings for kids. And Susan’s long lost friend is a perfect example of that!

Assuming that this item is actually a Steiff, it is Steiffgal’s best guess that th
is item is not actually a leopard, but a lion, and is Floppy Lowenbaby or Floppy Lion Baby. He was produced in 1963 only. He is unjointed, lying down, made from soft spotted dralon plush, and has closed stitched eyes. He came in two sizes, 17 and 28 cm. His legs extend out from his torso horizontally, like an “H”, and his feet have brown “paw prints” airbrushed or stenciled on the bottom of his paws.

Steiff produced a great number of “sleeping” style animals during the 1950’s through the 1970’s. These included a Zotty Teddy and panda bear (both pictured to the left), fox, Cocker Spaniel, Siamese cat, tabby cat, seal, and elephant, among others. They were all prone in position and referred to as “floppy” or “cosy” animals. Most were made in two standard sizes, 17 and 28 cm; all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal had one of three “sleeping eyes” designs. These included a simple line stitching with or without a few eyelashes (as in the tiger pictured to the left) or a felt disk with an inverted "V” stitched across it (as in the panda pictured to the left). Several of the more “feminine” patterns, including the sleeping Floppy Snobby poodle and the Floppy Lamby Lamb had “dramatic” closed eyes with huge “Tammy Faye Baker” style eyelashes. All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known Steiff animal designs. Most, if they had legs, had them splayed out from their torsos like a “V”.

The fact that Susan’s lion had horizontal "H" legs – not “V” positioned legs - is instrumental in helping to identify it, if it is indeed a Steiff product. A somewhat similar model, Floppy Leo Loewe or Floppy Leo Lion was produced from 1969 through 1977. He is pictured to the left here, next to a Floppy Tiger. However, like most of his “sleeping” brethren mentioned above, Floppy Leo Lion has “V” positioned legs. Perhaps Steiffgal should change her name to SteiffDetective in cases like this, eh?

Steiff sleeping animals from the 1950’s through the 1970’s have a lot of sentimental value to their owners. However, in general, they are not considered as collectible as other Steiff authentically lifelike vintage mohair animals because they were designed as playthings, are not jointed, and are stuffed with washable foam, not excelsior. Exceptions to this trend include the Floppy Huhn or Floppy Hen, and Floppy Biggie Beagle; both of these sleeping animals have exceptional airbrushing coloration and were produced for only a handful of years.

Susan, Steiffgal hopes this information didn't lull you to sleep and that it does bring you one step closer in finding – and reuniting – with a version of your long lost friend. And readers, can you add any more information to help Susan out here? If so, please send it along to!

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

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Felt" Good To Answer This Question!

It felt really good to Steiffgal to be able to help out this reader from New Jersey. Check out this question from Freddy, who writes about a vintage filz, or felt, Steiff bunny:


I ran across your web site and I figured I would ask you. Seems nobody is able to tell me anything about my old Steiff rabbit... (she) is 6 inches long and she also has a bell with a red ribbon that is tattered from age. She is a very light orange-ish color. No tears or holes.

She has a red tag #2109 saying "Made in Germany." There are also some German words. Attached are a few pictures of my little treasure... what do you think of this cute little rabbit?"

Steiffgal thinks, or more like knows, that you have a "blue ribbon" bunny on your hands! This Hase, or Rabbit, is unjointed and made from felt, the fabric that essentially "launched" the Steiff company into the toy business 1880 with the creation of felt elephant pincushions. Elegantly basic in design, the rabbit has glass pupil eyes, delicate airbrushing around the face, a light pink horizontally stitched (meaning she's a girl...) nose, and a rose colored mouth. This felt rabbit was made from 1928 - 1930 and came in seven sizes: 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 cm. Freddy's model is number 2109, the 9 cm version.

This rabbit design was very popular during its day. It is interesting to note that two almost identical models (i.e., simple construction, lying down
position, ears positioned towards the back of the head, positioned horizontally to the body) to Freddy's rabbit were also produced in the 1927 - 1930 timeframe. One was made from white mohair and had pink eyes, the other was made from white velvet that was airbrushed with brown spots.

This rabbit retains several original features which increase her collector's appeal and value. The first is her red ribbon and bell, which are both original to the rabbit. Steiff is very particular about the type of ribbon they use on products - both in terms of color fastness and durable manufacture - so it is not totally unexpected that her original ribbon has survived close to 80 years. Second, of course, is her pristine red ear tag and button from the time period 1926 - 1934; perfectly bracketing her date of manufacturer. The writing on the red tag basically translates to... Steiff original design, patented, and "Made in Germany".

As for the value of this beautiful bunny... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it.
The recession has tended to favor buyers over sellers and depressed sales prices a bit; hold onto this treasure if you can! On the other hand, rabbits have always been favored by collectors, and her lovely condition (1920's felt items sans moth holes are rare), and crisp red eartag insure that you will be able to find a buyer in any economic climate. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen 1920's and 1930's felt rabbits in similar condition sell at auctions in the $200 to $300 range.

Freddy, Steiffgal hopes this information concerning your vintage Steiff rabbit has put a little spring into your step today.

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