Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Something's Bruin At Oktoberfest

Steiffgal and Steiffguy just returned from a 20th anniversary trip to Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest. So just what did they do there, besides taking part in the large-scale festivities on the Weis’n? Searched for Steiff, of course! Here are some Teddy highlights (and one lowlight) from their Bavarian bear-quest!

The one de
stination every Steiff fan must hit in Munich is the Spielzeugmuseum, or Toy Museum. This museum houses a collection of playthings from the artist and author Ivan Steiger. He also has another Toy Museum in Prague. This delightful destination is centrally located in the Marienplatz, a huge central open-air plaza in the heart of the city. The museum itself is four stories and is located in a tall, narrow Gothic tower. The museum has displays on four floors of the tower, and visitors must ascend (and then descend) a long, steep spiral staircase to go from floor to floor. The views of the city from the different rooms are breathtaking and worth a visit alone!

The museum features dolls, tin toys, train sets, zoo sets, and Teddy bears, amongst other playthings. The Steiff collection and exhibit is most impressive, and is primarily located on the top floor. When you walk into the Steiff room, there is a large 360-degree glass display case, housing a vintage Christmas tree that is covered in turn of the century ornaments. The bottom of the display is filled with all sorts of Steiff “ingredients”, including excelsior, cardboard Teddy bear patterns, and specially shaped metal knives for cutting material. There are also many pairs of eyes – black shoe button as well as glass pupil – on display in the case. Surrounding the base of the tree are various risers. Here visitors are delighted with a playful display of wonderful vintage Steiff Teddies and even an elephant or two!

The Steiff exhibit also features wall cases and displays. One of the wall cases, shown here on the far left, gives a brief history of the Steiff Company and a biography of Margarete Steiff. This display also includes some really fantastic items, including a pristine 1920’s era orange Bully with a crisp red ear tag, a pre-war white woolen sheep, a velvet cat, and of course, many Steiff Teddies, some being “pocket sized”.

One of the most interesting Steiff items in
this case, and perhaps the entire museum, isn't really a bear or animal. But it is an example of Steiff's incredible engineering and creativity from almost 80 years ago. It is the original (and revolutionary for its time) eye mechanism from Steiff’s 1930’s Mimocculo Orangutan. This monkey has eyeballs that roll around in their sockets when a wire, which is connected to his ear, is pulled or rotated. This technology is pictured here on the left. The device was "implanted" into the front of the felt face of the orangutan so all you would see are the eyeballs that would be surrounded by felt lids.

The Steiff super-team also hit the streets of Munich looking for Steiff items.
Germany is known for its wonderful flea markets, which are often great places to find older Steiff treasures. However, because of Oktoberfest, many of these in Munich were postponed until after the festivities. There are several good vintage stores on the Amalienstrasse, Turkenstrasse, Kurfurstenstrasse, Hohenzollernstrasse and Barer Strasse in Schwabing (the northern part of th
e city). There Steiffgal found a well loved Steiff Zotty, a Mopsy dog, and a soft Jumbo mohair elephant, complete with his red felt bib and nose bell. For the newer items, Steiffgal recommends the major department stores, like Galeria Kaufhof. Here visitors can see great Steiff displays and see many European exclusives firsthand.

Ok, now on to the only lowlight of Steiff quest…. and Steiffgal shares this with you only so you don’t make the same mistake as she did.
In preparation for the trip, Steiffgal did research to find the best and largest antique malls in the area. According to online resources, the Antikpalast on Rosenheimerstrasse 143 in Munich is fantastic and has more than 80 dealers, making it one of Germany's la
rgest antiques markets. Sounds like heaven! However, this building and business DOES NOT EXIST anymore; it has been torn down to the foundation! And as far as Steiffgal could tell, has not relocated anywhere in the city, at least of yet. Oh well.

So let’s en
d the Steiff tour on a high note, literally. While waiting to board the plane home from this Oktoberfest adventure, Steiffgal and Steiffguy came across a wonderful art exhibit in the Munich airport by the contemporary painter Ingo Schulz. Called Typisch Deutch or Typically German, the display featured eleven stereotypically German items painted on huge canvases in an Andy Warhol style, and a side panel describing the selections in detail. Items included gummy bears, German Shepherds, the Reichstag, currywurst, garden gnomes, and of course, Steiff! The picture on the left shows how the artist interprets our favorite German icon of all!

It is truly a joy to lead the “Steiff Life”; but just a tiny bit more fun doing it in Germany!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, found on an Oktoberfest adventure or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reporting Live From Oktoberfest München

Prost! (Cheers!) And herzliches willkommen (a warm hello) from of all places, Oktoberfest München (Octoberfest in Munich, Germany)! Surprisingly, Octoberfest actually takes place mostly in September (the 2009 dates are September 19th through October 4th). The first Octoberfest was held on October 12, 1810 on the fields in front of Munich's city gates to celebrate a royal wedding. The outdoor festivities have been held almost every year since then and continue to grow annually in attendance; close to six million people are estimated to partake in this year's celebration over the course of the two weeks of the event.

and Steiffguy are taki
ng a few days in Germany to participate in this 176th annual global beer appreciation event, and of course, to shop for Steiff! Expect a full blog report to follow once the party is over... but in the meantime, let's take a look at some of the wonderful beer and Oktoberfest items Steiff has produced in the recent past.

It is no surprise that Steiff would chose to celebrate Oktoberfest with bears! For 2009, Steiff has produced a 1,000 piece limited edition, five ways jointed tan Teddy - all decked out for the fall festivities. This 25 cm beer bruin wears a traditional blue and white diamond patterned Bavarian bandanna and is holding a white porcelain beer stein featuring different views of Munich. He has the word "Oktoberfest" embroidered on his foot. In Europe, he is available through Oberpollinger (www.oberpollinger.de); in the US you can order him through Bear Attack (www.bearattack.com).

As music is a big part of Oktoberfest, Steiff produced a musical Teddy to celebrate the event in 2004. This collectible is 28 cm and is made from long light blond curly mohair. He features a wind up music box. He is wearing traditional green suede lederhosen (leather shorts), a red buttoned vest, and a Tyrolean felt hat detailed with cord and a feather. He was made in an edition size of 1,500 pieces.

Togetherness and friendship are other important themes of Oktoberfest. Here we have Steiff's tribute to the celebration in 2000; a boy and girl bear in classic German garb relaxing on a wooden bench (after what we can only assume to be a long night of bier, bretzels, and dancing, etc.) The girl is 22 cm and is made from orange tipped mohair. She is wearing a red and white dirndl and a traditional lebkuchen (like gingerbread) heart shaped cookie tag around her neck. The boy is 24 cm and is made from brown mohair. He sports lederhosen, a traditionally patterned blue and white bandanna, and a grey Tyrolean felt hat.

Now onto the hear
t of the celebration... the beer. Steiffgal thinks it's not a coincidence that the only difference between "bear" and "beer" is only one letter; both are essential to most Steiff collectors! Take a look at this 30 cm five ways jointed light blond Münchner Bär” from 1999. He was produced exclusively for Germany in 2001, but not specifically for Oktoberfest. He is wearing very detailed dark grey lederhosen and a grey felt Tyrolean hat. Like the Oktoberfest bear produced for 2004, this Teddy also has a wind up music box. He plays "In München steht ein Hofbrähaus", a traditional drinking song that roughly translates to "There's A Beer Hall In Munich". And to make sure he's ready for the next round at the Hofbrähaus, he carries his very own miniature glass beer stein featuring the coat of arms of Bavaria.

And finally
, a toast to the people that help to make Oktoberfest what it is today... the biermonks! Here we have two fun loving, trevira velvet “bier monks” are dressed in traditional garb including cotton drawers, long red hooded tunics, and work aprons which are cinched at the waist with a thin rope. The large monk, a whopping 100 cm, has black felt feet, while the smaller 35 cm monk wears tiny leather sandals. These two monks are characters from the Alpirsbacher Klosterbraeu, a 130+ year old brewery located in Germany’s Black Forest. Steiff created these white tag, limited edition drinking buddies in 1999. Just a handful of the 100cm monks were produced, primarily for display and advertising purposes. The smaller version was produced in an edition size of 1,500.

So Steiff friends, we send our best from Munich, the city whose motto is "München mag Dich" ("Munich Loves You"). We say, right back at ya!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, found on an adventure or otherwise? Let's talk!
Click here to learn more.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stepping Into The Ring With Steiff Boxers

Steiff's designers have excelled at creating beautiful, lifelike toys and collectibles for more than a century now. Steiffgal thinks that there is no category of animals where this is better demonstrated than with Steiff dogs! Take a look at this question from a reader who asks about one of Steiff's classic canines. Peter writes...

"Hello, My mom just gave me a boxer dog on wheels that she says is a Steiff.

Its ears, eyes, and tail are long gone. The dog measures 24" long by 17" tall. It has a ring on the back of its neck that when pulled, produces a barking noise. It looks to be stuffed with sawdust.

Have you ever heard of this? She says its from the 50's.

Best, Peter"

No need to step into the boxing ring to sort this one out! Your mom is right, what you have here is a handsome Steiff boxer on wheels which was produced from 1950 through 1961. From 1950 through 1958 Steiff called him Reit Sarras, or Riding Sarras; after 1958 he was called Reit Boxer, or Riding Boxer. He is 50 cm, excelsior stuffed, unjointed, and made from mohair. His voice is pull-cord activated. When he was new, he had black airbrushing around his wrinkled muzzle to add further definition to his prominent face. He also was detailed with brown shading around his body to give him a more athletic and toned look.

Because he is a riding animal, his "insides" are reinforced with a metal frame, which when new, could support the weight of an aver
age adult!

Steiff boxers are a "relatively" new addition to the Steiff line. They were one of the first new breeds of animals introduced post WWll. In addition to this riding boxer, Steiff introduced both a sitting and standing boxer in the early 1950's. They are pictured to the left. The standing version, produced from 1950 through 1970, came in 10, 17, and 22 cm; the sitting version, produced from 1951 through 1961, came in 10 and 14 cm. All were made of mohair, had pink felt or felt lined ears, and featured a tiny leather collar and an elegant black velvet muzzle.

Fast forward a fe
w years, and boxers again are featured in the Steiff catalog. Steiff made a 60 cm plush standing studio (life sized) boxer from 1978 through 1984. They have also produced a few soft stuffed boxers designed for play in the 1980's and 1990's. But perhaps the "modern" boxer most interesting to Steiff collectors is an unusual pooch made from 1983 through 1987 for the US market only. He is pictured here on the left. This lying tan, white, and black mohair boxer is 25 cm, unjointed, and has black and white "googly" eyes. He was manufactured in an edition size of only 2,000 pieces. He is one of the earlier "Collector's Editions" Steiff produced for the US in the 1980's. Unlike the limited editions of today, these were not actually numbered per piece and did not come with a certificate. Other items in this series included a lying tiger, unicorn, and lamb.

Peter, Steiffgal is happy that we were able to step into the ring here and talk about the legacy behind your "new" old friend.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Keeping Things Centered With Steiff

It's important to keep a centered perspective in life. The same holds true for vintage Steiff collectibles! Take a look at this note from a reader in California, who asks for some more information about a rare and dear center-seamed bear. Adi writes:

"Today I send you 3 pictures of a bear from 1905/1906. He has the button in ear, no tag, some mohair loss especially on the back, and a couple of moth holes in his paws.

The Teddy has wooden eyes, a center seam, 4 claws per limb, and is 60cm or 24’
’ in size. Can you tell me more about this century-old bear?

Best regards, Adi"

This bear is a wonderful example of very early Steiff Teddies. And being a center seamed model, he is especially desirable to collectors. Let's go over him bit by bit and talk about what makes him so special, and why.

His color: As for his mohair
, he is blond which is quite nice. All things being equal, the bears that get the highest prices from the early 1900's tend to be cinnamon and white because fewer were made at the time and therefore they are less common today. This Ted has lost maybe 30% of his mohair but it doesn't detract from his appeal. Steiff introduced mohair into their line in 1903 so he really is an early example of a mohair item.

His Steiff ID: It is impossible to see the details of his button, so given his age, it could go one of two ways. His button is either stamped with an elephant or is blank; both were being used at the approximate time of his manufacture. Steiff has a legacy of using whatever materials are on hand during production; this can be confusing at times when trying to date items precisely today.

His Body: This bear is typically shaped and proportioned to Steiff turn-of-the century Teddies. His torso is twice as long as his head. He has long limbs with his arms extending to his "knees". His feet are long and narrow and they are in a ration of 1:5 to his height. His paw pads are felt and look original; they might be backed with cardboard. Steiffgal would need to examine his feet to confirm their construction. His claw stitching is consistent with his age and his back hump is quite pronounced.

His face: Teddy's faci
al features are consistent with a bear from 1905/1906. He has black wooden, or "shoebutton" eyes which are set deeply on his face. His nose is black and vertically stitched on a relatively long pointed snout. For bears his size, the typical nose from 1905 and 1906 is stitched like a bar, with a few stitches in the middle reaching down to join his simple "V" shaped mouth. Because he is blond, his stitching is black; if he were white his stitching would be brown.

His unusual head construction: As for the center seam, in the early 1900's, every 7th bear that Steiff made had a seam down the center of his face to make the most efficient use of the fabric. The dimensions of the fabric from the factory (almost certainly Shulte, who has been supplying Steiff with mohair and fabrics since 1901) were such that they could get six full heads from it, but there was some remaining material from this cutting process. The Germans being all about efficiency (Steiffgal is German herself and only means this in a good way) found a way to "patch" these remainders into another head and therefore not waste any fabric. The dimension of the fabric was a huge irritant to Margarete Steiff. According to the wonderful Cieslik book, Steiff Teddy Bears Love For A Lifetime, she wrote a letter to Shulte in 1094 which reads in part...

"...I must also point out to you something of great importance. Your materials are certainly woven to the right width but here is often only 120 to 122 cm of length available, whereas other suppliers provide 15 to 126 cm of usable cloth. This shortage does not allow me to produce the full number of articles calculated. I trust that you will correct this for me in the future..."

As for his relative value, that is really hard to determine. 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. On the other hand, center seamed Steiff bears from the turn of the century are universally loved by collectors and will only become more desirable and valuable over time. His size is marvelous and for a 100 year old guy, he is in really nice shape. Based on other relatively recent sales, Steiffgal's best estimate right now is that this bear would sell in the $2,500 - 3,000 range or so.

Circling back to t
oday, when Steiffgal first saw this Teddy, his design reminded her of a relatively recent Steiff Limited Edition. Steiffgal feels this bear has a striking resemblance to Gabriele, the Button Bear (EAN 668562), pictured here to the left. This bear was a North American Limited Edition from 2006. If you look at the old bear's face and longer limb style, and compare them to Gabriele, they are remarkably similar. Gabriele has long mohair, but that is just part of the contemporary design. The "Button Bear" is based on a 1905 pattern, so these similarities between the old and new make perfect sense.

Adi, Steiffgal hopes this in-depth look at this early Steiff Teddy bear gives you a balanced viewpoint on his delightful features and legacy.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Eyes Have It

Eye yey yey. Steiffgal finds herself a lady of leisure after falling victim to hard economic times at work. She is sure than many readers too can relate to this common recessionary situation! To keep things looking up, she did a quick survey of her collection to discover the top five eyes - for better or worse - featured on her Steiff items. Jeepers creepers, just take a look at these peepers!

Fifth "eyes on the prize" place: Blingy eyes...
Diamonds, and really anything sparkly, are truly a girl's best friend, a
nd Steiffgal is no different here. Take a look at these lovely jewel-hued eyes on a truly blinged-out bruin! The hand blown pink glass pupil eyes belong to Steiff's truly unique Haute Couture Teddy. 500 of these fashion-forward bears were produced as a worldwide limited edition for Steiff Club members in 2005. Paris Hilton, oops, I mean Haute Couture, is 33 cm, five ways jointed, and is covered in a hand woven tweed fabric covered in silver holographic sequins. Her paw pads are made from nubby pink silk. Pink eyes are really unusual on Steiff animals; Steiffgal recalls only seeing them on a vintage white rabbits!

Forth "eyes on the prize" place: Sleepy eyes...
These heavy-lidded lovelies belong to Treff the b
loodhound. The Treff pictured here on the left is 28 cm, made from blonde mohair, and is head-jointed; he was produced from 1928 - 1938 in 9 sizes ranging from 7 to 50 cm. Treff made his debut in 1928 and appeared in many forms: sitting; standing; as a ride on animal, music box, a pin cushion, and as a puppet. His eyes are brown hand blown glass with a black pupil. Treff has deeply embedded eyes in prominent eye pockets; this is one of the details about his design that makes Treff so appealing 70 years on. Collectors might also recognize this "distinctively" Steiff eye treatment on vintage Jocko monkeys and llamas.

Third "eyes on the prize" place: Crow's feet eyes...
Someone please pass the Oil of Olay
to this otherwise perfect parrot! This studio sweetheart is none other than Lora Papagei, or Lora the Parrot. Lora is 30 cm, made from primarily red and yellow knitted fur, has fabulous wired felt feet, and a very lifelike rubber face and beak. Lora's best friend is Yuku the Parrot, an almost identical Steiff studio parrot, except in blue, yellow, and green. Lora has wonderful gold colored plastic eyes with black pupils; they are seamlessly integrated into her wrinkled facial mask. It is very interesting to note that these birds have been an important part of the Steiff menagerie since the very beginning; 14, 18, 22, and 26 cm versions of a standing felt parrot were featured in the debut catalog of 1892.

d "eyes on the prize" place: "Ol' blue eyes" eyes...
You can't help but want to break into song when you look into these dreamy azure colored
eyes. These peepers belong to Mungo, the Multicolored Monkey. Steiffgal guesses that Mungo is probably a Mandrill, a primate with dramatic facial features and coloring. A mohair, beautifully airbrushed, head jointed Mungo was produced from 1957 through 1971 in 17, 25, and 35 cm. He was also manufactured as an 18 cm puppet from 1957 - 1971. This design is so loved by collectors that Steiff reintroduced a 22 cm Mungo replica in 1995 through 1998. Like the pink eyes noted above on the Haute Couture Teddy, blue eyes are relatively unusual on Steiff products as well. Looking around her collection, Steiffgal only notes them on a few special Teddy bears, some advertising characters, and a handful of cloth childlike dolls from the 1970's.

Grand "eyes on the prize" prize: Devil eyes (were you expecting angel eyes here?)...
Ok, well Steiffgal can't help but be attracted to the "dark side" given her new set of life circumstances! These pert white and black plastic peepers belong to Steiff's Hand-Teufel, or Hand Devil puppet. This Halloween favorite is 27 cm and was manufactured from 1980 through 1983. His body and face are red trevira velvet; his hands are red felt; and his hair, ruff, and tail tip are made from black woven fur. They say the devil is in the details; Steiff has a "harrowing history" of producing scary Satans, starting with a series of felt Devil dolls manufactured from 1913 through 1918.

Steiffgal hopes this countdown helps readers keep their eyes on the Steiff prize!
Always look upwards... when one door closes, another one opens. Just gotta be on the watch for it!

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hunting Tips for Steiff Gatherers

Most Steiff fans enjoy the thrill of the hunt when it comes to adding new finds to their growing collections. But what are the "tricks of the trade" to make these quests as productive as possible? Steiffgal spills the beans - or at least some of them - here in an article that she originally wrote for the wonderful magazine Teddy Bear and Friends earlier this year. (If you don't know this publication, check it out and subscribe... it's great!) Just for fun, she included photos of some interesting items that she "scored" using these tips throughout this blog entry.

Hunting Tips for Steiff Gatherers

As a vintage Steiff collector, there is practically nothing I enjoy more than a visit to an antiques store, mall, or market. Over the years, I have been fortunate to discover many wonderful collectibles at these destinations. Yes, much of that is luck and timing – but not all of it. Here are seven “lucky” tips to make your Steiff antiquing experience as educated, rewarding, and exciting as possible.

Tip #1: Do your homework.
This is as t
rue for shopping for antique treasures as it is for prepping for an interview or exam. It is important to know the marketplace so you have some context for your finds. Before hitting the road, I recommend checking out eBay and searchingcompleted listings” for the Steiff or other items you hope to find while out antiquing. This will give you an idea of what articles were recently on the market and the prices paid for them. In this way, you have a general point of reference for your finds, and can determine whether the asking price is reasonable relative to the item’s condition and scarcity.

Tip #2: Set your expectations.
Decide in advance the general c
riteria a piece must have to “qualify” it for purchase. Steiff items generally leave the factory with three forms of ID: a chest tag, ear tag, and ear button. In the back of my mind, a find must have at least one of these items to be a candidate for purchase. I also all but rule out pieces that have a smoky or off-putting smell, that are ripped or “leaking” their stuffing, and those with replaced (or non-existent) eyes. Sometimes antiquing gets very emotional. By pre-determining your collecting priorities you may save yourself from that awful “what was I thinking at the time?” situation we have all found ourselves in at one time or another.

Tip #3: Set your budget.
This can either be done by piece or per antiquing adventure. Base
d on your own personal finances, decide before you leave your house what is the maximum amount of money you are willing to part with that day and stick to it. For me, this helps puts solid parameters around what is a realistic purchase or not. For example, in general I will not spend more than $100 per item or $250 per day when antiquing. While out with friends recently, I came across a vintage Steiff rabbit in great condition with all of his IDs for $169. Of course he caught my eye, but having done my homework (tip #1), I quickly realized he was not all that unusual and a little overpriced. No go.

Tip #4: Prepare for the “money stuff.”
Two big
take homes here. No matter what the ticket says, always ask for a discount or suggest a lower price. It’s all but expected. If they won’t budge, ask if that is the best they can do. If that doesn’t work…. and here is the second big take home… ask if they could do better if you paid in cash. But don’t reveal you have cash until the very end of the negotiation. Yes, if you can, bring cash and pay in cash. It gives you a lot more flexibility and adds profit margin to the sale for the vendor, as they don’t need to pay the credit card fee on the sale. A win-win all around.

Tip #5: Bring companions.
It’s cert
ainly more fun to antique with friends, and I suggest bringing along “two sets” of them. The first are clearly human companions, who are great for “reality testing” possible purchases that have made it past tips #1-3. Nothing like a buddy to say “But don’t you already own 25 of those identical Steiff Jocko chimps already? Let’s keep looking!” Frustrating in the moment, but they are probably right. It’s true, the next great find is probably just around the corner.

The second set of “friends” is any Steiff or antique reference books that you might have. My Steiff Sortiment books deserve their own passports and frequent flyer accounts based on the number of miles they have traveled with me. Keep your reference materials in the car and don’t be embarrassed to use them if you need a little more information on an unusual find.

Tip #6: Let vendors know you are a collector.
Always introduce yourself to the pe
rson at the cash register, with the booth keys, or other employees that you come across while antiquing at a store, mall, or market. Tell them that you are searching for vintage Steiff, and do they know of any particular items you should see? This gives you a little advantage in your search. Also ask how often Steiff items come in, and if it would be possible for them to give you a call when a Steiff or two comes into their inventory? An easy sale for them, an easy score for you. I have done this with success on numerous occasions and am now known as Steiffgal at my local favorite antique mall; I walk in and the staff points me right to the newest Steiff!

Tip #7: Document your finds.
Almost everyone has a camera feature in their cell
phone or blackberry; use it for antiquing! If you find something that you really like but can’t identify, take a picture of it! I have taken snapshots of items I have found and emailed them to other Steiff collectors for identification while on the road. Or if you see something that you think a friend would really like, take a picture of it and send it to them. You might just make their day. Or if you are on the fence about an item, take a picture of it, sleep on it, and then email the picture back to the vendor asking for the sale. It shows great interest and the vendor will be able to identify your selection easily. Finally, we all find thing we love but can’t buy due to price, space, or logistical realities. Take a picture of things you love (of course, with the permission of the vendor!) and start a virtual collection! After all, the best things in life are free, right?

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Or something you saw on an antiquing adventure? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

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