Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Standing Tall With Steiff

Like many folks across the United States, Steiffgal too was touched by the economic recession and lost her full time employment a few months ago due to tough industry conditions. However, she recently landed on her feet and is standing tall with a new job! To keep everyone on their toes over this joyous turn of events, let's take a look at some of the fantastic foot details Steiff has produced over the years!

Let's start off with Bigfoot he
re - literally. Here we have a larger than life (a whopping 125 cm) Steiff studio St. Bernard dog. Just for reference, he is lying across a 4 foot long coffee table and accompanied by one of Steiffgal's real-life Steiffpugs. St. Bernard is unjointed, made from brown and white woven fur, and is wearing a typically alpine dog collar detailed with floral studs. His airbrushed paws on his hands and feet are the size of a woman's hand with all fingers extended outward! This prehistoric sized pooch is so large that he has a custom, extra large, hand written yellow eartag accompanying his button-in-ear. "Bigfoot" was featured in the Steiff catalog from 1973 through 1983.

No need to walk on eggshells over the next featured foot item here. This is Steiff's 16 cm Huhn or hen. She is standing and made from mohair which has been gloriously airbrushed with black and tan detailing. She has a red felt comb and waddle, a tan felt face, and black felt tail feathers. And just check out those tootsies! Her gigantic yet playful tan felt feet are detailed with black airbrushing and are fully posable. Hen was manufactured from 1965 through 1976 and also came in a larger 25 cm size.

Steiffgal is hesitant to put her toe in the water over these fantastically footed finds. Yes, what you see here are "his and hers" Steiff armadillos. The bigger boy is 22 inches or 56 cm while his lady-friend is 20 inches or 50 cm. Add about 8 inches or 20 cm more to each to account for their long textured tails! Both are made from grey plush; the boy has a "crocodile skin" pattern to his body while the girl is more simply striped. Both have plastic pupil eyes, velvet lined ears, and five GYNORMOUS, white plush claws on each of their four feet.

What i
s really unusual about this pair, besides their "footnote worthy" feet, is the fact that they do not appear to be cataloged. Both have a gold button-in-ear and a very generic white split tape eartag, which dates them in the 1994 through 2000 time frame. Steiff did make a grey 40 cm armadillo in 1998 and a brown limited edition armadillo in 1995; perhaps these two are well-heeled cousins of the more familiar Steiff armored friends?

There is a popular song from 1985 by Katrina and The Waves called "Walking on Sunshine" (click here to see the video and be prepared to smile); this last Steiff selection could be the motivation behind this toe-tapping tune! Here we have Steiff's outrageously salmon-pink Caribbean Flamingo. This 42 cm sun-kissed sweetie has a mohair body and fully posable legs and neck. She has orange and black pupil eyes and magnificent detailing on her velvet-like beak and mile-long gams. And she a leg up on all of us: check out her lovely flat triangular webbed feet. Just perfect for catching the sand between her toes! Caribbean Flamingo was produced as a limited edition for North America in 2004.

Steiffgal would feel like a heel if you didn't get a kick out of this overview of some of Steiff's finer foot treatments!

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Going Ape Over Steiff Primates

It's no secret that Steiffgal, and apparently a number of Steifflife readers, are just ape about Steiff monkeys, especially Steiff Jocko chimpanzees. It's hard not to love their gentle, childlike expressions, delicate felt hands and feet, and posable bodies. And because of the nature of their design and manufacture, each one has a different look... making it impossible for the collector to ever say "I already have that one!"

However, Steiff also has produced a wide range of playful primates over the years that could also qualify as top bananas. Take a look at a few of these relatively recent monkeys that truly demonstrate Steiff's century long commitment to fabulous design, lifelike appearance, and creative use of materials!

This well coiffed critter is Steiff's Pavian Coco or Coco Baboon. Coco is 35 cm, five ways jointed, made from very thick silver mohair, and has a long bendable tail. Like Jocko, Coco has an airbrushed felt face and expressive deep set eyes in felt pockets. One of the things that makes this Coco one of the most distinctive animals in the entire Steiff catalog is his remarkable hair collar, which is made from mohair strands that are about 5 inches long! He does need a brushing every now and again to keep him untangled. Coco was produced from 1951 through 1961.

Moving from
long hair to long arms, the next featured Steiff monkey is a Gibbon. This long limbed lovely is unjointed and made from light brown mohair. His well detailed plush hands and feet are detailed with dark brown felt pads. His ears are tan felt and his plush face is highlighted by black and white googly eyes. Gibbon appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1962 through 1966 in two sizes: 20 and 40 cm.

Like his real life namesake, this gibbon has exceptionally long limbs; his arms are about t
wice the length of his body. In nature, gibbons use their arms to swing distances up to 50 feet at 35 miles per hour in trees sometimes 200 feet above the ground!

Orange you happy to learn more about Steiff monkeys? It that is the case, then next two selections will really make your day...

Here we have Steiff's Schlenker Orang or Cosy Orang. This 30 cm carrot-top cutie has a detailed plastic face and floppy dangling limbs. His body is made from long red-brown crylor (a man-made acrylic fiber which is also known as Orlon) and he has velvet-like hands. Unlike real orangutans, this crylor version does not have ears; thus, his earflag and button are sewn into a seam on his head. Cosy Orang was made from 1970 through 1974.

And finally, a true example of "monkey see, monkey do." This little eye catcher is Orang Utan Mimocculo Replica 1930. Mimocculo is 25 cm and made from rust brown mohair. His face, hands and feet are made from peach colored felt. He is five ways jointed and has a squeaker in his belly. He was produced in an edition size of 3,000 in 1998 and is a replica of a phenomenal item Steiff originally produced around 80 years ago.

What makes both the original and replica Mimocculos so unique are their moving eye features.
When you pull on this monkey's ear, his glass eyeballs move left and right, as well as up and down! The Mimocculo pattern was originally produced from 1930 through 1936 in 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm; sizes from 17 cm had the distinctive rolling eye mechanism. Here's looking at you kid... literally!

Steiffgal hopes this quick tour was more fun then a barrel full of monkeys and that you too now have a greater appreciation for the wonderful range of Steiff primates.

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Come On A (Steiff) Safari With Me

Anyone interested in going on a (virtual) vintage Steiff safari with Steiffgal? Well, pack your bags and camera and take a look at the Steiff treasures Steiffgal spotted while out antiquing with her friend Egypto-mama (named so for her love of all things Egyptian) last weekend. They attended the Greater Boston Antiques Festival, which is held at the Shriner's Auditorium in Wilmington, Massachusetts a few times each year.

So let's get started on our adventure...

Check out this blond mohair "mask" Teddy with his little Possy friend. They were just hanging out at one of the first booths that Steiffgal visited. Teddy is from the 1980's and the squirrel is from the 1960's. Both are in great condition and look simply adorable together!

Next, Steiffgal came across this darling seasonal display of 1950- and 1960- era Steiff items. Here we have a large mohair Susi cat, two Cockie Cocker Spaniels (with their precious velvet mouths and muzzles), and a little grey Tessie Schnauzer in absolutely like-new condition.

Steiffgal feels like an ... well, donkey... about this find. This is mohair Esel Donkey in an unusual 22 cm size. He is from the mid 1950's. Check out his sweet expression and original leather brindle and reins. Steiffgal thought about buying him at the time and walked away "to think about it". Needless to say, he was long gone once she returned to claim him.

Moving along, this happy Zotty Teddy got Steiffgal all smiles again. Zotty is the 22 cm size and was "born" in the mid 1960's.

The next fun find was this dolly stroller filled with vintage playthings. Of course, the brown Teddy baby caught Steiffgal's eye from across the show floor! This well-loved model is 28 cm and appeared to be from the early 1950's. "Babysitting" this ensemble is the relatively rare mohair Diggy Dach or Diggy Badger, who is 17 cm and was only made for one year - 1963.

Here's a real show stopper! Steiffgal stumbled upon this very vintage Steiff Teddy on wheels which was nestled in a corner of a remote aisle booth. He even wears what appears to be an original leather collar! This "big boy" is 50 cm and very "stocky." (Steiffgal means this in the most loving way.) His metal wheels date him pre-1920 as wooden wheels were used from 1921 onward. This very popular model appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1901 through 1935 in a large range of sizes.

Is this adventure putting you to sleep? Steiffgal certainly hopes not! Here we have a pair of sleeping Steiff Lamms or Floppy Lambies in the smaller 17 cm size; they were also produced in 28 cm. These very sweet twin girls are made from wool plush and were part of the Steiff line from 1970 through 1977. They bring new meaning to the phrase "counting sheep" at bedtime, no?

The last highlight of the Steiff safari is a goofy basketful of giggles, literally! Steiffgal's heart began to race when she saw this collection of vintage Steiff items just waiting to be explored at a booth at the tail end of the exhibit hall. Here you can see a Teddy baby puppet, a Mecki hedgehog doll, a velvet frog puppet, a Robby seal, and other wonderful surprises. But dear readers, since you have been patient and have come to the end of our Steiff safari, Steiffgal will now reveal what two items she purchased WHICH WERE HIDING AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS TREASURE TROVE...

Now Steiffgal is sure that many of you are about to start scratching your heads and saying... huh?
Yes, what you
are going to see is only half Steiff. But that's ok! Really!

First, take a lo
ok at the tiny 10 cm mohair standing Steiff Arco puppy on the left of the picture. This particular model was produced only from 1959 through 1961. He is in absolutely like new condition; it is as if his handsome black and brown airbrushing were applied yesterday. His yellow ear tag and chest tags are crisp and readable and his red collar is original.

Now check out the mohair Disney Goofy made by Schuco - yes Schuco. Goofy is 14 inches tall and unjointed, although his body is flexible due to his internal wire armature. His face, feet, and arms are mohair; his hands, shirt, and mouth are felt; his ears are velvet; and his overalls and body underneath his clothing are made from cotton fabric. Schuco, a German toy manufacturer who made mohair bears and novelties from the 1920's through the 1970's, partnered with the Walt Disney Company in the 1950s through 1970's to produce a series of characters including Goofy, Pluto, and Lady and the Tramp, among other familiar friends. This Goofy, although not Steiff, is a great example of exceptionally fine German craftsmanship and is a highly sought-after collectible - even without the Steiff pedigree.

After all, you need all sort of friends, right?

Readers, Steiffgal hopes you had as much fun reading about this Steiff safari as Steiffgal had experiencing it for you!

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Getting "Rowdy" With Steiff

Steiffgal's not gonna take this inquiry lying down! Take a look at this note from a reader about this half-century old family treasure. Steven from Arlington, Massachusetts writes:

"Dear Steiffgal:

Please evaluate this mohair lying down bear. My wife received it as a birthday present from her mother in the 1950's. Her mother insists that it is a Steiff but has no identifying insignias on it.

The bear is in excellent condition and measures 20" from front paw to the rear paw.

Thank you, Steve"

This old friend is an unusual design of a familiar Steiff pattern, and that's no fib! What you have here is what Steiff calls Racker Zotty-Baer or Racker Zotty Bear. Zotty is 45 cm and lying down, but not "sleeping". He is softly stuffed, unjointed, and made from caramel colored tipped mohair. He has an open felt lined mouth and pert brown pupil eyes. Steiff produced Racker Zotty in 1960 through 1961 only, making him a hard-to-find treasure. And yes, he is part of the beloved "Zotty" family of Teddies which Steiff introduced in 1951.

And what exactly is a "Racker"? Glad you asked. "Racker" roughly translates from the German to "varmint" or "rascal". Because Steiff specifically describes this model as "to sit on or play", Steiffgal thinks this pattern was created for fun and play, and Steiff intended the word "Racker" to be tongue-in-cheek for a rowdy playmate. In addition to Racker Zotty, Steiff also produced a Racker St. Bernard named Berni and a Racker Tiger; each of these was also 45 cm, mohair, lying down, and produced from 1960 through 1961.

It is easy to see how these Racker playmates could be confused with another beloved Steiff pattern from around the same time, the prone "Floppy" models. Steiff produced a great number of these adorable “sleeping” style animals during the 1950’s through the 1970’s, including a Zotty, panda, fox, Cocker Spaniel, Siamese cat, tabby cat, seal, and elephant, among others. They were lying down on their bellies and stuffed with soft foam - really designed as bedtime companions. However, there are two main differences between the Racker and Floppy lines. First is size: the Rackers are 45 cm while the Floppies were produced in two standard smaller sizes, 17 and 28 cm. Second is state of consciousness: Rackers have a wide-awake, playful facial expression while the Floppies all have closed “sleeping eyes” designs.

As for the value of this "little rascal"... as always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. And the economic situation, although improving, still seems to favor Steiff buyers over sellers price wise. From a pure collector's investment perspective, in general, "play" toys (things like baby items, puppets, Floppies, everyday companions) are slightly less desirable than fully jointed, lifelike, excelsior stuffed Teddies and animals. However, this Racker appears to be in good condition, and its limited production and rarity add to its appeal and desirability. That all being said, Steiffgal has recently seen similar items sell in the $100 -150 range.

Steve, Steiffgal hopes that this feisty description of your Racker Zotty was helpful in explaining the history and legacy behind your family heirloom.

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

Saturday, October 10, 2009

100 Years, 10 cm, 1 Remarkable Steiff Teddy

The Steiff Company isn't kidding when they say their products are truly "Friends For Life." Perhaps they should change this promise to "Friends For Generations!" Speaking of generations, take a look at this inquiry from a reader concerning her Steiff heirloom about to be passed on to the third generation...


I am trying to research the value of my Steiff Teddy bear. It is 4" tall, has jointed legs and arms, and the small button in the left ear. It has gold colored fur and is in excellent condition.

It belonged to my M
other and she was born in 1913. Any information about the bear would be greatly appreciated.

He will be a gift to my granddaughter at Christmas this year and it would be nice to give the family an idea of its worth.

Thank you for your help! Linda"

Linda, first of all, Steiffgal wants to thank you for instilling the love of the Steiff brand to the next generation of enthusiasts. You are certainly starting out your granddaughter's collection with a fantastic item!

What you h
ave here is a terrific Ted known simply as Teddybaer or Teddy Bear. This pattern was made from 1905 through 1933 in 14 sizes ranging from 10 cm through 115 cm. A similar pattern was also manufactured during the same time frame in white. This particular 10 cm Teddy was produced from 1909 through 1933. It is five ways jointed, made from dark blond mohair, has tiny black eyes, and black stitching to define its nose and mouth. The stitching reveals two telling facts about your collectible. First, your bear has retained much of its original color as black stitching was used on blond bears while brown stitching was used on white bears. Second, your Teddy is probably a girl bear as Steiff traditionally used horizontal nose stitching on females and vertical stitching on males.

From a historical perspective, it is interesting to note that Steiff first used the name "Teddy Bear" in 1906, before then our beloved friend was simply known as "Baerle."

Linda, it is Steiffgal's best estimate that your bear was manufactured somewhere in the 1910 through 1915 time frame, give or take a few years when your mom received the Teddy as a child. As you pass this almost century-old keepsake on to the next generation, it would be Steiffgal's recommendation to use this as a wonderful opportunity to teach the importance of stewardship. Perhaps write down everything you know about this bear, and include any pictures you may have of your Mom with the Teddy over the years. Encourage your granddaughter to add on to this record moving forward. You may also want to present the Teddy with a pair of archivist's white gloves and in a see-through glass dome or case, to protect it from wear and to emphasize the "museum quality" and importance of the piece.

Now for her "worth". As you know, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. These poor economic times favor buyers over sellers and prices for Steiff collectibles at all price points seem low. But this since you are not selling the piece now (or hopefully ever), this is less relevant. Based on other recent sales, Steiffgal's best estimate right now is that this bear would sell in the $500 - $750 range or so.

Linda, Steiffgal hopes that this special gift to your granddaughter becomes a treasure to at least three more generations of your family!

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

Monday, October 5, 2009

Both Sides of The Aisle Vote In Favor of Steiff

No debate here, this Steiff Life reader has a great question! Check out this inquiry from John, who writes from Horseheads, NY.

"Hi Steiffgal,

I was going through some of my late mother's collection of Steiff and found two animals - a donkey and an elephant - that aren't tagged or marked as Steiff in any way (though the donkey's ear appears to have had something poked through it).

My mom was a pretty savvy Steiff buyer and these so much have the look and feel of some of her older items that I just can't decide.

Have you ever heard of anything like these being made by Steiff? (Or anywhere else for that matter.) Any thoughts at all about them?
The Democratic donkey measures 6" long by 5" tall while the Republican elephant is 5.5" long by 4" tall.

Thanks in advance!"

John, Steiffgal's gonna march right up to the podium a
nd give you the party line on these great items!

First the donkey... Steif
fgal is 100% confident that this farm friend is made by Steiff. This dapper donkey is 12 cm and made from grey velvet. He has airbrushed details on his snout, eyes, and feet. His tail is made from grey cord. He is dolled up with a red leather harness and a blue felt blanket with the letters "DEM" (for democratic) on each side. This specific item was made from 1956 through 1959 as an early special edition for the US market.

But there is much more to his story.
This "democratically detailed" donkey is actually a modification of a c
ore Steiff line item, a 12 cm velvet donkey that was produced from 1950 through 1969. The identical pattern was also produced in mohair in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1950 through 1961. And, to truly leverage this popular and beloved pattern, the Steiff designers also converted this basic 12 cm velvet donkey into the mascot of the US Army by giving him a blue and white velvet saddle blanket with a very large capital "A" (for Army) on it. This little fighter was manufactured in 1957 only.

Now onto a more ju
mbo Steiff mystery. This little grey mohair elephant is the 10 cm version of a delightful and endearing Steiff pattern which was produced from 1950 through 1978. This design was also produced in 7, 17, 22, and 35 cm. Core commonalities between the sizes include black and white "googly" eyes and a red felt saddle cloth. The larger sizes have tusks and mohair ears; the smaller versions have felt ears. However, Steiffgal has never seen this particular elephant detailed with the blue GOP (Grand Old Party) saddle blanket... and this does not appear in Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment Book, the "grand-daddy" of Steiff references.

So just what is going on here?
It is entirely possible that t
he GOP elephant was a "customer special" for a company or organization (in this case, the United States Republican party) and produced in a very limited number. By "customer special", Steiffgal mean an unusual custom ribbon, a felt accessory, a unique tag, or other small differentiator added to an otherwise standard item in the line. When this happened, especially in the past, Steiff did not separately catalog the item. These finds are exciting, as well as frustrating, to collectors, who always want to know the full story behind unusual Steiff items. As the color, material, printing style, and font of the elephant's blanket is similar to the one worn by the donkey, it seems pretty safe to assume that they were produced around the same time frame.

Here is another example of a Steiff "customer special". On the left, check out this Steiff beaver holding a gorgeous airbrushed felt maple leaf. This charming collectible was was manufactured for a promotion for a Canadian company or organization. The leaf accessory is an "add on" to Steiff's standard beaver "Nagy". Nagy was produced from 1958 through 1978 in three sizes: 10, 17, and 25 cm. Nagy is cataloged, but Nagy with the leaf is not. It is Steiffgal's best guess that it is a similar situation with your elephant and its custom blue felt saddle blanket.

John, Your mom had great taste in Steiff and really knew collectible items when she saw them.
All of us, whether elephants OR donkeys, can certainly agree to that!

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

Friday, October 2, 2009

Outfoxing A Steiff Dog Mystery

Questions about items on wheels keep rolling Steiffgal's way! Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about a precious family heirloom that is clearly still "on the go" after many, many years! Hannah from York, United Kingdom writes:

"My parents have come across the Steiff dog shown in the attached pictures. It was given to my sister as a baby over 30 years ago by a lady in her 80's then.

Please could you have a look at it - any information would be great as I cannot find much about it on the internet. The only thing I have found out via the pin in the ear (Steiff with the f going back to the bottom of the E) is that it is from around 1910 I believe.

Here are the details: he is 27 cm high and 30 cm long. I think he did have a tail at one time. He is made from mohair and beige in color; he doesn't seem to have spots or other color on him. His ears are also made from mohair.

Thanks, Hannah"

Hannah, Steiffgal can help you outfox this mystery. This dear doggy is what Steiff calls Fox terrier. Fox terrier is unjointed, standing, and made from white mohair. His nose and mouth are defined by simple black embroidery. When he was a younger pup, he had a pert tail and just a touch of airbrushing around his glass pupil eyes. This particular model was extremely popular in the Steiff line; the company made him in eight sizes ranging from 10 through 50 cm from 1908 through 1929. The picture on the left, from Pfeiffer’s 1892 –1943 Steiff Sortiment book, shows what Hannah’s Fox terrier looked like when new.

Interestingly, the wheels on the Fox terrier are the best way to figure out how old – in dog or people years – this item really is. Steiff made this model of Fox terrier on metal wheels until 1920; from 1921 onward he appeared on wooden wheels. The two largest sizes, 43 and 50 cm, were reinforced with an internal metal frame so the dog could be used as a ride-on animal. The wooden wheels on Hannah’s collectible dates him around the mid- to late 1920’s.

Fox terriers have been around almost as long as the Steiff catalog, which debuted in 1892. They could easily be considered a legacy breed for the company. The first fox terrier appeared in the Steiff line in 1899. Like Hannah’s collectible, it was also on wheels but was made from felt. Since then, Steiff has produced close to 40 different fox terrier models pre-WWll and over 20 designs from the late 1940’s onward.

And just what makes a fox terrier, well, a fox terrier? This dog was bred to assist in fox hunting. Besides breed size and appearance standards, they have to be able to perform three key hunting tasks. First, they have to have the endurance to keep up with foxhounds, who lead the hunt. Second, they have to be small enough follow foxes down into their holes during the chase. And third, they have to be feisty when they do indeed encounter a cornered fox.

Hannah, Steiffgal hopes this discussion about your wonderful vintage Fox terrier has put a pleasant end to your hunt for information about him!

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

The teddy bear search engine