Saturday, January 30, 2010

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Steiff Style

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are just around the corner and soon the world will be captivated by the magic that comes with this international sporting event and all its pageantry. Steiffgal has many fond memories of watching the winter Olympics on TV when she was a little girl. She recalls with great pleasure (and so will readers of a certain age) watching ice skater Dorothy Hamill charm the world with both her athleticism and haircut in 1976, the US Hockey Team's "Miracle on Ice" in 1980, and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "perfect" ice dancing duet in 1984.

As they d
o for most major events, Steiff has created a special 2010 Teddy in honor of the Vancouver games. "Skater Girl" teddy is 30 cm, five ways jointed, and made from soft brass color mohair. She is dressed for the rink in a lovely lacy dress, short underpants, and perfectly scaled skating shoes. She has the words "Vancouver" and "2010" embroidered on her felt soles. Skater Girl is being produced as a limited edition for Japan in an edition size of 1,000. For English speaking friends, she can be special ordered through the web retailer Bear Attack; she is also featured in Japanese on the website of the Steiff Shop Ginza for readers in Asia.

To help get into the upcoming Olympic spirit, let's take a lo
ok at three prize worthy sports themed vintage Steiff athletes that could easily win medals in a global collectibles contest! Each of these jocks is designed for an actual designated winter Olympic event. So let's let the games begin!

Bronze medal
winner: Hockey has been played at the Olympic level since 1920 and is the event of national pride for many countries participating in the winter games. "Check" out this sporty Hockey Spieler Baer or Hockey Player Bear. Wouldn't you select him for your team?

Teddy is 30 cm tall and made from dolan, a synthetic fiber. His face, paws, and feet are brown. His face is rather "Zotty"-like with its prominent nose and open mouth which is lined in peach felt. Teddy's body is blue, and made to look like he is wearing an athletic uniform. His upper arms have red and white trim around them, much like a hockey sweater. (Steiffgal believes that the number "3" on his sweater was added by a previous owner - maybe in tribute to a favorite "real life" hockey hero - professional or perhaps familial.) He also dons removable red felt shorts that are detailed with blue and white trim - much like his arms. Hockey Player Bear was produced from 1972 through 1975.

Silver medal winner: Snowboarding is a relatively new Olympic event, having made its official debut in 1998. Steiff honors this modern sport with this rather contemporary Fulda Snowboarder.

This bruin has it all
- winning looks and a "conquer the mountain" attitude. Snowboarding Teddy is 18 cm and made from jet black mohair. He is five ways jointed, has brown pupil eyes, and the most handsome silver-grey nose, mouth, and claw stitching. He even has a tiny horizontal stitch in a slightly darker grey color across his nose, reminiscent of the nose treatment on Steiff's well known Jackie bear. Snowboarding Teddy wears a matching red and black microfiber jacket and pants set, which is detailed with numerous Steiff and Fulda patches. (Fulda is a German tire manufacturer that has done numerous outdoor and winter-themed projects with Steiff.) He comes compete with a fast and furious black and white Fulda-branded snowboard. Teddy was produced as a white and red tag limited edition of 1,500 pieces in 2003.

Gold medal winner: Olympic skiing sports include alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, cross country skiing, and Nordic combined events. This snow bunny gets Steiffgal's vote for Steiff's best winter Olympian - even though his specialty is most likely Apr├Ęs-ski!

Here we
have Rico Hase or Rico Rabbit. Rico is 43 cm tall and five ways jointed. His head and ears are made from short white mohair, while his hands feet, and tail are made from long mohair. His body is constructed from red dralon made to look like an all-in-one skisuit; this is detailed with white and blue felt striping on the edges. Rico has a cheerful, goofy face; he has a smiling open mouth lined in peach felt, blue and black googly eyes, a pink, "V" shaped embroidered nose, and mono-filament whiskers. He is detailed with a matching blue felt scarf and hat. The hat is finished with a large white pom-pom which has the density and consistency of one of Steiff's woolie birds or bunnies. Doesn't he look like an athletic version of Steiff's beloved Lulac rabbit?

Rico as you see him here was produced from 1972 through 1974 for the worldwide market; he was also produced with a pair of wooden skis exclusively for the US market in 1972. A Rico in mint condition with his skis sold for 300 euro (approximately $420) at the 2005 Steiff Festival auction in Giengen, Germany.

Steiffgal hopes this Steiff themed Olympic overview has pumped you up for 17 fabulous days of top-tier international competition and breathtaking performances - as well as the opportunity for global brotherhood and goodwill.

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Tree-rific Collection Of Vintage Steiff Woolie Birds

What a "tweet" it is to receive really interesting inquiries from readers! On a wing and a prayer, Renee - from central New Jersey - contacted Steiffgal about her unusual Steiff "bird tree" to learn more about its history and design. She writes:


About a year ago, I bought a Steiff tree full of 13 wool birds on Ebay. I didn't really know much about it, but I just fell in love with it and had to have it. I always wanted a collection of the Steiff birds, and this was an easy way to get an instant collection.

The tree has a foam-type core and is wrapped in tissue paper painted to look like bark. It is 18.5 inches high by 12 inches wide. The trunk of the tree fits into a painted wooden base with the words "Made in Germany" stamped on the bottom.

There are 13 wool birds, with plastic feet, perched on the tree, including the beautiful little dove. There are no Steiff markings or tags anywhere, but t
he birds are obviously Steiff. The birds are so artfully perched on the branches, peering down in all different directions, that I feel the tree was professionally created, possibly as a window display or the like, but as I mentioned I really have no idea.

Can you tell me anything about it?"

Wow, thanks for writing and what a very cool item! Steiffgal vaguely recalls seeing this on eBay awhile back and being tempted as well! This bird tree is a fabulous item with a great history.

Let's first take a look at the tree itself. Not unexpectedly, Steiff calls this item Vogelbaum or Bird's Tree. According to Pfeiffer's reliable Steiff Sortiment 1947 - 2003 reference, Renee's item is cataloged as appearing in the line from 1957 through 1960. It is described as being made from "imitation birch"; the corresponding photo shows a white birch looking "tree" covered in assorted woolie pom pom birds with plastic legs (meaning that they were produced from 1956 onward.) The birds are attached to the tree by thin metal wires. The tree also has a few random yellow leaves and is mounted on a green circular wooden base. This Vogelbaum came in two models, a larger 12-bird version, and a smaller 5-bird version.

Renee's Vogelbaum is the most "recent" in a long history of Steiff bird trees. Going way back, a 20 cm version, with three standard line woolen birds, green leaves, and blossoms, was produced from 1936 through 1940. A similar 40 cm version, with a whopping 28 woolen birds, leaves and blossoms, was in the catalog from 1935 through 1939. Then, post war from 1953 through 1956, Steiff produced a Vogelbaum made from four primary colored birds perched on a blue wooden stand that sort of looked like a tree, from a "modern art perspective." Whatever the era, these showcase-worthy displays have always been a favorite with collectors.

w let's ruffle a few feathers and talk about two quirky details of this Vogelbaum. The first unusual feature of this tree is the inclusion of three "higher end" birds. The first is the very distinct Woll-Taube or woolen dove (the light blue and white bird with the light blue and brown felt tail feathers pictured here on the lower branch on the left). The second is the Woll Exoten Vogel or red woolen exotic bird with his red felt head feathers (pictured here on the upper branch second in from the left.) The third is a yellow woolen exotic bird with yellow felt feathers. So why is this noteworthy? According to photographic records of the bird tree, it should be "populated" with standard, relatively simple (read: less elaborate, less expensive) birds from the Steiff product line. These include red robins, green woodpeckers, multicolored finches, blue tits, and mostly brown sparrows.

The second unusual feature of Renee's tree is the actual number of birds on it.
Her Vogelbaum sports 13 birds. Recall that the larger "cataloged" version had 12 birds on it. So, what's with the extra bird?
Steiffgal, having worked with great pleasure at Steiff for several years knows that Steiff would NEVER advertise 12 birds but include 13... that's simply not the German way! So perhaps a previous owner added it on to the tree under their stewardship. It would be Steiffgal's best guess that if that indeed was the case, then the woolen dove was the late addition to the tree for two reasons. First, it doesn't really "fit" with the other species on the tree. More importantly, the dove did not appear with plastic legs until 1964 - four years after Steiff stopped making this model of Vogelbaum! And speaking of bird-brained mysteries, here's another puzzler... the picture of the Vogelbaum in the literature only features 10 woolies!

Wooden it be tree-rific if all Steiff collectors had such an interesting collectible to feather their nests?

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

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Terrific, and Terrifically Tall, Vintage Steiff Ted

When someone says "Daddy Long Legs", what immediately comes to mind? Perhaps an insect, or a novel, or a film, or even an animated Japanese TV series, depending where you are from. But what about a wonderful vintage Steiff Teddy? Take a long look at this absolutely amazing, gigantic pre-WW ll bear. Steiffgal is certain you will agree... this one terrific, and terrifically tall, Ted!

This bear belongs to Alexander, who is from Vienna, Austria. Alex posted pictures of his Teddy on the Steiff Facebook page. Seeing him there, Steiffgal contacted him for more information about the bruin, in order to share this remarkable find with the Steiff collecting world. Thankfully, Alex was happy to share him and his story. He writes:


Please find the requested pictures attached. I found the bear on the Vienna flea market and paid 1,000 euro for him. He has the button with the underlined "f" and a remainder of a yellow tag. He is 24 inches tall when seated, and 36 inches when standing. His eye color is brown and the fur is plush.

Best wishes,


What an amazing find! Steiffgal can only imagine how excited Alex was to come across such an unusual sized Steiff bear in such great condition. She would have needed oxygen and a stretcher over this for sure!

Let's take a look at Alex's bear and talk a bit about him and his history.

First his datin
g. Teddy's trailing "f" button and early yellow eartag combination date him approximately between 1934 and 1942. When Teddy was new, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he measured in at 115 cm, the largest pre-war, five ways jointed size that Steiff made commercially. (Old Teds, like older men and women, tend to "compress" a little over time.) Steiff made these 115 cm bears in blond and also in white from around 1905 through 1933. Steiff also made the 115 cm size in brown, but only from 1906 through 1917.

If we overlay his button and ear tag identification dating, and manufacturing time line, it would appear that Alex's Teddy was probably made approximately in the 1933/1934 time frame.

Now his des
ign and history. Alex's Teddy is the largest size of a very popular Steiff model produced from 1905 through 1933 in white, blond, and brown. Although the pattern evolved over time, the bears produced under this beloved, classic design were all mohair, five ways jointed with cardboard disks, had distinctive "spoon" shaped paws, and carefully hand embroidered noses and mouths. Later versions, like Alex's, had higher-placed ears and glass pupil eyes. This pattern was produced in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70, and 115 cm.

The largest size, 115 cm - although a regular line item - was most likely produced as a special order display piece. Because of his impressive proportions, the 115 cm size was often photographed for advertising and commercial purposes; the photo on the left shows tall Teddy in the Steiff warehouse in New York in the early 1900's. (This picture is from the wonderful Button In Ear The History of The Teddy Bear and His Friends by Jurgen and Marianne Cieslik.)

Alex's Teddy is a
rare - and valuable - bear indeed! These champion-sized cubs seldom come on the market. After a bit of research Steiffgal could only find two instances of a 115 cm Steiff Teddy at auction; both were sold at the world famous Christie's auction house in London. The most recent, a blond 115 cm Teddy in very good condition from 1906, sold for $35,622 (a little over 25,000 euro) in 2006. Even though Alex's bear is a little "younger" - based on this official hammer price - it is safe to say he got the bargain of a lifetime for 1,000 euro!

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this long look at Alex's bear and what makes him so special.

Have a question about one of your special Steiff items, or just want to share it with Steiff collectors all over the world via this community site?
Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Come On A (Steiff) Safari With Me: Part 2

If you had a day to do anything you wanted, what would it be? For Steiffgal, it would most definitely be hunting for antiques on a "Steiff safari." She and Steiffguy just got back from one of the best antique shows around New England, the Greater Boston Antiques Festival. This show is held every October and January at the Shriner's Auditorium in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Take a look at a few of the wonderful things they spotted on their adventure!

It's no str
etch to say that this little velvet giraffe has a leg up on cuteness! Giraffe is 17 cm, unjointed, and made from beautifully stenciled light tan velvet. He has tiny black eyes, felt ears, and a back mane made from shortly cropped tan colored mohair. He only appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1951 through 1952.

Hare, hare
, take a look at this familiar fellow - in a most unfamiliar size! This big bunny is Manni Hase or Manni Rabbit. He is a whopping 55 cm! Manni is sitting up (a position Steiff calls "begging"), made from tan and white mohair, and is head jointed. He has an open felt lined mouth and absolutely enormous brown and black pupil eyes. Manni appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1961 through 1976 in 10, 20, 30, 40, and 55 cm.

The next fe
w finds proved the show was literally raining (Steiff) cats and dogs!

It was the cat
's meow to spot this large Susi Katze or Susi Cat in a booth full of wonderful vintage playthings. Susi is head jointed and sitting. She is made from tan mohair which has been airbrushed with black stripes. Susi has a dear pink embroidered nose and huge green and black pupil eyes. Susi appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1949 through 1978 in 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm.

If all this exciteme
nt has tuckered you out a bit...perhaps it's time for a little catnap. These show attendees certainly think so! In the forefront of the picture, check out these twin Floppy Katze or Floppy Cats. These 17 cm snoozing sweeties are made from white mohair that has been carefully hand airbrushed with black stripes. They are unjointed and extremely soft and floppy. They have stitched closed "sleeping" eyes. Floppy cat appeared in the Steiff catalog from 1970 through 1977 in 17 and 28 cm.

In the center of the picture are two white and brown Cockie Cocker Spaniels. These precious pups are sitting and head jointed with open, pink velvet lined mouths. They have very gentle faces with pert brown and black pupil eyes. This Cockie was in the Steiff line from 1951 through 1959 in 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, and 30 cm.

And finally, to the far right, is terrific Tessie Schnauzer. Tessie is standing, head jointed, and made from light grey mohair. She wore a red leather collar when she was new. One of the most "recognizable" features about this Tessie design is her tiny circ
ular red felt tongue, which you can see if you look closely at the photo right below her little black stitched nose.

Speaking of darling doggies, here we have a Steiff Studio pug which the Steiff superteam spotted in a booth full of canine related antiques. He is 50 cm, fully jointed, made from tan and black mohair, and has a self activating growler in his belly. Please note his sterling silver water bowl (engraved with his initials) near his head. (Just kidding! He is a real pug, but Steiffgal couldn't resist sharing the "lord of the show" with you!)

Ok, if that didn't scare you off, perhaps the last of our finds - these feisty felines - will! Here we have two Schwarzer Kater or Black Tom Cats. These are also known as "Steiff Scary Cats" and are often associated with Halloween. These Tom Cats were produced from 1950 through 1976 in 8, 10, 14, 17, and 22 cm. The 8 and 10 cm "kittens" were made from black velvet while the larger "cats" were made from black mohair. All sizes were standing with arched backs and tails reaching to the sky. Their faces were detailed with pink stitched noses, clear monofilament whiskers, and intense green and black pupil eyes. The "forefather" of Tom Cat was introduced in 1903 and was in the Steiff catalog through 1919. In the second of his nine lives, he then reappeared in a more updated design in the line from 1933 through 1943.

Most interestingly, the original black Tom Cat design was featured in a photograph from the 1903 - 1904 Steiff catalog. But what's so special about that? It's the same picture that debuted PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear. Timing is everything, eh? A snapshot of this catalog page is shown here on the left; you can spot Tom Cat a little to the right of center standing on top of a donkey on wheels. This picture is from the Cieslik's fantastic Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends reference, published in 1989.

Steiffgal hopes you like this Steiff safari as much as she and Steiffguy enjoyed the real adventure that produced it! And remember, take your camera (or your camera enabled cellphone) when out and about looking for treasures... it costs nothing to create and share a "virtual" collection of terrific Steiff finds!

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Paws and Take a Look at this Perfect Steiff Pooch!

We've all heard of the "roaring '20s", named for the upbeat decade of jazz, flapper girls, and art deco, among other joyous things. But if a decade can roar, why can't it bark, too!? Check out this note from a reader in California who asks about her vintage Steiff pup from the 1920's. Through a series of correspondences, Shannon writes...

"I was hoping you could help identify and tell me a little bit about this older Steiff dog.

Here are her details:

She is sitting and made from long white curly mohair. She has really big eyes, which are brown with a black pupil. She has black nose and mouth stitching. Overall, the dog sitting is about 9" tall from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. Measured down her back she is about 12" long. She is jointed only in her neck. She has a button where the last "f" in "Steiff" trails backwards. She sports a pink ribbon, which appears to be original.

Many thanks
for any help you can provide!"

Shannon, your white wonder is a little dog Steiff calls Zotty. She was only in the Steiff catalog from 1925 through 1929, which totally aligns chronologically with her "trailing f" button. She sitting, head jointed, and is made from all white, long exceptionally thick mohair. She has glass pupil eyes. Zotty was produced in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm. The 22 and 28 cm versions came with a squeaker. All models left the factory in Giengen, Germany adorned with a lovely pink ribbon. Pictured here to the left is what Zotty looked like when new; this illustration is borrowed from Gunther Pfeiffer's wonderful 1892 - 1943 Sortiment book.

Besides her rarity and adorable appearance, there are two things about Zotty that are particularly interesting from the collector's perspective: her name and her pattern.

First, her name: Zotty. Regular readers might hear the name "Zotty" and immediately think of the classic "shaggy" Steiff Teddy bear design introduced in the 1950's. (A few are pictured to the left for reference.) "Zotty" - which is a version of the German word "Zottel", roughly translates to the word "fuzzy" in English. Steiff has used the name Zotty on a number of "fuzzy" items over the course of the history of the company. The earliest "Zotty" Steiffgal can find reference to is a Teddy called "Zottelbaer" or Shaggy Bear, a sweet bruin on all fours that Steiff produced in white or dark brown from 1914 through 1927.

Second, her shape. Readers may also notice that Zotty has a distinctly similar "look" and body appearance to another better known Steiff pup named Molly. (A Molly family is pictured to the left for reference.) Molly - who is also sitting, head jointed, and has a sweet, puppylike personality - was introduced in 1925 which may explain Molly and Zotty's similar expression and appearance. Over time, Molly appeared in numerous color combinations, including red and white, green and white and blue and white. However, the "classic" original Molly is brown and white. Steiff used this basic appealing, endearing "young dog" Molly pattern on other little known dogs of the 1920's and 1930's, including Trolly (a white, yellow, and brown St. Bernhard puppy), Flock (a blonde and white puppy), and Fellow (a black and white puppy).

Steiffgal hopes this canine conversation keeps her out of the doghouse with Steifflife readers for the time being!

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

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Discovering A Hidden Steiff Family Treasure

Steiffgal is certain that she is not alone in believing it not too early to start thinking (or perhaps the better word in January is DREAMING) about spring and all its niceties... warm weather, the first flowers, and of course, Easter! And speaking of dreamy, and Easter, take a look at this question from Charles from the UK about a very special family rabbit. Through a series of correspondences, he writes...

"I live in the UK and have discovered an 8 inch Steiff Peter Rabbit in a locked jewel box. It has probably been there for 50 years.

I inherited a load of stuff including this box fro
m my mother and have only just discovered a key!

Mom was born in March 1909 and the youngest of 3 siblings. She lived in Cork, Ireland when very young then moved to NE Scotland. She came from an aristocratic family where money was no object.

Here are some details about the rabbit:

  • His eyes are black buttons which are backed by red felt.
  • His tail is velvet and is an appendage to his body.
  • His entire body is made from white and grey velvet.
  • He is wearing red felt slippers with leather soles. On the bottom of the left one it says "Resistd no 423884 (or close to that), made in Germany."
  • His ears are made of velvet and are lined in the same material; he has a rust iron disk in one.
  • As for his nose and mouth stitching, it appears to be white and the stitching pattern is basically very simple and is a small "v" for his nose, a small vertical stitch connecting the nose and mouth, and a larger upside down "v" for his mouth.
Any help you can provide on its history and value would be most appreciated!"

Charles, thanks for sharing this remarkable treasure with Steiffgal and the Steiff Life readers! Let's hop right to it and talk about your wonderful family find.

First, a little St
eiff rabbit history to help put everything in context. Rabbits are a legacy item for Steiff probably because Easter is such a major holiday in Germany. They appeared in at least 7 different varieties in the debut catalog of 1892 alone! The design of Charles' rabbit - sitting up, begging, with unjointed arms, and a flat bottom - first appeared in 1894. At the turn of last century, this very popular design was produced in sizes ranging from 10 cm to 35 cm, and in materials including felt, short pile plush, mohair, velvet, wool plush, and coat plush. Besides a toy, this pattern was also produced as a rabbit pincushion with a basket on his back and as a skittle.

Then, in 1902,
a "little book" written and illustrated by English author Beatrix Potter hit the market in a big way. This book, Peter Rabbit, became a worldwide sensation due to its simple, universal story and beautiful illustrations. Ms. Potter created a little Peter Rabbit doll and registered it in the London patent office. Despite numerous attempts, she could not find a manufacturer in England to produce her toy. Steiff got wind of this, and soon became the producer of the "official" Peter Rabbit doll for the English market.

Here's where it gets a little "fuzzy" from the archival perspective.
As far as Steiffgal can tell, there is no readily available description of the original "official" Steiff Peter Rabbit. How big is he and what does he look like? What is he made from? What are the details of his clothing? As a matter of fact, Steiffgal can't even find the words "Peter Rabbit" in Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff 1892 - 1943 Sortiment, the book recognized by collectors as the Steiff gold standard catalog reference. So it is not exactly clear what Beatrix Potter wanted Peter to look like as a toy!

It is generally understood by collectors that a "Steiff Peter Rabbit" is standing and wears a felt topcoat and slippers. The Sortiment book pictures two versions of standing rabbits wearing felt topcoats and slippers, but does not identify them as "Peter Rabbit." The first is a
spotted white velvet version wearing a red or navy topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 10, 22, and 28 cm from 1904 through 1919. The second is a white wool plush version wearing a green felt topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 22 cm from 1904 through 1918. Interestingly, during the same time frame, Steiff also produced a white wool plush cat, poodle, bulldog, pig, and elephant - all were 22 cm, sitting, flat bottomed, begging, and dapperly attired in felt topcoats and slippers identical in design to the one worn by the rabbit.

So in the 1904 through 1919 time frame, what's the difference between a dressed Steiff rabbit and a Steiff Peter Rabbit?
In the big picture, not much. Purists would say that a "real" Steiff Peter Rabbit must have a blue topcoat, as pictured in his namesake book. However, further research reveals that the "Peter Rabbit" design proved so popular that Steiff dressed many of their standard standing, flat bottomed, begging rabbits in variously colored felt topcoats and slippers. This is a very early example of Steiff's tradition of taking standard line items and customizing or altering them to meet new market opportunities.

So what about Charles' rabbit? A grey painted velvet rabbit is not specifically mentioned in the Sortiment as a Peter Rabbit. However, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he is a "big brother" version of the documented spotted w
hite velvet Peter Rabbit. And the collecting world seems to agree! At the 2005 Steiff Festival auction in Giengen, Germany, a pristine 28 cm version of a rabbit cataloged as "Peter Rabbit" - larger but identical in appearance to Charles' treasure - sold for 19,000 euro! At this same auction, a pair of matching 10 cm spotted white velvet Steiff "Peter Rabbits" in immaculate condition sold for 24,000 euro!

Now that's what Steiffgal calls "the money bunnies!"

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Birds of a (Steiff) Feather....

Bird's the word, especially when it comes to Steiff studio birds! It's certainly true that no one interprets lovely, lifelike - and life sized - birds quite like Steiff.

However, when collectors talk about Steiff "studio" items, usually very large items come to mind - like a 120 cm "baby" studio elephant or even a 150 cm studio tiger or zebra! That's a mighty big Steiff! It is interesting to note that when Steiff refers to something as "studio", they are really saying that the piece is "true to life" sized. So, even collectors with very small spaces can welcome Steiff studio birds into their homes without having to sacrifice too much space on their behalf. So that all being said, let's "migrate" our attention to some of the more unusual studio feathered friends that Steiff has produced in the past few decades.

Perhaps the smallest Steiff Studio item on record, here we have Paddy Papageientaucher or Paddy Puffin. Paddy is 26 cm, unjointed, standing, and primarily made from made from black and white woven fur. He has black felt "feathers" on the tips of his wings. Paddy has large posable red webbed felt feet that are finished with airbrushed details. One of his most outstanding features is his elaborate, large red and orange beak which is made from trivera velvet. Paddy's beak has both airbrushing and stenciled detail work. (Interestingly, most "real life" puffins molt the red-toned outer part of their beaks post-breeding season, leaving them with shorter, duller, smaller beaks for the rest of the year!) Paddy was produced from 1979 through 1981. No surprise here... as far as Steiffgal can tell, Paddy is Steiff's first, and only, puffin.

This next "bundle of joy" bearer is Steiff's studio Storch or Stork. Talk about a tall glass of water here! This 50 cm stork is unjointed, standing, and made from short white woven fur and long white tufted plush. He has very subtle light blue airbrushing on his forehead and wings. Stork sports black trivera velvet feathers on the tips of his white wings. He has delightful, posable red trivera legs with prominent, distinct "knees". Stork was made from 1980 through 1984. Unlike his puffin cousins, storks are regulars in the Steiff product line, having first appeared in the charter catalog of 1892. This particular Stork appeared in Steiffgal's collection a few years ago - as a gift from Steiffpal - when the "stork" finally graced Steiffgal's family with a bundle of joy, albeit canine.

This final Steiff studio bird really gets Steiffgal thinking about warm summer days (and how much she'd like to be experiencing them right now!) This beach buddy is Movi Moewe or Movi Seagull. Movi is 28 cm, unjointed, and made from white, black, and grey woven fur. He has black felt "feathers" on the tips of his wings. He is standing on large, posable yellow velvet and felt webbed feet and has a yellow trivera velvet peak. Most unusually, Movi has black eyes that are backed by red felt. Besides the black mourning Titanic bears, a few other birds, and some very vintage rabbits, Steiffgal cannot recall any other Steiff item with this really unique eye treatment. Movi was produced from 1979 through 1981.

Seagulls are relatively rare in the Steiff catalog; the first appeared as a 10 cm white felt bird on an elastic cord in 1913.
Since then, they have mostly been produced as woolen miniatures. These include a 9 cm standing woolie from 1936 through 1940; an 8 cm standing woolie from 1954 through 1963; and an 8 cm resting woolie from 1976 though 1979. Perhaps the most sought-after Steiff seagull item is the Woll Moewen Mobile, or Woolen Seagull Mobile, a hanging mobile made of three, 3 cm by 3 cm woolie seagulls with spread felt wings. This rarity was only produced from 1974 through 1976.

It's a feather in your cap to have made it to the end of this flighty column. Steiffgal hopes this overview has made your interest in Steiff studio birds really soar!

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