Wednesday, April 28, 2010

(More) Oodles of Steiff Poodles!

Like anything curly, where something ends it starts again! Just a few days ago Steiffgal shared with you some of the history behind Steiff's delightful, well-coiffed canines - the poodles! This wonderful inquiry from a reader in Massachusetts suggests that we pick up right where we left off. Stephen writes...


I recently bought som
e old dolls, toys and a few Steiff animals from a woman who had them as a child in the 1950's.

I have not been able to identify a large white poodle anywhere online. He stands about 20" tall from paw to top of head and 20" long from head to tail. He has a jointed he
ad only. He is mohair and dirty. He has a Steiff button in his right ear and a tag on one leg which is somewhat frayed. He is stuffed, but not soft.

Can you tell me anything about him?

Thank you!"

Wow, this is some rare, top dog worthy of a blue ribbon for sure!
What a great "fetch!"

What Stephen h
as so fortunately stumbled upon is an outstanding poodle that was made for one year only, in 1952. This precious pooch's name (like many of the Steiff poodles) is "Snobby". Snobby was produced in 17 and 28 cm in both black and white. He is made from wool plush, with a French trim (meaning a long mohair front and a short mohair rear), and has a swivel head. Because he is described as "hard stuffed", he is probably filled with excelsior, which is wood-wool shavings.

There are three several things, besides his really limited appearance in the Steiff line, which make this poodle most interesting from a collector's perspective.

The first is the wh
ite tag that Stephen mentions in his note. This is a US Zone tag, which shows that this poodle was made shortly after the factory in Giengen, Germany reopened after World War ll. This small white linen tag with black lettering appears (or appeared, it tends to get loved off) on all Steiff items produced between 1947 and 1953.

The second is his rare button. As you can see, This Snobby poodle is sporting a very unusual "knopf im ohr" which has the word "Steiff" in raised in block capitals. (If you click on the picture it should enlarge...) This identification was only used from 1947 through 1952. To put things in perspective, Steiffgal only has 3 vintage Steiff items with this "all capitals" button out of a collection of several hundred vintage items.

And third is his name.
This Snobby is the namesake grand-daddy of all Snobby poodles as he is the first and ORIGINAL Snobby in the Steiff line!

Steiffgal hopes that this second column on these handsome hounds has doubled your interest in Steiff poodles!

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Steiff Poodle Has it "Maid" In the Shade

Finally! After looking for almost ten years, Steiffgal finally landed one of her dream pieces! After waiting for several anxious weeks - after all, the package was being mailed from overseas - the box finally arrived and was delivered to Steiffgal's front step. With great excitement, Steiffgal opened the carton and right away... she knew she had it "maid" in the shade with her newest vintage find, a Steiff poodle named Maidy.

So just who is
Maidy, and what makes her so special? Maidy is one of those Steiff "One-derful" items, made for just a year or so. Specifically, she appeared in the Steiff catalog in 1959 only. This black mohair beauty is standing and unjointed. She has a slightly longer mohair "beard" around her chin. Her mouth and claw stitching is done in mauve colored embroidery floss. She was produced in 25 and 30 cm; Steiffgal's Maidy is the 30 cm version.

There are two
things about Maidy, besides her very short time in production, that make her really remarkable. First are her eyes. They are gorgeous, large hand blown almond shaped "peepers"; each has a black pupil, brown iris, and white corners. Readers may recognize these eyes as the same ones that appeared on the pre-war and early post war Steiff little black Scotty dogs. The second is her remarkable mohair covering. It is analogous to the look and feel of "Persian Lamb", that is, it is distinctly bumpy and textured, with the mohair woven in tightly wound clusters. The only other Steiff item that Steiffgal can think of that uses this textured mohair is (not surprisingly...) Swapl, the black Persian lamb, made from 1957 thorough 1964.

Maidy is an interesting and unusual branch on the Steiff famil
y poodle tree. As a matter of fact, poodles are a legacy breed for Steiff; so much so that at least two of these standing curly coated cuties appeared in the debut catalog of 1892. Soon after, in 1894, Steiff introduced a sitting model which was produced through 1905. In 1908, Steiff gave their poodles a "makeover"; giving them a more toy-like in appearance and configuring them in a playful, begging position. Begging poodles were reintroduced in 1929 after a few years break and remained in the line until 1935. The pre-war tail-turns-head begging poodle, introduced in 1931, was reproduced as a Steiff Club limited edition replica in 1996.

Steiff poodles made an almost constant appearance in the Steiff line post WWII though the end of last century. Tosi, a wool plush poodle made in black or white, was introduced in 1950, just a few years after the factory reopened for business after the war. She was quickly followed by one of Steiff's most beloved and popular dog designs, Snobby the Poodle. This classic Snobby pattern made her grand debut in 1953 and appeared in the line through 1974 in 10, 14, 22, 35, and 43 cm. Snobby was produced in gray or black mohair, was jointed, and had a little round red felt tongue. Her coat was cut in what Steiff refers to as the "modern trim", meaning that her limbs, face, tail tip, and head crown were long mohair, while her body and neck were short mohair. This Snobby pattern proved so popular that she was soon being produced in as a riding toy, a puppet, and as a soft, curled up resting animal. Fast forward a few years post the classic Snobby period, Steiff continued to produce dozens of mostly soft plush play poodles in white, black, gray, and brown through the next three decades. The photos above on the left show some of the better and lesser known post-war Steiff poodles; pictured here are a grey mohair 35 cm lying Snobby poodle (1955 - 1967), a black mohair 14 cm black Snobby poodle (1953 - 1974), a 12 cm white plush Whitey poodle (1978 - 1984), and a pair of black plush 50 cm standing and begging studio poodles (1978 - 1984).

Steiffgal hopes this column has noodled your interest in these well-coiffed Steiff canines!

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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Getting Right to the Point With Steiff

Steiffgal does not want to hog your valuable time on this lovely spring day, so she'll keep this post short and sweet (much like the charming item under discussion today!) Let's get right to the point with this question from a reader who asks about her spiky Steiff hedgehog friend! Eryka writes...


I have a query about a little hedgehog that I got for Christmas from my dad, who knows that I love hedgehogs.

From the tip of his black nose (some sort of plastic ball) to his furry rear end he is about 6 inches. He has two felt front paws, two circular felt ears, and little round black eyes. He has a Steiff button and tag in one of
his paws and it says: original Steiff 1670/10 Made in Austria Preis- Price. On the back of the tag it says that he is made from cotton and wool and the number is PA 55 MASS 73. He has airbrushed dark brown lines on his face, and his fur is mainly made up of long, stiff fibers which are light tan at the tips and darker brown near his body. His belly is flat.

What can you tell me about his make and the time period when he was produced? I have attached some photos for you.


Let's shine a little light on Eryka's nocturnal buddy. What you have here is what Steiff calls Joggi Igel or Joggi Hedgehog. He is made from spiky "tipped" (meaning that the fiber ends are dyed a different color than the entire length of the fiber) mohair, in a lying position, and has a flat bottom. His sweet tiny face, ears, paws, and underside are made from grey felt. This particular Joggi was made in 6, 10, and 17 cm from 1966 through 2002. Eryka's Joggi, number 1670/10, dates him in the 1968 to 1985 production period.

Today, hedgehogs are quite prolific in the Steiff line - but that was not always the case.
The first hedgehog, as far as Steiffgal can tell, appeared in the Steiff catalog in 1951. Also named Joggi, this standing hedgehog was 12 cm tall and made from mohair from 1951 through 1977, and then mohair and dralon from 1978 through 1985. In 1961, a very similar 12 cm standing hedgehog design was produced; he was manufactured through 1966. Since the 1960's, hedgehogs in all shapes, sizes, and materials have made regular appearances in the Steiff catalog, appearing as play toys, collector's editions, woolen miniatures, puppets, wooden pull toys, a purse, and even a golf club cover! The current Steiff line features a tiny Steiff hedgehog keyring, which has the charming looks of the Eryka's vintage Joggi.

And just w
hy do hedgehogs seem to all of a sudden to be in the Steiff spotlight in from the early 1950's onward? Steiffgal has a two word theory on this: Mecki and Micki. This beloved and well known (at least in Europe) hedgehog cartoon couple was first designed in Germany in 1940 by the artist Ferdinand Diehl. They became much more famous in the early 1950's with their regular appearance on the German TV magazine HORZU. The Diehl Film company from Munich granted Steiff the licensing rights to produce the dolls in 1951, and they have been a mainstay in the line to this day. Both Mecki and Micki have been produced in 17, 28, and 50 cm from 1952 onward; a 100 cm Mecki was produced in 1967, perhaps as a special window display. The spiky tipped mohair that has been used for Mecki and Micki's hair over the years hasn't changed, and is almost identical to the spiked mohair used on most other mohair Steiff hedgehogs, even today.

Steiffgal hopes this quick review of the history of Steiff hedgehogs has "tipped" you off to a new area of collecting!

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nomotta What You Think, These Steiffs Rule The Roost

They say birds of a feather flock together... and based on this note from a reader in Switzerland, nothing could be closer to the truth! Check out this inquiry from Petra, who asks about a three-quarter century old collection of fine feathered Steiff friends. She writes...

"Hello Steiffgal,

I'm from Switzerland and have inherited six Steiff woolen birds in great condition. They are definitely from the 1930s, but I don't know the exact year. The birds are a complete series and have the original tags numbering from 6508,1 to 6508,6. They are about 5 cm in height and are able to stand in different positions (head up/down).

The only minor flaws are that one of the original Steiff tags is red and all the others are (formerly) white, and that bird number 6508,3's tag is a little rusty and discolored. Other than that there are no flaws or damages.

Do you have any further information regarding these little birds? Maybe how rare they are, especially in a series like this. And how much are they worth, each or as a series? Are they worth more because it's a complete set? Why is one label red and all the others are beige?

Hope to hear from you soon!

Best regards,


These wonderful birds are certainly something to crow about and rarer than hen's teeth! Let's take a look at this collection and the history behind it.

This full nest of birds consists of (left to right) Steiff's robin (article number 6508,1), green woodpecker (article number 6508,2), finch (article number 6508,3), blue tit (article number 6508,4), sparrow (article number 6508,5), and golden bunting (article number 6508,6). Each is standing, has a swivel head, felt beak and tail feathers, metal legs, and black bead eyes. These birds are made from Nomotta wool, a dense material that feels like a cross between the texture of Steiff's well-know fuzzy post-war "pom-pom" animals and really lush alpaca. Each of these beautiful birds was in the Steiff line from 1934 through 1943.

This fabulous flock has two mysteries which are fascinating in a good way. The first is the size of the birds. Petra describes each being 5 cm. However, they are all numbered in the 6508,X convention. The " 08" in the last digits of the article number series indicates that they are 8 cm. A very intriguing 3 cm disconnect! (Just for interest, all of these birds also came in 4 cm; their article number series is 6504,X.)

The second mystery is the tags on the legs of the birds. In general, as a rule of thumb, white tags indicate products made from 1905 through 1926, reddish-orange ones indicate products made from 1926 to 1934, and yellow ones indicate products made from 1934 onward. One of the birds has a reddish-orange tag and all the others are much lighter, yet the entire collection appears to be from the same time frame. How can this be?

Let's take a bird's eye view of the situation. The green woodpecker was made in 1934 - 1943 and has a red tag from the 1926 -1934 time frame. This points to the fact that he most likely was made in 1934 if you align these two factors. It is Steiffgal's best guess that the whitish colored tags on the other five birds were at one time a pale yellow. If that were the case, since the birds were all made in the 1934 - 1943 time frame, and the yellow tags indicate products made from 1934 onward, the other birds were probably were made also around the same time as the green woodpecker. Net-net, 1934 was a transition time between the reddish tags and the yellow tags, which would explain why the set sports both reddish and lighter Steiff tags.

As for the value of this fine collection of woolen miniatures... Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it. Many parts of the country are seeing a most welcomed uptick in the economy which may be slowly leveling the playing field between buyers over sellers. It does seem these times still slightly favor buyers over sellers, though! However, this is quite the grouping in fine condition; the crisp pre-war Steiff labels add tremendously to the collection's appeal. Based on other sales and some auction research, Steiffgal will go out on a lark and value this collection as a group in the $750 - $1000 range.

On a wing and a prayer you made it to the end of this posting on vintage Steiff birds... now that's a feather in your cap for sure!

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

Friday, April 9, 2010

What's Black and White and Read All Over...?

This Steifflife column, hopefully! Pandas have always been a beloved and in-demand species, despite their relatively late introduction and infrequent appearances in the line over the years. Let's make up for lost time and review the history of Steiff panda bears, then highlight a few popular mohair models produced from the 1950's onward.

The first Panda Baer or Panda Bear made his Steiff debut in 1938. He was made from shaggy black and white mohair, five ways jointed and had felt paws. His feet were flat, made from a shorter nap mohair, and really resembled the "toddler feet" of Teddy Baby, another very popular Steiff design of the time. His face was detailed with glass pupil eyes that were highlighted with black airbrushing and a sweet open mouth lined in light pink felt. He was produced in 15 and 30 cm from 1938 through 1942. The picture on the left is this delightful, highly collectible Panda, taken at the Spielzeugmuseum Museum in Munich, Germany.

The success of this first early panda inspired Steiff to produce more pandas in the line as soon as the factory reope
ned for business after World War II. Steiff started making the pre-war Panda design again, but only in 30 cm through 1950. Then, in 1951, Steiff updated their original panda design slightly and started producing this bi-colored bear in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm. The company used a suede-like grey rubber material in the place of felt on this panda's paws and soles from 1956 onward. This newer panda pattern, also a collector's favorite, was in the line until 1961. Moving forward, pandas made on and off again appearances in the Steiff catalog through the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's. From the early 1980's onward, Steiff has almost continuously had a soft plush panda in the line.

So now it's time to stir u
p a little panda-monium and look at some of the more interesting Steiff pandas from the early 1950's onward.

No need to sleep on this one. Here we have Steiff's Floppy Panda, one of Steiff's delightful, classic "sleeping" style animals from the 1950's and 60's. This particularly soft panda is unjointed, made from black and white mohair and is in a prone, sleeping position. He has an open felt lined mouth and stitched black "sleeping" style eyes. Floppy Panda was produced in 17 and 28 cm and appeared in the line from 1954 to 1961.

What's old is n
ew again with this charming Steiff panda. This dapper 29 cm fellow is Steiff's replica of its original debut panda bear from 1938. Like the pre-war original, he is five ways jointed and made from white and black mohair. He has an open felt lined mouth, pupil eyes, and flat felt lined feet. His nose is hand embroidered with black floss. Even his chest tag is a replica of the one that would have been worn by the original - a classic tag with an angular Teddy bear face on the bottom. This particular edition, which was produced in 29 and 35 cm in 1984 through 1985, is a United States exclusive.

lly, take a look at this Steiff panda and friend who just happen to have personal significance to Steiffgal. This dynamic duo none other than Foo, the Happy Panda, and Little Foo. Both are North American limited editions from 2004; Big Foo was produced in an edition of 1,500 pieces while Little Foo was produced in an edition size of 3,500. Big Foo is 25 cm, made from long wavy black and white mohair, five ways jointed, and very chubby. He has brown pupil eyes, a black mohair insert nose, and tan felt paw pads. Little Foo, the first ever Steiff panda key chain, is 10 cm and is modeled after Foo. He is five ways jointed and made from short black and white mohair. Little Foo has tiny black bead eyes, a hand-stitched nose and mouth, and a sturdy key loop on the top of his head.

So what's so special about this perfect panda pair?
Pandas are native to China, and one of the Chinese words for "luck" is "fu". About the time that the Steiff team was naming these items and getting ready to introduce them to the world, one of Steiffgal's good friends was in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. Steiffgal - who worked at Steiff at the time - gave these pandas the name "Foo", a version of the word "Fu", to honor this blessed Chinese arrival!

Steiffgal hopes this overview of Steiff pandas over the years has given you a new respect for this Steiff - and real life - "endangered species."

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Classified Steiff Purchase

To buy or not to buy, that is the question that Steiffgal was facing in regards to a possible Steiff purchase. At first glance, the classified posting seemed legitimate enough, the price was fair, and the item - if it was as suspected - would be a dream to own. But... buying online, sight unseen on Craig's List from a complete stranger in a different state... sounds pretty risky, don't you think? Have you as a collector faced the same conundrum?

So what to do? Well, Steiffgal did end up making the purchase (which she will gleefully share with you in just a bit) but not before she conducted a whole series of inquires to make sure that the item was exactly as advertised. Although there are no guarantees in life, here are three basic things to ask a seller about a potential Steiff purchase that can help you decide whether to move forward or not with the transaction:

1. Ask the seller to send you at least three CLEAR pictures of the item: a shot of the face, a full
frontal view, and a full side view. This is important so you can check the general state of the item, the condition of the mohair, plush, and/or felt, and other detailing like the presence or absence of eyes, facial and paw stitching, and airbrushing.

2. Ask the seller to give the item the "sniff" test for bad odors and the "squeeze" test for structural integrity; both are really important as a thumbs down in either area usually indicates fundamental issues with the piece.

3. And fin
ally ask the seller to accurately describe any Steiff ID on the item. If they are not able to do so, or claim that their camera cannot "take pictures that small", send them .jpgs of different Steiff chest tags and/or buttons and ask them to determine which most closely matches the one(s) on their item for sale; it is easy to find samples of these online.

If the seller is not willing to help you with the above items, chances are this is a red flag that you should pass on the purchase opportunity.

Steiffgal wants to thank you for sitting and staying with this post to this point... now she will throw you a bone and tell you about her recent classified advertising purchase! What Steiffgal found on Craig's List is none other than a really tiny pre-war Fox Fox Terrier! This cute-as-a-button canine is 7 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from white mohair. Fox has black mohair ears and two black airbrushed spots: one just above her tail and one around her left eye. She has tiny glass pupil eyes and a simple black stitched nose and mouth. She retains her original squared off bear's head chest tag and silk ribbon. Fox was made from 1933 through 1943 in 7, 10, and 14 cm.

One of the things that make this find so special is her size. As far as Steiffgal can tell, this petite pooch is the smallest size dog Steiff has ever produced commercially. Before the war, Steiff produced many of its most popular dog patterns, including Molly, Treff, Charly, Bully, Fox, and Fellow, in 7 cm. These really tiny, adorable models are highly sought after by collectors and are relatively hard to come by... probably because they were designed as playthings and got worn out or lost over time. After the war, the vast majority of Steiff dogs in the late 1940's - early 1950's line started out in size at 10 or 12 cm. Notable exceptions include Foxy Fox Terrier (produced in 7 cm in 1949, then in 8 cm through 1959), an 8 cm Terry Airedale, an 8 cm Peky Pekingese (pictured here on the left) and a 9 cm Hexie Dachshund.

Steiffgal hopes this dogged advice on classified ad postings enables you to go safely fetch some exciting finds for your Steiff collection!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, no matter how procured? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.
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