Friday, July 30, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Exciting news travels fast, and Steiffgal wants to make sure that Steiff enthusiasts are aware of this "once in a lifetime" Steiff event!

Christie's Auction House has just announced one of the largest Steiff auctions in recent memory.  According to the company's press release,

"Christie’s announces the sale of a Private Collection of over 1,300 Steiff teddy bears and soft toys, to take place at the South Kensington saleroom in London on 13 October 2010. This one-off spectacular will welcome international teddy bear collectors from far and wide, offering the unique opportunity to purchase fine Steiff toys from the largest and best quality collection still to remain in private hands in the world. The collection documents an academic history of Steiff, with items on offer dating from as early as 1890, right up to the 1970s. Estimates for individual lots range from £300-500 for thirteen small 1950s Steiff Dogs, up to £50,000-80,000 for a unique Steiff Harlequin Teddy Bear with red and blue mohair, circa 1925 illustrated centre left."

You can view the full press release from Christie's here; it contains many details of the auction and other logistics concerning the sale.

Accompanying the press release is a wonderful picture with just a sampling the treasures that will be auctioned off in October.  The photo is pictured right here.  Just the thought of any one of these almost brings Steiffgal to tears! So let's take a brief look at items featured in the promotional picture from left to right and see what makes each treasure so special. 

The item on the far left is none other than Steiff's version of Peter Rabbit.  Steiff created a number of "Peter Rabbit" dolls around the turn of last century.  One documented model 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. Another documented model is a white wool plush version wearing a green felt topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 22 cm from 1904 through 1918.  These rarities always generate tons of interest at auction; for example at the 2005 Steiff Festival auction in Giengen, Germany, a pristine 28 cm version of a rabbit cataloged as "Peter Rabbit" 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! 

Next to Peter Rabbit are two green Steiff rarities that happen to go together in real life!  The grasshopper is Grashuepfer Kalle Stropp or Grasshopper Kalle Stropp and the frog is Grodan Boll.  Kalle Stropp is 18 cm tall and made from velvet and felt. He's dressed to the nines in what appears to be a tuxedo with long coat tails. He is standing and has a swivel head.  Grodan Boll is 14 cm and made from velvet.  He has black and white googly eyes and sports a black and red felt vest.  These two friends were made in 1956 only and are characters from a Danish fairy tale that was broadcast on the radio as well as appeared in print as a cartoon in the 1950's through 1960.  The grasshopper was portrayed as "a strict but distracted and nervous gentleman" while the frog was "hyperactive, clumsy, and outspoken." Sounds like the plot behind many US situation comedies even today!

No Steiff auction would be complete without a few great Steiff bears, and the white mohair bear behind Kalle Stropp and Grodan Boll certainly fills this role! Although no details are provided on the specifics of the Ted, his body shape, prominent nose (sealing wax, perhaps?), and five claw stitches suggest that he just might be an extraordinarily rare white rod-jointed Baerle from 1904 or 1905.   Steiffgal cannot wait to hear the story and provenance behind this remarkable bear.

Just to the left of Kalle Stropp is Steiff's most unusual "Humpty Dumpty" styled doll.  This huge-headed arm and leg jointed doll was first produced in felt in 12, 28, 35, 50, 60, and 70 cm from 1906 through 1927.  He also appeared briefly in mohair in 28 and 35 cm in 1912 through 1913.  "Humpty Dumpty" is an English fairy tale character.   Because of some international trade and copyright issues between England and Germany, this piece is sometimes referred to as Steiff's "Man from Mars."  

The colorful bear right in the middle of the group picture is the incredibly rare Steiff Harlequin bear.  Steiffgal has never seen another bear like it; according to Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff 1892 - 1943 Sortiment description of the piece, "till this day, none of these bears turned up, therefore a picture of "Harlekin" is shown, which was made as design study for the series in 1924."  According to Steiff's records, this brightly hued Ted was produced in 18, 22, 25, 30, and 32 cm in blue and red models and 22, 25, 30, and 32 cm in pink and yellow models in 1924 only.  Could this be a record breaking bear in the making?  Time will soon tell!

Adjacent to the right of Harlequin Teddy is a "purr-fect" example of a turn of last century cat.  This is Steiff's Katz or cat.  She is unjointed, lying, and holds a woolen ball.  She was produced in white or grey velvet which was lovingly hand painted with stripes or spots.  She was produced in 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm from 1899 through 1929.  

Second in from the right is one of Steiffgal's dream pieces, the adorable Pupp-Charly or Charly Doll from 1929 through 1930.  This item is based on the popular King Charles "Charly" dog model from the 1920's; an example of the original Charly is pictured here on the left. Pupp Charly is 28 cm and standing; her head, arms, and legs are made from mohair.  She sports a lovely lavender dress and matching shoes.  Charly Doll is one of a series of animal-dolls produced in the late 1920's and early 1930's; other popular designs included a Bully Doll, Treff Doll, Scotty Doll, Arco Doll, and Chow Doll.  

No one will have difficulty identifying the final item in the picture on the right.  Of course this is Steiff's authentic Mickey Mouse. This velvet model of Mickey Mouse was produced in 11, 16, 23, 30, 36, and 48 cm from 1931 through 1936.  A similarly styled Minnie Mouse was also produced from 1932 through 1936; the happy couple is pictured here on the left.   These "mighty mice" are among the most precious and sought after finds for both Steiff and Disneyana collectors! 

So are you interested in attending... Steiffgal certainly is!  And, just in case you were wondering, no reservations are required.  According to a customer service representative from Christie's...  "We do not typically operate a reservation system for our auctions, but you are more than welcome to arrive early on the day of the sale in order to ensure a seat."

Perhaps we'll meet in South Kensington?

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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oh My! Oma's Great Makeover

It's a makeover worthy of an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show!  A few months ago, Steiffgal was unbelievably lucky to acquire a 22 cm Steiff felt doll from the 1920's.  Steiffgal decided to name her "Oma", as that was the name of her original owner.  Oma arrived perfect in every way, except for one thing... her attire.

As typical in many cases, antique dolls often appear today in clothing that is not original to their production.  And why is this?  Dolls are design for play, and dressing and undressing them is all part of the fun.  Doll clothes are small and easy to misplace during wardrobe changes.  Additionally, mothers sometimes made doll's clothes from fabric scraps left over from other sewing projects.  These outfits, sometimes matching those of their little girl owners, were often greatly preferred over the dolls original attire.  Pictured here on the left is Oma as she first appeared to Steiffgal earlier this summer. 

Steiffgal is certain that the outfit that Oma arrived in was not the one she left the Steiff factory wearing almost a century ago.  And, her gut feeling is that her delightful orange peasant style dress and floral cap were loving created for her by a talented mother-seamstress, not Steiff.  With the help of European toy expert Ingrid Robson, it was determined that Oma most likely was the Steiff doll model Meta, who appeared in the Steiff line from 1917 through 1919.  Meta is pictured here on the left; this photo is taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.

And here's where the stylists come in.  With expert precision, Ingrid recreated Meta's original outfit for Oma.  Using vintage materials and fabrics, Ingrid created "old/new" period underwear, a frock, matching hat, and shoes for her.  Oma and her new wardrobe are pictured just below... note how closely her outfit closely matches that of Meta!  

According to Ingrid:
 "The bonnet and dress were made using only the picture from the Steiff Sortiment as a guide. The knickers were my own design and the petticoat was taken from the one she was wearing made to match the knickers. As the doll in the picture (Meta) was not wearing shoes I modeled them on the shoes worn by another doll "Marga", from the same time period.  All the clothes were made from old material, the shoes were made from new felt but of good millinery quality. The underclothes were made from a fine cotton lawn actually taken from a damaged Edwardian christening gown. The dress and bonnet were made from a cotton muslin with 'flocked' spots. I bought this many years ago in a job lot in auction and it comes in very useful for dresses for old dolls. The new felt was bought from a little shop in Vienna where I buy most of my felt, they have a good range of colors and qualities not easy to find in the UK these days."

Ingrid continues:
"I am a great believer that dolls not having their original clothes should have ones made with the fabrics from their era including trimmings if possible. I hate to see modern nylon lace trimmings on early 20th century dolls. To this end over the years I have accumulated material and trimmings to cover the mid-nineteenth century to the 1950's. Up to about 10 years ago you could always rely on finding boxes in auction but not so any more. I look for remnants and old clothes in charity shops, antique markets, and other like places.  These days and many of the people in the area I live know I am always on the lookout and sometimes come with bits and bobs especially if someone dies or granny or mother is going into a home and they are sorting out their things."

It's safe to say "what's old is new again" in terms of Oma's beautiful makeover.  Steiffgal wholeheartedly recommends Ingrid's services for other collectors interested in restoring their Steiff dolls to their original attired condition.  Check out her website at

Steiffgal hopes Oma's makeover will inspire you to have a beautiful day as well.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Steiff's Very Own Roman Emperor

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... so Steiffgal can tell you a little bit about a Steiff bear with "ancient" origins!  Check out this note from Harald, from Coppell, Texas, who asks about his noble Steiff bear purchased at FAO Schwarz.  He writes and provides the following information:

"Greetings Steiffgal:

I bought this Roman Bear from FAO Schwarz in Dallas shortly before they closed the store a few years ago.  This particular noble Emperor is number 00756 out of an unknown total quantity.  

His name is Augustus, and he is made of mohair and is dressed in a toga and cape. He stands 9" tall and is fully jointed.  Augustus is one of many Roman Bears. The other Roman Bears were issued in 1992 through 1993 in Germany with different ones issued to different cities and States within Germany. These were to commemorate the Romans coming up from Italy to conquest and govern the Germanic Empire.

Do you know how many were made overall?

Many thanks, Harald"

Steiffgal feels like an empress having the opportunity to research this byzantine inquiry!  And, for better or worse, the answer itself will be patched together like the shards of an ancient vase. 

Harald's Augustus has a very interesting story behind him.  As mentioned above, in 1992 through 1992, Steiff had produced a series of Ancient Roman themed bears for Europe.  These bears were all dressed in a white toga - like dress and had a wreath of olive leaves around their heads.  Each was detailed with a full length red body sash that had the name of the bear embroidered in gold on the back.  Every bear came with a certificate which explained the history and origin of that particular Roman bear.  These Roemer Baeren, or Roman Bears, were each produced for a different retail outlet in Europe, so collectors who wanted the entire set had to go to each store to collect the exclusive bear.  These ten bears are pictured here above; the photograph is from the Cieslik's wonderful Steiff-Teddy Bears Love For A Lifetime book. 

Here is a breakdown of the series, including the name of the bear, the retail store that carried it, its year, and its edition size:
  • Ursulus, Fedhaus Cologne, 1992, edition size of 1,000
  • Severus Alexander, Behle Frankfurt, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Titus Julius Saturninus, Toy Museum of Trier, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Imparator Caracalla, Abele, Aalen, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Cajus Valerius Crispus, Toy Shop at the Market, Weisbaden, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Caius Fulvius Lupus, Puppenkonig, Bonn, 1992, edition size of 300
  • Imperator Vespasian, Wolff, Giengen, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Baccharus, Stiehl, Bacharach, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Drusus, Joosten and Kloeden, Neuss, 1993, edition size of 300
  • Bodvoc, Teddy Bears of Whitney, 1993, edition size of 300

So this wonderful Roman collector's series appeared in the early 1990's and Augustus appeared in the late 1990's.  What's the connection?  It is interesting to note that the FAO Schwarz in Las Vegas opened in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in 1997.  The store had a strong "Roman" theme, complete with a 48 foot tall "Trojan horse" that greeted every visitor at the entrance to the store.  You can see this horse on the picture here to the left.  Steiff has always been an integral partner to FAO Schwarz, so of course FAO Schwarz wanted a great exclusive Steiff product to help celebrate the launch of this new world class destination store.  What could be better than a Steiff Roman Emperor who had already proven his popularity overseas?  Thus, Steiff slightly updated their 1992 through 1993 "Roman" bear model and introduced Augustus to America in 1997 through FAO Schwarz.  What a perfect fit!  (Most unfortunately, this Las Vegas closed a few years ago; the storefront now boasts to be the largest H&M store in the USA...)

Now for the more tactical question... so how many Augustus bears were made?  Steiffgal cannot find any reference to an exact number.  But there are a few clues that can be used to extrapolate a reasonable number.  First of all, this bear was only sold at FAO Schwarz stores.  Historically, around the late 1990's, Steiff would make edition sizes no larger than 2,000 for FAO Schwarz.  The other earlier Steiff Roman bears were produced in edition sizes ranging from 300 to 1,000 pieces... giving an indication of sales expectations for these limited pieces. Finally, we know for certain that Harald's bear is number 756.  Given all of that information, it would be Steiffgal's best estimate (guestimate....) that Augustus was made in an edition size of 1,000 pieces, to keep within the FAO Schwarz edition size guidelines, but on the low size to make sure demand was higher than the supply to generate excitement among collectors.  

Steiffgal hopes this trip through Steiff's land of ancient Roman celebrities has put you in a toga-party frame of mind.

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

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Solving A Lifelong Steiff Mystery

Steiff Teddies and animals are truly friends for life.  Steiffgal is certain that many "grown up" SteiffLife readers have a very special Steiff Teddy or animal from childhood in their lives today.  Check out this note from a reader from Maryland who writes about her mystery kitten friend who has been her constant companion since nursery school.  Could Mittens be a Steiff?  

Amy writes...

"Back in 1975 or '76, when I was leaving nursery school, my teacher let me take home my favorite toy from the toy boxes because I could not bear to be parted from her.  She had been left there by a previous student.  I have loved her, sometimes quite hard, for many years since; she has had her eyes replaced and she's been repeatedly washed, and she's much more worn now, though she was hardly pristine then.  

I've always wondered where she came from, as I've never seen a stuffed cat quite like her. Today I was bored, and I started messing around online, and found your Flickr photos, particularly this one:  

Is my Mittens one of these?  She had no tags when I got her, not even the more expected commercial tag off the hip or leg, but she matched the image once upon a time, with bigger green eyes and the pink embroidered nose (now mostly worn away).  She does still have the whiskers, though they're not visible in the photos, and her head swivels.  Her stuffing is soft and her legs are made to fold at so she can sit.  She's almost 14" from ear tip to foot.  

I'm not interested in "value"--she's far too well-loved to be worth anything to a collector!  I'm just curious as to her origin.  I never expected her to be a Steiff, but it's such a close match; but then, for all I know, she's a bootleg.  *grin*  

Thank you so much!  


Amy, that was some special friend your teacher gave to you way back when!  And yes, she is one of Giengen's famous exports, a "friend for life."  What you have here is Steiff's Dangling Tom Cat. She is head jointed and made from grey and white dralon fur. She has green and black pupil plastic eyes, mono-filament whiskers, and a hand embroidered pink nose and mouth.  She is 13 inches tall and was made from 1969 through 1976, which perfectly aligns with your history with her.  The picture here to the left shows what your dear friend looked like when new; Steiffgal also has one of these fabulous felines in her collection.

It is interesting to note that Dangling Tom Cat also has a "sporting side."  From 1972 through 1977, Steiff also produced this cat attired for a good workout.  She was the identical size and shape, and had the same face and coloring.  However, her arms, legs, and torso were blue, to appear as she was wearing a track suit. She also had a red scarf. Her arms were detailed with white and red stripes, giving her a "blue ribbon" appearance.  The picture on the left shows "sporty Tom Cat"; the illustration is taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment 1947 - 2003 book.   Steiff also gave a similar same athletic treatment to Zotty Teddy bear (dressed as a hockey player and produced from 1972 through 1975); Lulac rabbit (dressed as a skier and produced from 1972 through 1974); and Jocko the chimp (dressed as a football player and produced from 1972 through 1973).
Steiffgal hopes that solving this little Steiff mystery hasn't been too much of a workout for you!
Have a question about one of your Steiff - or maybe Steiff - treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Friday, July 2, 2010

This Mystery Steiff Feline is the Cat's Meow!

Isn't it great when an unexpected Steiff find ends up being the cat's meow?  Check out this inquiry from Karen about a most fantastic feline.  Karen runs an antique shop out of a restored 1880's blacksmith shop in North Dakota!   Through a series of communications she writes...

"I got your email address off of the internet and would appreciate any help you can give me in identifying the age and information for this Steiff Siamese cat I recently acquired.  

The button is more brass colored with Steiff in script lettering. The only words I can make out on the eartag are "Original Steiff, Made in Germany" on the front; the back says something about dralon and cotton.

Any help you may have is so appreciated.  It's AMAZING the number of animals this company has made!

Thanks again,


A collector could go cat-atonic looking for this most unusual kitten!  At first glance, Steiffgal thought she was Cosy Siamy, a very dear 22 cm dralon Siamese cat with gigantic blue eyes.  Cosy Siamy was produced from 1970 through 1979.    However, Cosy Siamy is standing while Karen's kitty is sitting.   Additionally,  Cosy Siamy has a pink nose while Karen's cat's nose is brown - but Steiffgal has seen both pink and brown noses on various Steiff Siamese cats over the years.  

One of the very cool things about Karen's cat is its relatively rare button-in-ear.  This cat has the brass raised script button, which was only used from 1978 through 1980.  So, the cat's button precisely dates her manufacture to the 1978 to 1980 time frame.  This rarely seen brass "knopf" closely resembles the raised script nickel button used throughout the 1950's and 1960's.  

Steiffgal cannot find a sitting version of a dralon Siamese cat in the standard reference books.  So in which "nine lives" in the history of Steiff does this curious cat belong?   Steiffgal's best guestimate is that she is indeed a sitting version of Cosy Siamy, based on her similar look, material, and unusual brass button dating. (A picture of the "real" Cosy Siamy is pictured above on the left for reference; the photo was taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1947 - 2003 Steiff Sortiment Book.)  Karen's cat was produced towards the end of Cosy Siamy's run in the catalog; perhaps she was intended at one time to be the next iteration of this blue-eyed beauty? 

As for value, Steiffgal needs to approach this question on little cat's feet.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes that something is "worth" what someone else will pay for it.  It looks like this cat has been loved quite a bit - which is expected, given her appeal - but it does takes down the "collector's value" a little.  But because she has her neat, uncommon button and is not cataloged in the standard Steiff reference materials, she may be valued in the $75 to $150+ range.
Steiffgal hopes this research on Karen's mystery cat has everyone sitting pretty!

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