Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Steiff Tiger Mascot Roaring With School Spirit!

There's a definite chill in the air as we head into the winter season around here.  Keeping warm is important - yes, even for Steiff collectibles!  And speaking of bundling up, check out this note from a reader who asks about a blanket for her newly acquired tiger.  Through a series of correspondences, Katrina from the United Kingdom writes: 


We are hoping you can tell us more about our Steiff tiger.  

His physical condition and appearance is excellent - almost like new.  His length is 11" from his nose to the end of his tail and 4" from the tops of his ears to the bottoms of his feet.  He has his button and yellow tag and looks straight away to be a Princeton tiger. However, when we purchased him, he did not have the Princeton blanket, and there is no indication he ever had one, as there is no fading to the area around where a blanket would have been. 

In addition, the Sortiment book does not say the Princeton tiger was numbered and ours is 1314,0. Other than the Princeton tiger, we cannot find any tiger that has eyes like ours.  Any information you can give would be greatly appreciated. 

Many thanks,

Steiffgal can't wait to get started on this "Ivy League" inquiry!  Yes, she is all but certain that this tiger is the Princeton tiger, sans blanket.  Steiff made a series of college mascot exclusives in the 1950's, including a Brown University bulldog, a Columbia University lion and lioness pair, a Duke University devil, two versions of the Yale University bulldog, and three versions of the Princeton University tiger.  Most had felt blankets bearing the first initial of the school. The Princeton tiger was produced standing in 10 and 25 cm and sitting in 25 cm; Katrina's version is the 10 cm standing version.  According to company records, the 10 cm Princeton tiger left the Giengen factory with green and black "squint" style eyes and either an orange and black blanket or a navy blue and white jacket. 

And what about this jacket which appears to have gone missing?  It is quite possible that he lost it somewhere along the way, or that he never left the factory with one (which does happen once in awhile!)  This phenomenon was documented in the catalog of the recent Christie's Steiff auction in London concerning a lot of two "blanket free" items, a US Navy mascot goat and a seated Princeton University seated tiger.  According to the Christie's specialists, "Both these items should have a felt coat, there appears to be no sign where these were attached, so it is possible that they were issued without them." 

This tiger also has some fantastic eyes worth exploring a little more.  Similar style eyes are seen on Steiff's playful character style items - Steiff uses unusual eyes to indicate that an item is jolly, youthful, and not to be taken too seriously.  The use of "distinctive" cartoonish eyes most likely started in the late 1920's when Steiff used them to lend a lighthearted look to their "Petsy" baby bear and "Cheerio" laughing dog designs.  It is interesting to note that Steiff used similar green and black eyes on Katrina's treasure as on their playful series of 1950's era mohair dinosaurs.

As for the listing of this item in the Steiff Sortiment books, well, nothing is ever 100% perfect. Although Gunther Pfeiffer's books are considered the gold standard for Steiff collectors globally, they are not perfect and do have some mistakes and omissions. In this case, this mascot's article number 1312,0 was not included in these reference materials.  Steiffgal supposes that's bound to happen when you need to catalog thousands of items produced over a century plus time frame. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on university mascots and their blankets has left a warm spirit in your heart! 

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paws And Take A Look At These Remarkable Vintage Steiff Dicky Bears!

When Steiff claims their wonderful Teds and animals are "Friends for Life", they really aren't kidding! Although many collectors prefer to keep their hugs within the safe confines of their homes, some (Steiffgal herself included here!) insist upon always traveling with a Steiff companion. Take a look at this note from a reader in Canada who has a very specialized Steiff collection - including one Ted that probably has more stamps in his passport than an international diplomat! Though a series of communications, Dwight writes:
I have a small collection of Steiff which I started acquiring in 1985. The Dicky bear is my favourite – I have twelve in my collection, including two original ones from the 1930's. Here is a picture of my happy Dicky family, whose ages range from teenagers to senior citizens!  I bought my first Dicky in 1986. As soon as I saw him I liked him because of his smile. He’s got a lot of miles on him now, as do I. I have traveled a lot for business and he has come with me.

I have a couple of questions for which I have done some online research and not found any answers. I hoped you might be able to help?

As for the vintage bears, I have always wondered exactly where they were made. Is it possible to find out where the factory was (or maybe still is)? I just thought it would be neat if it were still standing to find it on Google or maybe even see it in person some day. Can you also give me a little history and information about the Dicky Teddy bear design?  There isn't alot of information out there on him.
Thanks in advance for your time and any help you can provide.


What a "paw-fectly" interesting series of questions about a Steiff design known for its remarkable and distinctive hand and foot detailing!   Dicky was introduced in 1930, and appeared in the line in one form or another through 1941. Dwight's two vintage Teds pictured here and below are wonderful examples of this bear.   Dicky was promoted as...

"A new, improved, and less expensive Steiff Teddy Bear.  Attractive design, newly formed head, strong squeeze growler, soft filling, blond or white mohair with painted pads, movable head and joints, famous workmanship."

Dicky was produced in blond, white, and brown in a wide range of sizes.
All were five ways jointed. The blond and white versions were mohair and were made in 15, 29, 23, 25, 30, 32, 35, 43, 45, 50, 65, and 75 cm through the mid 1930's.  A dark brown plush version was made in 25, 32, and 43 cm from 1935 thorough 1941.   Dwight reports that both of his Dicky bears are 13" standing and 9" sitting, suggesting that they are most likely the 35 cm models.  

And just what makes a Dicky, well, a Dicky?   Three key things.  First, his insert muzzle.  Second, his impish, smiling expression.  And third, his elaborately painted paw pads, which were velvet in earlier models and felt in later editions.  (For some reason, not all of the later model brown Dicky bears had painted paw pads.)  The picture on the left, from the Cieslik's wonderful "Button In Ear The History Of The Teddy Bear and His Friends", shows an original blond Dicky bear with samples of paw pad prints and colors. 

Dicky bears, and all other models of the time, were made at the Steiff factory in Giengen, Germany -or- by homeworkers in the general area of Giengen.  This explains in part why the same Steiff design produced around the same time can look so different! Steiff did alot of "outsourcing" of bear sewing and finishing to the surrounding communities which really helped the economic situation in the area.  According to company records, between 1930 and 1936, 14,646 Dicky bears were made in blond and 11,029 were made in white. The Giengen factory is still around and functional. It is a great vacation destination; there is even a fantastic museum and Teddy bear cafe on the campus!  The picture above shows one of the buildings on the property that was built in 1903. If you are a real Steiff enthusiast, it is really worth the trip!
And speaking of "the trip", take a look at Dwight's traveling Ted! This lucky bear has seen the world, and has been photographed at the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, across Canada, including Victoria BC, amongst other great destinations. Perhaps his next goal is a cockpit adventure, as here he is fraternizing with a flight crew on a recent outing. Clearly a trip to Giengen is in order for this cub with wanderlust! 
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wonderful Dicky Bears has caused you to paws and consider adopting one into your Teddy hug.  

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Precious Steiff Ted Says "Tag - You're It!"

Are you "red"-dy for a little Steiff bear fun?  Well, in Steiffgal's mind, it's always the PERFECT time to "talk Teddy".   So to get this fabulous conversation going, take a look at this note from Derrick and Tim, from San Francisco, CA.  They want to know a little more about their wonderful recent red-tagged Steiff find.  They write:

"Hi Steiffgal,

Can you give us a little more information on our "new" Steiff Ted?  We got him at a local antique store. The seller was having a hard time letting him go, but we told her that he will be in a good home and not to worry. She told us that she got him in the Portland area 30 years ago.

Unfortunately, our little one doesn’t have any chest tag. The button in ear has an inscription of the word Steiff with the last letter “f” as an underscore. This lovely bear has a red eartag. The red tag indicates that it is a “Steiff Original” with the word “geschutzt” and number “5315.” It also says that this bear was “Made in Germany”.
In terms of his physical characteristics, he is about 6" standing and 4" sitting.  He has brown eyes with black pupils and a brown (copper gold) hand stitched nose and mouth.  He is five ways jointed. We are not sure of his stuffing, but he is not soft.  Finally, he has s a red bow with black and gold stripes. 

Thanks for your help! 

Derrick and Tim"

This charming cub really embodies all the things that make vintage Steiff bears so universally appealing!   His outstanding condition, classic proportions, diminutive size, and precious expression all add to his appeal, value, and interest from an archival perspective. Early white bears with their brown embroidery - such as this one - have always held a special place in the hearts of collectors.  However, what really stands out on this treasure is his remarkable, crisp red ear tag and old time button.  They appear to be in "like new" condition! In this particular case, together they reveal his almost year - and probably season - of production.  Here's how!

Collectors have always relied on Steiff's numbering, ear tag, and button program to help identify and date their Steiff collectibles.  In general, it is a pretty consistent and reliable system, but it occasionally has gaps during transitional periods.  This is the case here with Derrick and Tim's bear.  This bear has a red ear tag and the pre-war Steiff button with the shorter trailing "F" button.  The red ear tag was used approximately from 1925 through 1934/35, while the shorter trailing "F" button was in the line from approximately 1936 through 1950. If you overlay these two time lines, it becomes clear that this Ted was produced at the very end of the "red ear tag" period and at the same time, at the very beginning of the shorter trailing "F" button period.  It would be Steiffgal's best guesstimate that he probably was manufactured late in 1935, just as the factory was winding down its final inventory of red ear tags!

The imprint on this bear's red ear tag also tell an interesting story.  Starting in 1905, Steiff introduced a product numbering system to help add efficiencies to tracking, inventory, distribution, and customer service processes.  These numbers started appearing on the ear tags from 1908 onward.  In the case of this Ted, whose ear tag reads "5315", the "5" indicates his position, which is jointed; the "3" indicates his material, which is "fine mohair plush"; and the "15" indicates his height, which is 15 cm.  This numerical system was updated in 1931 and 1959.  In the mid 1980's it was replaced by the current six digit "EAN" numbering program, most likely because of the shear volume of Steiff items needing identification and inventory management.  

Steiffgal hopes this "earful" about Steiff's colorful ID program from last century doesn't have you seeing red.

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Steiff's "Brothers In Arms" From The Turn of Last Century

Steiffgal could bear to hide her delight when a fellow Steiff enthusiast contacted her about these marvelous Steiff "Brothers In Arms!" Christopher, from Indiana, recently added these two terrific turn of last century Teds to his collection - and who could blame him for falling for their handsome good looks AND vintage charm!  Although these Teds aren't twins per say, it is clear that they will be "BFFs" from now on!  Let's take a look at each of these bears and what makes them so special.

Going by age (and not beauty, which would be impossible to determine in this case!), here we have big brother Toby, who is circa 1906.  He is 13'' standing, five ways jointed, excelsior stuffed, and made from blond mohair.  Typical for his age and time of production, he has black shoe button eyes, a hand embroidered black nose and mouth, and four claws on each of his felt pads.  His squeaker is present but inoperative.  He has the sweetest look about him, don't you think?  Christopher adopted him from an antique doll dealer who found Toby at an auction in New England.  Other than than, his history is a mystery.  

Let's not paws a moment and check out Toby's little brother! This happy handful is "Ted", who is 12" standing, five ways jointed, made from gold mohair, and is stuffed with excelsior.  Like Toby, he has black shoe button eyes, a hand embroidered black nose and mouth, and four claws on each of his felt pads.  He's the pensive one of the duo. Ted's exact dating is a bit fuzzy.  His original owner - a 98 year old woman named "Ted" who had an extensive collection of antique toys - says he is from 1907.  However, according the Steiff Sortiment Book, Steiff did not start producing 12" (i.e., 30 cm) Teddy bears in this model until 1909.  HOWEVER, they did manufacture 32 cm (about 12.5") bears in this model from 1905 onward.  Older Steiff items, especially ones stuffed with excelsior (which breaks down over time) tend to shrink a bit.  So it is completely within reason that he could have been "born" in 1907 and is just showing the effects of his 100+ years.  

Both Toby and Ted exhibit physical features and proportions that are very consistent with those bears produced by Steiff at the turn of last century.  Their torsos are twice as long as their heads.  They have long limbs and when standing, their hands go all the way to their knees.  Their feet are long and narrow and are in roughly 1:5 ratio to their height. Although not pictured here, it is safe to assume that both have pronounced back humps.

1907, which is around the time of both Toby and Ted's production, was a banner year at the Steiff company.  That year alone, 975,000 bears were produced by Steiff and their cottage workers!  It is interesting to note that about 90% of those bears were exported to America, as the Teddy bear had not yet found a place in the heart of local Germans!  As a matter of fact, the son of the owner of the largest toy store in Berlin recounts of the time...

"One day our store window was crowded with young brown bear cubs.  This proved to be yes another disaster.  The Berliners launched, tapped their foreheads, and muttered "madness, madness". Not one person bought a single lovable cub and our competitors laughed behind our backs."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on turn of last century Steiff cubs encourages you to add a few to your hug too!

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