Saturday, June 25, 2011

Who Wouldn't Give an Arm and a Leg For This Great Steiff Collectible?

What's the one Steiff collectible you'd give an arm or leg for?  For some, it might be a perfectly preserved Ted from the turn of last century; for others, it might be the #1 issue of a beloved more recent limited edition replica.  For Steiffgal... well... imaging her surprise - and delight - when a question about her dream piece was delivered directly into her inbox!  Barb writes...

"Hi there.

I have had this little one tucked away from my mother-in-law's collection for quite some time. I am having no luck with identifying the piece so far.

He is 7 3/4" long and has the 'silver' Steiff button in his left ear with the Steiff logo with the last "f" elongated back to the "e" in the name.

Is he a bear, a cat, a lion or what? He is stuffed with excelsior I believe. His head swivels in the neck socket.

I would appreciate any information you can give me. 

Best, Barb"

This "tall drink of water" is Molliette, a design that Steiff produced from 1927 through 1932. He has the original "Molly" mohair puppy head; long, soft unjointed dangling limbs; and mohair hands and paws. His body, arms, and legs are made from velvet, which has discolored over time. He has glass, very large black and brown pupil eyes and an embroidered nose and mouth.  When he was new, his lips were accented with a touch of red and he had a bright, sherbet colored silk ribbon. 

Molliette is one of a series of long limbed lovelies in the Steiff catalog from 1927-1932. These "play and car dolls" included Bulliette, the bulldog, Fluffiette, the cat, Rabbiette, the rabbit, and Cherrioette, the open mouthed puppy. These were based on the most popular named Steiff characters of the time; it is interesting that there was not a bear in this series.  Each play and car doll had the head of the character, mohair paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several bright, happy "jelly bean" colors and in 20, 30, and 43 cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker. It has been suggested that the design of this series was based on a similar line from the Chad Valley Toy Company of England called "Tango Toys." Steiff modified the design to fit their characters and manufacturing processes, and named the line "Charleston Animals", based on the Charleston dance crazy of the 1920’s, with its fast moving arm and leg movements.

A mystery surrounding Barb's Molliette is his original color.   It is Steiffgal's best opinion that originally he was blue.  This is because Steiffgal has a greenish-colored velvet Steiff Pip dog from the same era, but in his armpits and crotch folds, he retains a vibrant blue.  It is possible that the blue chemical dyes used in the late 1920's and early 1930's break down into more greenish hues when exposed to sun and oxygen over time.

Molliette was a popular plaything, both here in the US and across Germany.  Here above you can see an original 1927 trade advertisement for this toy, created especially for the United States.  The copy reads:  

"The new Steiff Button in ear creation.  A cuddly creature - its not a dog, and its not a doll, but a combination of both.  Its saucy face is attractive, and is immediately recognized as member of the famous MOLLY DOG family.  Its feet and hands are of silk plush, as is the head, while the body is made of a good quality velvet, voice inserted in body."

According to the trade prices listed in this advertisement, the 8" versions were $1 each, the 12" versions were $1.50 each, and the 17" versions were $2 each in 1927 dollars.  In 2011 dollars, that translates into $12.38 for the small, $18.57 for the medium, and $24.77 for the large size!  Seems like a pretty penny for a "toy" in 1927, but given that Molliettes in very good to excellent condition today can sell at auction in the $600 to 900 range, this appears to be a very good investment indeed!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Molliette has been a dog-gone pleasure for you! 

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

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baby, You Don't Want To Miss This Steiff Bear's Vacation Adventures!

Steiffgal always brings along a Steiff friend when she travels.  Lately, it has been a 1930's era 15 cm panda, as his delightful smile and personality are a welcome addition away from home.   This week, Steiffgal and Steiffguy are in Hollywood, Florida, for a little work, fun, and sun.  To mix things up a bit on this trip, Steiffgal brought a new old Steiff friend along for the ride - a charming 22 cm blond Teddy baby from the mid-1950's.  One of the reasons it is easy to date him is his faux leather paw pads; Steiff used these from the mid-1950's onward on both their Teddy babies and precious pandas. Steiffgal adopted this cheerful cub, whose name rather appropriately is Sonny -  from a Vectis auction a few years ago.   Since then, he has been a favorite - but never a road buddy... until now!
Sonny seems to have taken to the fun and sun of his new latitude as easily as, well, fish to the ocean!  He insisted on sharing his adventures on the Hollywood boardwalk and beach with the Steifflife readers, and who is to argue with that?  As a result, this week's blog is more of a photo tour than a detailed Steiff discussion.  So grab a beach chair, put on your sunglasses, and come on a virtual visit to one sunny place!

Just my size.  Sonny is delighted to find a pint-sized palm tree in just the right petite proportions.  Gives new meaning to the phrase, "Made in the shade" for sure!

By nature, Steiff Teds and collectors seem to make friends where ever they go.  Here Sonny is tickled pink to hang out with an "almost native" Florida flamingo. 


It's easy to be a real mover and shaker in this town!  Here Sonny demonstrates the preferred method of getting from one end of the boardwalk to the other - on a bicycle built for two, with a sunroof!!

What bear - or vacationer - doesn't think about a little snack every now and then?  Decisions, Sonny contemplates a few of his very favorite summertime beach appropriate nibbles.  

Can we have dessert first?  Sonny demonstrates that size does matter, especially when it comes to ice cream treats!

Sea-sonings of the seaside.  Here at this boardwalk bar, Sonny tries to order a beer, but the waiter does not believe he is 60 years old, and our dear friend cannot produce any ID to prove it. 

Hollywood is a real outdoor town... there are playgrounds, outdoor handball courts, an open air amphitheatre, covered picnic tables, and even ping pong tables up and down the boardwalk for everyone to enjoy in the fresh air and sunshine.  Here Sonny has a play date with a climbing set designed for kids.  

Finally, Steiff bears often do come to the rescue, especially when it comes to lifelong love and friendship.  Here Sonny does his best lifeguard imitation with all the appropriate tools, including a floatation device and a surf board.  When Steiffgal asked the lovely lifeguard if it were OK for Sonny to model on her station, she took Sonny in her hands, examined him closely, and announced, "This must be a Steiff!  I recognize his materials and he feels so sturdy!"  Can you bear it?

Steiffgal hopes this virtual vacation with Sonny has added a little sunshine to your day, where ever you are.

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

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Singing In The Rain - Steiff Style!

No doubt you've heard of "singing in the rain", but how about "Steiff-ing in the rain?" Most enthusiasts can agree... there's nothing like the thrill of the hunt for vintage Steiff.  So how about doing just that in a torrential downpour!  Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of attending Antiques at Elm Bank, a delightful outdoors antique event produced every summer by New England Antique Shows.  Despite the umbrella weather, check out the Steiff collectibles she discovered on her most recent, albeit soggy, "Steiff safari."

It was in the stars that Steiffgal would come across this first fantastic find.  He was keeping company with a bunch of vintage pill boxes when he was spotted. This is Rocky Steinbock or Rocky Capricorn Goat, who made as part of Steiff's "Zodiac" series of animals. Rocky is 22 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from lovely tan mohair plush.   His face is detailed with black and green slit pupil eyes, light brown airbrushing highlights, and a simple black and brown hand embroidered nose.  Clearly his most impressive features are his huge, oversized horns, which are three dimensional, made from felt, and have been brought to life with brown paint to give them texture.   Rocky appeared in the line from 1963 through 1976 in 14, 22, and 28 cm.  

Many of us would climb every mountain for this second Steiff sighting.  This is Heideschaf Snucki or Mountain Sheep Snucki.  He was spotted in a booth amongst some lovely vintage linens, sewing collectibles, and fabrics - and his very own original vintage Steiff box! Snucki is 17 cm, standing, and unjointed. His body is made from very long tan mohair, while his face, legs, and tail are made from very short black mohair.  He has tiny black felt ears, green and black slit pupil eyes, and a simple pink hand embroidered nose and mouth.  Like Rocky, Snucki also has prominent felt horns.  However, his are scaled smaller, are made from thick flat felt, and circle back towards his sides.  Snucki was made in 12, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1959 through 1974.  

It's ok when this mouse is in your house!  Steiffgal spotted this darling albino Pieps Maus or Pieps Mouse amongst a series of children's playthings.  She is 8cm, unjointed, and begging (meaning she is ready to share in whatever treat you are enjoying at the moment.)  Her body is made from white mohair. She has tiny light pink felt ears, feet, and hands and sports a very long felt tail. Her face is detailed with tiny red button eyes, a black button nose, monofilament whiskers, and an itty-bitty black mouth. Her little bell is not original, but would be most welcome by most cat friends (or foes!)  Precious Pieps was produced in 8 cm between 1958 and 1978 in gray or white. 

No need to get pugnacious over this next perfect puppy pair!  Here we have a mother-daughter set of Steiff's Mopsy Pugs.  It is fitting that "Mops" means "pug" in German. Both are sitting, head jointed, and made from tan mohair.  Like real pugs - and Steiffgal can say this with confidence being a "mother" of two - these Mopsys have the most endearing faces.  Who could resist their wide black and white google eyes, big black hand embroidered noses, "wrinkle-y" foreheads and muzzles, and quizzical, asymmetric looks?  And of course, their happy tongues and folded-over ears.  Nothing not to love.  Mopsy was produced in 12 and 22 cm from 1960 through 1981.

Let's end this safari in a "jumbo" way.  Here we have Steiff's beloved post WWll elephant. This big beauty was spotted on top of an antique china cabinet, along with a few other pieces of brand new Steiff. He is 22 cm, unjointed, and made from short, traditional grey mohair. He has big floppy grey mohair ears, white felt tusks, black and white google eyes, and a red felt saddle blanket, complete with bells. His open felt-lined mouth really makes him appear to be grinning from ear to ear!  This classic style of Steiff elephant was manufactured in 7, 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm from cm from 1950 through 1978. 

Steiffgal hopes this rainy adventure has "wet" your appetite to take a Steiff safari on your own soon!

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

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Steiff "Double Dutch" Family Treasure

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and this week Steiffgal had the pleasure of meeting three new ones! Please take a look at this note from Susanne, from New York, (new friend #1) who wants to know more about a set of vintage Steiff dolls (new friends #2 and #3) that have been in her family just about as long as she can remember. Over a series of communications, she writes:


Here are my two Steiff dolls. Both are felt, about 10.25" tall, and in very good condition. The boy has a Steiff button in one of his little ears. The girl has lovely blue eyes and the boy has handsome brown eyes.  Their heads of hair are in really good condition and they have dear little ears and hands. I believe that my Steiff dolls are wearing their original charming, handmade clothes, of sturdy cotton, with nice little buttons and drawstring ties. The socks feel like knitted black silk or mercerized cotton.  The girl's dress bodice is embroidered. They are SO life-like, truly precious!

Here is their history.  These were given to my sister and I when we were both  children by friends of my parents after their invalid daughter (born in the early 1920's) died! We never really played with them the way we did with regular dolls we had. They are very special and receive a lot of attention and praise when I've placed them on a child's chair I have.

Would they have comes with names…somewhere indicated? I never named them. 

Any information you can provide about them would be most appreciated.


Susanne, you are such a doll for writing!  Yes, these family treasures are simply spectacular!  Steiff produced these "childlike" felt dolls from around 1910 through the late 1920's.  Both boys and girls were produced in sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm.  The dolls all had the same basic body - you can see the front and back here on this picture, as well as the jointing and proportions.  They were gorgeously dressed and differentiated by their clothing and footwear styles, many regionally or nationally specific - like Susanne's Dutch dolls.  All had charming, well constructed matching clothing made from high end materials, including felt, velvet, calicos, wool, and embroidered muslin.  Many had hats, which exactly matched the fabric or theme of their outfits.  They were also detailed with stockings and hand-made felt or leather shoes.  

Susanne's dolls actually do have names and are documented in the Steiff archives.  The picture here on the left is how they appeared when they left the factory in Giengen almost 100 years ago, and is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  The girl's name is Alida.  She was made from 1909 through 1919 in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm.  She is described as "felt, jointed, Dutchwoman, original costume, Sunday best." The boy is Harry.  He was made from 1908 through 1925 in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm.  He is described as "felt, jointed, Dutch fisherman, original costume."  By "original costume" Steiff means that the dolls are dressed in apparel that is traditional to a country - in this case, the Netherlands.  And by "Sunday best", that would imply "fancier" clothing for going to Church on Sunday, which makes sense in the case of Alida given her elaborately embroidered dress bodice and red cuffs (which Harry has apparently borrowed from his sister in Susanne's pair!).  

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to Alida and Harry has been more fun for you than a game of Double Dutch!

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