Friday, July 29, 2011

Just Who Is This Early 1950's Steiff "Mystery Mutt?"

There's nothing Steiffgal likes more than a good Steiff mystery, and this one really deserves a blue ribbon!  Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about a Steiff "mystery mutt" she is trying to identify - without much luck!  Through a series of correspondences, Holly from Hawaii shares....

"Hi Steiffgal...

Could you please take a look at this Steiff dog which I am having trouble identifying.  Is he a Chow?  A Pomeranian?  A Spitz?  As for his details,  he has a raised script button and a remnant of the white linen US Zone tag.  Overall, he measures 6" tall by 6" long.

He has a wonderful smile, and original nose, mouth, and and claw stitching. His fur is made of a woolly plush, which is pinky cream color.  He has a cute curly tail and a very perky upward gaze.
Thanks for your help! 
Aloha,  Holly"

Steiffgal has given this dog-years of thought and here is her best conclusion. What Holly has here is a an unusual wool plush standing Chow Chow, one that to Steiffgal's best knowledge did not appear in the standard line or was pictured in any of the traditional Steiff reference tomes, including the Sortiment books by Gunther Pfeiffer.   Steiffgal does not think he is a Pom or a Spitz for three reasons:
  1. There were no Poms or Spitzes produced in the regular line immediately post WWII.
  2. The pre-WWII war Poms and Spitzes don't look anything like Holly's pup, and...
  3. Traditionally, Steiff Poms and Spitzes have their entire faces in short material, the chows have just their muzzles in short material and their eyes on the border of the long and short hair part of the face. 
Let's feast on what is known about early 1950's Steiff Chow Chow dogs.  Steiff made two models of Chow Chows starting in 1951 - one sitting and one standing.  The sitting one, pictured on the left, only came in pure white wool plush in 10 cm; he was in the line through 1957.  The standing one, pictured on the right) only came in yellow corn colored wool plush in 12, 17 and 25 cm; he was in the line through 1959.  Both patterns had tiny red dots on their lips - most likely as a nod to a tongue.  Holly's Chow has this detail as well.

Let's talk about two other features which separate this dog from the rest of the pack.  First is size:  Holly's dog is 6 inches, which is about is 15 cm.  This measurement is not really anywhere close to the standard line item - either 12 or 17 cm.  Second is color:  he is pinky cream, which may be a variation on the white model, but this lighter shade was ONLY made in a sitting position.
So just what is this curious canine companion?  Given the above history, Steiffgal believes he is an uncatalogued, 15 cm wool plush standing Chow Chow from around 1952.  The dating is based on the combination of his Steiff raised script button and US Zone tag.   His original color may have been white which has darkened slightly over time; it is hard to tell.  He may have been a prototype or sample of a Chow Chow that never went into production - a theme and variation on the two models that did make the line in the 1950's.   You can see a few basic traces of this early post war Chow Chow design in Steiff's famous and more sophisticated "Laika the Space Dog" pattern which appeared in the line a few years later, in 1958 through 1959. 

Steiffgal hopes this chow-fest has satisfied your hunger to learn more about rare and unusual Steiff dogs!
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No Need To Be Sheepish Over This Great Steiff Find!

When you think of Steiff's "curly girls", what comes to mind?  For many people it may be poodles... but not always!  Such is the case of a reader from Spain who recently came across a wonderful Steiff treasure with quite the hairdo!  Through a series of correspondences, Moni writes:

"Hi dear friend!

I have just bought this cutie lamb and I have been looking for more information about her.  She is made from woolen plush like a real lamb and is about 20.5 cm and tall about 15 cm.  Lamb has pretty green glass pupil eyes and a bell which is attached with a very light blue ribbon.  Her face is finished with a red stitched-embroidered mouth and nose, and she has delicate pink shadows near her eyes.  She is so sweet!

I think she is from around 1920-1930, can you confirm that?  I paid $104 for her.  I don't know if it is a good price but I'm in love with her since the first moment I saw her!

Once again thank you so much for your help and kind answers,

Big hug from Spain, Moni"

Oh, this lovely lamb could put Steiffgal into a farmyard frenzy!  What Moni has here is Steiff's Lamm or Lamb.  She is standing, unjointed, and made from lamb's wool plush.  Lamb's wool plush has a marvelous, "lumpy-bumpy" texture to it, much like that of a real lamb.  Her ribbon and bell look original.  This pre-WW2 design was made in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928 through 1943.  This basic design was also produced in a lying position, on wheels, as a music box, and as a ride on animal.  You can see what Moni's lamb, and the lying down version looked like when new, in the photos above. 

After the factory reopened for business in the late 1940's, Steiff again produced the pre-war design for awhile.  She was also made in plain wool plush, which does not have the "ringlet" texture of lamb's wool plush.  In the early 1950's, lamb's core pattern was modified slightly.  This is most noteworthy in the face and facial seam construction.    Due to her popularity (possibly because she was such a symbol of Easter, a very popular and beloved holiday in Germany!) her size range now included 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm. Her name was changed from Lamm to Lamby from 1954 onward. Lamby appeared in the line until 1976. The "newer" Lamby lamb appears here on the left. 

In terms of value, did Moni get a ba-ba-ba bargain on her lamb purchase?  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and feels something is worth what someone will pay.  Given the lamb's excellent condition, somewhat unusual material, classic and desirable pattern, and original ribbon and bell, Steiffgal would would think that she would value in the $200 to $400 range. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Moni's barnyard buddy has left you feeling quite pastoral.
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Less Is More When It Comes To Steiff's Pocket Sized Animal Dolls

Sometimes less is more, even when it comes to certain Steiff collectibles.  (By less, here Steiffgal is referring to size, as it is would be inconceivable to have TOO MANY Steiffs, wouldn't you agree?)  In the early 1950's, Steiff introduced a whole new series of pocket sized animal dolls to the world.  These were dapperly dressed, 12 cm tall little characters with "humanized" rubber bodies and soft heads of some of the more popular Steiff character designs of the time. Let's take a look at a few of these animal dolls and see what makes them so irresistible from the collector's perspective.

Oh baby, who can resist this bitty bruin named Teddyli?  Collectors will recognize his sweet face and head design as that identical to Steiff's classic 9 cm brown mohair Teddy baby.  His muzzle is made from tan velvet which is detailed with tiny black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, and his famous impish smile.  He is head jointed only and wears a tan, purple, and green short sleeved cotton shirt and orange felt overalls.  The overalls are permanently snapped together with two silver button studs.  His shoes are part of his molded rubber legs; they are painted brown and have brown felt soles.  Teddyli appeared in the Steiff line from 1955 through 1957.

Let's not monkey around and get to our next adorable animal doll.  Here we have Cocoli.  He is based on another very popular Steiff design introduced in the 1950's, Coco the green eyed baboon.  Coco's head is made from white and black mohair; his face and ears are made from peach colored felt.  His face is detailed with amazing airbrush highlighting for a chap of his size!  Coco wears a white cotton tee-shirt, a yellow ribbon bow tie, blue felt coat, and red, black, blue, and yellow plaid pants.  Like Teddyli, his shoes are part of his molded rubber legs; they are painted black and have brown felt soles.  Cocoli appeared in the Steiff line from 1955 through 1957.

This pip-squeak of a Steiff animal doll is known as Pippy mouse.  Unlike Teddyli and Cocoli, Pippy is not based on a named Steiff character of the era.  Pippy has a gray velvet head and tiny felt ears. His face is detailed with black bead eyes and nose and clear mono-filament whiskers. He is wearing his original long red felt jacket with tails, a grey cotton shirt, black felt pants, and a crimson ribbon. His shoes are part of his molded rubber legs; they are painted grey and have brown felt soles. Pippy was made from 1955 through 1959. 

In addition to these tiny treasures, Steiff also created a whole series of 12 cm animal dolls with soft heads and rubber bodies.  These included:
  • Bib and Bibbie, a sweet rabbit couple in the line from 1954 through 1964 dressed in matching country style outfits
  • Lix and Lixie, his and her kittens in the line from 1954 through 1957 wearing "puss-in-boots style" attire
  • Quaggi the duck in the line from 1955 through 1959 wearing a little sailor suit
  • Kiki the chick in the line from 1955 through 1959 wearing a brightly striped cotton dress
Despite their precious appearance and "built Steiff tough" quality, few of these animal dolls survive in good or better condition today.  Why?  Two reasons... first, they were designed as children's toys for fun and play.  They made perfect dollhouse residents and great pocket sized school companions.  Play and wear takes a toll on condition and longevity.  Secondly, their bodies were made out of rubber, which tends to dry out, crack, and eventually fall apart over time.  So structurally, they are not stable over time.  It is not terribly unusual now to find one of these dolls minus a limb or two... but unfortunately it is not realistically possible to repair these body parts once they have become brittle or lost to time.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's smallest dapper darlings has you looking - and feeling - great as well!

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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stirring Up Some "Panda-monium" Over This 1950's Steiff Panda Cub

Steiffgal doesn't want to "pander" to anyone's love of Steiff's precious panda bears, but she couldn't help herself after receiving this inquiry from a reader from Florida.  Check out this note from Peg, who asks about a black and white beauty that she is selling on behalf of a not-for-profit animal hospital. Through a series of correspondences she writes:

"Dear Steiffgal:

After months of searching, I think you might be the Steiff expert I've been looking for. I have a "5315" panda that I am interested in selling.  I've been carefully trying to find the best market because whatever money I get for it will go directly into our 501(c)3 animal charity here in Venice, FL. 

The panda is more black and tan rather than white due to age, tag in ear is intact, there is a small tear in the back of the ribbon and it is otherwise in good condition. He has grey felt paws. 

Any information you would share will be most gratefully appreciated.  

Best, Peg"

This is one beautiful and rare bear indeed!  What Peg has here is Steiff's beloved five ways jointed early postwar panda.  This particular model was made in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1951 through 1961. He is made from black and white mohair and has an open, peach colored felt lined mouth.  His face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose; the black circles around his eyes are airbrushed.  It is interesting to note that with this particular model, the 15 cm sizes have a black mohair upper back area; sizes larger than 15 cm have upper back areas that are made from white mohair that are airbrushed black.  Additionally, this panda was produced with grey felt paw pads from 1951 through 1956 and suede-like grey rubber material paw pads from 1956 onward.

Age is always a frame of mind and relative - especially with this panda who is hiding his quite well!  His identification number, 5315 (which technically refers to 5=jointed, 3 =mohair, and 15 = 15 cm tall) dates his production between 1951 and 1958.  His rare and unusual red imprinted chest tag was used from around 1952 through the end of 1953.  His raised script button indicates a production time between 1952 through 1969. And the fact that he DOESN'T have a US Zone tag in a leg seam puts him no earlier than mid to late 1953.  So... if you dovetail all of those features, it looks like his production can be relatively pinpointed around the second half of 1953. 

Now the hard question... about value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is worth what someone else would actually pay for it.  This is a darling piece in excellent condition. The red imprinted chest tag and the fact that his date can be so precisely determined certainly adds collector's value and interest.  The 15 cm pandas are seen the most frequently on the secondary market of all the panda sizes, probably because when they were made, store owners had to buy them wholesale in groups of 6.  (For context, for the 22 cm size they came in groups of 4, for the 35 cm size they came in groups of 2, and for the 50 cm size they came in ones only.)   That all being said, Steiffgal will venture to say that he could be valued in the $400-500+ range, given his age, condition, and unique ID configuration. 

Steiffgal hopes you are not "bamboo-zled" by all the details associated with Peg's wonderful panda!

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

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Steiff's Version of Christmas In July!

It feels like Christmas in July, even though the thermometer's hitting the mid-80's around these parts!  Why?  Because a mysterious, yet jolly bearded man in a cozy red suit has paid a surprise visit to Steiffgal!  Check out this note from a reader from down South about a find of hers that's been hiding in plain sight for years!  She  writes:


I guess you never know what you will find in a drawer but here is Santa who was gently wrapped in tissue for at least 12 years perhaps more. I seem to remember that it belonged to an old girlfriend of mine that passed away over 20 years ago but I am not sure.

Santa stands 14 inches high, is stuffed very hard, and unjointed. He appears to be in mint condition, sort of... you see Santa has lost his head. It
 is barely attached on the back and it seems as if the glue or stitching has come loose. 

In terms of his appearance, his accessories include black leather shoes and a belt.  He has beautiful white fur on his red suit and his beard is off-white in color. This Santa is wearing eyeglasses with wire rims.  His hat is removable. 

For IDs, Santa has a chest tag with a button; the tag reads "Steiff Original 7966/38." 

Can you tell me how old this Santa is?  I would appreciate any information you might be able to give me. 

Thanking you in advance,

Your Faithful Reader"

Santa has always been quite secretive in a number of ways, and this one is no different!  Despite extensive searching, Steiffgal could not find any reference to this Santa's ID number in any reference book or online, which is most interesting from a collector's perspective.  So its time to do a little "Santa sleuthing!"

First, his age (although it's never polite to ask, or even guess this with most people!)  The button used on Santa appears to be the riveted brass button version used from about 1978 onward.  His tag style appeared in the line from about 1970 through 1980.  So if you overlay these two markers, it becomes clear that this Santa was produced in the 1978 through 1980 timeframe.  

Now for his model.  Steiff has made Santas sort of like this design officially in the line twice, once in 1953 through 1967 in 13, 18, 31, and 150 cm and then again in 1984 though 1988 in 19 and 28 cm.  (For extensive information about the history of Steiff Santas, please click here!) However, neither of the models produced during the 1950's and 1960's, and then again in the mid to late 1980's had black gloves, belts, or boots.  Steiff standard line Santas were also jointed, this mystery doll is not.  In addition, this Santa is 35 or 36 cm.  Clearly from the timeline, size, and design perspectives, this Santa is an unusual find indeed! 

If Steiffgal were to unwrap this Christmas gift mystery, it would be her best guess - and just that, not seeing the item firsthand and checking for other not so obvious details -  that this Santa was most likely created as a sample or special order for a customer.  His larger size suggests that he might have been made as part of a seasonal window display! Given that he is a sample or special order, and once his head is repaired by a professional, he may value in the $200 to 400 range, for the right buyer.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this vintage Santa has put you in a holiday frame of mind - for the Fourth of July

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