Friday, August 26, 2011

This Steiff Tiger Is One Tall Drink Of Water

Some classic Steiff designs just seem to have a leg up when it comes to being collector's favorites.  For many people, Steiff's "lulac" long-limbed lovelies fit that bill to a "T."  Take a look at this note from a reader who has come across an exceptional example of a 1950's Steiff "lulac" style tiger.  Janice from Michigan writes:

"Hello Steiffgal:

My name is Janice.  I have operated a ladies consignment boutique in Michigan for 10 years and once in a while get my hands on a great estate.  I am currently working through an estate of a 80 year old collector of Steiff and many other things.  

One of the most unique ones I have found yet is this tiger. He is HUGE!  He's approximately 36 inches tall.  She purchased him in Las Vegas between 1953 and 1955 and said he was propped up in a gift shop at the Sands hotel there.  

He does not have a ear tag, but still has his tag around his neck and is in EXCELLENT condition.  Any idea of his value?  I have spent over 10 hours trying to investigate him online and throughout some books and and can't find one similar ANYWHERE and I do mean ANYWHERE.  

He still has all of stripes, but there is some slight fading on his fur, which is mohair, I believe his eyes are glass too. I wanted to email this to you since you have such a great knowledge about them.  If you have ANY information on this guy, can you let me know? 

Thanks so much and have a blessed day!  Janice" 

Steiffgal is seeing stars -  but mostly stripes - over this exciting find!  The tiger is truly fantastic.  He is one of Steiff's "lulac" animals, all which typically have comically long arms, legs and torsos. They are long and lanky, usually five-ways jointed, and have a very playful air about them. It is interesting to note that the German verb “to laugh” is lachen, and the word for smile is l├Ącheln, suggesting that this style was designed to have a comical appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner.  The original Steiff lulac animal was a rabbit, which debuted in the line in 1952.  Due to the success of beautiful bunny, Steiff quickly followed with several additional lulac animal patterns, including Janice's tiger. 

But back to this striped sweetie.  Janice's tiger is a whopping 90 cm, made from mohair, and five ways jointed.  He has delightful glowing green glass eyes, a prominent pink hand embroidered nose, and clear mono-filament whiskers.  Steiffgal thinks this particular lulac tiger has a delightful, innocent "toddler" look to him.  He was made in 1958 only as an exclusive for the United States.  Other extra large (80+ cm) US exclusive lulac designs of this period also included a gray alpaca poodle (pictured here on the left), and a mohair lion. 

Now for the tall order of valuing this unusual lulac tiger.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes something is worth what someone will pay for it.  This is a rare and delightful item with universal collector's appeal.  Despite no button in ear and the soft "buyer's market  -  and given he is in very good to excellent condition, with no rips, tears, odors, or structural issues - he probably would sell at auction in the $750-1,000 range today.

Steiffgal hopes this lulac lesson has been so entertaining that you want to go out and shake a leg! 

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

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baa, Baa (Steiff) Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool...

Sometimes it’s ok to be the “black sheep” in a group, especially when it comes to Steiff! Steiffgal recently welcomed one of Steiff’s most distinctive “outsiders” to her hug – a lovely larger sized black lamb called “Swapl.” Steiffgal’s fallen hard for this black beauty, not only for his rarity, but for the traditional and classic details that make up his pattern. Let’s take a look at this lovely lamb and see what makes him so interesting from a design and collector's perspective.  

First, a few barnyard basics. This piece is officially known "Swapl Persianer Lamm" or Swapl Persian Lamb. He is 22 cm tall, unjointed, and standing. He was produced in 10, 14, 22, 28, and 35 cm between 1957 and 1964. And it is Steiffgal’s best guess that his name derives from the German words “schaf” meaning sheep, and “schwarz" meaning black. 

Now let's take a closer look at three of Swapl's finest design features.  

First, it goes without saying that Swapl's material is exceptional.  He is made from black wool plush which has a bumpy, "Persian lamb" texture to it. That means that the fibers are tight and curly, and quite concentrated... you can't really see the backing to the fabric because of the wool's density.  You can see this unusual material pictured here on the left.  It is interesting to note that the only other Steiff animal that Steiffgal can think of with this identical material is "Maidy" the miniature poodle.  Maidy appeared in the catalog for one year only - 1959 - which overlaps with Swapl's production timeline.  Maidy was produced in 25 and 30 cm and has lovely tri-colored, almond glass eyes.  

And speaking of eyes - the "eyes" certainly have it when it comes to Swapl's second outstanding feature.  Swapl has lovely, over-sized cobalt blue and black pupil eyes.  These peepers are a striking and handsome contrast to his overall dark coloring.  Most Steiff sheep have green and black pupil eyes, so it is clear that the designers behind Swapl really wanted to differentiate this pattern from his white-coated cousins.  Blue eyes are relatively rare Steiff features.  Other famous Steiff designs with similar "baby blues" include Siamy the Siamese Cat (made from 1930 through 1933 in 14, 17, 22, 25, and 30 cm and then again from 1953 through 1954 in 11, 15, and 23 cm) and Mungo the Multicolored Monkey, who was produced in 17, 25, and 35 cm from 1957 through 1971.  

Swapl's final distinctive feature in line is just that; the lining of his ears and mouth.  These are charmingly detailed in baby pink velvet.  Traditionally, Steiff lined the open mouths of its products in peach colored felt, so this choice of material is most unusual.  Velvet was frequently the fabric of choice for Steiff at the turn of last century, when velvet dogs, birds, cats, and other staples filled the catalogs at the time.  After the factory reopened for business in the late 1940's, velvet was used far more sparingly.  It was most commonly used on dog muzzles, including Bully the bulldog (produced from 1951 through 1974 in 10, 17, and 22 cm) and Saras the Boxer (produced from from 1950 through 1970 in sizes ranging from 10 to 22 cm).  Velvet also appeared as a sweet detail on some 1950's era cat and rabbit designs, including the velvet muzzles on the black and white "Gussy" cats (produced from 1952 through 1969) and the lining of the ears of the smallest "Niki" rabbits (produced from 1951 through 1964 in 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm.)    

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Swapl the black sheep has given you new appreciation for one of Steiff's more unconventional characters.   

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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hunting For Clues About These Unusual Steiff Dog-Dolls

It's always fun to hunt for answers about interesting Steiff items.  This week's post really takes that charge literally!  Since the beginning, Steiff designers have taken many product design ideas right from their immediate surroundings.  The Steiff company is located in Giengen, Germany, a picture-perfect pastoral community surrounded by a river, farms, and forests.  So it is no surprise that woodland and farm animals have always been quite prominent in the line.  Steiff's dolls and doll-animals often reflect the traditional occupations and hobbies of Giengen as well - "hunting" being a key one.  Let's take a look at a two vintage Steiff "hunting" rarities and discover the stories behind them. 

Let's start guns-ablaze with this Pupp-Waldi als Jaeger, or Waldi Dog as a Hunter.  Although this particular piece was produced from 1950 through 1974, he is actually based on an almost identical model from 1937 through 1941. (Click here to see a picture of the pre- and post war Waldi hunter dolls side to side!) Waldi pictured here is 26 cm, standing, and in a little green felt suit, plaid vest, and green hat.  He is head jointed.  His head and the tops of his hands and feet are mohair, and his body and limbs are made from peach colored felt-like material.  When he left the factory, he had a chest tag stitched to his jacket, and a plastic hunting gun on a strap that he could sling over his shoulder.  The earlier Waldi Hunter was produced in 22 and 28 cm; he was dressed in an identical fashion but had a wooden gun with a leather strap as an accessory. 

Steiff's wonderful original "Waldi" design was introduced to the world in 1933.  A long haired Dachshund, he was produced standing on all fours, on wheels, and begging in sizes ranging from 10 though 28 cm through the early 1940's.  Given his adorable looks, it is no surprise that he was very popular - and as a result recreated in the form of several early novelties, including a tumbler and this animal doll. Once the factory reopened for business post war in the late 1940's, Waldi again appeared, this time on all fours and on wheels - for several decades - last appearing in 1980.

Keeping up with the pack, here is our second canine-themed hunter, Bazi Doll Boy or Bazili.  Bazili appeared in the line from 1950 through 1954; a female version in a matching peasant costume was made at the same time.  Bazili is standing and 25 cm tall.  Like his cousin the Waldi doll, Bazili is head jointed, standing, and and wears a little green felt suit and hat.  His jacket is decorated with three leather buttons.  His head and the tops of his hands and feet are mohair, and his body and limbs are made from peach colored felt-like material.  When he left the factory, Bazili had a wooden hunting gun on a leather strap that he could sling over his shoulder.   

Dachshunds have been an important part of the Steiff line since the 1890's.  However, Bazi the short haired Dachshund pattern did not appear until 1949 - one of the early and incredibly popular "pocket pet" items designed to match worldwide demand the collector's needs and interest right after WWII.  From the late 1940's through the mid 1970's, in addition to the doll noted above, Bazi appeared sitting, standing, on wheels, and as a music box in sizes ranging from 10 to 25 cm.

So why did Steiff pick dogs - and specifically these two dogs - to be hunters?  Both Waldi and Bazi are Dachshunds.  The word "dachshund" in German translates into "badger dog", or the dog a hunter would take with him (or her) when they went hunting for these low to the ground, tunneling weasels.  So Dachshunds as hunters make perfect Steiff-sense!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's delightful and unusual "hunter dogs" has been right on target for you.

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

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Trolling For Answers On An Old Steiff Friend

Dog-gonit... another question about a Steiff "mystery mutt!"  And Steiffgal couldn't be more pleased!  Take a look at this inquiry from a reader from "the land down under" concerning a vintage Steiff treasure.  Through a series of communications, Vivian from Australia writes...

"Dear Steiffgal,

Hello from way down here in Aus!  Wondering if you can help me?  This was my husband's childhood toy.  He was born in 1946.

It is an original Steiff dog. He still has the button in his ear but sadly he is missing an eye. He is all original and some of his mohair is sparse in patches. He has creamy colored fur, which is spotted all over, and darker, burnt orange colored patches.  He measures 12" long plus his tail which is another 5".  He is 11" high.

Many thanks for your help!

What a wonderful question and perfect timing for the dog days of summer we are experiencing around these parts.   Although it is impossible to truly identify and value items without seeing them firsthand, Steiffgal thinks what we have here is a rare Steiff dog called Troll because of his eyes, body proportions, and appearance.  The biggest clue here, however, is his very unusual spotted mohair material. Troll was made in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1936 through 1940.  Vivienne's Troll has the long trailing "F" button, usually seen on items produced in the 1925 through 1935 time frame.  So dovetailing those two facts, Steiffgal thinks that this particular Troll was one of the earlier ones produced, most likely manufactured in the early part of 1936 or so.

As with most things of great quality, Steiff identification is more of an art than a science.  Vivienne's Troll does not identically mirror the placement of the patches as seen in the standard Steiff reference books, especially around the facial area. However, is entirely possible that Troll's patches changed slightly from item to item given that he was made by hand, one at a time.  This Troll does, however, closely resemble one that was sold at the October, 2010 Steiff auction at Christie's in London.  This is pictured here on the left.

Another interesting tidbit about this terrific Troll is his timeline.   Troll was produced from 1925 through 1935.  Vivienne's husband got this dog as a baby, but he was born in 1946.  It is Steiffgal's best guess that he did not receive this as a "new" toy; it was most likely in the family for awhile before he was born.  

Steiffgal hopes this post on Troll has you seeing spots over this terrific rarity!

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