Saturday, October 29, 2011

Celebrating Halloween With Steiff's Timeless Black Tom Cats

It's beginning to feel alot like Christmas here in New England, even though the closest holiday on the calendar is Halloween on October 31st! With 6 inches of early snow predicted for around these parts over the next 24 hours, looks like the trick-or-treaters may choose to dress up as Frosty the Snowman, a polar bear, or even a penguin to collect their goodies this year!

Despite the disconnect in calendar and season, it is still the right time of the year to celebrate one of Steiff's oldest, and most beloved NON-bear characters.  Steiffgal here is referring to the company's wonderful black Tom Cat design.

If a pattern could have nine lives - or more - than this "ferocious feline" would more than qualify.  The original Tom Cat was produced in both black and white velvet.  Both versions were very skinny, standing on all fours, unjointed, and had arched backs, open mouths.  They all left the factory in Giengen, Germany wearing a silk ribbon and bell.  Black Tom cats were produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1904 through 1918.  White Tom cats were produced in 14 and 17 cm for three years only - from 1906 through 1908 - and are exceptionally rare.  Steiffgal has never actually seen an early white velvet Tom Cat!  

It is interesting to note that this early black velvet Tom Cat was featured standing on top of a red felt fez as a "Tom Cat coffee cozy."  This incredibly rare item was produced in 28 and 35 cm from 1908 through 1915.  

The next version of this model tip-toed in on little cat's feet in 1923.  Like his older brother, this black Tom Cat also was standing and unjointed.  He was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1943; the 8 and 10 cm sizes were made from black velvet while the 14 cm and larger versions were made from mohair.  All sizes had prominent green and black glass eyes.  Unlike the original super skinny Tom Cat, design, these were all a little more robust in appearance, had closed mouths, and bushy mohair tails regardless of sizes.

Blink - literally -  and you might have missed this teeny-tiny pre-war black Steiff woolen miniature Tom Cat. Woolies debuted in the 1931 Steiff catalog in the form of six simple birds. This introduction proved extremely successful, and almost immediately Steiff introduced rabbits, cats, mice, mice, monkeys, ducks and other popular species as woolen miniatures.  One of these rarities was an 8 cm black Tom Cat.  He was standing and made from Nomotta wool.  And like his most recent relatives, also had a large, bushy tail and piercing green and black glass eyes.  

Tom Terrific (and I don't mean Tom Brady of the Patriots, here....) quickly hit the markets again once the factory reopened for business post WWII.  These Tom Cats were produced from 1950 through 1976 in 8, 10, 14, 17, and 22 cm. These post war models were all but identical to those produced prewar.  The 8 and 10 cm "kittens" were made from black velvet while the larger "cats" were made from black mohair. All sizes were standing with arched backs and tails reaching to the sky. Their faces were detailed with pink or red stitched noses, clear mono filament whiskers, and intense green and black pupil eyes.

Gotta hand it to Steiff to recognize a good thing when they saw it.  Based on the almost fifty year track record of success of their black Tom Cat design, Steiff introduced "Hand Tom Cat" or black cat puppet in 1952. This puppet was 17 cm tall.  His entire body, head, and arms were made from jet black mohair. The puppet is detailed with green and black slit pupil eyes and red hand stitched nose mouth and claws on his paws. Steiffgal has seen these with either a red or salmon colored silk neck ribbons.  Hand Tom Cat appeared in the line through 1978.  Steiff also produced a 40 cm dangling style Tom Cat named Kalac in 1964 and 1966.  This strange, rare, and wonderful oddity is the result of Steiff “marrying” its classic Tom Cat pattern with their trendy and popular (at the time) lulac “leggy” design

  From a collector and historian's perspective, it is most interesting to note that the original black Tom Cat design was featured in a photograph from the 1903 - 1904 Steiff catalog. But what's so special about that? It's the same picture that debuted PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear. Timing is everything, eh? A snapshot of this catalog page is shown here on the left; you can spot Tom Cat a little to the right of center standing on top of a donkey on wheels. According to the hand written notes on the photo, these original black Tom Cats were 14.40 Deutchmark per twelve.  That is VERY ROUGHLY roughly $0.30 each in 1903, the equivalent of about $7.00 in today's US dollars.  This picture is from the Cieslik's fantastic Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends reference, published in 1989. 

Steiffgal wishes all her wonderful readers a frightfully fantastic Halloween and hopes this column on black cats brings nothing but good luck!  

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Going For Gold At The Upcoming Teddy Dorado Steiff Auction!

Going once!  Going twice!  Going three times... sold!  Hammers down, auctions can be one of the most exciting ways to build a vintage Steiff collection, as well as learn about interesting and special pieces.  Steiffgal loves auctions and frequently attends them live as well as watches them online, at websites including  One of her favorite auction houses is Teddy Dorado, which offers several vintage Steiff auctions per year.  Their next auction is October 29th in Bonn, Germany, but anyone can participate from anywhere in the world by submitting their bids in advance!  After studying the online catalog, here are Steiffgal's top three favorite items in the auction... and why!

Imagine the Teddy hugs from this big bruin?
Bear with her as Steiffgal gets all warm and fuzzy over this first top pick.  Here we have a simply marvelous 50 cm sitting and 70 cm standing Steiff Teddy bear that dates from around 1912 through 1920.  His article number is 5350.  This gentle giant is five ways jointed, made from blond mohair, and firmly stuffed with excelsior.  His face is detailed with large brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  His black claws are also hand embroidered.  He has the delightful proportions of an early Steiff Ted including long narrow limbs, curved wrists, large feet, and a big back hump.  He retains his 8mm long trailing "f" button and a little scrap of his white ear tag.  Overall, this pattern was produced in white, blond, and brown mohair from 1905 through 1933 in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70, and 115 cm.

Why this piece is special... For Steiffgal, this piece could be the "older brother" of her own beloved "Teddy Blum" who was produced in the late 1920's or early 1930's but shares the same look and facial expression.  Family is key, even when it comes to bears!

22 cm Steiff Rooster on wheels from 1916-1929
The next auction highlight really rules the roost.  Here we have Steiff's fine feathered felt rooster on wheels.  This barnyard buddy is 22 cm tall on his own and 25 cm including his carriage.  His body is made from gold, red, and green colored felt, while his tail is a spray of green feathers.  His face is detailed with a red felt comb and wattle and and black glass eyes backed by white felt.  His legs are made from tan felt that is supported by an internal metal frame.  Rooster rides on a black metal carriage which runs on four brown eccentric wooden wheels - meaning that he sways to and fro when pulled along.  Rooster retains his tiny 4mm long trailing "f" button and his original pull cord.  Overall, this roving rooster was produced in 12 and 22 cm from 1916 through 1929. 

What was that?  <3
Why this piece is special... This marvelously preserved example is based on a felt rooster design that debuted in the charter catalog of 1892 and was produced continuously through 1929 - giving it a special and unique history and legacy.  This original felt rooster was produced in 12, 22, 28, and 35 cm; a matching felt hen was also made in the same time frame.  Steiffgal can only imagine the look on her pugs' faces if this sweet mobile rooster rolled past them... absolutely priceless!

Early 1930's Teddy Baby with delightful mohair
Oh baby, Steiffgal could argue that she saved the best for last when it comes to this review of auction highlights.  Here we have a 41 cm standing and 32 cm sitting Teddy Baby from 1930 through 1933.  This beaming baby is five ways jointed, stuffed firmly with excelsior, and made from dark brown mohair that has lighted up over time, giving the appearance of being tipped.  His facial insert and feet are made from blond mohair.  His open mouth is lined in peach colored felt.  Baby's face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and a dark brown hand embroidered nose.  His claws are also dark brown and hand embroidered.  Teddy Baby is wearing a red leather collar that sports one long trailing "f" button and ten silver colored studs.  He retains his 8mm long trailing "f" button and a bit of his original red ear tag.  

Teddy Baby has been produced in a number of slightly varying designs over the years.  This particular brown example was made in 9, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 25, 30, 35, 38, 40, 45, and 65 cm from 1930 through 1943.  However, all Steiff Teddy Baby bears have three things in common: a distinctive, well defined muzzle; flat, broad, clawed feet made for standing; and sweet, toddler-like features. 

Why this piece is special... Steiffgal has a thing... ok, an obsession, over Teddy babies.   One of the things that makes this design so collectible is that because of its somewhat complicated facial construction, no two ever truly look alike.  So you can simply never have enough of these charming cubs!

Steiffgal hopes this review of her picks for Teddy Dorado's upcoming auction bids your seal of approval.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Special Steiff Collector's Event Scheduled For November 12, 2011!

Come Enjoy a Celebration Designed by
 Steiff Collectors for Steiff Collectors!

 Announcing the 2011 Steiff Teddy Bear Lover’s Event

Saturday, November 12, 2011
2:00pm – 4:00pm

159 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Free Street Parking!

Hosted by Rebekah Kaufman (also known as Steiffgal)
With Special Guest Jim Pitocco, President, Steiff North America

Highlights of the celebration include:

A review of Steiff’s delightful 2011 line plus a sneak peak at 2012 highlights
A discussion of Steiff’s “rare bears” through the 1960’s
A visit with “Lou”, a 14” 1905 blank button white cub in like-new condition
A Steiff appraisal and valuation clinic – limit of 3 items per guest

Enjoy viewing a display of unusual, non-cataloged Steiff oddities from the 1920’s onward while enjoying seasonal refreshments. 

New Steiff items available for purchase!  Renew your membership or sign up for the Steiff Club on the spot.  Goodie bags for the first 75 guests!

Bring yourself, your favorite Steiff item in your collection for “show and tell”, and a human friend, too!

The event is free, but you must RSVP by November 8th to Carolyn at or 401-312-0080, x 221.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Looking For Steiff... In All The RIGHT Places!

There's almost nothing Steiffgal would rather do than spend a day at a big antiques show hunting for Steiff treasures.   And one of the best places to do so here in New England is the annual October antiques weekend in Wilmington, MA, which is put on by New England Antiques Shows.  So let's take a Steiff safari and check out some of the button-in-ear highlights spotted at this great event!

We are off to the races with this find that Steiffgal spotted in one of the very first booths she visited.  Here we have Steiff's 14 cm Nachzieh Tabby or Pull Toy Tabby.  She is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from white mohair that has been hand airbrushed with black stripes.  She has green and black slit pupil eyes and a very sweet pink hand embroidered nose and mouth.  And check out her red claws!  Tabby even has a few of her mono filament whiskers left. This cat is mounted on a black metal carriage on red wooden eccentric wheels, meaning that she sways to-and-fro when pulled gently along.  This specific model of Rolling Tabby was produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1949 through 1969; the combination of her raised script button and US Zone tag put her production in the approximately 1952 through 1953 time frame.  

These next two items spotted at the show truly stand - and deliver.  

The first is Steiff's famous little stinker, Skunk. He is 10 cm, unjointed, and standing. His lower body is made of elegant black velvet. The top of his body is white mohair that has been highlighted with black airbrushing. His robust tail is made from long, black and white mohair. His small ears are made from round mohair circles. His face is detailed with tiny black and brown pupil eyes and a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth. This smelly sweetheart was manufactured in 10 and 25 cm in 1962 and 1963, and is considered highly collectible by Steiff enthusiasts due to his short time in the Steiff catalog.  This particular skunk is unusual because its ear tag identification number does not correspond with those in standard reference books, plus it also notes that the covering is 100% cotton, which doesn't account in any way for his mohair surfaces.   

The second may jog your memory a bit.  Here we have Steiff's standing on all fours Igel Joggi or hedgehog Joggi.  Joggi is 12 cm and unjointed.  His top is made from very long, almost prickly style mohair, similar to the hair on Steiff's famous hedgehog family, headed by Micki and Mecki.  His face and underbelly are made from short white mohair.  Joggi has tiny double thick white felt feet.  His face is detailed with little pink felt ears, black button eyes, and a tiny black hand embroidered nose.  Joggi was made from 1961 through 1966 only and is considered quite rare.

Keeping things field and forest focused, here is our next find on this Steiff safari.  Here we have Diggy Dachs, or Diggy Badger.  Diggy is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from black, white, and brown tipped mohair.  One of his great features are his little felt finger and toenails, which remind Steiffgal of those on another Steiff rarity of the same time, Zooby the bear.  Diggy was made in 10 and 17 cm from 1963 through 1964 only.  

Things are better together, and this final find certainly proves that.  Here we have two adorable 1970's era Steiff "Masked Teddies." Both are made from blond mohair and five ways jointed.  They have brown and black pupil eyes, black hand stitched noses and mouths, and felt hand and paw pads. Overall, this popular and beloved pattern was made from 1968 through 1990 and came in white, tan, caramel, and brown in sizes ranging from 9 to 100 cm.   They are called Mask Teddies because of their well defined, masked shaped facial areas.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this virtual Steiff safari - and that it has inspired you to join the hunt for these wonderful treasures where ever you may be!

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

Saturday, October 8, 2011

This Steiff Sealyham Comes Sealed With A Kiss

Steiffgal is suffering from a bad case of "puppy love" based on a recent vintage acquisition!  She was fortunate to receive a small collection of early 1950's-era Steiff collectibles from a woman in her 60's who was looking to downsize - but insure her items ended up in a Steiff loving home.  One of these treasures was a medium sized dog with an interesting arrangement of IDs.  Take a look at this precious pooch and see what makes him so interesting from a collector's perspective.  

This precious dog has enormous "seal" - appeal!  Here we have Steiff's early post WW2 Sealyham He is about 6.5" (17 cm) tall by 12" (30 cm) long.  Sealyham is standing on all fours, made from white mohair, and is head jointed.  His ears are lined in tan felt which has been airbrushed with pink highlights.  He has round glass brown and black pupil eyes.  His muzzle is detailed with a black hand stitched nose and mouth; he has a spot of red airbrushing on the tip of his lips. This particular Sealyham model was produced in 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, and 35 cm from 1949 through 1957. 

So, just how old is this white wonder in "dog years?"  His unique combination of ID makes it easy to determine.  He has a "watermelon" shaped, angular bear faced  chest tag with red imprinted letters.  This tag is pictured on the far left of the illustration above. This tag was used from 1928 through 1952.  He also has a white linen "made in the US Zone" tag; this ID was required on all Steiff exports between 1947 and 1953.  This tag is pictured in the center above. Finally, he has a plain, blank 7 mm steel button in ear; this unusual button was used between 1948 and 1950.  This button is pictured on the far right. If you dovetail all of these dates, he most certainly left the factory in Giengen, Germany between 1948 and 1950.

Sealyhams have a long - and consistent -  tradition in the Steiff line.   Both standing and sitting white mohair versions debuted in 1930.  The standing version came in 8 sizes ranging from 8 to 35 cm and appeared through 1943.  The sitting version came in 6 sizes ranging from 8 to 25 cm and appeared through 1939.  Pre-1943, Steiff produced numerous Sealyhams on wheels, a few nomotta wool woolen miniature or "woolie" Sealyhams, and a 30 cm Sealyham Nachthemdentasche - or Sealyham night dress bag. Sealyhams were produced again immediately after the factory reopened for business in the late 1940's.  However, only standing examples were produced.  These models, which appeared through 1957, had very minor if any changes in fundamental design from the model launched in 1930.   A sweet 10 cm Steiff Sealyham from the mid 1950's is pictured here on the left.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of this relatively rare Steiff pooch has met with your seal (-yham) of approval.

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

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blanking Out In Excitement Over This Phenomenal Early Steiff Bear

Boom!  That was the sound of Steiffgal practically hitting the floor when she got this inquiry about this exciting and marvelous family treasure.  Take a look at this note from a reader from Florida, who asks about a turn of last century Ted that has been in her family for three decades.  Tamie writes, through a series of correspondences....

"Hi Steiffgal,

My father-in-law has a Steiff bear that he purchased in an estate auction 30+ years ago.  He actually bought a trunk and this bear was tucked inside of it, so he was a free "bonus" to the sale.
Could you look at the pictures and tell me what you think?  The bear is in very good condition - no rips or tears.  He is 11" sitting and 16" standing.  The stitching on his nose is light brown in color, and he has a tiny black button in his ear.  His ear tag is white and has the numbers 5328 on it. 

He won first place at a teddy bear party in Kennebunkport, ME years ago.  It was at this event that the grandson of Mr. Steiff signed his foot.

Thanks, Tamie"
Tamie, how you describe this bear coming into your family's life is the ultimate fantasy for most Steiff collectors!   What we have here is a simply outstanding example of an early 20th century Steiff bear.  He is made from mohair, five ways jointed, and has black wooden shoe button eyes.  The fact that his facial and paw/claw stitching is brown (which has faded a bit over time) means that this bear is actually white.  Early blond Steiff bears had black facial and paw/claw stitching. His paw pads are felt and seem to be in remarkable condition for his age.  This bear has the classic Steiff proportions and look of an early 1900's bear. This particular cub pattern was produced in blond and white from 1905 through 1933 in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70,  and 115 cm. 

It's never nice to ask someone their age, but this particular bear wears it right on his - well - ear!  Because Tamie's bear has such distinctive ID, it is possible to figure out within a FEW MONTHS when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany.  His button, which is blank, 6 mm in diameter, and made from nickel plated iron, was only used between 1905 and 1906.  It also appears that his white ear tag is the earliest version of this form of ID, and was used between 1905 and 1908. The tag has the article number of the bear (5328 meaning jointed, mohair, and 28 cm sitting) and the German word "geschutzt" which means "patented."  If you dovetail the dating of his blank button and his white tag, it becomes clear that he was made in the 1905 to 1906 time frame.  We should all look so good at around 105+ years old!
Now for the "fill in the blank" question - his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes something is worth what someone will pay.  In this particular case, time does equal money when it comes to his fair market value! Based on relatively recent sales of other turn of last century white Steiff bears, (and without seeing the bear firsthand...) Steiffgal best estimates that this bear would bring $5,500 to $7,500 at retail today.  
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Tamie's blank buttoned beauty has been a pleasant earful for you. 
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more. 
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