Friday, December 30, 2011

Vintage (Steiff) Teddy Bear Hugs To You!

It certainly bears repeating... there's nothing quite as wonderful, heartwarming, and delightful as Steiff's early, turn of last century Teddies.  For most collectors, just looking at one brings a big smile and a happy feeling that can last all day.  And Steiffgal promises it is no different in this case as well.  Take a look at this note from a reader who inquires about a precious Steiff family heirloom bear.  Matt from California writes...


I would like to get some information on a family bear and what it may be worth. 

The bear measures 12" tall, top of head to bottom of feet. The arms, legs and head still swivel. In terms of details, the stitching on the nose and paws is brown. He has four stitches on each paw. His button measures around 5mm or 6mm as far as I can tell.  His paw pads are in good condition, no staining, rips, or anything.

There is a little fur missing from the top of the nose.  There looks like there is a hole or tear in a seam above the right foot at the ankle, measuring about 5mm x 2mm - possibly stitched back together at some point, I can't see it very well without digging at it, and I don't want to do that.  The left upper arm is a little deformed - it looks like it laid on its side for a long time and the arm is a little twisted below the shoulder. The stuffing is compacted in the limbs,  causing voids in the upper arms and the upper thigh. Other than that, everything else seems to be in good condition. 

This bear was given to me by my great aunt and she wrote a note stating it's a 1907 Steiff Teddy Bear.  What do you think?

Thanks for your help, 

Wow, this is one terrific Ted!  What Matt has here is an excellent example of a turn of last century Steiff Teddybaer or Teddy Bear.  This bear is made from mohair, is five ways jointed, and is detailed with traditional early 20th century details, including black shoe button eyes and a prominent muzzle.  He has classic early Steiff proportions, including a torso which is twice as long as his head; slender arms that descend to his mid-thigh area; and a 1:5 foot length to height ratio.  Even though he has darkened a bit over time, it is clear that he was originally white, as Steiff used brown embroidery floss on white bears, and black embroidery floss on blond and brown bears.  This particular model was produced in blond, white, and brown mohair in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70, and 115 cm overall from 1905 through 1933.   

It's very important to respect your elders, especially when it comes to Steiff!  So, just how old is this beautiful bruin?  This needs to be deduced from four main factors.  

First, Matt's bear measures 12 inches (30 cm) standing and 8 inches (20 cm) sitting.  According to records, which are not always 100% to the date accurate, this size was manufactured from around 1909 through 1933.  

Second, let's take a close look at his button, pictured above. It is Steiffgal's best extrapolation that it measures closer to 4mm; this size button was used on items from approximately 1908 though 1927.  


Third, take a look at his "looks!" He is remarkably similar in appearance, size, and proportion to Steiffgal's "George", a early blank buttoned Steiff bear from 1905. "George" is pictured just above.

Fourth, his "provenance." Matt's great aunt states this treasure is from 1907 - according to the note she left for him with the bear.  This documentation is pictured above.

If you dovetail all of these clues together, it is Steiffgal's best "guesstimate" that Matt's bear was manufactured between 1908 and 1909.  

If time is money, then what is the value of Matt's vintage mohair masterpiece?  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and sincerely believes something is worth what someone will pay.  He does have some wear on his nose, a small seam rip on his leg, and stuffing separation and degradation. On the other side of the coin, he is a precious and classic century-plus white mohair Steiff bear and Steiffgal can't imagine any vintage enthusiast not wanting him for their collection - despite his restorable flaws!  That all being said, he probably values in the $1,800 to $2,250 range today.

 Steiffgal hopes this discussion concerning this adorable antique Steiff bear feels as good as a giant Teddy hug! 

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Tall, Dark, and Handsome Steiff Mystery!

A tall, dark, handsome, and mysterious (Steiff) gentleman appeared in Steiffgal's inbox, and she couldn't be more pleased!  Steiffgal is always open to this type of introduction, and even Steiffguy is OK with it!  Take a look at this note from a reader, who asks about an "almost" life sized Steiff doll that has been in his family for over a quarter century.  Bryan writes... 

"Dear Steiffgal,
Anything you can tell me about this item? It has been in my family for well over 25 years. It still has its Steiff tag on it, but I have not been able to find out any information about it through my own searching.  The tag LOOKS like like it has the numbers 7749/12 on it, but they are really hard to decipher. 

This is a large doll that looks like someone from Saudi Arabia, perhaps.  It measures roughly 30" high at the tallest point, and is about 24" wide. The legs are not jointed, but it is possible the arms are, they have much more of a range of movement than the legs. Its hard to tell without removing the clothing. As far as the clothing goes, nothing has ever been done to it by us, so as far as I know it is original.  

Here is the story I was always told growing up about it. My dad used to import cars from Germany. On one of his trips over there, around 1983 or 1984, he was in a gift store in the Frankfurt Airport and he saw Muhammad Ali buying this same doll (or one similar, the details are vague). Of course, Ali was causing a huge commotion as everyone wanted to see him and get autographs/photos with him. He decided if Ali was buying one, he wanted one too and jumped in line behind him and bought this one. He says it was the last one they had.  Both my dad and Ali carried these dolls onto the plane, Ali in first class, my dad is coach.  Dad thinks he paid around $300US for it.

Many thanks, Bryan"

So, just who is this international man of mystery?  Well, to be honest, Steiffgal is not 100% sure, as she has never seen this piece before, and it does not appear in any standard Steiff reference books.  However, there are several clues about him that may shed a little light on his dating, background, purpose, and history. 

First check out his tag and button.  He has Steiff's traditional thick letter raised script button which technically appeared on items from the early to mid 1960's through around 1972.  His yellow linen tag was used from 1969/1970 through 1980. However, Steiffgal has noticed from some items in her personal collection that the thick letter raised script button has appeared on some larger, studio items through the mid- to late 1970's as well. 

Next check out the writing on his tag.  It is clearly handwritten.  It has been Steiffgal's observation that in the past in general, Steiff hand wrote numbers on a tag on studio (life sized) items, items that only very few were produced, sample items, and other rarities.  Although the meanings of the different numbers have changed over time, and several times in the 1950's and 1960's, Steiffgal can decipher that the first two digits, a 7 and a 7, most likely indicate Steiff is describing this item as "in caricature" - the first 7 - and "synthetic, rubber" for the second 7.  That would make sense, given the doll has a playful look to him, and is most likely made from man-made trivera velvet.  The "49" may - and this is just a guess - indicate 49 cm as a sitting size for this item, as the total height is around 75 cm.  It is not clear what the final two digits after the slash may indicate.  Overall, his tag suggests that he is very unusual and made for a special purpose.

Now his look and materials.  As mentioned above, he appears to be made from trivera velvet, a material that was very popular at Steiff in the 1970's through the 1980's.  It had a soft and durable "skin" like texture and look to it. This material was used quite frequently on play dolls, notably on a series of adorable little friends from 1972 through 1982.  They are pictured here on the left.  This material is occasionally used at Steiff today; a somewhat recent example is the 100cm bier monk doll Steiff created in 1999 for Alpirsbacher Klosterbraeu, a traditional brewery located in Germany’s Black Forest.   

Of course, it's never polite to guess any one's age.  But given all the clues mentioned above, Steiffgal feels that this doll most likely was manufactured in the the mid 1970's - a little less than a decade before being discovered by Bryan's dad!   

Now for his purpose.  Here's where best guessing and a little knowledge come together.  Based on his size, rarity, and hand written tag, Steiffgal THINKS that this doll was produced for one of these reasons:
  1. As part of a large storefront window display, perhaps of the nativity (he could have been a wise man posed with a camel) or of a Middle Eastern vignette.
  2. As a "customer special", a piece ordered and then designed and produced in very limited quantities for a private customer or organization.
  3. As a sample which was never produced in a large enough scale for documentation.    
Given that, then you may be asking why were there two of these, and why were they for sale in a Frankfurt airport gift shop?  It is entirely possible that for any of the three reasons listed above, Steiff produced a handful of extras and had them on hand in storage.  It would not be out of character for Steiff (and Steiffgal means this in the most loving way...) to sell these older extras to retailers to make a few dollars, and some extra room, in their inventory stockrooms.  

Steiffgal hopes this research into Bryan's great mystery doll has added a little foreign intrigue to your day! 

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Wonderful Steiff Zotty Bear Sure Knows How To Multitask!

One of the most delightful things about Steiff is how often new/old things surface in the collector's world.  Vintage items that do not appear in the standard Steiff Sortiments or other well known reference books seem to have an appeal all unto their own!  And such is truly the "case" behind this hybrid treasure!  Take a look at this note from Sergio, who writes from the Chicago area...

"Dear Steiffgal,

I have a Steiff bear but am not sure how old it is, if it is an original, or how rare/collectible it is.  I know that it's a Zotty bear, looks like a bag (has a zipper with a pouch), and has a yellow tag attached to the left year that reads "Original Steiff 2340.90 Made in Germany." 

Zotty is approximately 22 to 24 inches long. The zipper is right down the middle of his belly; his bag  is lined with satin-like material.  Any information about this bear will be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you,

Steiffgal's got this one in the bag.  What Sergio has here is a really nice, and somewhat unusual Steiff Zotty pajama bag.  These items were designed to be both a toy and a functional item - in this case, a cuddly bedtime-buddy who also could store children's 'jammies during the day!  From the product development perspective, this rarity is probably a modification of Steiff’s standard-line original Zotty Teddy bear, which was produced from 1951 through 1978 in 17, 18, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 80, and 100.  Overall, Steiff Zotty bears are famous for three things:  their happy, open mouthed expressions; their fuzzy, long mohair; and their contrasting inset bib areas.  It is very interesting to note that this Zotty does not have a peach bib; this is most likely because that would greatly complicate the insertion of the metal zipper in the chest area. This Zotty pajama bag is most likely based on the 50 cm pattern.

Here's a little pillow talk about this Zotty's background.  It is Steiffgal's best estimate that he was made in the mid 1960's - early 1970's time frame.  This is based on two other mohair pajama bags in her collection from that time frame -  a tiger pajama bag, and a walrus pajama bag.  All three of these bags have several things in common:
  1. They all have large, rounded bellies as part of their design - perfect for storage.
  2. They all feature a sturdy metal zipper right down the middle of the item.
  3. They all are detailed with a beautifully constructed, silk lined internal pouch.
  4. They are all based on very popular and beloved characters of the 1960's and 1970's.   
Steiffgal has also seen, or heard of, other 50 cm +/- sized, silk lined pajama bags made from Steiff's beloved "Slo" turtle and "Flossy" fish patterns (both which also have wonderful, large rounded bellies, too!)

Steiff has made pajama bags since the 1930's; you can read more about that by clicking here.

In terms of value, it's a very good day - or night - to find a Steiff mohair pajama bag in very good to excellent condition.  All are beloved additions to any Steiff collection or hug.  Some, like the walrus bag mentioned above, are well known and cataloged, so it is a bit easier to follow their resale prices over time.  Others, like Sergio's Zotty and Steiffgal's tiger, are not, making their value just a bit harder to estimate.  As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it.  That all being said, Steiffgal thinks that Sergio's Zotty pajama bag may value in the $300-500 range in today's market.

Steiffgal hopes this information about Steiff's mohair pajama bags has been as warm and cozy as a flannel nightgown!

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Care To Have A Firsthand Look At An Original Steiff Rod Bear?

Just a warning that what you're about to see is really going to test your (Steiff) mettle - I mean metal!   Have you ever laid eyes on a century-plus Steiff rod bear?  These terrific Teds were only made between 1904 and 1905 and were jointed by three metal rods:  one horizontal one for the legs, one horizontal one for the arms, and one vertical one for the head.  Rod bears are incredibly rare and are considered the "holy grail" by many collectors around the world.   Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of meeting with all-star Steiff collector Holly Greenwell, who just happens to have one of these magnificent rod bears in her collection - and was gracious enough to share her treasure with the Steifflife readers!  Let's get "up close and personal" with her "Roddy" and take a once in a lifetime look at many of his details that truly put him in a class of his own!

Well hello, handsome!  Here we have Roddy in all of his glory.  He is quite large, about 35 cm sitting and 50 cm standing! His "official" Steiff identification is 35PB.  He is in absolutely beautiful condition.   Holly added his collar, but everything else about him is period, including his chest tag.  

Face it, you are captured by his charms!  Roddy has large black wooden shoe button eyes and a gutta-percha nose.

He's also totally buttoned up - check out his elephant button, the first ever used by the company!  Also check out his mohair in this close up shot.  It is very glossy, soft, and shiny.  He has full mohair coverage.  

Tag, you're it.  Here you can see Roddy's original period chest tag.  Steiff used various paper tags to identify their items from 1897 through 1904; they were attached via stitching or strings.  Because the paper is very frail, Roddy's is kept in a plastic sleeve to protect it. 

The nose knows, for sure.  Here is a close up of Roddy's gutta-percha nose.  Each of these was created by hand, one at a time.  Its asymmetry, nicks, and fingerprints make each one truly one of a kind. 

Grin and bear it.  It is interesting to note that Roddy's simple mouth is hand embroidered with tan floss...

...while the five claws on each of his hands and feet are embroidered in black.  

Mighty big shoes to fill.... Roddy has very large, narrow feet, typical of turn of last century Steiff bears.  Proportionally, the total height of the bear standing should be five times the length of the feet, toe to heel. 

Always ready to lend a hand.  Roddy has distinctive spoon shaped wrists and paw pads. His felt paw pads are in remarkable condition given how susceptible these areas are to pesky moths and other pests. 

Don't get out of joint about this, but if you look really closely you can see the metal rod joining - and jointing - Roddy's leg to his body. 

Attention!  Here you can see Roddy's early and important proportions in profile:  his large and elegant head, chunky body, long arms and legs, and distinctly thin and curved ankles and wrists. 

Finally, let's get back to basics. Roddy clearly can't take a bad picture, regardless of the angle. Here you can clearly see Roddy's curvy back,  joint placement, and low and parallel ear placement - all typical features of the earliest Steiff bears.  

Steiffgal hopes this head to toe study of one of Steiff's finest creations has forever "jointed" you at the hip with this wonderful brand!

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Steiff Teddy Hugs and Aloha from Waikoloa, Hawaii!

Teddy hugs and aloha from The Big Island, Hawaii!  Steiffgal is having such a delightful time here that her traveling companions insisted on putting together a little diary so friends around the world could see how fantastic this vacation destination truly is!  Our tour guides today are Sunny, a mid-1950's era blond Teddy baby, and Pipsqueak, a late 1930's panda.  Readers may recognize Sunny as the host of another Steifflife travel diary from Hollywood, Florida.  This is Pipsqueak's blog host debut.  So, without further ado, let's get started!

Flowers are everywhere here, and this one particularly caught the team's eye given it's "Steiffy" colors of red and yellow.  Sunny and Pipsqueak pose with a large and lovely native hibiscus.  

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas, even around these tropical parts.  Here Sunny and Pipsqueak pretend to drive the Christmas Express train featured at the Queen's Shops at the Waikoloa Beach Resort.

It's no fish tale that koi ponds are very big on the Big Island.  If you look closely you can see some very large - some as big as 18 inches! - orange fish in the water behind our wonder cubs.   

It's easy to fit in while you're on holiday!  Here Sunny and Pipsqueak welcome visitors to the Hilton Waikoloa Village, a wonderful resort with so much to see and do!

Two Shirley Temples, please!  Sunny and Pipsqueak really enjoy hanging out by the poolside bar and chatting with the other vacationers.  Needless to say, they made alot of friends very quickly.  

Just along for the ride... Sunny and Pipsqueak and a little boy friend enjoy a pretend adventure on the back of a supremely large fish.  The hotel featured delightful and playful sculptures like these all over its very large campus. 

A little to the left, please... the Hilton Waikoloa Village also features many spa services, including specialty massages.  Here Sunny and Pipsqueak get ready for their very own "cub-rub."

Water, water everywhere.  Sunny and Pipsqueak check out the pool rules.  So far, so good...

Hum.  Well, maybe not.  This depth definitely presents a challenge to our little friends!

Every vacation photo seems as perfect as a postcard, especially those that feature Sunny and Pipsqueak.  Here our sweet friends pose on a little bridge that connects the hotel's lagoon and pools to the main hotel building area.

Larger than life!  Here Sunny and Pipsqueak mouse around with a huge statue of a dressed rodent.   One of the pool areas featured all the characters of the Chinese Zodiac, but our cubs felt this particular one stood out head and shoulders above the rest.

It's easy to feel playful on vacation, especially when it's 80 degrees with gentle winds and no humidity!  Sunny and Pipsqueak discover an outdoor version of Konane, a traditional Hawaiian form of checkers that uses lava and coral as game pieces.  

So we've come to the peaceful end of our tour - the same place where many Hawaiians say "goodbye" to the sun each day.  Sunny and Pipsqueak get cozy with a giant Buddha who is located at "Buddha Point." Visitors gather at this location each night with snacks and cocktails to watch the island's magnificent sunsets.  

Steiffgal, Sunny, and Pipsqueak hope you enjoyed this little travelogue from the Big Island.   Mahalo!

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

Friday, December 2, 2011

This Steiff Riding Lion Is Clearly The Mane Event

Talk about the mane event!  Many collectors particularly favor Steiff's big cats - tigers, lions, and leopards - and for good reason.  The company has excelled at producing them since the late 1800's!  So take a look at this note from a reader who recently adopted one of these vintage jungle gems into her hug, and wants to know all about him.  Colleen writes...


This Steiff Riding Lion was purchased by my neighbor at the factory when they visited Germany probably 40 years ago or longer.  She allowed her children to use it as a toy when they were little and she recently sold it to my husband when she was cleaning out her house in an effort to get ready to sell as her husband passed away.  She herself purchased it.  She said there originally was a tag in the ear or somewhere, but she knows her kids probably removed it.  I can't seem to find it.  

As you will see from the photos this guy has been "well loved" and enjoyed.  He is approx. 20" tall at the top of his head and 25" long from the tip of his nose to the end of his bottom.  His fur is not in good shape on his mane, but the rest of him is in fairly good condition for a toy of his age.  He has been sewn back together along the top of his back, or possibly that was how he was sewn originally and the matting of his fur shows it now. 

He has a very solid handle on his back that the children would hold onto as they rode him and he does have a pull string for his growler.  The growler does work and the wheels on his base are in very good condition.  He is well attached to the base. He may have no value to anyone other then myself.  To be able to enjoy his beauty and know where he has been and where he came from is all the pleasure I need.  I just thought you may know more about him that I would enjoy hearing about.

Thank you in advance for any info you have to share and for taking the time to look at my new Steiff friend!

Best, Colleen"

As to be expected, Steiffgal is roaring to help out here!  What Colleen has here is called Reit Loewe or Riding Lion.  He is standing; his body is made from short blond mohair while his most impressive mane, tail tip, and underbelly is made from from very long, brown tipped mohair.  He is mounted on a metal carriage that rolls along on metal disc wheels with rubber tires.  He has a grip handle and a cord-activated voice, meaning you would pull the string and he would "growl."  It is interesting to note that he has an internal metal frame, adding to his stability.  This is the same construction method that Steiff has used for decades in producing many of its "life sized" or studio animals.  This particular design was produced in 43 and 50 cm from 1949 through 1966; Colleen's lion is the 50 cm version.

This big boy has been king of the jungle for a very long time.  The first Steiff lion on wheels appeared in the catalog as early as 1894 and was made from felt!  Colleen's lion design is based on a standing riding/pull lion introduced in 1909.  This early model was made from mohair and appeared in 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm through 1919. Then in 1925, Steiff updated the design slightly and produced the piece with a cord activated voice (which is like the metal ringed item just below the grip handle pictured here on the left).  This model appeared through 1943.  When the factory reopened post war for business in the late 1940's, Riding Lion was one of the first items to be produced... probably due to its handsome good looks and proven sales success!  In 2007, Steiff produced a replica of their 1909 version as a worldwide limited edition; it is no surprise it was a huge hit and sold out almost immediately. 

Now there's no need for any lion about this collectible's value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes something is worth what someone will pay.  This is a lovely and classic design, with a legacy that touches back more than 100 years.  And animals on wheels hold a very special place with certain collectors, who love to display them with other Steiff friends as riders.  However, the piece lacks ID and appears to be well loved in ways that are complicated if not impossible for restoration.  That all considered, Steiffgal would value this item in the $150 to $300 range.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about Colleen's riding lion has been a pure joy ride for you.

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