Friday, July 27, 2012

This Steiff Post Is Truly A Double-Header

There is an old saying, "two heads are better than one"... and nothing could be more true than in the case of this exceptional Steiff rarity.  Steiffgal recently had the unexpected pleasure of receiving this "larger than life" inquiry from a reader from the mid-Atlantic part of the United States.  Take a look (or a double take!) at her "celebrity" studio treasure.  Over a series of emails, she shares...

"I am contacting you about a giant Pushmi-Pullyu llama.  It was used a promotional device for the movie, Doctor Doolittle. It has a silver metal ear tag with Steiff engraved on it.  Its white fur is synthetic  - longer on the body and shorter on the faces. 

The llama has the following measurements:
  • Nose to Nose: 75 inches
  • Height of Back: 40 inches
  • Front foot - front foot: 45 inches
Any information would be much appreciated!" 

Well, it's certainly time to take a walk on the wild side with this amazing beast!  What we have here is indeed Steiff's studio, or life sized version of the Pushmi-Pullyu llama from the movie Doctor Doolittle.  It is extremely rare; Steiffgal knows of only one other example of this item and has only seen it mentioned once in any Steiff reference book.  The two headed llama also does not appear in the Steiff Sortiment books, but this is not terribly unexpected as sometimes "customer specials" and studio items like these from many years back were not as carefully recorded as they are today.   

Technically, Steiff studio items have to meet two key requirements. First, they either have to be "life sized" or a special, large size designed for display or authenticity. Second, they need to be manufactured in a special area of the factory, a building towards the back of the campus where these spectacular showpieces are assembled and detailed one by one. All in all, studio animals are unique, hand made treasures that truly are iconic to Steiff.  But this Pushmi-Pullyu llama truly deserves double accolades!

This two headed llama represents a very cool intersection of Steiff creativity and movie history.  The original Doctor Doolittle movie was released in 1967.  Many people mistakenly believe that the movie was produced by Disney but in fact it was made by the company now known as 20th Century Fox Studios. (Interestingly, Disney's The Jungle Book opened on the same week as Doctor Doolittle!) The studio spent a tremendous amount of money advertising their Doctor Doolittle movie.  That being the case, it is no surprise that they would invest in life sized pieces that could be used on the red carpet at openings and promotions.  1967 was one of two years in the 1960's (the other one was 1960) when Steiff produced some of their most fantastic and creative studio items.  In 1967, in its standard line, Steiff produced a 100 and a 150 cm standing llama. In 1960 they produced a 150 cm standing vicuna.  This Pushmi-Pullyu llama is based strongly on these patterns and incorporates many of their design elements, including his huge eyes, his facial expression and construction, as well as the overall shape of the legs, carriage, and head.  However, unlike the standard line llama and vicuna, this Pushmi-Pullyu llama is head jointed. 

And now for the studio sized question on everyone's mind... his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and truly believes something is worth what someone will pay.  She has not seen the item firsthand so she cannot attest to its structural integrity, wear, and aesthetic qualities.  However, he is simply breathtaking, totally unexpected, one of just a handful ever made, and a great piece of American film history.  Assuming that the llama is in very good to excellent condition, without any rips, tears, holes, odors, severe fading, or other structural or aesthetic issues, he MAY value in the $5,000-7,500 range given his rarity and tie-in to the entertainment industry.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of this amazing Steiff Pushmi-Pullyu llama has been more entertaining than an evening out at the movies for you.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

An International Steiff Unboxing Celebration!

Everyone loves a surprise package - especially when the contents are most certainly made by Steiff!  Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of receiving a big brown shipping box full of goodies from overseas.  Take a look here to witness firsthand the "unboxing" of several "button-in-ear" treasures... which is YOUR favorite?

It's easy to see why the first item could cause "panda" - monium with some collectors.  Here we have Steiff's beloved 35 cm 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.  This particular panda, with his felt feet, was produced in the earlier part of the production time frame. 

Hopefully you listened closely to the description of the second "unboxing" treasure.  This is a 25 cm version of Nipper, the Elektrola Fox, one of the early logos behind the media company now known as RCA. Nipper was produced by Steiff in 12, 17, 25 centimeters from 1968 through 1974. He was also made in a rare 45-cm display size studio piece in 1968 only.  This precious pooch is sitting and unjointed. His body is made from white dralon which is punctuated with a few brown and black spots. His ears are brown mohair; one is supposed to be down while the other is playfully and purposefully pointing upward.  His face is detailed with large black and brown pupil eyes and a sweet black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  His head is tilted off slightly to the side, as if he is listening to something... yes, that would be "his master's voice!" 

Although Nipper as a logo debuted more than 100 years ago, and is only used today as part of the marketing behind HMV stores in Europe and the UK, this cute canine is almost universally recognized and is considered to be one of the top 10 famous brands of the 20th century. 

The third treasure in this unboxing adventure is certainly a charmer.  Of course, here we have a precious and toddler-esque proportioned 50 cm Steiff Zotty.  Zotty was one of the first new bear designs introduced after the Second World War, in 1951. He has appeared in the line, in one form or another, almost continuously since then. The early 1950's were an amazingly busy time at Steiff, as the company looked to rebuild its pre-war reputation for quality, while at the same time introduce new, innovative, contemporary designs to an expanding global marketplace. Zotty’s debut was one of the most significant efforts towards those goals. The original, mid-century Zotty was primarily made from brown tipped mohair and was five-ways jointed. He was produced in nine sizes, ranging from 17 through 100 centimeters. To “qualify” as a Zotty, a Steiff Teddy bears needed these three things: an open felt lined mouth; a front insert bib made of a complementary colored mohair to his body; and of course, be made from very shaggy material.

Zotty was an overnight success, and became an extremely popular Teddy bear amongst European youngsters from the mid 1950s onward. His design and endearing facial expression proved irresistible and comforting; many European toy manufacturers introduced copycat Zotty-looking Teddy bears as a result of his sales success. As Zotty’s popularity grew, so did his range in the Steiff line. Steiff seized on his appeal and created him in many forms over the next 20 years, including a sleeping animal, a playful floor friend, a pajama bag, and a long legged lulac animal, called Zolac, among other items. In 1960, a white mohair version in 28 and 35 cm was introduced, but only stayed in the line for one year. 

Steiffgal hopes you have been able to contain yourself in regards to this international "unboxing" celebration. 

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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The 2012 Steiff European Super Fan Tour

Better have your passport in hand to enjoy this exciting Steiff travelogue!  Steiffgal just recently had the wonderful experience of accompanying 38 Steiff super fans on a nine day tour of Switzerland and Germany.  Our destinations?  All things Steiff, and Steiff related!  Here is a not so brief diary of some of our many trip highlights.

And we're off!  After a long day and night of travel, the super fans all gathered in Basel, Switzerland.  Our first activity was a fun group dinner, where we all finally met in person and talked about our collections and interests.  The next day, we were off in the pouring rain for a full morning at the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel, which used to be called the Puppenhaus, or Dollhouse Museum.  This amazing Steiff mecca has perhaps the best and most comprehensive Steiff collection on the planet!  Above is just one photo of an amazing grouping of tiny Steiff Teds - it would be impossible to capture the scope of this museum in even 1,000 photos.  This is a MUST SEE destination for all Steiff fans who find themselves in this part of the world. While in Basel, Steiffgal had the awesome pleasure of spending time with a long-time friend she met online - but never in person. A delightful reunion all around - and made far sweeter by the fact that she provided everyone in the tour group with a giant Swiss chocolate bar as a welcoming gesture to her country!

After our museum adventure, we boarded our coach for a long journey towards Bonn, our second destination.  This leg took us through Switzerland, Germany, France, and then again Germany - all within a few hours.  Very cool from a geography perspective!  Our driver basically followed the Rhine River as it wove around the countryside.  Our hotel in Bonn was lovely and historical, and right on the Rhine.  Many famous, and some infamous, people had visited our hotel, and you could just tell the walls had many stories to tell.  Most super fans truly enjoyed the hotel's authentic after hours biergarten.  Here above on the left you can see a shot of the view from our hotel window, showing the Rhine River and the biergarten with its retractable all seasons roof!  Interestingly, the sun did not set until about 10:30 or 11pm in the evening, so we could enjoy eachother's company over beers in the daylight even though it was clearly evening!  

Our first night in Bonn included a preview of the upcoming Steiff Sommer 2012 auction, hosted by Teddy Dorado.  Everyone loved seeing and holding the precious and rare auction items firsthand, and Carsten Esser, Teddy Dorodo's owner and auctioneer, was there to present the goodies and answer questions.  A few lucky super fans also had their photos taken with Othello, the historically important Steiff Titantic Mourning bear who was one of the highlights of the auction.  

As there is no rest for the weary, our next day truly was off to the races.  Our coach took us to Steiff Shulte, the fabric company that has been making Steiff's outstanding and high quality fabrics since the turn of last century.  It was remarkable to see how simple materials, like cotton and wool, are transformed into glorious textured and colored mohair.  After our tour, we headed towards Koln, known for its famous cathedral which is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the largest facade of any church in the world.    In Koln, many super fans enjoyed an hour long boat cruise on the Rhine, a self-tour through the Lindt chocolate museum (yes, samples were included!), a visit through the awesome cathedral, and a stroll through the city center.  One of the trip highlights for Steiffgal and Steiffguy was enjoying a few rounds of ice cold pils beer with new and old friends in an urban biergarten right in the shadows of the city's most famous landmark.    

Our next day was primarily dedicated to travel, where we headed off from Bonn to Heidenheim.  The five hour journey was bisected with a stop at Rothenburg, an ancient walled city that really had the look and feel of times past - way past. This wonderful destination featured cobble stoned streets, century-old buildings, majestic gardens, and spectacular views of the surrounding areas.  Here on the left you can see a "typical" Rothenburg house with its interesting, aged, and historical facade. When the super fans finally arrived in Heidenheim at our final hotel destination, the group had the pleasure of enjoying dinner with Inge Zinnecker, who runs the Steiff club, and Ralf Fahrig, who is in charge of events for Steiff. 

The next two days of the adventure were truly dedicated to Steiff fun 24/7.  The group arrived early Friday morning in Giengen and was given first access to the Steiff sales tent area at the 2012 Steiff Sommer Festival.  It goes without saying that the super fans had a wonderful - and successful - time scooping up bargains and favorites by the armful.  Other festival highlights included a dealer's area which featured new and vintage treasures from around the world; a "flea market", which sold Steiff accessories, parts, and pieces; a community area which highlighted local craftspeople and their high quality wares; a food pavilion; and a stage area for singing and dancing performances.  (The photo above on the left shows one vintage dealer's incredible collection of Steiff treasures for sale!) The group was also given private guided tours of the Steiff Museum and Margarete Steiff's birth house.  Some super fans participated in a Teddy bear making workshop while others took side trips to the city of Ulm and the fairy tale village of Braighausen, a remarkably detailed miniature medieval village created by one of Steiff's legendary designers.  

The second evening of the Steiff Festival featured the 2012 Steiff Sommer Auction produced by Teddy Dorado.  This standing room only event was held in a town-hall style building just a few hundred yards from the Steiff campus in Giengen.  For many of the super fans, it was their very first live Steiff auction, and you could feel the energy and excitement in the room.  The auction featured almost 90 museum quality new and vintage items, including Othello, the 1912 black Steiff Titanic Mourning bear.  Steiffgal had the once in a lifetime experience of presenting many items for sale, including Othello, to the audience from the stage.  Other interesting items included a very large, mechanical Steiff rabbit from the 1920's; a sweet 1920's large eyed, tipped mohair bear; a lovely white Dicky bear in wonderful condition, and a velvet Steiff Peter Rabbit from around 1909.  You can see the online catalog for this July, 2012 auction event here by clicking here.  100% of the item sold at or significantly above the opening price - a wonderful sign in terms of the state of the marketplace for lovely Steiff collectibles.   And yes, Steiffgal did win an auction treasure... a set of 1960's-era "Jumbo" elephants in 35 and 15 cm... a delightful souvenir from one of the best days of her life!

Our last day abroad found the super fans on the road again, this time to Stuttgart There we all toured the remarkable and contemporary Mercedes Benz museum, which tells the story of the creation of the modern automobile as we know it today, as well as features pristine examples of cars from the turn of last century onward.  The museum itself is located on the Mercedes Benz headquarters campus.  It is eight stories high; its interior is constructed somewhat like the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  Visitors take an elevator to the top floor and simply follow a gently sloping downward walkway to each lower floor.  Displays feature hands on exhibits, videos, newsreels, and accessories, and follow a timeline tied to well known global historical events.  It was so exciting to see Princess Diana's maroon Mercedes, the "Pope Mobile," and other famous Mercedes cars that were featured in well known TV shows and movies.  

Our final evening was spent enjoying a tour and dinner at Castle Katzenstein, a castle whose history dates back 900 years.  The super fans enjoyed an authentic medieval style meal, complete with tunics, a singing and storytelling mistrial, snuff, and honey mead.  Here on the left, you see the mistrial "demonstrating" a wooden period disciplinary device, which Steiffgal was forced to wear as well after declining some after-dinner snuff.  Luckily, Steiffguy was there to rescue her!  After this late night, we all boarded the coach back to our hotel in preparation for a 6am departure to the Stuttgart airport for our voyage home the next day. 

Overall, the trip was a magical, once in a lifetime experience.  The super fans came together as strangers and left as friends.  Many of us also met other colleagues and "Facebook friends" - sometimes for the first time - at the Festival as well, adding to the fun and universality of the event.  Everyone contributed towards the success of the trip in their own way, and all efforts were sincerely appreciated.  And given that each person on the trip "adopted" at least 10 new or vintage Steiff treasures over the course of the 9 day journey, Steiffgal guesstimates that the adventure netted close to 400 new Steiff items "crossing the pond" and entering America on July 9, 2012 - the day we all returned home from our fairytale adventure.

Steiffgal hopes this Steiff travelogue has been just the ticket you needed to consider seeing these remarkable sights and attending next year's 2013 Steiff Sommer Festival in person!

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Few Of My Favorite (Steiff) Things

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens... are a few of Julie Andrew's favorite things for sure!  What's on your list?  Hopefully a piece of Steiff, or two or three!  Steiffgal is traveling this week, so in the interim before next week's new question and answer post, she thought she would share a few treasures with you that she has had the pleasure of adding to her collection over the past year or so.   So without further ado, please check out her top three highlights!

The first item is both huge and tiny at the same time!  Here we have Steiff’s 12-centimeter baby Dinos Stegosaurus dinosaur. He is unjointed and standing on all fours, made from tan-colored mohair that has been painstakingly hand airbrushed in a full spectrum of greens, blues, purples and browns. Dinos has a matching felt fin along his back and a sweet, baby-like face. His head is detailed with an open, pink lined felt mouth; green and black google style eyes; and little yellow felt ears. Dinos was produced in 12 and 42 cm as a U.S. exclusive from 1958-59 only. He retains his complete set of ID that includes a named chest tag, raised script button, and crisp, fully legible yellow ear tag.  

The second item is quite a doll - literally.  What we have here Steiff’s Zwerg Puck or Dwarf Puck, who stands 20-centimeters tall and is five-ways jointed. He is quite detailed and very charismatic for his size! His face, a classic “center seam” design, is made from felt and is detailed with shiny black eyes, a comical, round nose, an open, smiling mouth, ruddy cheeks, large ears and a very long, white mohair beard. He has large, clown-like felt hands and very skinny fabric legs. His clothes, which are integral to his body, consist of a light blue felt jacket, a brown felt shirt and blue and white cotton calico pants. He has donned a triangular-shaped yellow mohair hat. He has very large feet (proportionally) and is wearing denim blue-colored fabric boots.

And finally - it's quite clear this fantastic find has quite a purse-sonality.  What we have here is Steiff’s Charly Handtasche or Charly Purse. This precious pooch is 22 centimeters tall in a standing (albeit slouchy) position with a jointed head. She is made from long and short mohair plush and her ears and tail are brown-tipped mohair, while her body and face are off-white mohair. Her face is detailed with oversized brown and black-pupil eyes and a simple black hand-embroidered nose and mouth. She also has black embroidered claws on all four paws. And here’s what makes her a purse: her belly is hollow like a pouch, and is lined in lime-green velvet. It closes with a study brass zipper. The pouch volume is quite small; it probably is the volume of about a small-sized apple.  According to Steiff records, this Charly Purse was produced in 22 and 25 cm from 1927 through 1940. This particular example, with her trailing “F” Steiff button and red ear tag, was made in the 1928-through-1934 time frame.

Steiffgal hopes this 1-2-3 review of delightful Steiff treasures has been a delightful numbers game for you.

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