Monday, August 27, 2012

This Vintage Steiff Elephant Has Wheel Appeal!

It's certainly easy to be on a roll when it comes to delightful vintage Steiff collectibles!  It just seems that things on moving carriages have "wheel appeal" to most Steiff collectors all over the world.  And such is the case here with this half-century plus old family heirloom.  Take a note from this reader who asks about her newly acquired plush pachyderm.  Anita writes in part...

"Hi Steiff Gal! 

I am interested in learning more about  a Steiff elephant on wheels I inherited. Based on my own detective work and help from others, I believe he is a 1950 pull toy, Steiff Sortiment serial number 1335.  I was hoping you might be able to confirm this or advise if you think he could be something different.  

I am attaching several pictures including the button, the tag, and the wheel markings.  The button has block lettering and no trailing line on the F.  He has a chest tag that is half gone but what is visible appears to be "Made in US Zone Germany."  No other tags or markings I can find other than on the wheel which reads "STEIFF 66 (or 55) X 12".  I measured him at 15 inches long and 11 inches high. We believe he is mohair and his eyes are either glass or plastic. Oh, he has a working squeaker, too! His stuffing feels harder but I am not sure what it's made of.

Apparently he also used to have a little blanket and leather head piece which is missing.   I looked carefully and actually do see a few red threads on his body that I was wondering about before as they seemed attached to him.  Now that makes sense.  Also when I look at the wear on the top of his head I can see the outline of where the head piece may have been.   

I am so fortunate to have inherited him.  I have enjoyed seeing him in our family my whole life. However, I do not know where he originally came from except that we think my mother or father must have gotten him since no other relatives remember him.  

Thanks for any information you can provide!


Steiffgal doesn't want to push the issue, but what Anita has here is called Steiff's Zieh Elephant or Pull Toy Elephant He is standing, unjointed, and made from grey mohair.  He has white felt tusks and a happy, smiling open mouth.  He was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1949 through 1961.  If he is 11 inches high (assuming height without wheels) then his is most likely the 28 cm size and has shrunk just a bit over time; this tends to happen with older excelsior stuffed items.  He came originally with a red felt blanket detailed with a yellow moon and star design, and red leather head dress. 

This excellent elephant has several features which allow him to be dated quite precisely.  This item had blue painted wooden wheels in 1949 and metal wheels with rubber tires from 1950 through 1961. He also has a US Zone tag, which dates him him from about 1947 through 1953, and the relatively rare Steiff block button, dating him from around 1950 or so.  If you dovetail all of this information, he probably was made in 1950 and as such is item #1328,2.  If he were made in 1951, which is also a possibility, his item number would be #1328,1.  These numbers translate into 1=standing; 3=mohair; 28 =28 cm; ,1= squeaker; and ,2=double press voice, growler, or pull chord voice. 

To restore or not to restore, that is a question here.  Steiffgal thinks that Anita's elephant is a very nice example of a classic item and would probably would benefit from restoration. Suggested basic improvements would include a good cleaning and a little re-stuffing around the trunk and head area.  It may also be good to recreate his original blanket and headdress as closely as possible.  The picture here to the left shows what this model looked like when new; it is the 1949 version with blue wooden wheels.  Anita's piece from 1950 or 1951 would be identical except for the wheels.  

Now for the question that turns Steiffgal into a wild beast - his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not an appraiser and truly believes something is worth what someone will pay.  The piece is in somewhat rough shape as it stands now.  Unfortunately, for many collectors, the condition and appearance of the face greatly drives its overall appeal and desirability - and that is one of the main problem areas with this example.  It is Steiffgal's best guess  is that although he probably has some collector's value, most of it is sentimental, given his current condition.  Getting him back in shape will at least preserve the value he has, and make him last for many more generations to come.  If he were Steiffgal's, she would make the investment.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Anita's Pull Toy Elephant has been a fun joy ride for you.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's Time For A Little Shut-Eye Over This Sleepy Steiff Character Doll

Wake up! It's time to learn a little something about a dreamy - literally - Steiff treasure!  Take a look at this very short note from a reader who is curious about a toy they purchased for their son several decades ago.  Shawn simply writes,


Hi there, do you know anything about this doll? How old it it?  What is its value?


Usually it's lights out on questions with so little information... but in this particular case, this item is so distinct that it truly could only be one thing.  What we have here is Steiff's Sandmännchen or Sandman doll.  He is 25 cm and standing.  His head is made from PVC; his long yellow hair is made from thick yarn.  He has a strand of this yellow yarn under his chin to resemble a beard.  He is dressed in black shoes, denim pants, a red and white striped tee-shirt, a blue felt hat, and a brown velvet corduroy jacket.  His jacket is detailed with a row of decorative Steiff buttons up the front. His Steiff button and yellow tag are inserted in his jacket as his ears are solid and integral to his head. Sandman was made from 1979 through 1981 only.  He was also made as a 30 cm hand puppet during the same time frame.

So who exactly is this sleepy sprite?  Sandman, of European origins, is a mythical character who is best known for bringing good dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto the eyes of children while they sleep at night.  The well known author Hans Christian Andersen wrote several tales about him.  However, there are also tales of sinister Sandman-like characters, that bring bad dreams and even steal children's eyeballs.  Many Americans got to see a version of "Sandman" in action as part of a very popular TV commercial launched during the 2012 NFL Superbowl; the clip of this advertisement can be seen above. 

E. German (L) and W. German (R) versions of "The Sandman"
Steiffgal is certain that this particular Steiff Sandman is the GOOD Sandman, and is based on a German television program called Das Sandmännchen (The Sandman), which ran in West Germany from 1959 through 1991.  The main character of this program is pictured here in the striped shirt and blue cap; you can see his similarities to the Steiff version.  Das Sandmännchen debuted on December 1, 1959. It is interesting to note that East German television had their own program featuring this same character; it was titled Unser Sandmännchen (Our Sandman).  This program debuted on December 22, 1959. The East's version of Sandman looked a bit more like Santa Claus in green with his long beard and white hair.  He is pictured above on the left.  The production of the Western version of Sandmännchen stopped in 1991, following the unification of Germany. However, episodes from the former East German show are still amazingly popular and run on German television today; the character and show even have their own website, which can be found here:

Now the question that makes Steiffgal want to hit the hay - his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and feels that something is worth what someone will pay.  This particular doll is not well known outside of Germany and is still relatively new in terms of age.  It is also made from plastics and synthetic materials, which are not terribly interesting to Steiff "purists."  However, this collectible is seldom seen, in excellent condition with all of its IDs, is absolutely adorable, and has ties to popular culture.  As a result, he probably values in the $125 to $200 range.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Sandmännchen gives you pleasant dreams tonight.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Singing A Happy Tune Over This Vintage Steiff Musical Bear

Some questions are just like music to Steiffgal's ears.  And this question from a reader sounds just like a happy tune.  Check out this note from Danny, who writes...


I’m sure you get a million of these.  I’m looking to identify this bear with no ID ear tag.  The music box works when the red patch is pushed.  I’m only looking for an approximate era.

Thanks, Danny" 

Danny, yes, Steiffgal is fortunate to receive what feels like a million Steiff questions... but your special bear is considered by many collectors to be a one in a million find!  What you have here is simply called Music Teddy.  This bear was produced from 1951 through 1957 only.  He is 35 cm, five ways jointed, and made from caramel colored mohair.  His hand and foot pads are made from tannish peach colored felt.  His face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth.  Smack dab in the middle of his belly is a red felt circle; when he was new,  it had the word "music" in printed in white on it.  When this spot was squeezed and released, it played a sweet lullaby.  

To see how that worked, please view the YouTube video posted below... This is not Danny's bear but another example of the same model, "for demonstration purposes only!" 

Feeling this bear worthy of an encore, Steiff decided to produce the original Music Teddy as a worldwide limited edition of 7,000 pieces in 1993.  This replica is pictured below.   

This singing sweetheart is a modification of Steiff's extremely popular and beloved "Original Teddy" design. This now classic and highly sought after pattern was produced in gold, blond, caramel, brown, and white mohair in the 1950 through 1966 time frame in 10, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 28, 35, 40, 43, 50, 65, and 75 cm.  An example of this bear in caramel is pictured below.

Collectors went ape over Music Teddy in the early 1950's, so Steiff decided to create another musical sensation - this time based on their classic Jocko the chimpanzee. Simply called Music Jocko, he was based the company's standard line 35 cm brown mohair chimpanzee.  A picture of Music Jocko appears below; this particular example sold at auction at Christie's in 2010 for about $700.  Like Music Teddy, Music Jocko had a squeeze-activated music box implanted in his belly, which was also noted by a red felt disk on his belly.  Music Jocko appeared in the line from 1951 through 1957.  

Now the question that gets Steiffgal feeling a little off key - his value.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and believes something is worth what some will pay for it.  She has not seen the item firsthand and cannot account for any details of its aesthetic or structural integrity, all which play an enormous role in his true "worth."  His somewhat worn appearance and lack of ID does subtract from his value.  However, this particular item is of particular interest and appeal to collectors based on his age, limited time in the line, and relative rarity overall.  Given all of that, and based on comparable sales, here in the USA he most likely values in the $450 to $800 range today.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Danny's Music Teddy has you singing a happy tune.  

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

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Coming To Your Rescue With This Delightful Vintage Steiff St. Bernard

It's certainly the dogs days of summer around these parts, with the temperature hovering in the 90's most of the time. It also appears to be "the dog days of Steiff" with this most interesting question from a reader about his blue ribbon family heirloom.  Roger from the UK writes in part...


I have a pull-along “King Charles’ Spaniel” made by Steiff, which was given to my mother around 1910, in the UK.

I can give you the following information about him: 
  • No eartag but there is a small hole to the rear of the right ear, near the head.
  • Not jointed and hard stuffed.
  • He is 14 in (36 cm) high on his wheels.
  • He is 5 in (13 cm) wide.
  • He is 14 in (36 cm) long and nose to rear and 21 in (53 cm) nose to tail.
  • He has brown and black glass pupil eyes and a hand embroidered nose and mouth.
  • He is made from mohair and has a leather color with 7 metal raised script ‘STEIFF’ studs.
  • He rides on brass wheels and has a braided pull cord.

I have only ever seen a picture of a pull-along bear, on similar wheels, so I am very curious to know anything more about ‘Rover’, above. Are you able to help?

Thank you, Roger"

Steiffgal just loves it when questions like this roll in!  What Roger has here is not actually a King Charles Spaniel, but a St. BernardAs Roger describes above, this early model is standing, unjointed, and made from mohair.  This is a very popular and beloved turn of last century Steiff design.  He was made in 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 80, and 99 cm from the 1904 through 1927 time frame.  Items like this are usually measured height wise sans wheels, so this piece is probably the 28 cm size. Depending on the size and date of the example, this model appeared with an open as well as closed mouth, with a voice, on metal or wooden wheels, and with a steering mechanism. Roger's dog has glass eyes, dating him from around 1912 onward, which makes sense with his family's ownership timeline.  The dog's Steiff button studded collar makes him particularly interesting from a collector's perspective. 

Most collectors would climb every mountain to add this dog - with breed origins in the Italian and Swiss alps - to their Steiff hug. Roger's St. Bernard is the first of its breed to appear in the Steiff catalog. A similar design, but without wheels and made in lamb's wool plush, appeared in the line from 1904 though 1919. In the mid-19-teens, Steiff introduced a puppy St. Bernard to the marketplace; his chubby features, childlike face, and large, floppy paws made him all but irresistible. Made in mohair or lamb's wool plush, he was available through 1927. In 1928, Steiff went back to the drawing board and completely redesigned their standard line St. Bernard - this updated pattern is shown here above. The new model had a much more detailed face, a softer and more rounded muzzle, and playful, innocent presence to it. These design features were common to many new Steiff designs launched in the mid to late 1920's - a very "happy" and innovative time at Steiff. This pattern was produced standing, sitting, on wheels, and as a tail turns head model over time through 1943.

St. Bernards continued to be a loyal and faithful member of the Steiff pack once the factory reopened for business in the late 1940's post World War II.  A larger mohair riding St. Bernard on wheels - based on the pre-war design - appeared in the line in 43, 50, 60, and 62 cm from 1949 through 1957.   A slightly simplified standing model, also based on the prewar design, was available in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1953 through 1957.  In the early 1960's, Steiff again updated their standard line St. Bernard and even gave him a name for the first time - Bernie.  Bernie is shown here above.  Bernie was made from mohair and available sitting or standing on all fours.  New Bernie had less prominent facial airbrushing, a chunkier build, and a smaller scale tail; standing Bernie also featured a cask attached to his collar.  Overall, sitting Bernie was produced in 12 and 22 cm from 1963 through 1970 while standing Bernie was made in 22 cm from 1964 through 1966.  From the late 1960's to the present day, St. Bernards have always been a standard feature in the Steiff line, mostly appearing in large size plush models for children's fun and play. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's St. Bernard history has come to your rescue at just the right time.  

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