Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Ivy League Style Steiff Mystery

Eye, eye, eye... who is this?  That's the question that immediately popped into Steiffgal's head when she saw this little bug-eyed Steiff fellow at a delightful vintage doll and toy store in Connecticut recently.  Any ideas?  Well, here's a clue to help you out with this mystery.  He's one top dog, representing a top tier Ivy League university!  

Let's take a closer look at his report card.  This brilliant Bulldog is standing on all fours, unjointed, and 14 cm tall. He is made from tan mohair that has been detailed with black, brown, and tan airbrushing and has googly, round eyes.  These great peepers are very similar in style to those of Steiff's Basset Hounds, which were in the line from 1961 through 1963. Bulldog's jowls are elaborately constructed and lined in pink velvet.  Interestingly, his nose is made from black glass and he purposefully has one ear down and one ear up, giving him a most inquisitive look.  Perhaps he is listening to a lecture on ancient history or physics? 

Go to the head of the class if you recognized this Bulldog as the mascot of Yale University.   According to the Steiff Sortiment book, this bulldog pattern appeared with a red and white felt blanket for Brown University or a blue and white blanket for Yale University.  It is interesting to note that Brown University never had a Bulldog as a mascot; their logo has been a bear since the turn of last century.  So the Brown Bulldog reference may be incorrect.  In any case, he is a highly sought after United States exclusive and was produced in 1957 only.  Since this particular model doesn't have his blanket, it is impossible to tell if he was made for Yale or the mystery "B" school.  However, Steiffgal purchased just a few miles from New Haven, home of Yale, so there is a good chance he started out his life as a Yalie in blue and white!

Smarty-pants Bulldog is just one in a series of interesting university and institutional mascots Steiff produced in the 1950's and early 1960's.  For colleges, Steiff made a Columbia University lion and lioness pair, a Duke University devil, a much larger sized Yale University bulldog (pictured above; he also has a black glass nose), and three versions of the Princeton University tiger.  In addition to higher ed mascots, Steiff also made several versions of the US Army donkey and US Navy goat.  Most mascots bore felt blankets bearing the first initial of the school or military branch. 

Being a Cornell graduate, Steiffgal is disappointed that Steiff never made a mascot for her school, whose logo is "The Big Red Bear."

Steiffgal hopes this class on Steiff's 1950's era mascots has been a true educational adventure for you.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All Ears Over This Wonderful And Early Steiff German Shepherd

Listen up!  Steiffgal just got back from a visit with collectors from the Orlando area, at a wonderful Steiff event sponsored by Judy's Dolls of Longwood, Florida.  And guess what just "rolled" into the appraisal clinic?  This fabulous but somewhat mysterious Steiff dog with large floppy ears, perched upon wooden wheels.   When Steiffgal saw him, he sort of rang a bell with her - but something wasn't exactly lining up.  After a few minutes of noodling, she finally figured him out.  So, just who is this delightful doggie?

Hear, hear... what we have here is Steiff's early Arco German Shepherd on wheels.  He is 43 cm standing, made of mohair, and unjointed.  He has an open, felt lined mouth and felt lined ears.  His body is detailed with brown, tan, and black airbrushing, giving his fur and coat nice texture and a realistic appearance.  His face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose.  His claws are indicated by black stitches, and he has a thick and impressive tail.  He rides upon a black metal carriage and four red wooden wheels.  Arco has his original red and white pull cord and red wooden handle.  Overall, Arco on wheels was made in 35, 43, 50, 60, and 70 cm from 1937 through 1943.  This design was also called "Police Dog" and some models had this name imprinted on their chest tags.

This blue ribbon beauty is clearly "man's best friend" as well as a "friend for life."  As a result, he has suffered a bit of wear that in some ways made his exact identity a bit challenging initially.  Much of this focuses around his facial area.  One of the details that makes the early Arco design so particularly life-life and irresistible is his ears.  They were made to stand straight up, much like the real dog.  (You can see this here on the left, in a photo from the Steiff Sortiment book, which shows what this example looked like when new.) This was done by lining the ears in a metal wire, much like Steiff's ear construction on their beloved Petsy bears.  However, in this example, the ears were extremely floppy and positioned high up on the dog's head.   It was apparent that over time, the ears had come loose and someone tried to sew them back on, albeit in a somewhat sloppy way.  It is Steiffgal's best guess that when the ears were sewn back on, someone removed the wires so they would not stick out on the ends of repair.  When she felt along the perimeter of the ears, she did feel small pieces of wire; it is also possible that the wire broke over time and when the ears were replaced, the seamstress took out as much of the wire as possible.  

Arco's other facial issue, was, well, easy to see.  His eyes just didn't look right.  One was much larger and rounder than the other.  Steiff traditionally attaches eyes to their products by sewing them securely through the head (yes, this requires a mighty big needle, great skill, and strength!) and tying the two threads in a large knot at the the back base of the neck. You can usually feel this as a significant bump or indent on an item.  However, Steiffgal could not find this feature on this Arco.  She also noticed that when she ran her finger around the perimeter of the eyes, she felt a hard glue-like residue.  It is Steiffgal's best guess that the original eyes had fallen out, and over time, someone had found replacement eyes and glued them back into place. 

To repair, or not to repair, that is the question.  Steiffgal realizes that every collector and enthusiast has their own feelings about this question.  Issues of authenticity, value, cost, and personal preference all come into play here.  However, in this case, Steiffgal recommended to Arco's owners that they consider having him professionally restored, given that the dog is in otherwise really nice condition, is relatively rare in this size and configuration,  and appears to be completely structurally sound.  No surprise here, but they were all ears over this suggestion!  This relatively simple two step facial restoration, if done professionally by an expert, would bring back his absolute charm and help draw attention to his most impressive features.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this vintage Steiff Arco has shepherded you into a new way of thinking about restoration.  

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

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grabbing The Brass Ring With This Unusual Vintage Steiff Dog

And they call it "puppy love!" Steiffgal's not referring to the famous Donny Osmond song bemoaning a teenage crush here... but about her latest vintage Steiff dog find!  Take a look at this tiny handful of canine cuteness.   Not only is his design blue ribbon quality, his unusual Steiff button is best in show, too!  Sit and stay and take a look at what makes this pooch so interesting from the collector's perspective.

What we have here is Steiff's wonderful Waldi, the long haired Dachshund.  Waldi is 10 cm, standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from copper colored mohair.  He has sweet, longish ears which have been tacked to the side of his head with a stitch or two.  Waldi's face is detailed with shiny black glass eyes and a black hand embroidered nose.  His mouth is indicated by a little black airbrushing.  Waldi wears his original green leather collar and has his red, tan, yellow, and blue "watermelon" shaped bear faced tag, with his name imprinted in crimson.  

This pattern is particularly endearing.  But don't just take Steiffgal's word on it.  Even Steiff describes Waldi in their literature as "a very expressive model."  It is most unusual for the company to comment on their own designs.

Waldi appeared continuously and practically unchanged in the line for almost 50 (people, not dog...) years.  Standing Waldi was made in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1933 through 1943.  This same design was produced in a "begging" position in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1933 through 1936, and on wheels from 1933 through 1943.  Post war, standing Waldi was produced in 17, 22,  and 28 cm from 1949 through 1980 and on wooden wheels in 17 and 22 cm from 1949 through 1970. 

This pup's mettle - er, metal, is quite apparent. Besides his lovely copper color, his button also has a spectacular glow about it. Waldi sports a most unusual BRASS colored Steiff button. It is the short trailing "f" style and 6 mm in diameter. This button appeared on some Steiff items from 1933/34 through 1943. This is the first time that Steiffgal has ever seen this button, and it is the only item in her collection of 750+ vintage Steiff items bearing this distinctive trademark. Most of the time, for items produced in the mid 1930's through early 1940's time frame, Steiff used a silver colored short trailing "f" button.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's unusually buttoned Waldi has covered the brass tacks of his identification and legacy for you. 

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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

This Huge Steiff Surprise Appeared Right Out Of The Blue!

Steiffgal's about to share a GIANT surprise with you... because it certainly was to her!  One of the most magical things about Steiff is that "new" vintage treasures seem to always appear "out of the blue...." and in this case, that's exactly what we have here!  Take a look at this note from a reader from the northeast part of the USA who asks about a larger than life family heirloom. Jeanne writes in part:


I was hoping that you would have some information about our big Steiff Teddy Bear.  Here is a photo of him wearing a top hat and ribbons on his ears. 

Our Teddy was given to my grandmother when she was a child; Grandma is now 91 years old. My great-grandmother was shopping during the Great Depression when she saw this huge Teddy Bear is a shopkeeper’s display window. She wanted to buy it for my grandmother who was her only child. She brought the Teddy Bear home on the bus; I guess it was quite a struggle. The Teddy took up a whole seat by himself! My great-grandmother lived way out in the country so it was a long ride.

Soon afterwards, my great-grandmother passed away and my grandmother was raised by a nanny.

We really don’t know too much about our Teddy Bear. He’s got blue eyes and he’s very large. He’s about 75 cm while sitting. He’s got enormous feet; his foot pads measure about 10” long. He’s got a Steiff button in his ear. He’s in okay condition considering that he’s been mauled by a dozen grandchildren over the years. He’s been very well enjoyed by the past 4 generations of our family.

One of his ears has a tear near his head. He’s got a few loose threads hanging from his nose. One of his foot pads has some loose stitches. His feet have a few small stains. His fur is a bit threadbare and faded in a few areas. His growler doesn’t work. He’s getting droopy from age. But we still love him!

My grandfather used to display the bear on floats during parades. He enjoyed dressing the bear up. 

I really enjoyed your website. I love to see pictures of Steiff bears.

Thanks so much, 


WOWZA...Steiffgal's gotta catch her breath on this one.  What Jeanne has here is a humongous Steiff Petsy bear.  This bear is simply awesome in so many ways, including the fact that his entire history with Jeanne's family has been documented over the years.  From the historical and collector's perspective, Petsy had a very short, but very sweet, appearance in the Steiff catalog, only appearing from 1928 through the very early 1930's.  What made him different than past designs, among other factors, was his prominent middle facial seam which ran vertically from his forehead across his snout, and his metal lined ears, which allowed them to be posed in many fun and comical ways. 

During his years in the line, Petsy was produced in two "flavors."  The first was a brown tipped mohair version with blue eyes (like Jeanne's here) with pink/red facial and claw stitching.  Some of these tipped Petsy bears had black and blue traditional glass pupil eyes; others had the more playful black and blue cartoon style eyes.  The second Petsy version was made from brass mohair; they were detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and black facial and claw stitching. The tipped version appeared in ten sizes ranging from 15 to 50 cm sitting (or 22 to 75 cm standing) while the brass version was only produced in one size:  22 cm sitting or 32 cm standing.  Tipped Petsy was also produced as a musical Ted in 17 and 20 cm (or 25 and 30 cm standing), on a four wheeled rolling cart in 20 and 25 cm, as a 17 cm puppet, and as a 17 cm purse. 

Notice that a 75 cm sitting or 115 cm standing version of Petsy is not mentioned here? 

Steiff's big bruins have always generated huge interest with collectors and those interested in the company's product design evolution.  And there is evidence and precedent for 115 cm sized bears in the late 1920's and early 1930's.  For example, the 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book documents the following three bears in 115 cm (standing size): a "Happy" Teddy bear, in the line in 1926; a Teddy clown in the line from 1926 through 1930; and a Dicky in the line from 1931 through 1935.  Clearly, the company produced a 115 cm Petsy as well; perhaps so few were made that the company did not keep a sample of one for the archives or just unintentionally omitted keeping a record of their manufacture.  

Now for the big question, the really big question... his possible worth.  As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser, and fully believes something is worth what someone will pay for it.  She has also not seen the bear firsthand -yet- so she cannot truly take into account structural issues that cannot be captured on film well, such as rips, tears, odors, and dry rot.  It is interesting to note that a 35 cm/49 cm (sitting and standing size) brown tipped, blue eyed Petsy sold for £23,600 or close to $40,000 at the 2012 London Toy Auction; this gorgeous example is pictured here on the left.  Given that Jeanne's bear is an original, early Petsy (one of the most sought after Steiff bear designs of all times,) his unusual, uncatalogued size, and fabulous provenance, and assuming that he is in as hearty condition as his owner describes, he may value in the $40,000 to $50,000+ range today.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Jeanne's Petsy has got you dreaming about Steiff in a super sized way!

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

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Discovering The History Behind A Remarkable Steiff Find

We've all heard the expression, "Finders, keepers... losers, weepers!" And in this particular case, the "find" is something with a wonderful and heartwarming story behind it. Take a look at this note from a reader who asks about a serendipitous baby gift he received almost 60 years ago.  Michael from New York writes...

"Hello Steiffgal,

I have had the attached bear since I was a little boy. My sister found him on the street in NYC in the mid 1950's and took him home to give to me - her new baby brother!

He stands about 6 1/2 inches from tip of ear to foot. My sister tells me that he had a tag on him when found that said "Made in Germany." He has 5 joints, and if I recall correctly, he used to squeak when pressed.

I am not concerned on his worth, because to me he is priceless and has been my companion for 58 years. I just want to know, after all these years, if he is a Steiff, and if so his year.
Thank You,

Wow... talk about a wonderful discovery and perfect timing!  What Michael has here is not only a Steiff bear, but a very dear example of the company's rare and quite desirable "Jackie" Bear.  Jackie is light blond mohair, five ways jointed, and has a distinctly round and chubby appearance, especially in his belly, hips, and thighs.   His paw pads are made from tan colored felt.  He is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws.  Jackie was produced in 17, 25, 35, and 75 cm from 1953 through 1955 only (which perfectly aligns with when Michael's sister found him on the street!)  Jackie was produced in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Teddy bear - specifically the 50th anniversary of the registration of 55PB (an early and famous Steiff bear design) at the Heidenheim (Germany) district court in 1903. 

Steiff's Jackie bears have several distinctive characteristics which make them "O" so wonderful.  Some of these are still evident on Michael's bear; others have been lost to time and love.  These include:   

  • a light pink stitch across the nose (you can see where this might have been if you look closely at his nose)
  • an airbrushed belly button (you can see the slight remains of this right in the middle of his stomach)
  • when new, lots of facial airbrushing (lost to love and time)
  • a raised script ear button (lost to love and time)
  • a white fabric "US Zone" tag sewn in their arm seam (according to family history, was present when found on the street)
  • large hands that are proportionally large for her chubby arms and don't have the break at the wrist (yes!)
  • short, plump legs and belly (yes!)
  • a small booklet about Jackie and Steiff (lost to love and time) 
Because of their brief time in the Steiff line, and their distinctive pattern, Jackie bears are among the most desirable post-WW2 Steiff items for most collectors.  The 2010 Steiff Auction at Christie's in London featured several of these beauties; the illustration above shows a "pristine" 17 cm example.  It is not unusual for complete examples of this bear with all IDs and their original booklets to sell in the high four figures. 
And what does Jackie's owner make of all of this news?  According to Michael...
"Thanks so much for your informative answer!  I always knew he was special! :) I have loved this guy since little and still do (Even though I am a retired cop! Weird huh!)  I will leave him to my daughter after I am gone as she knows how much he means to me."

Steiffgal hopes the story behind Michael's Jackie adds a little luck to your day, too!

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