Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bright Eyed And Bushy Tailed Over This Great Vintage Steiff Squirrel

Steiffgal's dreaming of a Steiffy Christmas... for all of her blog's beloved readers!  Hopefully Santa and/or loved ones brought you a few new - or vintage - Steiff items for your collection this holiday season.  As you might know, Steiffgal has a thing for Steiff items produced in the early 1940's through early 1950's time frame, as these treasures often have unusual or mysterious combinations of IDs and designs... so she couldn't be more pleased with one item in particular the big guy in red brought to her this holiday season!  Take a look at this super-duper Steiff squirrel and see what makes her so interesting from the collector and historical perspectives.

It's easy to go nuts over this very early postwar Steiff squirrel.  She is 20 cm tall, unjointed, and in the "begging" position.  Her belly and front are made from white mohair, while her back, face, and limbs are made from short red-brown mohair.  Her tail and her pert ears are made from longer red-brown mohair.  Squirrel's face is detailed with large black glass eyes, clear mono-filament whiskers, and a simple, black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  She has black hand embroidered claws on her hands and feet.  And, you can't help but notice her tan velvet acorn, which is stitched to her in three places - on each of her front paws and also her mouth area.  This squirrel was produced in red-brown and white, as well as grey and white, in 20 cm from 1949 through 1956.

There are three things that make Steiffgal so bright eyed and bushy-tailed over this vintage squirrel.  

The first is her button.  This forest friend has the most unusual "block letter" style button, meaning that the word "Steiff" appears in all capital letters on the Steiff button.  This button was only used on items from around 1947 through 1952, and is extremely rare.  As a matter of fact, Steiffgal only has three or four items with this button amongst her collection of 800+ vintage items.  A close up of the squirrel's "block letter" button is shown here on the left.
The second is her production time frame.  This item is identical in design and proportion to one Steiff produced from 1934 through 1942.  The prewar version, like the post war version, was made either in red-brown and white mohair, or grey and white mohair.  Both color options held a velvet nut... a close up of this is shown here on the left.  The pre-war model was also produced in 25 cm.  It is entirely possible that that Steiffgal's new vintage friend was produced in the early 1940's, stored in inventory through the war, and then buttoned and distributed post war. This design, regardless of exact production date, clearly bridges both pre- and postwar manufacturing.

The third is her labeling - or lack of it.  Most early post war items have a distinctive white linen "US Zone" tag sewn into a prominent body or limb seam; this is usually seen in items sold between 1947 and 1953.  An example of this tag is shown here on the left. This squirrel does not have this, or any indication that she ever did.  Steiffgal has noticed that the very earliest items distributed by the company post war did not have this tag - perhaps because Steiff was anxious to begin selling before this regulation came into strict enforcement.   Most of these "label deficit" items have Steiff's early post war blank (5 mm, nickle, used from 1948 through 1950) or "block letter" style buttons.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early postwar squirrel has been an informative and great tail indeed.

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Care To Play Sherlock Holmes With A Few Steiff Mystery Items?

Would you agree turn-about is fair play?  Well, Steiffgal's beloved readers usually come to her to solve Steiff mysteries.  Now she's looking for their assistance!  Steiffgal has recently acquired three most unusual Steiff items, but doesn't seem to be able to find out any history or background about them.  Can you help?  If so, please send any information to her at - and she will post your insights on the blog, so we all can learn about these oddities.  

It's easy to get right to the point with this first item.  Here we has a Steiff branded name badge.  The tag itself is made of white plastic and is constructed like a frame; one can slide their name into the double walled portion of its midsection.  It measures 7 cm long by 2-3/4 cm high, and is about 4 mm thick.  The front is yellow with the Steiff Teddy bear head logo and "button in ear" tag line in red, with the words "Advice on Steiff available from" also in red.  The reverse is white, and has a safety style pin for securing the badge to a shirt or blouse.  The writing on the back reads:

B. H. Meyer's 
Turnplatz 2 Postfach 1266
7530 Pforzheim

It is interesting to note that the badge was made in Pforzheim, which is a town of about 120,000 residents in the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany. Pforzheim is 90 minutes west of Giengen, the home of the Steiff company. Meyer has been in business since the late 1800's, and is best known for producing custom minted coins, medallions, and ingots. Perhaps plastic molded items are, or were, other lines of business for the Meyer Company.

So, without naming any names, do any readers recognize this ID badge as something you saw a salesperson wear at a toy or department store years ago?  If so, when, and where...?  And why is it in English, when clearly it was manufactured in Germany?  

OK, let's come clean with this next fabulous albeit cryptic Steiff treasure.  What we have here is a box of Steiff branded Teddy bear soaps in a yellow-orange corrugated cardboard box.  The box itself is 17 cm long x 6-1/2 cm wide by 4-1/2 cm tall.  The container, which has a red and yellow die-cut Steiff logo on the top, is lined in shreds of red paper, most likely to cushion the soaps.  There are three bear soaps in the box; they are sitting and 5-1/2 cm tall each.  There is a cream colored one, a mocha colored one, and a yellow one.  The mocha one has a red and yellow split style paper chest tag bearing the word "soap" where the name of the animal usually is placed.  There is a sticker on the back of the box, entirely in Japanese, that seems to suggest that there are three soaps in the box, each weighing 45 grams; this sticker is pictured here on the left.

So wonderful readers - especially those in Japan - can you scrub your minds and tell us ANYTHING that bubbles up about these Steiff soaps?  

And finally, let's get write to today's last Steiff mystery item.  Here we have what appears to be a child's stationery set emblazoned with a delightful scene of a horse drawn carriage overflowing with our favorite Steiff characters.  The fun includes Sheddy pony, Jumbo elephant, Tulla goose, Lora parrot, Pieps mouse, Dangling frog, Cosy Teddy, Dangling Tom cat, Clownie, a woolen bird and ladybug, Nagy beaver, Cosy fox, Lucki dwarf, a mohair hen and rooster, Cosy calf, blue tit bird, and a goldfinch bird.

Hold everything!  The set is contained within a 19 cm tall by 19 cm long square white cardboard storage envelope.  Within the big envelope are 10 small white mailing envelopes with green linings, and 10 sheets of kid-sized stationary featuring the same illustration that is on the front of the big envelope.  On the back of the big envelope, it reads:

Schreibe spielend
Writing is play
Ecrire est un jeu
Schrijf spelenderwijs

The first statement is in German, the second in English, the third in French, and the fourth is in Dutch - clearly suggesting that this stationery set was made for the global marketplace.  The back of the folder is also imprinted with what appears to be the logo of the manufacturer - Heyder - the code P 417, and the words, "Made in Western Germany."

Given the cast of characters featured in the illustration, it would be safe to say that this stationery set probably was made in the early 1970's.  

Dear readers - can anyone provide any more details on this sweet Steiff stationery set?  Do you perhaps recall having one as a child?  Any information, even a back of the envelope calculation, would be most appreciated!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on mysterious Steiff items has brought out the Sherlock Holmes in you!

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Getting "Sassy" Over A New Children's Book Featuring Vintage Steiff Animals!

Extra, extra, read all about it!  Steiff animals have a long tradition of appearing as characters in beloved children's books.  And why might that be?  Well, besides being totally adorable and photographing well, these dear plush creatures were designed as friends for life...  and a big part of being a kid is enjoying a good bedtime story!  It goes without saying Steiffgal was more than delighted to learn about a just-published tale that features some of our most favorite button-in-ear buddies!  The book is titled Sassafrass Jones And The Search For A Forever Home, and is the story of a sweet Pekingese dog and how just the right environment, and friends, can make all the difference.  Without giving away the story, let's take a look at the book and see what makes it so interesting from the Steiff lover's perspectives.

Good things come in threes, and there is a trifecta of distinctive Steiff highlights associated with the story.  The first, of course, is that it stars some of Steiff's most beloved characters from primarily the 1950's thorough the 1970's.  The authors have dressed these friends to the nines in fine couture, hats, and jewelry, and photographed them in remarkably detailed, doll house scaled settings to tell their story. In order of appearance, the story's Steiff cast of characters includes:
  • Wittie Owl, whoooo (yes, pun intended) was produced in 10, 14, 22, and 35 cm from 1954 through 1977.
  • Dressed Pieps mice, who were produced from 1962 through 1970 in a variety of outfits, including a bride, ballerina, princess, clown, Red Riding Hood, and Miss America, in 8 cm.
  • Diggy badger, who was produced in 10 and 15 cm from 1959 through 1966.
  • Bib the dressed rabbit boy, who was produced in 12 cm from 1954 through 1964.
  • Possy squirrel, who was produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1957 through 1976.
  • Nagy beavers, who were produced in 10, 17, and 25 cm from 1958 through 1978; two from the book are pictured above on the left.
  • Perri squirrel, who was produced in 12, 17, and 22 cm from 1959 through 1983.
  • Goldie hamster, who was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1955 through 1974.
  • Nelly snail, who was produced in 10 cm from 1961 through 1963.
  • Maxi mole, who was produced in 12 and 15 cm from 1964 through 2001.
  • Nightcap Rabbits, who were produced in 15 cm between 1968 and 1973. 
The second interesting Steiff consideration with Sassafrass Jones And The Search For A Forever Home is how it fits into the continuum of publications featuring the brand.   Perhaps the first book that specifically used Steiff bears as part of its tale was Mr. Cinnamon Bear by Sara Tawney Lefferts, who published her work in 1907.  

Since then, Steiff animals have taken center stage in many classic children's stories.  An early example is The Perfect Zoo, which was written by Elanor Farjeon, illustrated by Katy Kruse, and published in 1929.  This story is like a late 1920's Steiff catalog time capsule, as it features many delightful Steiff animals from that period including Molly, Bully, Rabinette, and Petsy, among others.  The late 1950's brought readers - and collectors - Lost Bear, written by Ann Durell with photographs by Desmond Russell, and Magic Night for Lillibet, written and photographed by Gerry Turner with drawings by Ralph Owen.  Lost Bear tells the story of a Steiff bear finding his way home thanks to the help of group of Steiff friends, while Magic Night for Lillibet tells the story of a little girl and her quest to find her missing Steiff giraffe.  More recently, Daisy C.S. Spedden's 2001 book Polar the Titanic Bear tells the story of the Titanic disaster through the eyes of a Steiff polar bear.

Perhaps the most beloved "literary" Steiff character of all is the company's Jackie, who was the “Little Bear” character from Dare Wright’s legendary series of children’s books from the late 1950s. A photo from this series is pictured here on the left; Jackie is on the far left.  Wright's first book, The Lonely Doll, made the New York Times children’s books bestseller list in 1957. In November 2010, The British Newspaper The Guardian named The Lonely Doll one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of all time.  

Last but hardly least, the third important thing Steiff enthusiasts need to know about this book is that it was co-authored by a passionate and lifelong Steiff collector and animal lover!  Cathleen Smith Bresciani, from the Atlanta, Georgia area wrote the book with her long time colleague Richard Eldredge.  Steiffgal contacted Cathleen to hear more about this project and her interest in Steiff.  It turns out that the authors are donating the proceeds from the sale of this book a number of nonprofit organizations including Canine Companions for Independence and The Humane Society of New York.  Steiffgal gives that initiative two thumbs, or in this case paws, up. Here's more of what she learned...

Steiffgal:  Tell us about the history of your interest in Steiff animals and a little bit about your personal Steiff collection.


Today, I have over 400 vintage Steiff items in my collection.  I first was introduced to Steiff at the age of six, by my best friend who had a magnificent collection of Steiff animals. She also gave me my first Steiff! It was love at first sight! I purchased my first Steiff item on my own when I was 11, it was a hedgehog, and I got it at FAO Schwarz.  That's a day I will never forget!


What is your favorite item in your Steiff collection, and why? 

My favorite Steiffs have always been the Pieps mice, especially the ones who were sold wearing dresses and costumes for FAO Schwarz in the 1960's. My sister and I received the Steiff City and Country mouse houses for Christmas in 1967.  These were "dollhouse" sized little homes that were fully furnished and designed for play and imaginative fun.  I've been smitten ever since with their magic.


How did you come up with the idea of transforming your lifelong hobby into a children's book?


A friend of mine who is a top art dealer in Atlanta suggested that I create a book with my collection, she thought it to be too special not to share with the public!  I am really thankful for her mentorship, and that I followed through on her advice!


How did you choose the specific Steiff animals in the book for the characters?


I placed a few Pieps mice next to a gingerbread house in my kitchen and shot some rough photos with my iPad and thought... this is really adorable! As the story developed, I chose animals that I felt best suited the characters.  For example, I used Steiff's Wittie as Mr. Spotswood the adoption center director.  A kindly and wise owl would know that Sassafrass Jones would succeed!


What's next for Sassafrass Jones? Will we be seeing more of her and her Steiff friends in the future?


Yes, we are working on the next story! The next book is all about Sassafrass' adventures in Manhattan.  There she befriends all sorts of wonderful and exotic creatures! Many of my fashionably dressed Steiff treasures will be featured prominently in this book along with the city and ballerina Pieps, maybe even a few bride mice! One of the mice characters will discover she has a bat cousin who is a top decorator named Boysenbery - Boysee for Short!

Cathleen, thank you so much for your time and bringing many of the vintage Steiff community's favorite characters to life! 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about the new book Sassafrass Jones and Steiff's history of storybook illustrations has been a very good read for you.

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Exclusive Online Auction Preview, Just For Steifflife Readers!

Pssss.... wanna know a (Steiff) secret?  Steiffgal has learned of an AMAZING collection of vintage Steiff items going up for sale early next year... and she wants to share the details with you!  Check out this breathtaking photo of vintage Steiff treasures that will hit the auction block on January 10-12th, 2014.  They are all part of Theriault's Marquis event which will be held at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Newport Beach, CA.  The image reflects just a small sample of the 100+ treasures from the collection of American Steiff enthusiast Helen Welsh Gastaldo.  Let's take a look at these items and see what makes them so interesting, and exciting, from the collector's perspective.

Items 1, 2, and 5:
In this case, it's very good to get off to a shaky start.  What we have here are marvelous examples of Steiff's early skittles.  Skittles as a game was a turn of last century pastime analogous to bowling.  Steiff produced skittle sets from 1892 through 1919. Over that period of time, Steiff made the sets with hens, monkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits, poodles, pointers, cats, chicks, dachshunds, elephants, pointers, cats, and bears, among others. In all cases - except the hen and the chick versions - the kingpin wore a felt jacket and crown.  The sets produced for the European market had nine total skittles, while those for America had ten total.  All sets came with two felt "bowling" balls. 

These three skittles - an elephant, pointer, and rabbit - are made from velvet and are on a wooden base.  The elephant skittle was made from 1901 through 1916; the pointer was made from 1901 through 1909; and the rabbit was made from 1901 thorough 1916.

Item 3:
Steiffgal is certain most collectors would take a tumble for item #3.  Here we have Steiff's turn of last century tumbling monkey.  Unlike skittles, which were designed to be knocked over, Steiff's tumblers were made to wobble about, but not flip over.   It is interesting to note that the monkey on the top of this tumbler is one of the very earliest Steiff designs ever; it is quite possible that he might even be "pre-button" as this product was made even before Steiff began putting their trademark "Knopf Im Ohr" in all products starting in 1904. 

Tumbling monkey was produced in felt in 17 cm from 1894 through 1917; pre-1912 models resembled the more primitive looking one in the group photo above.  Models produced after 1912 looked much more like Steiff's traditional "Jocko" style chimp, who was debuted in 1909 and received his moniker in 1929.

Items 4 and 14:
These two items will most definitely generate more than just a hare of interest.  These honey bunnies are none other than original Steiff Peter Rabbit dolls!  In 1902, a "little book" written and illustrated by English author Beatrix Potter, hit the market in a big way. This book, Peter Rabbit, became a worldwide sensation due to its simple, universal story and beautiful illustrations. Ms. Potter created a little Peter Rabbit doll and registered it in the London patent office. Despite numerous attempts, she could not find a manufacturer in England to produce her toy. Steiff got wind of this, and soon became the producer of the "official" Peter Rabbit doll for the English market.   

It is generally understood by collectors that a "Steiff Peter Rabbit" is standing and wears a felt topcoat and slippers. According to the Steiff Sortiment, the gold standard Steiff reference book, there are two version of Peter Rabbit. The first is a spotted white velvet version wearing a red or navy topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 10, 22, and 28 cm from 1904 through 1919.The second is a white wool plush version wearing a green felt topcoat and red slippers; he was produced in 22 cm from 1904 through 1918. 

Item 10:
Interestingly, at the exact time that Steiff was manufacturing its Peter Rabbit dolls, they also produced a similarly designed white wool plush cat, poodle, bulldog, pig, and elephant.  All were 22 cm, sitting, flat bottomed, begging, and dapperly attired in felt topcoats and slippers identical in design to the one worn by the Peter Rabbit.   

Item #10 in the photo is indeed a nice example of the pig; specifically, this design was manufactured from 1904 through 1918.

Items 6 and 9:
These next two items should be treated like royalty!  Here we have two versions of Steiff's early unjointed Spitz or Pomeranian dogs.  See how #9, the one on wheels, has a red cord around his neck?  Most likely #6 did too, when he left the factory in Giengen over a century ago.  Early Steiff Spitz dogs usually wore a red cord with two pom-poms or tassels around their necks, giving them a “regal” appearance. The breed does have some connections to German nobility, which may explain why they are decorated like “little kings.”   

Spritz on wheels was manufactured in 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from over the 1902 through 1929 time period.  Sitting Spritz was produced in 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1902 through 1927.  This pattern was also produced jointed, as well as on a pincushion.

Items 12 and 21:
Besides bears, dogs are, and have always been, the second most important category in the Steiff line.  There was even a time in the mid to late 1920's where dog production outnumbered bear production at Steiff.  Here we have two exceptional dogs that could be the "blue ribbon" in any Steiff enthusiast's collection. And they even have something quite unusual in common - Steiffgal was not aware of these two items before doing some research on them!   

Item #12 is great for many reasons, including his legacy!  He is Steiff's Lord the Great Dane, who was made from course fabric in 17, 22, and 28 cm from only 1932 through 1936.  Even rarer is item #21, which is Steiff's earliest curled wool plush poodle, which was only made in this brown color from 1892 through 1894.  Overall, this early poodle design was produced in black, grey, brown and white fur in 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm with and without wheels from 1892 through 1905.

Item 17:
Collector's just may get into a cat fight over this most unusual Steiff kitten.  Like dogs, cats are very high up on the company's list of important product cat-agories, no pun intended!  And Steiff's black cats have always held a special place in collector's hearts, due to their rarity and distinctive appearance.  The first black Steiff cat did appear in the company's debut catalog of 1892 in the form of a black standing  plush tabby, with or without wheels.  But this early lying version is a bit of a mystery... 

Despite much searching, Steiffgal was not able to find this small "lying" style black velvet cat in her Steiff archival materials.  However, based on the item's appearance, scale, and placement of bow, it is her best guess that she is an unreferenced black version of the company's early lying cat that debuted in velvet in 1899.  This general style of cat - unjointed, in a relaxed position, with a basic body shape - first appeared in felt in 1898.  Steiff's general line early lying velvet cat was produced in 6, 8, and 10 cm through 1927 in white, grey, spotted, or striped patterns.  It is interesting to note that these lying cats all held tiny woolen balls between their front paws; it is not possible to tell from the photo if this black example has one as well. 

Items 7, 8, and 11:
These three items are the wheel deal indeed.  Here we have three great examples of Steiff's rolling rarities.  Steiff has a very long tradition of producing items on wheels; many felt examples like these were featured in the company's debut catalog of 1892... including #8, the giraffe, and #11, the horse!  Wheels gave an item movement and life, so it is not surprising that Steiff designed some playthings with this feature. The earliest items were produced on metal wheels; wooden wheels made their debut in the 19-teens.  

Rolling right along, the monkey on wheels is Steiff's Record Peter, which was produced in 20 and 25 cm from 1913 through 1938.  His "vehicle" is sometimes referred to as an "Irish Mail Cart." The giraffe was produced with and without wheels in 17, 28, 35, and 65 cm from 1892 through 1909 overall.  And the handsome horse - which was one of the most popular, and prolific prewar items -  was produced overall in 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 80 cm from 1892 through 1943.

Items 13, 18, and 19:
Soft dolls debuted in the Steiff line around 1903, and were known as "karikaturpuppen" or character dolls because of their exaggerated features and cartoon-like proportions.  It was not until the early 19-teens that the company started to make dolls on a truly human scale, usually with childlike or charming looks.  Often times these dolls would be boy-girl pairs wearing "everyday" or "Sunday best" attire; the company also made a series of dolls sporting country specific clothing.  These sweet friends were made in sizes ranging from 22 to a whopping 115 cm - and always dressed to the 9's regardless of height! 

Steiffgal's not kid-ing around when it comes to these adorable Steiff youngsters.  Lucky item #13 is Steiff's Lisl, who was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 75 cm from 1909 through 1926.  It is interesting to note that in the Steiff reference books she is pictured with a miniature zither - which was Margarete Steiff's instrument of choice.  Although Steiffgal cannot find an exact reference to item #18 in her Steiff history books, she is confident that he was made in the 1911 through 1920 time frame and is most likely a student or sportsman.  Steiff made a series of very tall, elegant, and sophisticatedly dressed dolls in this timeframe, and his "look and feel" really overlap with these better-known examples.  And finally, item #19 is Anton.  This beautiful Bavarian boy was made in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm from 1909 through 1927.

Item 16:
Steiff dolls also could have a sense of humor, and this particular example certainly takes the bully pulpit on that point! Here we have Steiff's 35 cm fully jointed Tramp Strolch doll.  It is interesting to note that "strolch" translates from German to English as "Bully."  Clearly, Strolch looks like he's had better days.  His bare feet, patched pants, and "hangover" style eyes accurately reflect, and accentuate, his character. 

Tramp Strolch doll was produced in this size only from 1922 through 1928.

Items 15, 20, 22, and 23:
Finally, Steiff has a very long tradition of partnering with companies, authors, and the media to bring beloved cultural or fictional characters to life - Steiff style! Perhaps the earliest example of this took place in 1913, when Steiff was asked to create “Bibendum” out of felt in two sizes for a company in France. “Bibendum”, or “Bib”, is the Michelin Tire Man! Like the Peter Rabbits discussed previously, newspapers, books, and magazines have also provided Steiff with great ideas for very successful product development ideas.  These four items truly illustrate that point in the best way possible. 

Item #15 is Steiff's Shockheaded Peter doll.  Steiff produced Shockheaded Peter in the 1909 through 1927 time frame in 3 sizes - 30, 35, and 43 cm. He was also available in 20 cm as a ride-on pull toy from 1916 through 1927.  Shockheaded Peter was the central character in a book written by Heinrich Hoffmann in 1845 as a gift to his son. The book was composed of ten richly illustrated tales focusing on children. Each story had a life or societal lesson and graphically illustrated the results of bad behavior in each situation, in an Edward Gorey - like fashion.  

Item #20 is the cartoon strip character "Happy Hooligan."  He was produced in 35 cm only from 1904 through 1927. Happy, who was actually usually unhappy, was character from a comic strip called Happy Hooligan penned by writer Frederick Bur Opper; the series debuted in print in 1900. 

Item #22 is Jack Rabbit, who was produced in 22 and 28 cm from 1927 through 1931.  He was, of course, the central character in a popular series of children's books (of the time) by beloved author Dave Cory. 

Item #23 needs no introduction.  Here we have Steiff's classic velvet Mickey Mouse doll.  Steiff made Mickey Mouse from 1931 through 1936 in 11, 16, 23, 30, 36, and 48 cm. A tail moves head and a 24 cm puppet version were also produced in the same time frame. 

Steiffgal hopes this special preview has put you in the most delightful holiday mood ever!  More information about these items, which are all offered without reserve, will be posted around Christmastime at either or  Or, you can call Theriault's at 1-800-638-0422 to order the print catalog, which is scheduled to ship the last week in December. 

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Begging For Information On This Princely Dalmatian

What makes an item a "crown jewel" in a Steiff collection?  Well, everyone has their own opinions and preferences for sure.  But it is true, that some special finds truly merit the royal treatment.  Check out this little Dalmatian, who just might be an heir apparent to the Steiff throne!

No need to beg for information on this most adorable "Spotty Dottie!"  Here we have Steiff's Royal Dalmatian Dally.  He is 14 cm and made from white mohair which is playfully marked with black airbrushed spots.  His ears are black mohair.  He is in the "begging" position and is head jointed.  His face is detailed with black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  His lips are highlighted with a little touch of red airbrushing.  Royal Dally wears his original red leather collar.  

Royal Dally was made in 1963 only as an exclusive item for the upscale US toy retailer FAO Schwarz. It is interesting to note that this Dalmation appeared just on the heels of Steiff's Rolly Dalmation, which was produced in 12 and 22 cm in 1962 only for the Walt Disney Company in conjunction with the movie 101 Dalmatians.

So just what makes this item so princely?  When he was new, he wore a gold crown that was decorated with faux rhinestones, as well as a red cape with gold ties.  A complete Steiff Royal Dally is pictured here on the left.  Steiffgal's Royal Dally must have lost these royal appointments to time, this sometimes happens when accessories are not firmly stitched in place. It is possible that Dally received his regal goodies at Steiff in Germany or at FAO Schwarz in the United States; sometimes pieces like this were detailed right at the Steiff factory and other times these finishing touches were done in the retail store.

Dally has a unique design feature that truly confirms his royal status.  He is one of the few, if not the only, postwar dog produced in this unusual sitting up begging position, with his arms prominently hanging in front of his body.  There are many dogs cataloged as "begging," but they are usually sitting with all paws on the ground. Royal Dally's begging position is very reminiscent of a typical body shape for many of Steiff's rabbits, especially the beloved Manni pattern.  Manni is pictured here on the left. 

Like many FAO exclusives, Royal Dally's pattern was based on a standard line Steiff item that was somewhat modified and updated for the store.  In this case, Royal Dally was based on Steiff's sitting Dally Dalmatian pattern, which was produced in 10, 17, and 28 cm from 1953 through 1969.  Steiff produced a number of Dalmatian themed exclusives for FAO Schwarz in the 1950's; these included a 23 cm sitting Dalmatian in 1953; 11, 22, and 28 standing Dalmatians from 1953 through 1955; a Dally family in a wicker basket in 1953; and large lying Dalmatians in 28 and 53 cm in 1956.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Royal Dally has added a spot of color to your day!

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Getting Cosy With Steiff's Delightful And Rare Sleeping Siamese Cat

It's easy to feel sleepy alot of the time around these parts, with the average daily temperature plunging, and the sun going down a little after 4 pm every day!  So the timing seemed more than perfect to welcome the arrival of a new Steiff slumbering friend to Steiffgal's collection.  Take a look at this adorable dozing cat and see what makes her so dreamy - no pun intended - from the both the collector and historical perspectives.

Care to have a snuggle with this Steiff rarity? Here we have the company's unusual and seldom seen Cosy Siamy Katze or Cosy Siamy Cat. She is 17 cm, unjointed, lying down, and made from fuzzy tan dralon that has been highlighted with tan airbrushing on her arms, legs, face, and back. Her face is detailed with a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, as well as clear monofilament whiskers.  Her muzzle and the back of her ears are made from slightly shorter dralon.  And just how can we be sure that she is sleeping?  Her closed stitched eyes all but insure a perfect night sleep - every night!  As to be expected, Cosy Siamy is exceptionally soft and cuddly.  Sleeping Siamy was produced from 1959 through 1961 in 17 cm only. 

It's like a slumber party when it comes to Steiff's delightful "sleeping style" animals.  The company produced a great number of these designs during the 1950's through the 1970's. These included a Zotty Teddy and panda bear, fox, Cocker Spaniel, tabby cat, seal, poodle, elephant, a Leo, and others. They were all prone in position and referred to as "floppy" or "cosy" animals. Most were made in two standard sizes, 17 and 28 cm; all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal had sleeping style eyes, meaning that the eyes were designed to appear closed and at peace. All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known and popular Steiff animal designs of the time.

Cosy Siamy could be considered the cat's meow of Steiff's sleeping animals.  And why is that?  First, sleeping animals were based on current Steiff favorites, yet the original Siamy Siamese cat made her final appearance in the Steiff catalog in 1954 - a full five years before being introduced as a sleeping model.  Second, Cosy Siamy was made for no more than three years, while most of the other models were made for significantly more time - some for decades!  And finally her size.  She was only made in the small size, while most of the other models were produced in the large and small size.  All of these things contribute to her rarity and in turn, interest to collectors. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Cosy Siamy has been as refreshing as a delightful afternoon's nap!

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's Easy To Love Steiff's Woolen Miniatures In A Really Big Way!

Sometimes just a little bit is more than enough!  And that is the case when it comes to Steiff's delightful woolen miniatures.  These petite and precious treasures, which are amazingly constructed and pack so much detail into so little space, have been collector's favorites since their introduction in 1931.  Steiffgal recently welcomed several new, somewhat unusual wonderful woolies into her collection.  Take a big look at these tiny treats - perhaps you'll fall in love with them, too!

Let's kick things off with this adorable "pet set."  Here we have Steiff's woolen miniature guinea pig and hamster.  Both are 6 cm, made from woolen yarn, with peach colored felt ears and double thick white felt front feet.  Both the guinea pig and hamster have black button eyes and clear mono filament whiskers.  The guinea pig is white, black, and orange while the hamster is golden yellow and white.  They are basically the same design in different colors with one finishing difference:  the hamster has a tiny white felt tail while the guinea pig is tail-less.  Both these items never had chest tags. Guinea pig appeared in the line from 1973 through 1980 and hamster from 1973 through 1979; both were made in this size only.

This next woolie will certainly bug you, but that's ok in this case.  Here we have Steiff's woolen cockchafer, also known as a may bug or beetle.  He is 4 cm and made of brown, white, and black yarn.  His underside and six legs are formed from a thin piece of brown dye-cut plastic.  He has a tiny black woolen tail.  His head most interestingly is made from a round black plastic bead, which is finished with two black string antennae.  Cockchafer was manufactured from 1969 through 1974 in this size only; he is one of the very few Steiff items that never had a Steiff button or tag.

Here we have a very small bundle of joy.  This lovely item is Steiff's woolen stork.  She is 11 cm, standing, and made from pure white woolen yarn.  Her tail feathers are scalloped and made from black felt, and her long legs and toe-d feet are red plastic.  Her tiny face is detailed with black button eyes and an orange plastic beak - which would be perfect to hold a tiny new baby! Her neck contains a flexible metal wire so it is somewhat poseable.  This item never had a chest tag as there was no place to put it. Stork was manufactured from 1970 through 1977 in this size only.  

It's always fun to hang out with Steiff, and this last item really illustrates that point.  Here we have Steiff's highly kinetic "Woolen Coral Reef Fish Mobile."  The mobile consists of five little woolen miniature fish that are carefully balanced and weighted on tan strings and thin metal wires to create this hanging piece of art.  The fish themselves are 7 cm each and made from colorful woolen yarns.  Each has black plastic fins, large brown and black pupil eyes, and a large, smiling, felt mouth.  The fish are primarily blue, yellow, green, orange, and red, and all have their button and yellow flag on their top fin area. This set appeared from 1969 through 1975 packaged in a square plastic box.  This marvelous mobile hangs playfully from Steiffgal's dining room chandelier and is a constant source of food for thought - no pun intended!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of unusual Steiff post war woolen miniatures has helped to brighten your day in a big way.

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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

This Well Dressed Steiff Rabbit Doll Deserves A Standing Ovation

Steiffgal certainly finds most Steiff items appealing, but there are some that are truly outstanding - literally!  Most recently, she has had the pleasure of welcoming a somewhat rare standing rabbit into her collection.  And with his stylish apparel, it is fair to say he has a leg up in the fashion department as well!  Take a look at this handsome hare and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

It's so hard not to break into a big smile when it comes to this happy go lucky fellow.  Here we have Ossili.  He is 30 cm and made from mohair.  His arms are on wires and are poseable and he is head jointed.  He has a very dear little tail;  large, flat cardboard lined feet that are covered with synthetic leather paws; and sweet hand-paws that are stitched with little fingers.  His darling face is detailed with a peach colored felt lined open mouth, a pink hand embroidered nose, clear mono-filament whiskers, and large oversized black and brown pupil eyes.  He wears a red felt necktie and a green felt apron decorated with a yellow felt pocket. Ossili was produced in this size only from 1962 through 1974.

So what's in a name, especially Ossili?  It is Steiffgals' best guess that Ossili's name may be a nod to the German word Ostern, which translates to the delightful, and bunny-centric holiday of Easter!

Face it, sweet Ossili really resembles another well known and beloved standing dressed rabbit design called Nikili.  Nikili was produced as a bub, or boy, and a maedel, or girl, in two versions.  The earlier version was in  production from 1951 through 1957; the boys wore Dutch style green felt overalls and the girls wore calico skirts and matching green tops.  This set was produced in 25 and 35 cm.  The later version was in production from 1958 through 1963; the boys wore dark felt shorts and red vests and the girls work red polka-dotted skirts and white felt tops.  This second set was produced in 26 and 36 cm.    In all cases, Nikili was head and arm jointed and had the head of the very famous and beloved Niki rabbit, who is pictured here on the left.

It seems logical that Ossili is the next "generation" of the pupp-hase (doll rabbit) Nikili based on his timeline and design.  In terms of timeline, Nikili stopped production in 1963 and Ossili was introduced n 1962. So this aligns just right. In terms of design, the changes that occur between Nikili and Ossili are quite typical in the way that Steiff updated items in the product line over time - for cost and manufacturing efficiencies.  These core elements included:

  • Jointing:  Nikili was three ways jointed and Ossili was head jointed only, with unjointed arms that were posable on metal wires.  Jointing is very expensive, and by reducing the number of joints, the company could save on material and manufacturing expenses.
  • Clothing:  Nikili was fully dressed head to toe, including shoes.  Ossili wore only a simple felt necktie and felt apron, and did not have shoes.
  • Materials:  Ossili's footpads were made from synthetic leather, not felt.  This same treatment (going from felt footpads to faux leather over time) is also noted on the company's beloved panda bears and Teddy Baby patterns.
  • Handiwork details:  Nikili's nose was hand embroidered in pink with a black outline; Ossili's nose was quite similar without the extra step of a black outline.  
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's charming and delightful Ossili rabbit is worthy of a standing ovation!

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

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's No Fish Tale When It Comes To This Steiff Water Baby!

Steiffgal's grandmother had a favorite saying... that "fish and company stink after three days."  Although this may be the reality in some situations, it certainly is the opposite in the case of this extra-special and extremely rare Steiff fish, pictured here on the left.  Take a look at this most unusual Steiff water baby and see what makes him so unique from the design and historical perspectives.

Do you want to fish or cut bait with today's featured guest?  Here we have Steiff's Forelle or Trout.  He is 40 cm and made from tan silk plush and is stuffed with excelsior. His fins and tail are made from vivid turquoise colored felt which is lightly painted with stripes. His fishy face is detailed with oversized brown and black pupil eyes.  Trout's body is fantastically and elaborately hand airbrushed in shades of blue and green, with hatching on his back to resemble scales.  Trout appeared in the line for one year only - 1950 - and only in this size and coloration.  

Keeping things to scale, this little fish has many big and interesting features to discuss.  

First is his material.   Trout is made from silk plush -  a synthetic and poor wearing substitute fabric that Steiff used on several items right after the factory reopened after the war in the late 1940's.   This material was used as felt and mohair were in extremely limited supplies at the time.   Steiff items produced in silk plush in general are harder to find on the secondary market as far fewer were made, and they tended to not have the durability as products produced in more durable fabrics.

The second is his decoration and design.  Trout is truly an original pattern; he has no pre-war ancestors and fish were not a standard line species until "Flossy" was introduced in 1960.  It is curious to note that despite Trout's very simple design and construction, and relatively "cheap" materials, Steiff spared no expense to give this fish the royal airbrush treatment.  It is really hard to imagine the amount of work or skilled precision that was necessary to get this look - this trout is simply a work of art, and that's no fish tale.

The third is his place in history.  This trout was the very first United States exclusive to be produced and sold post WWII.   It can take many months, or even years, for a product to go from a concept in a designer's head to being sold on a toy store's shelves.  Thus, it is quite possible that this pattern may have had its origins pre-war, or perhaps was one of the very first new designs on the drawing table in the late 1940's.  The overall design also suggests that the company was very anxious to get back on the global stage, and tried to use the best of whatever materials and skills it had on hand to do so.  Fabrics were clearly in short supply, but Steiff more than made up for this by pouring on the handiwork, which apparently was readily available.  Although it is not clear where this exclusive was sold in the USA, both FAO Schwarz and RH Macy were larger accounts of the time.  It is most likely that Trout was available at one or both of these stores; this particular example was purchased at FAO Schwarz in New York City.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early silk plush trout has "fin"-ished in a most satisfying way for you.

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's No Trouble At All When It Comes To Steiff's Vintage Max And Moritz Characters

A little mischief is usually a good thing - and that is certainly the case with this most rare Steiff find!  Take a look at this note from Christine, who writes from Canada about a little mobile "mystery man" she picked up on an overseas journey.  She writes in part:
"Hi there,

Here is my precious Steiff elf or gnome as a pull toy.  I bought him in France in 1993 and have treasured him ever since.
He has the sweetest punk face and great orange hair.

I have not been able to find out a single thing about him or find a similar one on the net. I've seen a monkey pull toy with the same wheels and squeaker… but not my gnome.
My sister and I have a vintage home decor shop and I would like to feature him in our Christmas display.

I would love to know if you have ever come across such a fellow or if you know anything about him.

Thanks so very much!

So just who is this terrific trouble maker?  What Christine has here is none other than Steiff's own "Record Moritz."  The doll itself is the company's version of the very popular fictional character Moritz, who was half of the famous Max and Moritz duo.  Moritz is 25 cm and made entirely from felt.  His hair is made from orange mohair.  He wears a green felt suit and brown felt boots, all which are original to him and integral to his body.  The suit coat has a little collar and flowing tails.  Moritz's face has the typical center seam and is detailed with black button eyes and hand-painted features.  He wears a long trailing "f" style Steiff button in his ear.  Moritz rides upon a pull toy style metal carriage supported by four on-center wooden wheels.  When this toy was new, it would make a little noise when it was gently pulled along.  Steiff produced Record Moritz in this size only from 1916 through 1926.  
Although lesser known outside of Europe, Max and Moritz are famous fictional book characters created by the artist and writer Wilhelm Busch around 1865.  These bad boys shared one important mission - to come up with tricks and pranks to play on their friends and neighbors.  The story is written entirely in verse, in rhymed couplets.  Their tale is as popular today as when it was written more than 150 years ago, and remains an important cultural reference and touch point in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  Busch's contributions have been credited with being the inspiration behind several popular 20th century comic strips, including The Katzenjammer Kids.

Max and Moritz were popular Steiff "regulars" at the turn of last century, as well as a source of many ideas for product development.  The boys themselves were produced as fully jointed dolls in 30 and 35 cm from 1910 through 1926.  You can see these dolls pictured here on the left, the photo is from the Cieslik's wonderful reference book Button in Ear The History of The Teddy Bear and His Friends. Max has black hair usually appeared in a blue suit coat and red shirt; sometimes he wore blue pants, sometimes he was in shorts or pants of another color.  Moritz has orange hair and usually appeared in a green closed suit coat; sometimes he was in plaid pants while other times he was in tan pants.  Like Moritz, Max also appeared as a 25 cm "record" character on a wooden wheeled pulled cart from 1916 through 1927. Steiff also went on to produce several other Busch characters as standard line dolls.

It is interesting to note that a quote from Busch's "Max and Moritz" book was the inspiration behind a small series of Steiff display pieces featuring the theme "school." The quote read... "Good children in pursuit of knowledge apply themselves at school or college..."  According to the Cieslik's book in part... "the most famous is the village school, in two designs: a smaller one with nine dolls as pupils and their teacher, and a larger one with 13 pupils and a teacher.  All school furniture and accessories could be ordered from Steiff.  In 1910 Steiff sold 45 complete school displays." A portion of this display can be seen on the left, the photo is from Theriault's; this set sold for $50,000 at auction in 2012.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's Max and Moritz has been no trouble at all for you.

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