Monday, April 29, 2013

Getting a Little Loosey Goosey Over This Fabulous Steiff Moosy!

It's time to answer the call of the wild with this great Steiff forest friend!  They say you learn something new every day, and that's a given when it comes to really studying vintage Steiff treasures. Come take a closer look at this Steiff Moosy Moose.  He holds a very subtle secret about his dating and production... so secret that Steiffgal had no idea about it until it was brought to her attention by another Steiff superfan!

The only thing better than chocolate mousse would have to be THIS "chocolate" moose!  What we have here is Steiff's Steiff's Moosy Elch or Moosy Moose. He is 25 cm, unjointed, and standing. Moosy is made from short tan and brown mohair. He has an authentic mohair "dewlap" under his chin and a little tucked-in tail.  Moosy's face is detailed with black button eyes and a black airbrushed nose and mouth. He was produced overall in 14 and 25 cm. 

Despite his big stature, Moosy only appeared for a very small amount of time in the Steiff catalog.  As a matter of fact, he was produced in 1960 as a US exclusive, and then in 1963 through 1964 in the general line.  That in itself is not terribly unusual; you also see this type of distribution with Steiff's Bison from around the same time frame.  

But here's where things get a little more interesting.  The 14 cm version Moosy is pretty much identical in both the exclusive and general line production runs - with flat, elaborately shaped and airbrushed double thick felt antlers.  However, for the 25 cm Moosy, things are a little different.  Like the 14 cm version, the 1963-1964 general line Moosy has very large, flat, elaborately shaped and airbrushed double thick felt antlers.  But the earlier version, the US exclusive from 1960, has huge, three-dimensional "puffy" style antlers that are stuffed with excelsior and highlighted with airbrushing. They appear almost like a royal headpiece... which would be so appropriate for this handsome Steiff rarity!

Clearly, the antlers are a way to date Moosy, when it comes to the larger version.  But what about the little guy, pictured with his flat antlers here on the left?  The secret here for him would be on his yellow ear tag identification number.  If the last two digits after the comma (,) are 90, then he was made in 1960 as a US exclusive.  If the last two digits after the comma (,) are 00, then he was made in 1963-1964 for the general line.  Steiff often used the ,90 indication on a product's ear tag to indicate that it was made exclusively for the United States. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Moosy Moose and his amazing antlers has been the crowning glory of your day.

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fantastic Steiff Finds at the Sturbridge Doll, Toy, Bear, and Holiday Show

It's been a pretty tough week in the Boston neighborhoods that are in close proximity to Steiffgal's home.  Thankfully things do seem to be returning to normal after a really high anxiety few days.  There is no better way, at least in Steiffgal's mind, to help improve one's mood than to surround themselves with good friends and Steiff.  And that's exactly what she did, by attending the annual Sturbridge Doll, Toy, Bear, and Holiday Show last Sunday in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  The show, produced by Steiffgal's colleague Kim Kittredge, was a wonderful way to temporarily escape from Boston Marathon bombing madness... and enjoy some really remarkable Steiff treasures.  Here are a few great items that really caught Steiffgal's eye.

Does this goat float your boat?  Well, he certainly got Steiffgal's attention.  Here we have Steiff's Ziege or Goat.  He is five ways jointed and made from very long, white shaggy mohair.  His face is made from shorter white mohair, and is detailed with hand embroidered black nostrils and a simple line mouth.  His round pupil eyes are made from green and black glass, and his ears are lined in velvet.  Goat was produced in 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1906 through 1927.

So what makes this goat "best of the barnyard?" Besides being really just marvelous, he also has two Steiff buttons in his left ear:  a large one (8mm) and a small one (4mm).  Both have the long trailing "f" style Steiff writing on them.  Some early Steiff items do have two buttons; this was sometimes done to indicate an item was an early prototype or model - but usually this was indicated by a button with the word "muster" on it, plus a regular Steiff button.  Steiffgal has never seen anything quite like this button configuration before.

So how much is that doggie in the window? Readers may recognize this tiny treasure as the smallest sized mohair version of Treff the bloodhound.  This feminine, droopy-eyed dog design was introduced to the world in 1928. The first Treff examples - like this 7 cm version -  were sitting, head jointed and made in light brown mohair or velvet. They all have long, floppy ears, brown and black pupil eyes set in eye pockets, hand embroidered black noses and dainty muzzle “freckles.” Every Treff left the Giengen factory adorned with a large pastel-colored silk ribbon. Early sitting Treffs were produced in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43 and 50 centimeters.

Treff’s popularity certainly lived up to her blue-ribbon looks and personality. As a result, Steiff quickly expanded her role in the product line. She was soon manufactured in a standing position, as a large ride-on toy, a side-squeeze musical animal, a pin cushion, a dressed dog-doll toy, a child-sized purse, and a tail-turns-head model. It is interesting to note that she was also manufactured in a less-expensive coat-plush material from 1932 through 1937. Politics and the world economic situation during this time frame greatly limited both Steiff’s ability to obtain high-quality materials and its customer’s ability to afford such “luxuries.” Overall, Treff appeared in the Steiff catalog through 1938.

You've been a doll to read this far, so let's thank you with just that.  Here we have an approximately 16 inches tall or 43 cm Steiff doll.  She is made from felt and is fully jointed.  Her "typical" Steiff style face is center-seamed and is detailed with brilliant cobalt blue and black glass pupil eyes.  This sweet lady is wearing a peasant style removable dress and full skirted apron, as well as a bandana on her head.  It is Steiffgal's best guess, based on her size, styling, and removable clothing,  that she is the Brenz Farmer's Wife doll, which was made in 43 cm in 1912 and 50 cm from 1912 through 1921.

Well hello Dolly!  Given this model was only produced in this size for one year, this is indeed one fantastic find indeed!

Let's get a leg up on this final great show find.  This "tall drink of water" is Rabbiette, a design that Steiff produced from 1927 through 1932. She has a standard line mohair rabbit head, long, soft unjointed dangling limbs; and mohair hands and paws. Her body, arms, and legs are made from lilac colored velvet.  She has glass, very large black and brown pupil eyes and an embroidered nose and mouth.  When she was new, she had a bright, sherbet colored silk ribbon. 

Rabbiette is one of a series of long limbed lovelies in the Steiff catalog from 1927-1932. These "play and car dolls" included Bulliette, the bulldog, Fluffiette, the cat, Molliette, the puppy, and Cherrioette, the open mouthed puppy. These were based on the most popular named Steiff characters of the time; it is interesting that there was not a bear in this series.  Each play and car doll had the head of the character, mohair paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several bright, happy "jelly bean" colors and in 20, 30, and 43 cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker. 

Steiffgal hopes these special finds have added some highlights - and happiness - to your day today.  (And be sure to mark your calendars for next year's Sturbridge Doll, Toy, Bear, and Holiday Show, which will be held on Sunday, April 27th 2014 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge, Massachusetts.) 

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Using A Little Steiff ESP To Identify A Vintage Dog Friend

Mind you, Steiffgal is no psychic when it comes to Steiff.  The company has made thousands and thousands of different products since the late 1800's when it first started producing playthings for children.  And photos are so important when assessing subtle differences between similar products.  However, in the case of this reader's question, Steiffgal was able to use a little ESP (Essential Steiff Powers) to help identify an old friend simply by description.  Hazel writes:


I don't know if you can assist me. I stumbled upon your website recently whilst trying to find some history re: my little Steiff item.

I have a Steiff German Shepherd measuring 10" or 26 cm from paw to tail. He has a red velvet tongue and he is lying down slightly on one side. He has a yellow Steiff label in his ear with a worn silver looking stud. He has some wear to him and is a lovely shabby shade of browns and darker on his back.

I am sorry I do not know how to add photos to my email so any information you could offer would be great.

Many thanks I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards, Hazel" 

Unless she's in a "dog-daze" Steiffgal is all but certain that Hazel's pooch is Steiff's lying Arco German Shepherd.  This precious pooch is unjointed, lying to one side, and made from tan mohair that has been gloriously and realistically airbrushed with patches of black, brown, and tan.  He has pert ears, large and floppy paws, and an impressive tail.  His face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a well defined muzzle, and a happy open mouth with a large red felt tongue.  Lying Arco was produced in 22, 35, and 50 cm from 1957 through 1976.  Steiff usually doesn't count the tail in measurements, so it is Steiffgal's best guess that Hazel's dog is the 22 cm size.  

Steiffgal is unable to fetch details about Arco's button from Hazel's note.  However, if his button is the raised script version, he would have been produced approximately in the 1957 through 1968 time frame.  If he has the domed lentil style button, he would have been produced approximately in the 1969 through 1976 time frame. 

German Shepherds are one of Steiff's beloved "Best in Show" dogs that have been in the line almost continuously in one form or the other since 1923.   They have appeared over time in mohair and wool plush and standing, sitting, lying, on wheels, as studio (life sized) models, and even as dog-dolls in the late 1930's through early 1940's.  The photo on the left of the Pupp-Arco or Arco Doll is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  Pupp-Arco is extremely rare; Steiffgal has never actually seen one in person.  Overall, the presence - or absence - of a tongue on Arco is one of the key clues collectors use to date Steiff's German Shepherds! Those produced before 1957 did not have tongues while those produced from 1957 onward did.

Steiffgal hopes this Arco identification has been an ESP (Exciting, Surprising, and Phenomenal) experience for you!

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

Friday, April 5, 2013

This Vintage Felt Soldier Doll Has Uniform Appeal

There's not really any uniform answers to Steiff identification mysteries, especially when it comes to turn of last century, military inspired felt dolls.  Take a look at this note from Margaret, who asks about one of her recent finds.  Over the course of several exchanges, she shares the following about a vintage soldier doll that in many ways resembles those made by Steiff.  She writes...

Hi Steiffgal,
I was very happy to come across your blog tonight. I am an antique bear collector who has many old bears and pull toys, velvet toys, felt toys and so on. I hope you won't mind if I pick your brain. With your experience, you can probably give me some good information, or at least good speculation, about an item I purchased today at an antique store.  

I have gone through my Steiff Sortiment and cannot find a match to this guy.  He seems closest to "Young Brigade" to me, p. 445, but he is not a perfect match.  He is obviously old, as old as my other Steiff dolls circa 1914.  He stands a hair more than 13" tall. He has a couple of tiny moth holes. He is jointed. He does not have a mohair wig, he has hair that is painted on.  Instead of shoe button eyes or blue glass eyes, his eyes are hand made glass humanized brown eyes, very tiny and pretty and realistic looking. He has a little mustache. He has two proper little felt ears and a little nose. He has a sweet expression.  The seam that goes up his face stops at the top of his nose and re-starts at his hairline.  And his hands are dark felt, obviously meant to look like he is wearing gloves.

The doll is wearing a uniform, maybe a field coat, made of brownish gray wool. It has little brass buttons on it with a tiny insignia that looks like a pineapple shape. His coat has a little light brown or orange-ish square sewn onto each end of his collar; the coat is fairly long and buttons hold it open at the bottom. It is finely and expertly sewn and kind of gathered in the back. The sleeves have cuffs. The front of the coat has pockets on the chest. The right shoulder has a bit of the same fabric pinned to the shoulder, as if something else might have been there at some time.

His pants are made of the same wool fabric as his coat and they tuck into the top of his black leather boots. They kind of balloon a little bit (they are not a tight fit). The black boots are leather, the uppers are two pieces, there are eyelets and laces, these boots are very intricately and accurately done. They are as good as human boots, just miniature.
Is he Steiff, but a variation of the dolls pictured in the Sortiment, so he won't match up perfectly? Is it possible someone else made him? Who is my guy?

Thank you for any ideas you can provide. 

From one Steiff aficionado to another,

Let's follow marching orders and get right down to business in terms of this dolls.  Yes, in many ways, he does share some similar characteristics to Steiff's wide range of soldier and military themed dolls from the approximately 1910 through 1920 time frame. These include his materials, general proportions, detailed clothing, and body construction.  However, there are three key areas that clearly suggest that he was made by a manufacturer other than Steiff.  These are his:
  • Clothing and footwear style and details
  • Facial construction
  • Unusual eyes shape
If it were just one of these things, then maybe it could be an exception.  But all three suggest the alternative. 
Steiff's Infantryman from 1914 though 1921
Let's keep things somewhat orderly by starting with the dolls attire.  Typically, Steiff's military men have very fitted, detailed uniforms that have a "crispness" to them.  The clothing in general does not feature "puffy" or "gathered" details.  Steiff's doll jackets and pants are angular and often have edging and other contrasting stitched details, and simple, plain buttons.  The soldier doll pictured to the left is a good example of this; for more information on him please click hereThe "pineapple" buttons on Margaret's doll are much, much more detailed than the buttons on Steiff's usual military dolls, and his clothing appears too "informal" to have been made by Steiff.  

Center Seam Face
Face it, Margaret's doll's facial construction is also interesting - but not typical to Steiff.  Steiff is known for both their center seamed faces (which can run either horizontally or vertically) and their seamless pressed felt faces.  The company worked for over two decades to perfect their pressed felt face techniques, and during that time produced several hybrid prototypes that never went to market.  The pressed felt faced dolls do indeed have almond shaped eyes, but they are painted
Pressed Felt Face
or glass eyes embedded into the facial mask - not sewn on the face as it appears in Margaret's case.  It is possible, although not terribly probable, that the face on Margaret's doll is one of those "half and half" experiments with only a partial facial seam.  Steiffgal sees these these occasionally at auction - but they are never noted as Steiff, just as early European felt faced dolls... and they never have a Steiff buttons in their ear, suggesting that they were not meant to leave the factory.  

Early Scotty, delightful photo from
Eye veh... and now his handsome eyes.  Collectors probably recognize the soldier doll's distinctively shaped peepers as similar to those seen on Steiff's early Scotties, Selyhams, and Skye Terriers starting in the 1930's.  Steiffgal thinks that Margaret's doll is older than that - probably no later than the early 1920's.  Steiffgal also has never seen soldier's distinctive, 3D almond shaped eyes on any Steiff doll either in person, in the Steiff archives, or in pictures.  Early Steiff eyes used on felt dolls were round black shoe buttons, while later ones were round glass pupil. According to Steiffgal's colleague Lauren Mikalov, a doll expert and columnist for Dolls Magazine, many companies - including Lenci, Chad Valley, and Norah Wellings - used more humanized glass shaped eyes on their early felt dolls.  So there is history and precedent for this design element... but just not with Steiff.     

So just who is this mysterious military man?  Without labels, it's almost impossible to tell... and like a good soldier, this one's keeping state secrets.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on early felt dolls has met with uniform appeal.

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