Saturday, May 25, 2013

Getting Bent Out Of Shape Over This Fully Jointed Steiff Squirrel

Nuts! Do you know that feeling when something turns out even better than you expected? Well, that's exactly the case with the latest addition to Steiffgal's collection. She recently purchased what was described basically as "an old squirrel with a Steiff button" sight unseen from a remote seller. When the package arrived a few days later, well, Steiffgal got a little out of joint over it - but in the best way possible. Come see why!

It's easy to get bent out of shape with this fabulous and early Steiff squirrel. She is 17 cm tall, standing, and made from mohair. Her belly is (was) white and the rest of her body is reddish-brown. Her tail is made from longer reddish-brown mohair. Her face is detailed with felt backed black shoe button eyes and a simple brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. Her claws are embroidered in the same brown floss. Most interestingly, she is fully jointed - meaning six ways! Her head, arms, leg, and TAIL are are flexible and posable. This is different than a tail-moves-head mechanism, where the tail and head are connected mechanically and adjusting the tail turns the head left and right.  Very few Steiff items are actually six ways jointed; this is usually seen on higher-end early dogs and cats.   It is very cool to feel the specific cardboard ring jointing mechanism at the base of this squirrel's tail, it feels just like Steiff's arm and leg joints, just in a very different location!

This lovely fall friend was manufactured in 17 and 22 cm over the 1925 through 1934 time frame. She was produced in reddish-brown and white and grey and white. When she was new, she had a working squeaker. Steiffgal can feel the squeaker in her belly, but it is not working now.

Squirrels are as ubiquitous in the Steiff offering as they are in the park across the street from Steiffgal's home!  These funny, furry friends have been a part of the Steiff offering since 1897; the first one to appear was begging, unjointed, and made from brown felt. A few years later, this design was updated and made in velvet. The velvet squirrels were also repurposed as pincushions; a model with a basket on her back and a model on a leaf were produced in the 1902 through 1917 time frame.  Starting in 1909, Steiff began producing squirrels in mohair; only a few new models appeared through 1942. Steiffgal's new old friend is the second generation version of Steiff's earliest mohair squirrel, with the key difference being the second generation was less angular and overall "plumper" than the first.  

Steiff continued its spirited squirrel production after the factory reopened for business just after WWII.  They continued producing their pre-war model for a few years, then updated it and named the new design Possy. Possy was begging, unjointed, and made from either brown and white or gray and white mohair. Possy appeared in the line from 1957 through 1976 and was manufactured in 10, 14, and 22 cm.  Around the same time, Steiff created another beloved squirrel pattern inspired by a Walt Disney documentary entitled True Life Adventures. This film, released in 1957, "starred" a squirrel named Perri who faced many challenges and adventures. Perri was made from brown tipped mohair, had a great shaggy tail, and feet and hands made out of thick felt. One of Perri's most distinctive features was his white felt backed eyes. Perri was made in 12, 17, and 22 cm from 1959 through 1983. The 17 and 22 cm versions came with a beautifully airbrushed velvet pine cone, about 2.5 cm long. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on early Steiff squirrels has been more fun than a day in the park for you.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This Singing Steiff Spaniel Has Things All Buttoned Up

Some Steiff items are worthy of royalty - especially the company's beloved King Charles Spaniels!  So it should come as no surprise that Steiffgal all but rolled out the red carpet when a dear friend and fellow collector brought this musical "Charly" to her attention!  This dog truly is best of show for so many obvious - and not so obvious - reasons.  Let's take a look at this crownworthy canine and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

You can't help but want to break into song over this delightful doggy.  This "Musik-Charly" is standing, head jointed, and made from long mohair.  His body and legs are white mohair, while his tail, long playful ears, and the sides of his face are made from brown tipped mohair.  Charly has a very detailed facial seam structure which really emphasizes his sweet and innocent look. His face is detailed with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a few freckles on his muzzle.  Charly's music box is activated by pulling on his tail.  Overall, this particular model of standing Musik-Charly was produced in 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1928 through 1931.  Steiff also produced a sitting version of Musik-Charly in 17 and 22 cm during the same time frame. 

Charly has two very interesting features that make him top dog.  The first is his musical mechanism.  In the late 1920's and early 1930's, Steiff produced a number of "Musik" animals based on the company's most popular designs of the day.  These included Molly the puppy, Bully the bulldog, Fluffy the cat, and a sweet standing lamb, among others.  These were all activated either by gently squeezing and releasing the midsection or loins of the animals, or by turning the animal's tail.  However, for the standing Musik-Charly, his music was produced by tugging gently on his tail - not by turning it.

It won't take much to muster your attention towards Charly's second fantastic feature.  In addition to his standard Steiff trailing "f" style button in his ear (on the left size of the photo), Charly also sports a second button in his tail area.  This button, called the "muster" button, was used by Steiff pre-WWII on items considered samples, evolving designs, or prototypes. This is pictured here on the right side of the photo. In general, the button indicated that the item was Steiff property and was not intended for sale or distribution.  "Muster" translates loosely from German to English as "pattern" and in a sense, these "muster" items were just that.  This Charly's "muster" button suggests that he was made in 1928 or before, as the company was gearing up to put this model into production.  

It is interesting to note that Charly didn’t start out as a musical animal, but evolved into one. The original Steiff Charly dog was introduced in the late 1920s. He was produced both sitting (10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30 and 35 cm) and standing (7, 10, 12, 14, 17 and 22 cm); the two versions were head jointed only. Their filling was soft kapok, meaning that they were lighter in weight and more cuddly than other animals stuffed with crunchy excelsior. An example of the 7 cm standing version is pictured here on the left.  Overall, the Charly pattern appeared in the line through 1936. 

Charly proved to be a great source for highly successful “theme and variation” product introductions, due to his popularity with collectors. He appeared as a 17 cm light brown and white mohair puppet from 1928 through 1939.  Both the sitting and standing versions were produced as pincushions in the 1929 through 1932 time frame.  He was also made as a 10 cm standing or sitting nomotta woolen miniature from 1935 through 1937, a 22 and 25 cm purse from 1927 through 1933, and as a playful, purple dressed 28 cm Pupp-animal doll (pictured on the left, photo from Christie's) from 1929 through 1930.

Steiffgal hopes the discussion on this most amazing vintage Charly dog has been like music to your ears.   

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

Friday, May 10, 2013

Stop The Presses And Check Out This Amazing Steiff Paper Plush Teddy Bear!

Steiffgal's got news!  BIG news - about one of the rarest Steiff Teddies ever!  Did you know that NEWS actually is short for "north, east, west, and south?"  And it's certainly true that collectors from all over the world will be interested in this exciting announcement!

So stop the presses and take a look here!  Steiffgal has just learned that a marvelous paper plush bear coming up for auction later this summer in London at SAS Auctions!  The Ted is cataloged as... 

An extremely rare Steiff ‘paper-plush’ Teddy Bear, 5622, circa 1919, with backing cloth and pile made of brown wood fibers, black boot button eyes, pronounced muzzle, black horizontally stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs with similar finer wood cloth pads, hump, wood wool stuffing and FF button –12.1/2in. (32cm.) high (some professional darning repairs and loss of pile) 

Paper Plush Teddy bear is estimated at £7000 to £10000 ($10,893 to $15,562).

And just what makes this Steiff bear so newsworthy?  His remarkable materials and legacy - both perfect examples of Steiff's creativity and innovation, regardless of circumstances!  During and immediately following the First World War, Steiff was unable to procure adequate supplies of high end fabrics.  Mohair and felt manufacturing had decreased, and the materials produced were allocated towards military purposes.  In order to continue some production, Steiff was forced to come up with some alternative products, as well as materials.  Given the abundance of wood in the area, the company started producing things like building sets and furniture for children.  Steiff also found a way to produce a tweed-like material from local natural products.  This "paper plush" was made from nettles and called "Brennessel."  Paper plush items appeared in the line from 1919 through 1921, and included popular models of the company's standard line bears, dogs, cats, and rabbits.

Steiffgal spoke with auctioneer and toy expert Daniel Agnew to learn more about about this headline-making bear.  

Steiffgal:   Have you ever appraised or sold a Steiff paper Teddy prior to this one?  What was your reaction when you first laid eyes on him?

Daniel:  I first saw him from photographs and it was very exciting. But, when I saw him in the 'fur' it was a real thrill. I sensed I was handling a really important toy. So fragile and real survivor. I have never appraised or sold one before. But, there is a slightly larger example on Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel's website; and I remember seeing a pair, many years ago at Sotheby's in London, they were small and very torn. It must have been about 15 years ago. 

Steiffgal: What in your opinion makes this bear so unique or special, from the collector's perspective?

Daniel: It is believed that this is the first time an example of this rare Teddy bear has come up for auction for many years.  According to Steiff's records they made 19,556 of these bears, I know they made three different sizes. But, because the material is so fragile, I think very few have survived.  

Steiffgal:  Most people have never had the unique experience of seeing or holding one of these bears in person.  Can you describe what his covering feels like to the touch and anything else about his looks or dimensions that readers may find interesting about him?

Daniel:  It is hard to explain what he feels like, he is very light and has a dry feeling and crunchy. The pile is meant to be prickly, but now feels like an old dry towel (that doesn't sound very nice!). The other thing which is so important for collectors is the face, this bear has a beautiful look. I can't tell if he has any voice mechanism, I suspect not. One final point, the one in the Cieslik's book, Steiff-Teddy Bears, Love for a Lifetime, looks like a 1920s bear, one this one looks like a typical 1910 bear; so in my opinion this an early one. Could he be pre 1919? I would love to own him!

Steiffgal:  Tell us more about your auctions and how people can bid on this and other very special Steiff treasures.

Daniel:   This year I am joining forces with Special Auction Services, an auction house based to the west of London. Their website can be found at  I am holding two auctions in 2013.  The first is on July 18th, where the Paper Plush Teddy bear will go up for sale.  The second sale will be held on November 28th.  I do hope to see lots of Steiff collectors at the sale - or bidding and following along online at!

Steiffgal:  Daniel, thank you so much for sharing this very special item with the readers today, and best of luck at your upcoming auction events!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Paper Plush Teddy bear has been a special edition for you!

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

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Skye's The Limit With This Delightful and Unusual Steiff Dog

Things are really looking up - way up - with this very special Steiff item under discussion today.  Here we have Steiff's seldom seen Skye Terrier!  This little fellow, who in some ways resembles the perfect dust mop (Steiffgal means this in the MOST LOVING WAY), only appeared for a few pre-WWII years in the Steiff catalog.  He has some delightful and unusual features.  Let's take a look at what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

The musician Jimi Hendrix is famous for saying, "Excuse me while I kiss the sky," and that would make perfect sense in reference to this sweet dog as well.  Skye is about 7 inches tall and 17 inches long.  His ear tag indicates that he is the 22 cm version, making him the largest size of this design produced.  He is standing, unjointed, and and made from extremely long light grey mohair.  His ears and muzzle are made from very long black mohair.  His face is detailed with oversized, almond shaped tri-colored glass eyes and a very simple brown hand embroidered nose and mouth.  He wears a red leather color and retains his large, early named bear faced chest tag, short trailing "f" Steiff button, and yellow ear tag.  Overall, this Skye Terrier model was produced in 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1933 through 1943. 

Steiff introduced Skye Terriers to collectors just a handful of years after launching two other famous bearded beauties, their black Scotties and white Sealyhams.   Both Steiff Scotties and Sealyhams made their debut in 1930.  These friends are pictured here on the left.  As you can see, Steiff Skye Terriers, Scotties, and Sealys all have a similar look and feel, with several design overlaps and commonalities.  They even share an "impish" quality between them.  It is interesting to note that over time, both the Scotties and the Sealyhams were produced both sitting and standing, while the Skye was only produced standing.  Although the Sealyhams always had round brown and black pupil eyes, the Scotties and the Skyes were produced with both round as well as tri-colored almond shaped eyes.  Steiffgal is extrapolating that alot had to do with timing and supply chains at the time.   

Despite his relatively short tenure in the Steiff line, the Skye Terrier pattern appeared in several very interesting theme and variation products in the late 1930's and early 1940's.  He was produced as an "unbuttoned" animal on wheels from 1936 through 1940.  This meant that that he could be mounted and dismounted from a rolling carriage as desired.  He was also made as a "barking" animal on wheels from 1939 through 1941; this model automatically made doggie sounds when pulled about.  And finally, he appeared as a purse with a hollow body and a zipper up his back from 1935 through 1940.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this most unusual Steiff dog has been nothing but blue skies for you.   

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