Friday, June 21, 2013

The Countdown Is On To The 2013 Steiff Sommer Festival And Teddy Dorado Auction!

It's the most wonderful time of the year, at least in Steiffgal's eyes! And just why is that? Well, early summer means the annual Steiff Summer Festival... along with the the marvelous Teddy Dorado Steiff auction! This yearly happening, which takes place right on and around the Steiff campus in Giengen, Germany on June 28th through the 30th, calls for Steiff enthusiasts from around the world to gather and celebrate all things button-in-ear... right where it all began! This year's Steiff auction features many precious items, including some never publicly seen items before, as well as some treasures with the most remarkable histories.  All the lots can be viewed by clicking here.  But right now, here are three items that really caught Steiffgal's eye from the catalog.  What do you think?

Let's get things moving with this first auction highlight, Lot 9-1908.  Here we have a 12 cm unjointed grey felt running rabbit on iron wheels.  He has black shoe button eyes and a stitched mouth.  His inner ears are lined in pink felt.  He is stuffed with excelsior.  He retains his original red velveteen taffeta neck bow and bell and trailing "F" style Steiff button in ear.  He is clean and in nice condition overall.   This design is really special as it appeared in the debut Steiff catalog of 1892.  Overall, this pattern was produced from 1892 through 1917; this example was made in the 1906 through 1917 time frame. 

And what makes this rolling rabbit a favorite?  Besides her affinity for all things on wheels, Steiffgal loves this rabbit's early, organic form that so perfectly represents what makes turn of last century Steiff items so classic - and so charming.  

It's time to take a look at this next "best of show" selection, Lot 9-1931.  Here we have a 29 cm sitting tail turns head St. Bernard dog.  He is made from long pile natural white and brown tipped mohair plush.  His face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a dark brown hand embroidered nose and mouth.  He has a mechanism embedded in his neck which allows his head to turn when his tail is moved back and forth.  Besides his absolutely handsome appearance, this all but mint condition dog also retains his Steiff trailing "F" style button, red ear tag, named chest tag, and a special tag on his backside which reads "Turn here and I will move my head."  This pattern overall was produced in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, and 36 cm from 1931 through 1934. 

What puts this St. Bernard on the "man's best friends" list?  His darling, and authentic facial expression and muzzle construction are irresistible.   And the fact that he still retains all of his IDs, especially the tush tag - is completely amazing, given he was made as a plaything almost 85 years ago!  But don't just take Steiffgal's word on it... this is such a marvelous pattern that it was was produced again as a limited edition replica in 1993 in an edition size of 4,000. 

This last Steiff selection, Lot 9-1997,  is truly royalty.  Perfectly and appropriately named "Teddy King Winter of Giengen," this beautiful bruin is five ways jointed and made from white long pile mohair plush.  His face is detailed with large black shoe button eyes and a copper colored stitched nose and mouth.  His joints are under laid with black and red felt and he has a working hug-me squeaker.  He retains his original Steiff trailing "F" button and remains of his white ear tag.  His four original felt paws and general condition are very good and just have a little minor wear consistent with his age.  He measures about 57 cm standing and 42 cm sitting.  Teddy King Winter of Giengen was produced in the 1906 through 1907 time frame.  

Bear with Steiffgal as she catches her breath over this terrific Ted.  What is not to love?  His size is majestic and impressive.  His clean white mohair coat looks like it was produced yesterday.  And his face, well, you know what Steiffgal means.  It really doesn't get much better than this bear. 

Carsten Esser, Teddy Dorado's owner and auctioneer, was kind enough to speak briefly with Steiffgal about the upcoming Teddy Dorado Steiff auction on June 29th.  This is the third year Teddy Dorado has hosted the auction, and it gets better and better each time!  Carsten is also a Steiff collector and enthusiast, and he brings this love and passion to each and every Steiff event he runs.  Here are some highlights from the conversation...

Steiffgal:  What is your personal favorite item in the Sommer auction, and why? 

Carsten:  My favorite item is probably auction lot 9-2013 (pictured here on the left.)  This is a painting that features two images Mr Hans Otto Steiff as he appeared in photographs from the 1960's, painted by the artist and long term Steiff employee Mr Helmut Braig.  The painting includes several colorful and expressive Steiff animals and is signed "Helm. Braig 2013".  Mr. Braig was a Steiff employee from 1937 to 1978.  The piece itself is framed and about 107 cm high and about 83 cm wide. 

I met Mr. Braig probably ten times in the last three years to speak him about the history of Steiff from his perspective.  Last December, I asked him if he would do a painting in acrylic
colors featuring Steiff animals; he had never done that before.  A few weeks later, just days before his 90th birthday, he sent me a photo of a painting and asked, "Are you fine with that?" - the painting showed Steiff animals arranged around a double portrait of Mr. Hans Otto Steiff, the company's very long term Steiff CEO in the 1960s and 1970's.  Mr. Braig and Mr. Hans Otto Steiff liked and honored the work of each other very much. Oh and yes, I am fascinated by that painting!

Steiffgal: Tell us a little story about finding some of the treasures in the upcoming Sommer auction. 

Carsten:  We were asked to help sell a very large, fine group of Steiff items that actually took up two whole collecting rooms in a home! The family who owned the treasures needed to reduce the collection to just one cabinet in order to install a day care room for their grandson who would be spending much more time in their home in the near future. Needless to say, the family was most interested in selling off those pieces that took up allot of space!  Of course Teddy Dorado could help out here.  From this collection, we are selling their exceptional, one of a kind display piece featuring the Steiff Sommmer event bears from 1997 through 2000 (lot number 9-2000, pictured here on the left), as well as their 100 cm Studio sized blond mask Teddy bear, (lot number 9-1982) among other fine items from their collection. 

Steiffgal:  Carsten, if you could auction off any Steiff piece ever created, which one would that be and why?

Carsten:  That is a good question, and I have several answers!   I really love antique Steiff center seamed felt dolls - especially the Indian and Samojede examples from the turn of last century.  For the newer items, favorites include the 1960's-era mohair Studio snake and the 1970's era Studio Toucan.  I wanted that bird so badly when I was a teenager!  But my dream situation would be auctioning off a prototype or the LED #1 of a "Teddy Dorado" bear made by Steiff for charity.  Maybe sometime in the future this dream could come true! 

Steiffgal:  Teddy hugs and thanks so much Carsten -  best of luck at the upcoming auction! 

Steiffgal hopes this virtual auction preview has bid up your excitement for this upcoming Steiff event on June 29th, 2013! 

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

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Steiff Pug Hugs To All The Dads Out There For Father's Day!

Every Dad deserves lots of hugs on Father's Day!  And, in Steiffgal's home, real life pugs are responsible for alot of the household cuddles!  So, to honor Steiffguy, the world's finest "Doggie Daddy," Steiffgal would like to share the history of Steiff's precious pugs with you.  Let's take a look at some early and later examples, and see what makes them so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Although they are never tardy for dinner, Pugs were a relatively late addition to the Steiff dog line.  The first Steiff pugs appeared in the catalog in 1916.  They were standing, made from gray mohair plush, and had very authentic looking curly tails.  Their faces were detailed with a somewhat prominent muzzle, a big black nose, and brown and black pupil eyes.  They were produced in 17 and 22 cm; both sizes wore a leather collar, were mounted on a pair of natural wood colored eccentric wheels, and came with a pull cord.  It is interesting to note that this pattern, unlike many other dog patterns, only came on wheels, and was not produced sitting or in any other configuration. These earliest rolling pugs are pictured here on the left, the photo is from the 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  

The next Steiff pug pattern had tongues a-wagging. This little ball of love was simply called "Mops" which is German for pug.  He was rather ball shaped, sitting, and made of tan and white mohair.  He has a proportionally large head, which was detailed comically with felt backed black button eyes, a simple mouth, and a huge red felt tongue.  He left the factory wearing a silk ribbon.  Mops was only produced in 14 cm from 1925 through 1927.  He does, in many ways, have the look and feel of a better known Steiff dog of the same era, Pip, who was designed after a famous cartoon character of the time.  Mops pictured here on the left, the photo is from the 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  

Steiff's final pre-war pug was such a doll - literally!  From the late 1920's onward, Steiff created a series of animal-dolls that were made from the mohair heads of usually well known Steiff characters, mounted on a somewhat standard hard stuffed cloth body with floppy arms.  The tops of the hands and the feet of these dolls were mohair as well.  Each animal doll was playfully dressed in everyday clothes, country-specific outfits, or pants and tops specific to a profession (like a farmer, explorer, painter, etc.)  Steiff did make a pug dog doll in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1932 through 1935.  They came dressed in a variety of different outfits, including a sailor suit, pajamas, playsuits, dresses, and shirts and trousers.  It is interesting to note that the pug head used for this dog doll is quite unique and as far as Steiffgal can tell, was never used again before or after this product - which is too bad because it was just incredibly adorable.   Don't you agree?  The Sailor version of the Pug doll is pictured here on the left, the photo is from the 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  

It's time to jump three decades to the 1960's, when pugs again were a feature in the Steiff line.  In 1960, Steiff introduced "Mopsy" to the world, and she quickly became a collector's favorite for her sweet and silly looks, and most puggy personality.  Mopsy was sitting, made from tan mohair, and was head jointed.  She had a very prominent muzzle, large black and white google-style eyes, and turned-in ears - much like the real dog.  And you could not miss perhaps her finest feature...  her red, somewhat asymmetrically angled tongue!  Mopsy appeared in 12 and 22 cm until 1981.  She was also produced as a 17 cm hand puppet from 1960 through 1978. 

If you liked Mopsy, then you'll have a ball with this last vintage Steiff pug.  In 1960 and 1961, Steiff produced a series of “ball” animals; Mopsy (a pug), Sula (a cat), and a rabbit. Each of these big-bottomed dralon collectibles was 16 cm, head jointed, had front facing limbs, and a squeaker.  Like her cousin Mopsy, Ball Mopsy had black and white google eyes and turned in ears.  Ball Mopsy had a very funny design detail... a little chest bib of mohair on her otherwise dralon body.    She also had little brown airbrushed paw detailing on her feet pads.  Ball Mopsy, and all the other ball style items of this era, are hard to find, especially in good condition—because they were designed to be used as playthings and stuffed with foam, which tends to deteriorate over time.  

Steiff has featured several versions of pugs in the line within the last 10 years or so. In partnership with the AKC (American Kennel Club), the company produced a mother/baby pug pair in soft plush for FAO Schwarz. Among others, the company also made a delightful red and white candy striped fabric pug with a red velvet facial mask and ears; a little plush pug keyring; and most recently, a sweet pug named Lielou made from light tan alpaca.  And looking forward, it is Steiffgal's strongest wish that someday Steiff makes a black alpaca pug identical to the one pictured here to the left... and names her Bobo, of course.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's pugs has not been a pugnacious experience for you... and a Happy Pappy's Day to you as well!

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

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Color Your World With This Most Unusual Steiff Painter Dog Doll

It's time to get creative with this most unusual and early Steiff rarity!  Steiffgal recently learned of this amazing dog doll through a fellow Steiff collector in Switzerland.  Although Steiffgal had seen a photo of him in the Steiff Sortiment book, that could not prepare her for the excitement of knowing a friend had one in the flesh, or in this case, in the fur!  Let's take a look at this wonderful item and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

It goes without saying that this Steiff treasure is pretty as a picture.  Here we have Steiff's Kleksel The Painter Dog doll.  He is 30 cm tall, head jointed, and standing on flat feet.  His head, feet, and hands are made from mohair, while his solidly stuffed body is made from fabric.  His arms are not jointed but hang softly at his sides. He does not have a tail.  He is artistically attired in a cream colored, collared shirt; an orange felt jacket; green and tan plaid pants; a little leather belt; and a red bow tie.  He originally came with a slouchy hat, but this has been lost to time.  Kleksel was made in this size in two years only, 1939 through 1940.

This charming Kleksel is one of a group of Steiff Pupp-dogs (doll dogs) made by Steiff in the very late 1930's.  These animal dolls were dressed in national clothing or in clothing associated with specific occupations.   The others included a Scotty as a Scotsman with a kilt in 22 and 28 cm; an Arco German Shepherd as a farmer in 22 and 28 cm; Paddy the terrier as a sailor in 30 cm; Waldi as a hunter in 22 and 28 cm; and a Chow as an explorer in 30 cm.  Unlike these "working" Steiff pupp-dolls, earlier versions from the late 1920's through mid-1930's were more playfully or youthfully dressed and were not associated with adult professions.  

And what about his funny Steiff name, "Kleksel?"  This word roughly translates from German to English as "a blob."  In this case, a blob could be referring to a number things:
  • A "blob" of paint, which would be perfectly appropriate for an artist doll; 
  • The "blobs" of color on his ears and face, which are indeed multi-hued;
  • The fact that the dog may be lazy and lies around all day resting as a "blob";
  • Or something totally different... only Kleksel knows for sure!
It is interesting to note that unlike most of Steiff's animal dolls, Kleksel-like dogs did not appear in the standard Steiff line.  In the vast majority of cases, these animal dolls were designed with the heads of the most popular animals of the era, like Bully the bulldog, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, Arco the German Shepherd, etc.  It is not clear exactly what dog breed Kleksel represents, with his black and brown ears, prominent white muzzle, and relatively small open felt lined mouth.  He really does not look very much like any other standard Steiff dog in the line at the time of his manufacture.  It is Steiffgal's best guess that he somewhat resembles a Saint Bernhard or perhaps even a Spaniel.   What do you think? 

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to Steiff's Kleksel the Painter Dog has been a colorful experience for you!

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

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chin Up Over This Sweet and Unusual Early Steiff Dog

Dog-gonnit, if you are in need of a smile today, chin up!  You have come to the right place for sure. Besides Teddy bears, dogs are second in line as true Steiff superstars.  From the very beginning of the company, dogs have been a huge and important part of the Steiff product offering.  Today Steiffgal would like to share with you one of the more unusual pre-war Steiff dogs - the company's Chin Chins; a typical example is pictured here on the left.  Let's take a look at this early and exotic dog as interpreted by Steiff and see what makes it so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.  

Face it, there's not much not to love about this toy dog treasure!  What we have here is Steiff's Chin Chin.  She is standing and head jointed.  Her tail, chest, sideburns, and ears are made from longer tan mohair, while her body, limbs, and face are made from shorter tan mohair.  She has a squeaker in her belly, and her ears are lined in velvet. Her tail is firmly tacked to her back in a most showy way!  Chin Chin's prominent muzzle is detailed with a black hand embroidered nose and mouth as well as traces of pink and black airbrushed highlights.  Her oversized, black and brown pupil eyes are typical of her period of design, and can also be seen on her distant cousins Molly the Puppy, Bully the Bulldog, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, and others.  

Overall, Chin Chin was produced in 10, 14, 17, 20, 22, 25, 28, and 35 cm from 1931 though 1939.  Some of the smaller models had velvet muzzles and legs in addition to their velvet lined ears.

Despite their enormous appeal, Steiff's Chin Chin dogs - unlike other Steiff "pet" designs of the time - were not produced in a large range of variations.  A 15 cm Ball Chin Chin, which like its name suggests is quite round, was produced as a throw toy with elastic straps from 1932 through 1935.  Steiff also manufactured a 10 cm version on a string as a crib toy from 1931 through 1943, and a 10 cm miniature Nomotta wool "woolie" version from 1935 through 1937. A sitting model was prototyped but never put into production; this is pictured here on the left.  The photo is from the catalog of the Christie's 2010 Steiff Auction in London.  

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to Steiff's rare Chin Chins has been a win win for you.

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