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.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good Steiff Things Come To Those Who Wait

Steiffgal does not like to miss a beat when it comes to Steiff, but unfortunately last week she missed posting a new blog post for her beloved readers.  But, as always, good things come to those who wait, and this week's entry hopefully will make up for lost time.  So here's the reason for the Steiff radio silence - Steiffgal was traveling across the country and meeting with collectors on the West Coast.  And boy did she see some amazing Steiff treasures.  Here are a few highlights from a mind blowing Steiff collection in Northern California.  Prepare to be amazed!

Life's just a pajama party when it comes to these first vintage Steiff rarities.  Here we have a set of two Steiff PJ bags.  The one on the left is a brown and white Molly the Puppy, and the one on the right a white Sealyham. These were the first style of pajama bags that Steiff launched to the world; pajama bags appeared in the line on and off through the mid-1970's.  Overall, these square sweeties were produced from 1930 through 1937 and were formally called "night dress bags." These bags measured 30 cm x 30 cm, were made of mohair, had a zipper, and were lined in velvet. In addition to the Molly and Sealyham versions pictured here, other bags featured the head of a famous (at the time) Steiff character sewn onto the corner of the piece. These included Teddy Baby, Bully the Bulldog, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, a Scotty, and Siamy the Siamese cat

How about a peck on the cheek for this next amazing Steiff item?  Here we have a great example of Peck, made for the pharmaceutical company Merck.  Any idea who or what this little guy may be?  Well, believe it or not, he is actually supposed to be a germ - yes, those pesky little microorganisms that cause sickness and disease!  Peck is 12 cm tall and made mostly from green mohair.  He has a green felt body and red felt feet and hands.  He has prominent black felt eyebrows (or is it a funny hair cowlick?) on his forehead.  His black button eyes are backed in white felt.  He wears little black rubber shorts and holds what appears to be a large wooden matchstick tipped in rubber.  He has a little loop on his back so he can be hung from the rear view mirror of a car.  This wonderful and strange collectible was produced in 1959 only.  Peck was most likely made as a Steiff "customer special," i.e. an item that was manufactured exclusively to the specifications of another company that would have been used by that company as a internal business gift or promotional item.  

This next seldom seen treasure is rarer than water in the desert!  Here we have Steiff's bath time elephant.  This jungle gem was specifically designed as a tub toy, and is completely waterproof.  He is 14 cm and made from colorfully painted oil cloth. He has a simple design and construction and black button eyes.  He is stuffed with kapok and floats in water.  This excellent elephant was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1938 through 1941.  Other Steiff oil cloth bath time creations produced during this same time frame include a 12 cm bear on all fours; a 10 and 12 cm Fox terrier on all fours; a 10 and 12 cm cat on all fours; and a 12 cm rabbit on all fours.   

Whooo's a smarty pants and can identify this next precious Steiff treasure?  Head of the class to you if you said Steiff's woolen miniature Eule or owl.  Owl is 8 cm, standing on metal legs, and made from grey, tan, white, and brown Nomotta wool.  He has brown and black glass pupil eyes eyes and a tiny tan felt beak.  Despite his diminutive size, owl has a swivel head and a very endearing expression.  This brainy bird was made by Steiff in this size only, and in 1934 through 1939.  Other birds with this somewhat elongated body shape produced by Steiff around the same time frame include a green and yellow budgie (who was also available on a swinging perch); and a red and yellow parrot with great long red tail feathers.

It's no joke that Steiffgal saved her most favorite discovery for last here!  Let's monkey around and take a look at this most outstanding Steiff Affe or monkey.  This wonderful and playful primate stands about 35 cm tall.  His head, torso and lanky arms and legs are made from brown short-pile plush while his simple face, hands and feet are made from brown felt. He has black shoe button eyes and a folksy, pleasant expression. Unlike other Steiff primates - Jocko the Chimp in particular - this pattern does indeed have a tail. This basic model was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 120 cm over the 1903-through-1928 time frame in a few colors and materials. Although his darling felt harliquin outfit is not original to him, he was produced in an identical costume from 1904 through 1918.  It is Steiffgal's best guess, given this monkey's 8mm long trailing "f" button, that he was made in the mid-1920's. These early long-limbed Steiff primates remain the “Holy Grail” for many vintage Steiff enthusiasts.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of exceptional Steiff rarieties has been worth your waiting time!

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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

This Delightful Steiff Diorama Deserves A Standing Ovation!

Some wonderful Steiff finds can't help but give collectors the "warm fuzzies," and today's main attraction does that seven times over! Check out this remarkable vintage Steiff diorama that not only features amazing woolen miniature treasures, but also has a very special history. This great piece is one of the auction highlights at the upcoming Teddy Dorado Steiff Auction, which will be held on October 26th in Bonn, Germany.

It's time to set the stage for this amazing Steiff scenery.  Overall, seven Nomotta woolen miniatures grace the item's green oval felt mat, which measures 23 cm long by 13 cm wide.  The mat is wrapped with a lilac colored, ruffled silk ribbon.  The stars of this show include:
  1. A 4 cm red and green robin with metal legs and a grey felt beak and tail; this design appeared in the Steiff line from 1934 through 1943 in 4 and 8 cm. 
  2. A 4 cm brown squirrel with a bushy tail and prominent felt ears; this item did not appear in any Steiff catalog and was most likely a sample or experimental product that was never produced commercially.
  3. A 4 cm pink pig with brown airbrushing, a brown felt tail, and a good luck green felt clover; like the squirrel there was no mention of this item in any of the standard Steiff reference materials.
  4. A 6 cm drake drake with webbed style orange metal feet, an orange felt beak, and a delightful white head pompom; this pattern was produced in this size only from 1934 through 1943 and came with and without orange felt slippers.
  5. A 3 cm ladybug with a red body and white and black head;  this design appeared in the Steiff line from 1934 through 1943 in 3 and 4 cm. 
  6. A 4 cm blue, yellow, and white blue tit bird with metal legs and a felt beak and tail; this design appeared in the Steiff line from 1934 through 1943 in 4 and 8 cm. 
  7. A 4 cm sitting grey and white Schnauzer - perhaps a Rattler in miniature? - with black bead eyes and tiny felt ears; like the squirrel and pig, this woolen miniature did not appear in any Steiff literature.   
So what's the storyline behind this exceptional and unique vignette? The piece itself was produced in 1935 as a farewell gift to a Steiff Manager named Mr. Rathgeber when he left the organization to start his own company in a a village right next to Giengen.  This company is still in business today and now manufactures woven strapping for industrial and manufacturing purposes.  

As luck would have it, when Mr. Rathgeber's daughter grew up, she married a Protestant priest and moved to Bonn, the same town where Teddy Dorado is located.  The daughter learned about Teddy Dorado by reading an article in the local newspaper about the auction house.  The daughter went to Teddy Dorado to share her family story about growing up in Giengen.  She also felt it was time to move this treasure along into the hands of a Steiff collector, where it could be loved and appreciated.  As a result, she consigned this diorama to Teddy Dorado, to be auctioned off and shared with the world.  

Collectors can't help but want a front row seat to this exceptional display.  Although none of the elements of the piece have any Steiff ID, it is undeniably made by Steiff and comes with full family provenance.  It is interesting to ponder why the workers at Steiff chose these exact seven items in these sizes to decorate this "going away" gift.  Some items clearly reflect good luck and fortune - like the pig and the ladybug - while others suggest new beginnings and resourcefulness, like the birds and the squirrel.  But the Schnauzer?  Perhaps Mr. Rathgeber had a dog, or liked this particular breed.  These mysteries only adds to the delight and charm of this truly one of a kind treasure.  For more information and photos on this piece, check out the official catalog listing by clicking here.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion concerning Mr. Rathgeber's diorama coming up for auction soon has added a "lot" of interest to the piece for you!

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