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.
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