Friday, January 31, 2014

Going For The Gold With A "Could Have Been" Steiff Olympic Mascot

Like many people all over the world, Steiffgal's got the Sochi Olympics on her mind! After all, what's not to enjoy about watching world-class sport competition, the pageantry of it all, and hearing the life stories behind some of the athletes? It's also very interesting to take a look at the Olympic mascots that have been the face of goodwill behind the games over the years. The 2014 Sochi games are represented by the happy trio of a polar bear, snow leopard, and a big white bunny - and are the first mascots decided by popular vote. But you know that the idea of a "logo" to represent the summer and winter games is a relatively new concept, starting only in 1968?

Despite its tradition for creating special edition pieces for important events and occasions, Steiff has made surprisingly few licenced Olympic related souvenir items over the years. The best-known one is Olympic Waldi, who was the mascot for the 1972 summer games in Munich. He was made in a plush and wooden version, and both are highly collectible today. These collectibles are pictured here on the left. But there was another Olympic Steiff close call just a few years later, in 1980. Here's that story! 

The world "crossed the pond" for the 1980 Winter Olympics, which were held in Lake Placid, New York. The mascot for these games was Roni the Raccoon. Roni was designed by artist Donald Moss, and inspired by the appearance of the hats and goggles used by many athletes participating in the winter games. Roni was named after the Adirondack mountain range, which were the mountains on which the competitions took place. 
Based on their previous success with Olympic Waldi just a few years prior, Steiff did give it their best in an attempt to get a license to create Roni mascots. According to Steiff records and Dee Hockenberry's Steiff Bears and Other Playthings Past and Present...

"In 1978 and 1979, Steiff, through their US representative, made presentations to the American Olympic Committee in order to obtain a license to make 1980 Olympic souvenirs. The prototypes were made incorporating the Lake Placid mascot and Olympic logo. Although the samples were attractive, an official license was never granted."

Steiff proposed an 11 inch standing plush version of Roni, as well as zipper top handbags featuring the soon to be famous raccoon. You can see these items here on the left; the images are from Dee Hockenberry. Neither were created, and it is assumed that the only a handful of samples of these items are tucked away in the company's archives. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of these "could have been..." Steiff Lake Placid Roni Olympic souvenirs has been worthy of a gold medal for you!

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rolling Out The Red Carpet For This Royal Steiff Mouse!

With all the awards shows and Superbowl programming going on right now, Steiffgal figured it was about time to roll out the red carpet, Steiff style! And who better to grace such a walkway then true royalty. Check out this tiny but terrific Steiff princess, and see what makes her so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.  

Most Steiff collectors would want this mouse in their house! Here we have Steiff's Royal Mouse. She is based on Steiff's standard line Pieps mouse, which was produced from 1958 to 1978 in gray or white. This Pieps is 8 cm, unjointed, and made from white mohair which has been lightly airbrushed with brown on her back and the sides of her face. Her feet, hands, tail, and ears are made from thick white felt which has been highlighted with a touch of pink airbrushing. Her face is detailed with tiny black button eyes, a black bead nose, lots of clear monofilament whiskers, and a hand embroidered black mouth, highlighted with a spot of pink to show her lips (or to perhaps indicate lipstick in this particular edition?!) 

And just what makes her Royal? Check out her wonderful, heavy, gold plated crown, which is bejeweled with four faux diamonds and one large faux ruby.This headpiece so large and heavy, it is actually sewn onto the back of her head. You can see how that was done on the picture on the left. And you certainly cannot "es-cape" Royal's wonderful red silken cape! It is lined in cream colored silken material and ties with a long gold cord. Royal Mouse was made in this size only from 1965 to 1966 as an exclusive for the upscale US toy retailer FAO Schwarz.

Royal Pieps Mouse was one of the earliest specialty dressed mice sold exclusively through FAO Schwarz. This beloved series really started in 1962 with the introduction of two new play sets for kids: a country mouse house, and a city mouse house. Both were portable little dollhouses made from plywood that came fully appointed with furniture and household accessories. These sets appeared in the line until 1972. The country mouse house was detailed in more of a "rural style", while the city mouse house was more "upscale." These sets, which were actually constructed and assembled at FAO Schwarz, each came with one dressed Steiff Pieps mouse. The dressed mice from these sets proved so popular that soon many new models were introduced in the 1965 through 1973 time frame. In addition to Royal Pieps, these adorably attired mice included a ballerina, bride (shown on the left) and groom, princess, clown, Hawaiian dancer, Senorita, ball queen, Little Red Riding Hood, and a Miss America Mouse.  The outfits of many of these marvelous mice were lovingly made by hand from lengths of lace, ribbons, and silky materials.

It is interesting to note that Royal Pieps Mouse was not the first crown-wearing Steiff exclusive at FAO Schwarz. Perhaps her design was inspired by the toy store's Royal Dally Dalmatian, who appeared in the line in 1963 only. Royal Dally is pictured here on the left. This princely pup is 14 cm and made from white mohair which is playfully marked with black airbrushed spots. His ears are black mohair. He is in the "begging" position and is head jointed. His face is detailed with black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. And, like Royal Pieps, his lips are also highlighted with a little touch of red airbrushing.  Both Royal Pieps and Dally wear similarly styled golden crowns and red capes. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Royal Pieps Mouse has added a crowning touch to your day.

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

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Get By With A Little Help From My Steiff Friends!

Steiffgal once had the great pleasure of interviewing author Maureen Stanton about her wonderful book about collectors and collections, called Killer Stuff and Tons of Money Maureen noted during the conversation that there is nothing collectors enjoy more than sharing their collections with other enthusiasts.  And Steiffgal could not agree more!  So earlier this week, she and two other Massachusetts collectors hit the road to visit two other Steiff collectors in Connecticut.  And it is very safe to say "A grand and Steiff-y time was had by all!"  Here are some of the amazing things Steiffgal and gang shared during their button-in-ear play date!

The first stop on the Steiff tour was to view the collection of Sandy Booth, where we were treated to a magnificent and well curated exhibit of Steiff rarities, most in excellent condition with all IDs!  Here is one of her display units - and it's ok to stare!  Which are your favorites?

There were so many great things to see at Sandy's, that Steiffgal felt like a kid in a candy store.  It's hard to pick out highlights when everything is so lovely, but here's a few things that really caught every one's eye. The first was this precious duo of a very large vintage Treff the Bloodhound and her little duckling friend. Treff is 35 cm, made from mohair, and sitting. Sitting Treffs were produced in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, 35, 43 and 50 centimeters. Treff proved to be a very successful design and was produced in a number of sizes, materials, and models through 1938. The darling duck is Steiff's Spiel Ente or Play duck.  He is standing, made from yellow wool plush, and 22 cm. His big feet and open beak are made from yellow felt.   He has red felt disks behind his black button eyes.  Pre-war, Play duck was produced in this size only from 1933 through 1943.  

Another cool item with wheel - ahem, real - appeal was Sandy's marvelous donkey on wheels. Donkey is 14 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from mohair. He has a very short black mane. His tail is made from felt with a black mohair tip. He has black airbrush highlights down his back, on the tips of his ears, and indicating his hooves. Donkey's face is sweet and baby-like; it is detailed with shiny black button eyes and delicate airbrushing to define his nose and mouth area. He sports his original red leather reins.  Donkey is mounted on a simple metal chassis and glides along on four red wooden eccentric wheels.  This donkey on wheels was produced in this size only from 1954 through 1961.

In addition to Sandy's great taste in Steiff, she also has a wonderful sense of how to display her collection.   Take for example, this glass domed vignette of four early Steiff birds perched on just the perfect branch.  Two of the birds are Finches, while the other two are Blue Tits.  The birds are all 10 cm, made from mohair, with stiffened braided hair wing tips, plastic beaks, and early metal feet.  Both the Finches and the Blue Tits were produced in this size from 1959 through 1961.  

After a delicious lunch, the Steiff Superteam was off to their second and final destination of the tour.  After a brief car ride, we arrived at the lovely home museum of Shelley Smith.  In addition to Steiff, Shelley also collects and sells antiques, dolls, miniatures, and Christmas related collectibles.  So viewing this remarkable setting was truly like being in Santa's magical workshop!  Choosing highlights from Shelley's collection was as challenging as it was to do with Sandy's.  Here is just the tip of the iceberg of the things that really called to Steiffgal.

It's hard not to oodle these two marvelous poodles! Here we have spectacular examples of two rare, 1950's era Steiff poodles. The white one on the left is the early version of Snobby. This top dog is standing and made from wool plush. She came in black or white. Her face is detailed with a black glass button nose and round brown and black glass pupil eyes. Her mouth and claws are defined by embroidery. Her coat is in what Steiff refers to as the "French" trim, meaning that it is fluffy basically from the waist area up; her lower torso and backside are more closely cropped. She also has longer tufts of fur around her knees, elbows, and the tip of her tail. This original Snobby was produced in 17 or 22 cm in 1952 only.  The black poodle on the right is Maidy.  She is standing and unjointed, and made from delightful and really unusual "Persian Lamb" style mohair. She has a slightly longer mohair "beard" around her chin. Her mouth and claw stitching is done in mauve colored embroidery floss. She was produced in 25 and 30 cm in 1959 only.

Eye bet you cannot resist this next highlight from Shelley's outstanding collection.  This sitting sweetheart is the early Susi cat.  She is 17 cm, made from grey mohair and is head jointed.  Her little tail wraps gently around her backside.  She his lovingly hand airbrushed with black stripes.  Her face is detailed with bluish-green and black slit pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered mouth and nose, and large, pert ears.  Susi, who is named for a member of the Steiff family, was produced pre-war in 14, 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1936 through 1943.

You don't have to be from the Boston area to fall in love with this fourth highlight from Shelley's hug.  Here we have Steiff's extremely rare Boston Terrier on metal wheels.  The dog itself is 28 cm, unjointed, standing, and made from brown and tan felt.  His face is detailed with black button eyes and a simple black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  When he was new, he had a few black dots around his muzzle to indicate his whiskers.  Boston Terrier is mounted to metal axles with regular, not eccentric, round wheels.  Although his neckwear is not original, he did leave the factory in Giengen a century ago with a handsome leather collar.  Boston Terrier on wheels was produced in 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1913 through 1919.

Many thanks to Sandy and Shelley for opening up their homes to the Steiff community, as well as providing such gracious hospitality.

Steiffgal hopes this virtual tour has inspired you to share your collection with new friends, too!

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

An A-maize-ing Late 1940's Era Steiff Teddy Baby

Once in awhile, something amazing (or in this case, a-maize-ing) just seems to appear out of nowhere!  And such is the case with this very cool and unusual Steiff Teddy Baby bear.  Steiffgal purchased this terrific toddler online based on his impish smile and adorable personality.  But, he arrived with a surprise - well, three, actually - which really made him a most welcome addition to her hug.  Let's take a look at this colorful cub and check out his special design and period features.  

Oh baby, it's hard not to just fall in love with this adorable Steiff bear.  Teddy Baby is 22 cm, five ways jointed, and made from long maize mohair.  He has a working squeaker in his belly.  His muzzle and the tops of his feet are made from short, tan colored mohair.  His paw pads are made from peach colored felt. His collar and pendant are not original to him but were made by Steiff; this bear would have left the Steiff factory wearing a leather collar and bell. This cub shares all the characteristics of Steiff's beloved and classic Teddy Baby bears:  flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing; downward curved arms; toddler-esque proportions; and a smiling, open mouth (in the medium and larger models.) Post war, this model was produced in maize, honey, and brown mohair in 9, 22, 28, 30, and 40 cm from 1949 through 1957.

Many people believe good things come in threes, and that's just what's happening with this Ted's interesting features. 

First, orange you curious about his most unusual color?  His hue, called "maize" is very seldom seen in the Steiff line.  It is hard to describe - sort of a tangerine or orangutan color.  Pre-war, Steiff did produce Teddy Baby bears in maize (9, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 25, 30, 35, 38, 40, 45 cm from 1930 through 1943), as well as a few other products in the 1930's including a "Ball Teddy" (9 cm from 1935 through 1940), "Ball Chin-Chin" (15 cm from 1932 through 1935), and a handful of rabbits.  Post war, in addition to this Teddy baby, maize items included a wool plush Chow Chow dog (produced in 12, 17, and 25 cm from 1951 through 1959) and a Mini Teddy Baby Replica 1930 (produced in 6 cm from 1998 through 2001; he is pictured here on the left sitting with his vintage brother).

Second, let's button things up with his great knopf-im-ohr!  This Teddy Baby has the great and really rare early post war blank button.  This ID was used from 1948 through 1950, right after the company resumed production post WWII.  This button is made from nickel and measures 5 mm in diameter.  And just how rare is this button?  Steiffgal has less than a handful of items in her vintage collection of 800+ items with this very special IDs.

Third, well, for this one, we must discuss it with a bit of modesty.  Like most Steiff items produced in the 1947 through 1953 time frame, this bear has his US Zone tag.  This tag was traditionally sewn into the seam on the right arm or leg.  However, in this case, Ted has his US Zone tag sewn right in the center of his crotch!  Steiffgal has never, ever seen anything like this!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this maize Steiff Teddy Baby 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, January 4, 2014

Tag, You're It, When It Comes To This Unusual Steiff Promotional Item

Tag - you're it - when it comes to this Steiff treasure with an abundance of labeling.  In addition to the "standard" 1970's era Steiff IDs of a button in ear, yellow ear tag, and red and yellow "split" style chest tag, this toddler-esque cub also has washing instructions, his original price tag, store label, and a most unusual promotional tag.  Let's take a look at this Teddy ambassador from the German publishing world and see what makes him so interesting from the design and collector perspectives. 

This well read (and red, in some respects) bear is Toddel. He is 32 cm, standing, and head jointed.  Toddel is made from beige dralon, with trivera velvet paw pads and a small tan mohair muzzle.  He has very flat feet, which allow him to stand on his own. His face is detailed with oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and light airbrushed highlights.  Toddel was made in this size only from 1971 through 1982 as a promotional item for the German magazine Eltern, which is still in business today.  

Eltern translates to "Parents" - and this periodical indeed is chock full of information and guidance for moms, dads, and young families.  However, it is not entirely clear if Toddel's design is/was representative of the Eltern mascot or logo, or was just a sweet bear made as a somewhat customized advertising specialty for this publishing house.  Toddel has a very similar appearance and body shape to that of Soft Bear Toldy, a beige dralon bear produced in 30 and 40 cm from 1970 through 1979.

It's hard to miss Toddel's unusual and most prominent tag - red on the outside, white on the inside - which is suspended from a red silk ribbon.  The tag reads "Eltern" on one side, and "Toddel" on the reverse.  The inside of the tag is pictured on the left and basically says how parents can now buy Toddel stories on the Maritim record label, that Eltern has a special children's section in its monthly magazine, and that parents can also buy Toddel puzzles made by JW Spear and Sons of Nurnberg. 

Despite his relatively simple construction and design, this Toddel has several interesting features and details that make him a very good read for collectors.

1.  First, and somewhat randomly, Toddel appears in the 1947-2003 Steiff Sortiment book in the "Bears and Teddy Bears" chapter, despite clearly being a co-branded product with the magazine; customer special items, like this one, almost always appear in the "Promotional and Film Animals" chapter of this reference book.

2.  Second, Toddel's special Eltern tag is detailed with two actual Steiff buttons.  Steiff hardly ever uses their buttons for detailing the packaging or labeling of a product; they are far more likely to use buttons on the clothing or shoes of an item.  The only other item that Steiffgal can recall offhand where Steiff used buttons on something "disposable" related to an item was the clear plastic boxes used to package the woolen miniature mobiles, back in the late 1960's and early 1970's. 

3.  Third, this particular Toddel, which was clearly made for the German marketplace, was purchased at FAO Schwarz in New York City in 1976.  Toddel retains his original red wooden FAO Schwarz bell tag, as well as his FAO Schwarz price tag, stating that he cost $22.50 at the time.  It is curious to consider why such a country specific, niche item would end up for sale so far away from its key target audience!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Eltern magazine's Toddel has been a great page turner for you!

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