Saturday, February 22, 2014

Having A Ball With This Wonderful And Unusual Steiff Play Pony

Check out this bouncing bundle of joy!  No, Steiffgal is not talking about a precious new baby here, but one of the wonderful Steiff birthday gifts she received a few days ago from a dear friend.  Although this treasure is not technically vintage, it is based upon a delightful and beloved toy that has its roots in the early 1980's.  Do you recognize her from your childhood, or perhaps your kid's or grandchildren's toy box?  

Check out the "Toy Story" behind this unusual play pal.  Here we have Steiff's "Rody" pony.  She is unjointed and about 17 cm tall and 17 cm long.  Steiffgal's Rody is made from bright red mohair, but she was also produced in a mostly yellow version, which is pictured here on the left.   Steiffgal's Rody has a heart-shaped patch of orange mohair on her back and a white embroidered heart on her forehead.  She is embroidered with six orange circles and the word "Rody" on each side of her body.  Her face is detailed with white and brown embroidered eyes and a happy white embroidered smiling mouth.  Rody has a distinctly round, ball-like look and feel to her overall.  As noted above, Steiff produced Rody in two color versions:  red and orange and yellow and red.  Each version was made in an edition size of 1,000 pieces exclusively for Japan in 2007.  

Let's rein in the history behind this colorful colt.  Rody is based on a globally recognized and beloved inflatable child's toy designed for riding fun and exercise; she is pictured here on the left.  The Rody character was introduced in 1984 by an Italian company called Ledraplastic.  Rody's general pattern was created by "melting" together play balls of various sizes in order to give her a friendly and juvenile appearance.  The original Rody is 54 cm tall and 45 cm long and made from a very durable and bouncy latex free vinyl.  Believe it or not, Rody can support up to 400 pounds, according to the manufacturer!  Originally, the company wanted to name the toy "Rodeo" but were concerned with patent infringement and other legal issues.  Today, Rody is manufactured in a spectrum of 16 rainbow colors, and is also produced in a larger size (Rody Max) that can support adults, as well as a smaller companion size called Rody Jr.   

Although Steiff has been known and collected across Asia for many years, it was not until the early 1990's that the company began regularly producing country-exclusive items for Japan for the general market.  One of the first was called Teddy Bear 1907, which was produced in a 5,000 piece edition in 1991 and 1992.  He is pictured here on the left.  Traditionally, the majority of Japanese Steiff exclusives have been Teddy bears, or well recognized cultural figures or icons, like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Snoopy, Pingu and Pinga, the penguin claymation characters, and of course, Rody.  Steiff also created a series of bears dressed as pilots and flyers for Japan Air Lines in the early 2000's.  Today, Steiff is as popular as ever in Japan.  Most recently, Steiff produced a 1,500 piece run of Teddy Bear Kumamon, a charming, cartoon like black bear mascot created to promotes rural Kumamoto prefecture in southern Japan.  This fantastic edition sold out on the online shop within five seconds!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Rody has been a wonderful play-date for you! 

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

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Petite Steiff Treat In Honor Of Valentine's Day

In honor of Valentine's Day, the universal holiday of love, Steiffgal thought she'd introduce you to one of her Steiff cupids! Well, this little guy wasn't designed as the sprite with wings and a bow and arrow - but he certainly plays the role of a super sweetheart really well! Come check out this darling Steiff gnome and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This little lovey certainly gets Steiffgal's heart beating in a big way! Here we have Steiff's gnome named Snik. Snik is 35 cm tall, made of felt, and is leg and head jointed. His oversized hands and feet are remarkably detailed with realistic fingers and toes. His ever-happy face comes to life with a long orange mohair beard and eyebrows, bright green and black glass pupil eyes in felt eye pockets, an impish upturned nose, and a open, red smiling mouth. He wears brown felt shorts, a white cotton shirt, a now faded red pointed cap, and a bright purple belted felt vest that has faded to tan over time. You can't help but notice Snik's enormous wooden and leather clogs - just perfect for yard work (but more on that later!) Snik was produced in 25, 35, and 43 cm from 1927 though 1943.

Steiffgal's Snik is based on another very similar felt dwarf (also named Snik) that Steiff produced from 1911 through 1921. Early Snik was made in 22, 30, 43, and 50 cm; he had a purple felt hat and a slightly different facial expression than later Snik. You can see this first Snik pictured here on the left; the photo is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment Book. Early Snik was designed during a most interesting period in the evolution of Steiff dolls. Steiff began commercially producing its first dolls with center-seamed faces around 1904. Most of these were felt; some were velvet. These early dolls were called “caricature” dolls or “charakterpuppe” because they had comical, exaggerated features – such as extremely lean or rotund bodies, huge feet, or cartoon-like faces... much like early and later Snik. In about 1914, Steiff started giving their new doll patterns much more accurate, human proportions, and started moving away from the “charakterpuppe” look. These updated designs became universally embraced for their authenticity, appeal, and charming appearances. So this later Snik, despite his likely production in the late 1920's or early 1930's, is really a nod to Steiff's very early turn of last century “charakterpuppe” doll production and design priorities. 

It was a shoe-in that this clog wearing sweetie would be a hit with collectors for over three decades! Gnomes hold a very special place in the hearts of many Germans and have been a part of European popular culture for centuries. These small, humanoid creatures apparently live underground and are considered auspicious (and a bit mischievous) as well as essential for gardening success! Today, it is not uncommon to see small gnome statues in even the most formally planted and tended gardens across Europe! It is said that gnomes have a lifespan of 400 years and "kiss" by rubbings noses and also use nose rubbing as a greeting equivalent to people shaking hands.  Like our friend Snik under discussion today, "typical" gnomes have red pointy hats, fluffy beards, dark pants, sturdy working shoes, and a sweet expression that reflects the pleasure that comes from a good day at work.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Snik has been a petite treat for you. 
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Celebrating the Year Of The Horse With Steiff's Fantastic Fillies!

Happy New Year!  No, Steiffgal hasn't completely lost track of time! The world has just welcomed the "Year of The Horse," according to the Chinese calendar.  This equine event starts from Jan. 31, 2014 - the Lunar New Year - and lasts through Feb. 18, 2015.  For people born in 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, and 2002, the next 365 days are yours! (Everyone else click here to find out which animal corresponds to your birth year.)  

According to Chinese tradition, people born in a horse year... "have ingenious communicating techniques and in their community they always want to be in the limelight. They are clever, kind to others, and like to join in a venture career. Although they sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely."  

In honor of this "mane" event, Steiffgal thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of Steiff's horses from the early 1950's through 1970's.  So saddle up and let' see what makes these pretty ponies so interesting from the design and product development perspectives. 

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This fabulous filly is Steiff's 14 cm Fohlen or foal. She is standing, unjointed, and made from lovely tan velvet. She has a short tan mohair mane and tail. Foal's face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a brown airbrushed nose and mouth, and sweet brown-grey felt ears.  This sweet baby horse was made in 14 and 28 cm from 1952 through 1961. The 28 cm size was the same pattern but produced in mohair.  

It is no surprise that this early post-war horse has her design origins in the 1930's.  Her pattern has clear similarities to a foal pattern that Steiff introduced in 1932.  The original foal was produced in 22, 28, and 35 cm in wool plush through 1943.  This pattern is shown here on the left; the photo is from the 1892-1943 Sortiment Book by Gunther Pfeiffer. As soon as the factory reopened for business after the war, foal was produced in 28 cm in artificial silk plush in 1948, and then in wool plush in the same size from 1949 through 1951. 

Let's rein in the discussion with this next Steiff pony.  Here we have the company's 12 cm Pony, who is standing, unjointed, and made from tan mohair which has been airbrushed with brown spots.  Her tail and mane are made from longer mohair, and her ears are made from felt.  Her face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and black airbrushing to indicate her nose, mouth, and other facial contours.   She is ready to hit the trail with her red saddle, halter, and reins.  Pony was produced in 12 and 17 cm from 1951 through 1976; the 12 cm version was also is made on blue wheels from 1954 though 1957 and then again in 1960.  

Like foal, is quite possible that this design is also based on a pre-war design called Spielpferd, or play horse.  This early brown and white pony was produced in 18, 23, and 29 cm in artificial silk plush from 1938 through 1943 and also featured prominent red riding accessories. This pattern is shown here on the left; the photo is from the 1892-1943 Sortiment Book by Gunther Pfeiffer.

This next generation Steiff horse is quite the barn burner!  And, as far as Steiffgal can tell, his design is original and not based on a legacy pattern. Here we have Steiff's 22 cm Shetland Pony named Sheddy. He is standing, unjointed, and made from white dralon which has been detailed with chocolate brown airbrushed highlights. He has a short tan mohair mane and tail. Sheddy's face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a black airbrushed nose and mouth, and sweet felt lined ears.  Overall, he was produced in 22, 35, and 50 cm from 1960 through 1974.  Sheddy was so popular that he was also made as a 55 cm rocking pony from 1960 through 1969 and as a riding pony on wheels in 60 cm from 1960 through 1976. (And just in case you are wondering, the Steiff RCA Electrola Fox dog in Sheddy's photo is not taking a ride on him - he just happened to get caught in the photo in a silly sort of way!)

There's no horsing around when it comes to Steiff's century-plus long relationship with the upscale toy retailer FAO Schwarz.   As a matter of fact, the two companies have been doing business together since around 1906, when FAO Schwarz began featuring Steiff's Teddy bears both in their window displays and sales shelves.  As part of that partnership, Steiff began regularly creating a series of exquisite special editions for FAO Schwarz from the 1950's onward.  This fully accessorized pony is a great example of one of these products.  Pony is standing, unjointed and attired for a full day of fun and play. According to the original FAO Schwarz catalog, she is described as, "... a handsome 8.5 inch steed covered in tan and white mohair plush with flowing white mane and tail. Complete with brindle, saddle, and saddle blanket. An FAO Schwarz exclusive. A toy to excite your child's imagination, to give fun-filled hours, and provide fond memories that happily can last a lifetime."  Pony was produced from 1963 through 1972.   
Giddy-up and check out our final Steiff stallion under discussion today. Here we have the delightful and popular 25 cm Spielpferd Ferdy or Play Horse Ferdy. Ferdy is standing, unjointed, and made from lovely chocolate brown mohair. He has a long white mohair mane and tail. His face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a black airbrushed nose and mouth, and sweet brown mohair ears. And like many members on his family tree, he is ready to ride with his red brindle and reins. This sweet treat was made in 18 and 25 cm from 1965 through 1978.
Winston Churchill once said, "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." Steiffgal hopes it is the same with you in regards to this review of vintage Steiff horses... and wishes everyone a very auspicious Chinese New Year!

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