Saturday, March 29, 2014

Care To Make A Playdate With This Precious Steiff Pachyderm?

Hey, let's play!  What Steiff enthusiast can resist that offer?  Of course, most of Steiff's delightful vintage items were designed for fun and play, but here's one who's design and naming origins insist that this is truly the case!  Take a look at this dear transitional period Steiff elephant and see what makes her so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Care to make a playdate with this precious Pachyderm?  Here we have a sweet and distinctively cheerful jungle gem named Young Elephant.  She is 22 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from short grey mohair.  Her tail is tipped with a tuft of longer grey mohair.  She has soft ears placed low on her head, and a simple long trunk which is lined in wire and poseable.  Her smiling, open mouth is lined in peach colored felt, and her smallish, black button eyes are backed by pink felt, and have a tiny touch of pink airbrushed highlighting.  Young Elephant wears a red felt saddle that is trimmed in yellow and is decorated with a green felt crescent and a yellow felt oval on both sides.  This blanket did have a small bell on the ends of either side when she left the factory in Giengen many years ago.  Unfortunately, these have been lost to time but the stitches that held the bells in place are still evident on the underside of her blanket.   In terms of ID, this piece retains her raised script button and linen US Zone tag in the seam of her right front leg. Young Elephant was made in this size only from 1950 though 1951.

What's old is new when it comes to this great Steiff pattern. Young Elephant is actually based on a relatively vintage design that was introduced in the 1930's called "Play Elephant."  This pattern is distinctively childlike and endearing - made so by its simple design, chubby proportions, happy and tusk-less facial expression, and eye treatment.  The first Play Elephant debuted in 1935 and was constructed from an interesting material called curled wool plush.  This fabric sort of has the look and feel of very bumpy Persian lamb.  Play Elephant was made with a colorful striped blanket in 14 and 17 cm; the 17 cm version was also produced as a pull toy on eccentric green wooden wheels.  Curled wool plush Play Elephants appeared overall in the line through 1941. You can see an example of the curled wool plush Play Elephant here on the left, this photo is from Christie's.

In 1938, probably as a result of wartime shortages and rationing, Play Elephant was made in grey artificial silk plush in 17, 22, and 28 cm.  This version had a red felt blanket which was trimmed in yellow with a yellow and green felt flower and a bell on each side as decorations.  Pre-war silk plush Play Elephants appeared in the line through 1943, about the time most Steiff toy manufacturing ceased.  You can see an example of a silk plush Play Elephant here on the left, this photo is from eBay.  Both the Steiff pre-war curled wool plush and artificial silk plush Play Elephants are very seldom seen on the secondary markets and today are considered quite collectible by Steiff enthusiasts around the world.   

Anxious to regain its position as a leading toy manufacturer after the conclusion of WWII, Steiff immediately began producing some of its most beloved and best selling pre-war items as soon as the company reopened for business in the late 1940's.  These designs included Molly the puppy, Fluffy the cat, Jocko the chimp, a deer, and the Play Elephant design, among others.  Like the pre-war version, the earliest post war version of Play Elephant was also made in silk plush - but in only 22 cm from 1948 through 1949.  In 1950, Play Elephant was renamed Young Elephant and produced for the first time in standard grey mohair, also in 22 cm - but just through 1951. 

To insure that their gentle giants were indeed kings of the jungle moving forward, Steiff decided to  re-engineer their elephant pattern in 1950 to make it more lifelike, easier to manufacture, and scalable in size. Known simply as Elephant, these sweet beasts were standing, unjointed, and made from lovely grey mohair. Depending on their sizes, they had felt or mohair ears, white tusks, black and white google eyes, and a red felt blanket. This classic style of Steiff elephant was manufactured in 7, 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm from cm from 1950 through 1978. The 17 cm version of Elephant is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Young Elephant has been a playful intermission for you!

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

Saturday, March 22, 2014

These Unusual Steiff Pandys Are Really Quite Dandy!

Ok, Steiffgal confesses - she is indeed pandering to her reader's love of exotic Steiff collectibles in this week's blog post. Here we have two wonderful critters that sort of look like a mashup between a raccoon, fox, and panda bear! And maybe a little cat in the mix, too...?  But indeed, they do represent a real species - and they were in the Steiff line for a real-ly short time! Can you guess the identity behind these beautiful beasts?  

These standing sweeties are none other than Steiff's Pandy Indischer Pandas or Pandy Indian Pandas. Both are standing on all fours, head jointed, and made from mohair. Their limbs, backs of their ears, and their undercarriages are black. Their backs, faces, and tails are coppery mohair. And their muzzles, inside ears, and "sideburn" areas are tan mohair. Their tails are airbrushed with brown stripes, sort of like a raccoon. Pandy's face is brought to life with brown and black pupil eyes; a black hand embroidered nose and mouth; clear monofilament whiskers; and gentle brown airbrushing for definition. Pandy was produced overall in 10, 17, and 25 cm from 1963 through 1964.  

Pandy was also produced in a 50 cm riding version on wheels in 1963 only. This model is extremely rare; Steiffgal has never seen this "Pandy on the go" in real life.

As a footnote, it interesting to note that the 14 and 25 cm Pandys had small felt claws on each of their four limbs. This is a relatively unusual design treatment for Steiff bears. Steiffgal can only think of two other vintage Steiff bear designs with this similar detail, and both are from the same general time frame as Pandy. They include Zooby, the Zoo Bear, who appeared in 28 cm from 1964 through 1966, and a white dralon bear named Cosy Teddy who appeared in 28 cm in 1964 only.  Of course, felt claws can be seen on Steiff's beloved turtles and crocodiles from the late 1950's through 1970's time frame.

So, is an Indian Panda truly a rare bear?  Well, maybe.  This species - which average the size of a large house cat - is extremely hard to classify, and has been thought to be a relative of giant pandas, as well as raccoons.  Today, they are considered members of their own unique family—the Ailuridae.  They are generally nocturnal, spend much of their time in trees, and live in the mountains of Nepal and northern Myanmar (Burma), as well as in central China.  Unfortunately, today Indian pandas are endangered, mostly because of deforestation, as logging and agriculture take over their natural habitat.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's unusual and rare Indian Pandas has been an exotic treat for you.

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

Friday, March 14, 2014

Things Are On The Move At The Upcoming Teddy Dorado Auction!

Things certainly are on the move in the auction world!  And that can only mean good things for Steiff collectors and enthusiasts all from all corners of the Earth!  On Saturday, March 22, 2014, Steiffgal's dear friends at Teddy Dorado are hosting a fantastic auction event in Germany featuring over 300 lots of older, modern, and replica Steiff collectibles - certainly something for everyone!  In order to spring readers to action over this auction, Teddy Dorado was kind enough to send us VIDEOS of some of the finest vintage items in the sale.  So let's take a look at these "moving pictures" and see what makes these highlights so interesting from the collector and historical perspectives - and don't forget to click on the big arrow on the pictures above each description to start the show!

You know spring is truly in the air when you can hear the birds singing their happy warmer weather song!  Here we have a truly fantastic example of Steiff's "Chirp Couple."  This really marvelous item consists of two Steiff woolen miniature birds on a green "seesaw" type of movable platform.  The platform measures about 9 cm tall and 11 cm long.   When the platform is moved up and down, the birds appear to sing and bow to each other.   The bird with the blue head is Steiff's standard line Blue Tit (made in 4 and 8 cm from 1934 through 1943); the bird with the red head is Steiff's Finch (made in 4 and 8 cm from 1933 through 1943).  Both birds are 8 cm and are head jointed.  They are made from Nomotta wool and have brown metal legs and felt beaks and tail feathers.  Remarkably, each retains their crisp and fully legible red ear tag and Steiff button, which are worn like an anklet on each bird. 

This extraordinary item was in the Steiff line overall from 1932 thorough 1943; given the type of birds on the platform and the red ear tags, it is most probable that this specific example was made in 1934.  For more information on the Chirp Couple, click here.

It's time now to move on to another very springlike Teddy Dorado auction highlight - one that really enjoys just swaying in the breeze!  Here we have an amazingly rare Steiff lamb hanging pram toy.  The lamb itself standing, unjointed and is about 8.5 cm tall and 9 cm long.  His face, ears and legs are made from felt.  His legs are lined in wires for strength and poseability.  His sweet and tiny face is detailed with black button eyes and a simple pink hand embroidered nose and mouth.  He wears a tiny ribbon and bell.  Lamb is suspended from an elastic cord which is decorated with woolen pom-poms and finished with an ivory ring for hanging.  And no need to count sheep over this one - lamb is a rattle and also retains his button as his Steiff ID! 

This woolie and wonderful pram toy was in the line from 1902 through 1917.  It is estimated that this piece was produced in the 1905 through 1909 time frame - although he looks like he's game for at least another century of fun and play!  In addition to this design, Steiff also made a few other lamb pram toys; these included one with just a lamb's head suspended from an elastic cord decorated with pom-poms (produced from 1904 through 1912) and a more elaborate one of a full lamb reclining on a felt covered ring suspended from ribbons (produced from 1916 through 1918.)  Like the lamb pram toy featured in the Teddy Dorado auction, each of these two other pram toys were finished with an ivory ring for hanging.  For more information on the lamb pram toy, click here.

So lets take a paws - however briefly - to check out this final moving marvel from the upcoming auction.  Could this just be the perfect pooch?  Here we have a stellar example of Steiff's Rattler Terrier with a tail moves head mechanism.  In terms of size, he measures about 19.5 cm tall (without his ears)  or 17.5 cm long (without his tail.) Rattler is sitting, head jointed, and firmly stuffed with excelsior.  He is made from mohair with grey highlights.  His charming and authentic beard and eyelashes are made from longer mohair with a tan/orange cast to it.  His face is detailed with lovely almond shaped tri-colored glass eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  His belly squeaker and his tail moves head mechanism are in fine and working order - this is most unusual for an item over 75 years old!  Remarkably, Rattler retains his underscored button in ear, crisp and fully legible yellow ear tag (with a very cool H for "head mechanism" stamped on it), movement instruction tag on his tail, and large, colorful named chest tag as his Steiff IDs.  

There's no need to give anyone a heads up that Rattler might win best of show at the upcoming Teddy Dorado event.  Overall, this blue-ribbon beauty was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, and 35 cm in the 1930 through 1943 time period.  Steiff produced a number of "tail moves head" items in the early 1930's, including other dogs, rabbits, and cats.  These items were produced as higher end "luxury" pieces; their internal mechanisms were designed to create a natural type of movement within the animal.  For more information on this Rattler, please click here.

Steiffgal hopes this video preview of Teddy Dorado auction highlights has been more fun than a Saturday movie matinee!  For more information on Teddy Dorado and their upcoming events and offerings, please click here!

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

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Sneak Peak At Some Amazing Steiff Treasures To Be Sold This June At James D. Julia Auctioneers!

Start spreading the news... the STEIFF news, that is! Steiffgal is over the moon grateful to be helping out with a sales event every Steiff collector must know about! On Friday, June 13th, auctioneer James D. Julia will be selling about 120 absolutely remarkable vintage Steiff treasures from the amazing and world-class collection of well known and beloved Steiff enthusiasts Chuck and the late Cathy Steffes of Virginia. The collection consists mostly of bears, cats, and rabbits, so Steiffgal thought she would give you a behind the scenes look at a rare and breathtaking example of each today. But stay tuned, there will be more previews such as this to come over the next few months!

No need to give more than a few "blues clues" about the identity of this first masterpiece. Here we have a gorgeous example of Steiff's highly sought after Petsy the Baby Bear. Petsy is 16" or 40 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from wonderful brown tipped mohair. He retains his red ear tag and long trailing F Steiff button. Petsy had a very short, but very sweet, appearance in the Steiff catalog, only appearing from 1928 through the very early 1930's. This particular Petsy has a delightful body shape and weight, and has the regal appearance that he was a prized possession - but not everyday plaything - of a very lucky youngster many years ago. Steiffgal was drawn to him like metal to a magnet; Petsy literally called to her as she walked into the room where the all the Steiff bears and treasures awaited evaluation at Julia's.  

The Petsy pattern is very distinctive for Steiff in terms of the company's product design and development timeline. What makes him different than earlier designs, among other factors, are his intentional and prominent middle facial seam which runs vertically from his forehead across his snout, and his oversized, posable wire lined ears.  Together these features give him a pointedly "youthful" appearance.  During his years in the line, Petsy was produced in two commercialized versions. The first was a brown tipped mohair version with blue eyes (like the example available at Julia's) with pink/red facial and claw stitching. The second was a brass mohair version with brown and black pupil eyes and black facial and claw stitching. The tipped version appeared in ten sizes ranging from 15 to 50 cm sitting (or 22 to 75 cm standing) while the brass version was only produced in one size: 22 cm sitting or 32 cm standing. Tipped Petsy was also produced as a musical Ted in 17 and 20 cm (or 25 and 30 cm standing), on a four wheeled rolling cart in 20 and 25 cm, as a 17 cm puppet, and as a 17 cm purse over time.  

UPDATE 5/30/14:  Don't just take Steiffgal's word on how good this Petsy bear is! Click here to see him featured in THE NEW YORK TIMES... his story starts about halfway down the column!

Now it's quick like a bunny onto today's second auction highlight. Here we have a very seldom seen example of Steiff's larger Jack Rabbit with his button and red ear tag! Jack is standing and head and arm jointed. His head and hands are made from mohair, while his body and limbs are made from fine velvet. His face is detailed with velvet lined ears which are highlighted with a touch of pink airbrushing, oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose, a black hand embroidered mouth, and a little red felt circle to highlight his smile. His clothing is integral to his body. He is elegantly attired in brown tie shoes, blue and white striped socks, light orange pants, a tan shirt, burgundy jacket, and an oversized light blue bow. Special outfit details include a brown leather belt and big brassy buttons on his suit coat. Jack Rabbit was made in 22 and 28 cm from 1927 through 1932. This was the first time that Steiffgal handled an original Jack Rabbit, and she was absolutely amazed by his condition, rarity, and the fact that he still had the tiny accessories that make his outfit so special. Things like buttons, shoes, belts, and ties are frequently lost to time, love, and playwear.  

It is important not to confuse this Jack Rabbit design with Steiff's darling interpretation of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. Jack Rabbit was a relatively early licenced Steiff item. The character was the star of a popular 1920's era series of American children's books by David Cory. The books were published in New York by Grosset & Dunlap. Steiff produced and sold almost 2,800 examples of Jack Rabbit between 1927 and 1931. 

This final auction highlight is worthy of a cat call - no pun intended! This gorgeous Fluffy on a Pincushion is quite the looker! Fluffy is 10 cm tall and head jointed. She is sitting, unjointed, and made from white and tipped mohair which has mellowed to a fabulous lilac color over time. Her little tail wraps sweetly around her body. Fluffy's face is detailed with tiny deep green and black pupil eyes, a simple hand embroidered pink nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. She sits - like a purrr-fect princess - upon a square pincushion made from scrumptious long pink mohair. And, just when you thought it couldn't get any better here, it actually does. Fluffy retains ALL of her Steiff IDs, including her long trailing F button, red ear tag, and amazing metal rimmed, named chest tag. This size Fluffy on a Pincushion was made from 1926 through 1932. A smaller version of this item, using a 7 cm version of Fluffy, was in the line from 1928 through 1934.

Steiffgal's literally grinning like a Cheshire cat over this fantastic feline. Everything about this kitten - from her perfect proportions, harmonious and gentle color configuration, and heart tugging appeal - truly makes her the cat's meow.

This hugely popular Fluffy design was introduced in 1926. Her details are quite typical of other products Steiff created during "the roaring 20's" - items tended to have large, childlike eyes, bright colors, playful textures, and a distinctly feminine touch to them. Fluffy was such a favorite that she was produced in nine standard sizes, as well as in the form of other novelties including a musical version, dangling "Charleston" style item, and as a tail turns head model. She appeared in the line overall through 1950. Her design was slowly replaced by Susi, another favorite sitting style cat, who was a line standard through 1978.

Steiffgal hopes this initial review of Steiff highlights from James D. Julia's June 2014 auction featuring the Steffes collection has been a top-tier experience for you.  The full catalog should be online at in early to mid-April.  Happy Steiff dreaming to you!

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

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Counting Sheep Over This Large And Unusual Green Eyed Lamb

It's not always exactly black and white when it comes to the identification of some vintage Steiff treasures.  And such is the case with this somewhat rare, early postwar lamb, who just indeed happens to be black and white!  Check out this note from a friend in New England, who asks about the eartag on an extra-large version of a sweet barnyard buddy.  Sandy writes in part:
 What can you tell me about a black and white Lamby - the one with green eyes - that is about 14 inches tall with a stock tag number 6535,02?  I don't see that number listed for the black Lamby in the Sortiment - but I know there are things that are not listed.  None of the stock numbers for the black Lamby end in 02 but there is such a number listed for a white Lamby.  
Let's not start counting sheep and take a look right away at this great Steiff design.  Sandy is describing a very nice black and white lamb pattern that only officially appeared in the Steiff line for a handful of years, from 1954 through 1956, in 10, 14, and 22 cm.  She is pictured here on the left; these Lambys are from Steiffgal's personal collection.  Called Lamby, she is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from black wool plush.  Her tail is made from white wool plush; smaller versions have a white forehead while larger versions have a white forehead, face, and muzzle area.  Lamby's ears are made from black felt.  Her face is detailed with green and black pupil eyes and a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth.  Lamby left the factory in Giengen with a silk bow and brass bell. 

So what about the Lamby Sandy is describing - a really big one at 14 inches tall?  Well, that does translate to 35 cm - which is much larger than the examples noted in the standard Steiff reference books.  So what may be this item's story - and what's with his article number that does not appear like any of the other standard size black Lamby models?  Well, only the lamb knows for sure, and many things in the Steiff world are not as consistent as many collectors would like.  So here's Steiffgal's possible take on this marvelous Steiff mystery.

Steiff began producing its lovely and extremely popular white lambs post war in 1948; they were named Lamb from 1948 to 1953, and Lamby from 1954 until the end of production in 1976.  Steiff introduced a black lamb pattern, also called Lamby, in 1954.  The article numbers for the first series of both white and black Lambys in 10, 14, and 22 cm were the same, except that the black ones had an s right after the number.  When Steiff did this, it usually was meant to indicate a color, and in this case, it is Steiffgal's strongest suspicious that the s was to designate schwarz, or black.  The 35 cm version of white Lamby, with article number 6535,02 was made from 1953 through 1958.  "6535,02" in Steiff language means young, wool plush, 35 cm, without wheels, and with a voice.  
It is Steiffgal's guess here that black Lamby was made in this 35 cm size as a sample, in a very limited production, or was not documented in the 1954-1956 time period.  It is not known if the 35 cm black Lamby Sandy is describing has a voice in its belly or not, and this is pretty important.   
  • If he does, then the article number 6535,02 would actually make sense for the black Lamby.  It is interesting to note that Steiff's numbering system in the 1947-1958 time frame did not explicitly represent colors via digits.  
  • If he does not have a squeaker in his belly, it is Steiffgal's best guess, that because the company realized that they would not be making black Lamby in the 35 cm size, but wanted to sell these larger pieces, they put on the 6535,02 ear tags they had on hand because in essence they do closely describe the product, and the time frame in which it was produced, and this would be the most cost effective and efficient rather than ordering a bunch of tags when only a few were required.  
Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the numbering system on Steiff's black and white Lamby lambs all adds up to you.
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.
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