Sunday, August 31, 2014

Size Defies When It Comes To Steiff's Adorable Woolen Miniature Mice!

With  just a handful of summer left, Steiffgal thought it might be fun to take little look at one of Steiff's legacy products that truly would fit in the palm of your hand!  It seems that everyone just loves Steiff's woolen miniatures, and for good reason!  They are completely adorable, gorgeously designed, and of course, don't take up too much room (which tends to be an issue the larger one's collection becomes!)  Perhaps the cutest - in Steiffgal's humble opinion - woolies are Steiff's tiny mice.  Check out this tiny two-some and perhaps you'll agree as well!

Size defies when it comes to these lifelike, miniature master pieces!  Here we have an albino white mouse and a grey mouse.  Both are cataloged as 4 cm, made from wool yarn, are standing on all fours, have long tails, and are head jointed.  Their petite feet, which each have four toes, are made of peach colored felt.  Their tiny faces come to life with airbrushed-highlighted felt ears, playful whiskers, bead eyes, and pink painted noses and mouths.  The grey mouse on the left was produced from 1931 through 1943 overall; he also came in white and brown.  The white mouse on the right was made from 1949 though 1984 overall and also came in grey.

Both mice sport IDs which are appropriate for their era of production.  The white mouse has a tiny raised script button and article number 7354/04 (suggesting a specific 1968 through 1984 manufacture date) while the grey mouse has a tiny trailing F button and article number 2504,1 (suggesting a specific 1937 through 1943 manufacturing date.)  These items never had chest tags, and as far as Steiffgal can see, no woolen miniatures ever did.  However, a handful of woolen miniatures are perhaps the only items in the entire Steiff history of production that did not leave the factory with a “button in ear.” Even birds, which clearly lack ears, had a button securing their label around their leg. Woolie ladybugs and hedgehogs do not, and never had, Steiff buttons. There was simply no place to attach them. But their look, feel, and manufacturing make them undoubtedly Steiff.

It is always fun with Steiff to track how designs change - or don't - over time.  This is especially true with beloved and popular items that are produced over a long period, even decades... as is in the case of these mice!  In general, with these two babies, it is clear that their core, basic pattern did not change over time.  And, given that both mice weigh 5 g, that the critical mass of the pattern remained constant over time.  However, there are a few very subtle differences between them.  These include:

  • Their length from nose to fanny.  The white mouse measures 5 cm while the grey mouse measures 4 cm. 
  • Their tails.  The white mouse has an 8 cm tail made from solid peach colored rubber.  The grey mouse has an 8.5 cm tail made from grayish-black stretchy elastic, like an elastic band.  You can see a close up of their tails in the photo above on the left.
  •  Their whiskers.  The white mouse has numerous long, flexible, clear whiskers, while the grey mouse has just a handful of very short, stiff, brownish whiskers.
Let's talk about the size difference first.  Because each Steiff item is made by hand, it is entirely possible that size differences are a result of the touch of individual craftspeople.  It is also conceivable - because each mouse weighs the same (and clearly their bodies make up most of their mass) - that the composition of the woolen fibers used on these items changed over time, and/or aged differently.  

Now their tails and whiskers.  These differences are most likely attributable to materials available on hand at the time of their production, as well as manufacturing improvements to those materials over the decades. It is most interesting that the older grey mouse's tail, which is made from a stretchy material, has not dried out, cracked, or fallen off - which happens alot with older rubber items.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's tiny woolen mice has made a huge and happy difference in your day!

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Good Things Come In Threes With Steiff's Tiny Tabby Kittens

Less is more when it comes to Steiff's amazing palm-sized pets!  And who wouldn't want to add a few petite treats to their Steiff hug? Although by nature more of a "dog person," Steiffgal recently had the the opportunity to adopt three utterly marvelous palm sized Steiff kittens into her collection.  Check out this terrific trio and see what makes them the cat's meow in so many ways!

Steiffgal is totally smitten with these tiny kittens! Here we have three of Steiff's Tabby cats.  They are standing, unjointed, and made from white mohair which has been highlighted with grey and detailed with black stripes. Their faces are brought to life with green and black slit pupil eyes, pink hand embroidered noses and mouths, and clear monofilament whiskers.  Each wears a pink or red bow and a tiny brass colored jingle bell.  Overall, postwar Tabby was made in 7, 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1949 through 1977.

Size also defies with these charming baby cats! Although they are "technically" labeled and cataloged as the 7 cm version (measured vertically from top of head to toe,) these Tabby cats actually vary from a little over 7 cm down to 6 cm.  A centimeter plus or minus doesn't sound like a big difference here, but when things are actually this small, it has a huge effect on an item's scale and appearance. 

It's never polite to ask someone's age, but in this case, it's makes for an interesting mystery!  These "triplet" cats all have their raised script buttons, yellow ear tags, and red imprinted chest tags.  This combination of IDs dates them all around 1952.  However, when it comes to Steiff, things are never quite that simple... especially when it comes to identification and detailing on items from the late 1940's and early 1950's.  There are a few very subtle differences between them that suggest that they may not all share the identical birth date!

  • One Tabby has a tiny white linen "US Zone" tag sewn into his front leg seam; the others do not.  This tag measures less than 1 square cm overall and is pictured above on the left. The US Zone tag was technically used on all items produced by Steiff in the 1947 through 1953 time frame.
  • One Tabby has early style, "teal green" and black slit pupil eyes, while the others have more "soda bottle green" and black slit pupil eyes; this is pictured below.
  • One Tabby's ear tag reads, "Steiff (in bold script) Original 1307,0 Made in Germany" while the others both read, "Steiff (in regular print) Orig. gesch. 1307,0 Made in Germany."  Both of these styles of ear tags were used in the approximately 1952 time frame, and are pictured below.
  • Each kitten has a silk ribbon; however they are not matching in color.  One ribbon is not original, but in the correct "color palate" to the others.  

So what does all this mean?  Here are two things to keep in mind...

First and foremost, it is important to remember that these sorts of vintage Steiff items were all made by hand, so slight differences in size and general appearance are to be expected.  And this truly does magnify with smaller items, where there is less "wiggle room" for differences.  Most collectors would agree that these variations only add to the appeal and charm of Steiff treasures.

Secondly, these items were made during a less than optimal production period at Steiff (circa WWII) where the company was dealing with limited supplies and resources.  During this time, it would not be unusual to use pre-war materials on post war produced items, as the company has traditionally used "what's on hand" for manufacturing and ID purposes.  For example, in this case, the blue-green eyes on one of the Tabby cats could have easily come from pre-war stock, while the Tabby herself may have been made post war.  And, to complicate things even more - given Steiff did indeed make a 7 cm grey and white striped Tabby cat from 1936 through 1943 - this Tabby could have even been made pre-war, tucked away during the war, and then buttoned, labeled, and sold postwar!   Only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these baby kittens reminds you that good things indeed come in threes!

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Starfish Stool Is Truly A Steiff Celebrity!

Who is the star of your Steiff collection? For many enthusiasts, that might change on a weekly, or even daily basis! Here's one very heavenly Steiff rarity that truly has permanent and universal star appeal. Put your feet up and check out this great larger than life celebrity that truly merits a place on the Steiff Walk of Fame!

This leading lady is Steiff's Seestern Snuggy Starly or Snuggy Starly Starfish. This five legged lovely is 50 cm in diameter and 30 cm high and made from mohair. She was actually originally designed as a "sitztier" or sitting animal for children. Her top is gloriously hand airbrushed in pumpkin-orange, brown, green, and cherry-red. Her underside is tan. The tips of her "feet" are made from a faux suede material, which feels quite similar to the faux suede material used on the pads of Steiff's mid to late-1950's pandas and Teddy babies. Starly has a yellow metal frame attached to the underside of her body via heavy tan strings. This "skeleton" gives her strength and stability, and holds her semi "arched" or standing position. She has grey rubber feet on the ends of this metal frame, to keep her in place and prevent floor scratching. Starly was produced in this size only (officially cataloged as "35 cm") from 1959 through 1969.

It is interesting to note that Starly's raised script button is attached to her via a simple white linen strip of material sewn into one of her leg seams. Clearly, she does not have ears or really any other place to put her IDs. However, this is the only time that Steiffgal has seen a button on a plain piece of linen, not on a yellow ear tag or other piece of semi-branded Steiff material or fabric.

Starfish are as rare as a celebrity sighting in the Steiff line. As far as Steiffgal can tell, Starly was the first starfish to appear in the Steiff catalog - ever! And there have been just a handful since her introduction. These include a 10 cm, colorful nicki velour baby rattle starfish (produced from 1978 through 1992); a 20 cm polka-dotted cotton squeaking baby toy (produced from 1999 through 2000); a 12 cm red and yellow mohair starfish named Coloro (produced from 2004 through 2005); and most recently, a red plush starfish named "Piccy" who was introduced in 2012. Piccy was produced as a 15 cm toy as well as a 12 cm keyring; he is pictured here on the left.

Snuggy Starly Starfish was part of a series of "functional playthings" Steiff started producing in the late 1950's. Steiff's universal appeal really took off a few years after the end of WWII, possibly because soldiers returning from assignments in Europe often brought Steiff items back home with them. As a result, Steiff began expanding its offerings to keep up with demand and explore the potential of new product lines. In addition to Starly, other sturdy, metal framed "sitting" mohair animals in the Snuggy series included a 30 cm may beetle (produced from 1968 through 1969), a 40 cm frog (produced from 1959 through 1966), a 43 cm turtle (produced from 1957 through 1974), and a 55 cm elephant (produced from 1957 through 1966). All but Starly were based on existing, beloved Steiff patterns of the time.  Snuggy Slo turtle - and a few of his groupies - are pictured here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Snuggy Starly has put stars in your eyes!

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

This Sweet Steiff Spaniel Is Worthy Of A Crown!

Best of show!  Few could argue that Steiff's early canines are truly top dogs!  One of Steiffgal's most favorite 1920's-era pooch pattern is that of Charly, the King Charles Spaniel.  In real life, this breed was one of the "it" dogs of the 1920's.  In addition to being a beloved pet, a "Charly" was often considered a "style accessory," accompanying well dressed society ladies on their important business of the day.

Steiff introduced Charly in the late 1920's, a time of great creativity at Steiff.  Many dog patterns were also debuted around the same time; this was in part due to the overwhelming popularity of the "grandmother of all Steiff dogs," Molly the puppy, who debuted in 1925.   The original Steiff Charly was produced both sitting (10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, and 35 cm) and standing (7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 22, 25, and 36 cm); the two versions were head-jointed only. Charly dogs were made from light brown or orange-tipped mohair and white mohair; had extremely long fuzzy ears; large, childlike brown and black-pupil eyes; a very detailed facial seam structure; and a prominent tail. Their filling was soft kapok, meaning that they were lighter in weight and more cuddly than other animals stuffed with crunchy excelsior. Sitting and standing Charly appeared in the line overall through 1939. You can see examples of sitting and standing Charly dogs here on the left.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, the designers at Steiff recognized that Charly would be a great source for “theme and variation” product introductions, due to his popularity with collectors.  As a result, he appeared in various forms throughout the line through 1940 or so.  Highlights included:

A pin cushion, in two styles - a sitting and standing version.  Both were mounted on a square mohair pincushion—the sitting version was produced from 1929 through 1932, and the standing version was produced from 1930 through 1932.  The standing version is pictured above; the photo is from Christie's.

A puppet.  Charly was produced as a 17 cm mohair puppet from 1928 through 1939.  If you click here, you will go to a page where you can see a number of Charly puppets and others from the same time frame.  This collection website is one of Steiffgal's most favorite; the treasures  are truly phenomenal and very well displayed!  

Musical animals. Steiff produced musical Charly dogs in both sitting and standing styles from 1928 through 1931 overall. The sitting musical Charly was made in 17 and 22 cm. His music box was activated by squeezing his sides. For some smaller versions of the standing musical Charly, his music box was a bit more unusual; in order to play the music you would pull the tail, not wind it. Steiffgal cannot think of another Steiff music box character that was activated this way. Standing musical Charly was produced in 17, 22, and 25 cm; a medium sized standing musical Charly is shown above.  The photo is from Christies.

Tiny 10 cm woolen Nomotta woolen miniatures.  These were made in both sitting and standing patterns from 1935 through 1937 overall.  Their bodies were "pom-pom" style while their ears were made from mohair and were lined in felt. Despite their demunitive size, these petite treats were distinctly "Spaniel" with their dear looks and prominent tails!

A charming child's purse.  Charly Purse was produced in 22 and 25 cm from 1927 through 1940; in this version, Charly was head jointed and his belly was hollow like a pouch and lined in velvet.  You can see the Steiff's original Charly purse is shown above.  It is interesting to note that this purse was reissued as a North American Limited edition replica in 2005.  For more about this fun and functional item, please click here!

A pajama bag.  Charly Nachthemdentasche or "Charly Night Dress Bag" was produced in 30 cm from 1930 through 1935.  In this version, Charly's head was sewn onto a 30 cm x 30 cm mohair zippered bag that was designed to hold children's sleeping clothes during the day.  This unusual item is shown above; the photograph is from Pfeiffer's Steiff 1892-1943 Sortiment. 
And perhaps the rarest Charly of all - a Pupp Animal Doll.  This version was 28 cm and dressed in a playful purple outfit.  He appeared in the line only from 1929 through 1930.  In 2010, a Pupp Charly realized over $8,300 at auction at Christie's in London; he is pictured above.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wonderful Charly dogs has made you feel like King for the day. 

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

This Musical Steiff Cocker Spaniel Can't Smile Without You!

They say that music soothes the savage beast. So given all the unsettling news that seems to be everywhere these days, Steiffgal thought this singing sweetie might just add a touch of joy to your day! Perhaps we can wind things down a notch by introducing you to "Music Cockie," who has one of Steiff's more "dynamic" music box feature designs. Come see what makes makes this maestro so interesting from the product design perspective.

This musical Cockie Cocker Spaniel just can't wait to break out in song for you. She is 17 cm, head jointed, and sitting. Cockie is made from black and white mohair. Her ears, rear, and tail are made from long wavy black mohair; the sides of her head are made from short black mohair. Her body and limbs are made from long wavy white mohair, while her muzzle and face are made from short white mohair. Cockie's adorable face is detailed with a huge, open, velvet lined mouth, a hand embroidered nose, and black and brown pupil eyes. She has a tail winding style music box, meaning that her musical talents are "activated" by turning her tail in a circular motion. You can see how that works in the video above.

It is interesting to note Steiff only produced one other "tail winding style" musical animal. This was a cat named Kitty. Like Cockie, Kitty was also 17 cm. She had a closed mouth and was made from white and grey mohair. Both Cockie and Kitty appeared in the line from 1955 to 1957, and then again in 1961. It is not unusual to find both models lacking the mohair covering on their tails, probably because this area got so much attention and wear from play. 

Steiff's Musical Cockie represents a relatively unusual example in the range of music box animals the company has produced over time. High quality, European made music boxes became available on a large, commercial scale in the mid 1920's. Seeing the potential in this, Steiff created a line of musical animals based on its most popular items of the era. And, for almost 100 years since then, the company has had musical offerings in the line - although the music box style and activation has changed significantly over the years.

Steiff's "Music-Animals" made their grand stage debut in 1928. This chorus included a five ways jointed Teddy bear, a brown tipped Petsy the baby bear, Bully the bulldog, Molly the puppy, Cheerio the laughing puppy, Fellow the puppy, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, Treff the bloodhound, Fluffy the cat, a clown, and a standing lamb.  Most had a "press and release" style music box; standing Charly's music box was activated by pulling on his tail. These items appeared overall in sizes ranging from 17 through 43 cm. However, despite their charming appearance and musical features, these collectibles were quite expensive and few were made.  Unfortunately at the time, sales were minimal - probably because of cost -  and they were last featured in the catalog in 1930/1931.  

After a two-decade long intermission, Steiff began orchestrating musical animals again in the 1950's.  In 1950, the company featured three new musical animals:  a "Music Bazi," a "Music Teddy Baby," and a "Music Kitty." Their music boxes were activated by gently squeezing their bodies up and down like an accordion.  All of these early post war musical animals appeared in the line in 1950 through 1951 only. Then in 1951, Steiff introduced "Music Teddy," whose design was based on the updated "Original Teddy Bear" pattern that was also introduced in 1951. Right the middle of his belly was a red felt circle that had the word "music" printed in white on it. When this spot was squeezed and released, it played a sweet lullaby.  Music Teddy was so popular that Steiff created "Music Jocko,"  based the company's standard line 35 cm brown mohair chimpanzee. Like Music Teddy, Music Jocko had a squeeze-activated music box implanted in his belly, which was also noted by a red felt disk on his belly. Both Music Jocko and Music Teddy (pictured above on the left) appeared in the line from 1951 through 1957; their production time slightly overlapping with Musical Cockie under discussion here.  

As music box technologies because less expensive and more durable, Steiff began putting them in more playthings designed specifically for babies and children. Since the 1970's, Steiff has made numerous plush, washable cotton, and velour musical items. Unlike Steiff's earlier models, these had wind up or pull cord musical mechanisms, and in some cases, the music box could be removed so the outer shell could be laundered. Today, Steiff frequently puts music boxes into child-friendly products.  Music boxes are also featured in "higher end" collectibles and special editions (like 2004's "American Pride" bear, pictured above on the left), and have become a regular feature in special Christmas and co-branded items

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Musical Cockie has added a happy tune to your day. 

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