Friday, October 24, 2014

Three's A Charm When It Comes To These Steiff Auction Highlights!

For many people, "the most wonderful time of the year" is the holiday season... but for Steiff collectors, it is arguably right now!  And why is that?  It's full throttle auction time, with wonderful Steiff buying opportunities happening all over the world!  Recently, Steiffgal has brought you exciting highlights from upcoming fall Steiff sales in Germany and the UK.  This week, to complete the trifecta, she's leaving her passport at home and staying relatively local... and reporting in on some fantastic finds from the upcoming James D. Julia Important Toy, Doll, and Advertising Auction. This sale, which offers something for every collector - including several "instant collections" of precious Steiff pets - will be held on November 7, 2014 in Fairfield, Maine.  If you are looking for something rare and unusual to add to your Steiff collection, take a look at these three lots.  They certainly caught Steiffgal's eye!

Steiffgal can't think of a better way to start your day - and this review - than with this delightful and unusual Steiff rooster on wheels.  He has amazing wheel-appeal!  According to the catalog in part, "This wonderful wooden rooster pull toy is made from three pieces of carefully cut wood. The bird itself is delightfully and authentically painted in greens, tans, and golds. He has black dimensional eyes and a playful red comb and waddle. He is mounted upon a metal carriage with four green eccentric wheels. He also sways back and forth in a see-saw manner; the overall effect of him in motion is simply charming. Rooster retains his Steiff button, which is skillfully placed near where his ears would be, if he had any. Rooster appeared in the Steiff line from 1919-1941 in this size only. SIZE: Overall 7-1/2″ h." 

Although most people associate soft toys and collectibles with Steiff, the company also has a long tradition of manufacturing wooden playthings, too.  The first wooden items appeared around 1910 and were mostly accessories for the Teddy bears, animals, and dolls in the line.  Then in the late 19-teens and early 1920's, Steiff began producing large numbers of wooden items - in part because high quality woolen fabrics were in short supply post World War l.  These treasures included block sets, wooden characters on rocking bases and wooden wheels, building sets, trains, pull wagons, animal-themed wagons, novelties, and animals and birds on wheels.  The pull toy birds were exceptionally popular and manufactured overall through the early 1940's.  A wooden duck squeaker toy from this period is pictured here on the left for comparison; the photo is from the website
Next, let's all shake a leg and check out this fantastic Steiff sweetheart from the late 1920's.   According to the catalog in part, "This “tall drink of water” is Rabbiette. She has a mohair rabbit head; long, soft unjointed dangling limbs; and mohair hands and paws. Her body, arms, and legs are made from velvet, which has faded over time. She has glass, very large black and brown pupil eyes and embroidered claws, nose, and mouth. Rabbiette is one of a series of long limbed lovelies in the Steiff catalog from 1927-1932. These “play and car dolls” included Bulliette, the bulldog, and Fluffiette, the cat, among others. These were based on the most popular named Steiff characters of the time. Each had the head of the character, mohair paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Rabbiette has all of her Steiff IDs including her most exceptional metal rimmed chest tag, long trailing F button, and red ear tag. SIZE: 8″ h."

Doesn't Rabbiette just make you feel like dancing? Here's why!  Some toy historians liken this Steiff pattern to a very popular product group from the Chad Valley Toy Company of England called "Tango Toys." It is suspected that Steiff modified this toy design to fit their popular characters and manufacturing processes of the time.  They then named and launched their line as "Charleston Animals" based on the Charleston dance crazy of the 1920’s, with its fast moving arm and leg movements.  Rabbiette was designed as a novelty for fun and play, so it is absolutely amazing that this one survived in such good condition with all of her IDs!  Rabbiette's Charleston "cousin" Bulliette is pictured here on the left for comparison, the photo is from Christies.
Today's third and final Julia's highlight certainly deserves a salute!  Here we have a great example of Steiff’s early five ways jointed military-themed dolls. According to the catalog in part... "Except for his boots and accessories, he is made entirely from felt... His center seamed face is detailed with tiny black shoebutton eyes, pink rosy cheeks, and a brown painted mustache, eyebrows, and nostrils. His hair is indicated by brown airbrushing on his sideburn areas and the back of his head. Soldier’s uniform consists of a matching top coat, hat, and pants... Soldier has oilcloth shoes, a large white leather belt, and a ceremonial sabre. The doll retains his tiny trailing F style button as his Steiff ID. Steiff made many similar styled soldiers; this one is most likely “Dragoon” who was manufactured in 28 and 35 cm from 1909-1918 overall. SIZE: 11″ h."
These great early Steiff felt dolls captured the attention of the world upon their introduction, and remain collector's favorites over a century later. It is interesting to note that elements of this soldier's design really span two important doll-making phases at Steiff. His black button eyes and somewhat more prominent nose and ears are relatively common characteristics of Steiff's earliest felt dolls which were introduced in 1903. However, his overall realistic body proportions (including to-scale feet), lifelike expression, and perfectly scaled accessories are more typical to Steiff's dolls produced in the roughly 1910 through late 1920's time frame.  This soldier doll is a great example of Steiff's legendary turn of last century craftsmanship and attention to detail - just check out the work on his hat and uniform!  And his leather belt and sabre truly put him in a class by himself from the collector's standpoint. 
Steiffgal hopes this preview of some of great Steiff treasures to be auctioned off at the upcoming James D. Julia's November 2014 toy auction has you going once, going twice, going three times to check out their entire online catalog... which can be accessed by clicking here.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Behind The Scenes Of The October, 2014 Teddy Dorado Steiff Auction Event

It's fun to talk Steiff - especially with professionals who have the distinct pleasure of working with the brand we all know and love for a living!  Steiffgal recently had the wonderful experience of chatting with auctioneer Carsten Esser from Teddy Dorado about his upcoming Steiff sales event on October 25, 2014 in Germany.  This is the company's lucky 13th Steiff auction, and there are so many interesting items available at this sale, both for new and vintage Steiff enthusiasts... and the catalog in its entirety can be viewed here.  But for right now, lets go behind the scenes and learn a little more about this auction and the stories behind some of its highlights!

Steiffgal: Of all the delightful items coming up for auction, which ones would you most like to add to your own collection?

Carsten Esser: I have collected Steiff since I was a young boy, and have forever loved the company's very small dogs. They have always seemed to have such fantastic craftsmanship, and even today I wonder how it is possible to bring excelsior and plush to life in such a magical way. The upcoming Teddy Dorado Auction features some minty mint doggies from the 1950s; this of course brings me great pleasure - and hopefully the same to Steiff dog collectors from all over the world. A wonderful example is lot 13-1204, a 10 cm St. Bernard dog from 1953-1955 in pristine condition; he is pictured here on the left. 

However, when I founded Teddy Dorado four years ago, I made the very difficult decision not to actively collect Steiff anymore. I did so because I felt that if I continued to build my collection, I could not be a fair agent between those who would like to buy and/or sell fine Steiff treasures. So this fabulous example will have to find a new home that is not with me and my family.  But I am certain that this will not be a problem!

Steiffgal: Although you have handled Steiff for many years, and are very familiar with the company's products from the very beginning, are there any items in the upcoming auction that were new to you? 

Carsten Esser: Whenever an item appears that I have not seen in the past, well, this is always a very exciting experience indeed! And yes, this did occur with an item in this auction. We ran a Steiff valuation clinic during a Steiff Club event in a very large shopping center in southern Germany some months ago. Here, someone brought us a Steiff pedal car, which is lot TD 13-2601. The owner told us that it was his favorite toy when he was a kid, that the car still works very well, and that he hoped that now this vehicle could find a good new home. This was the first time I had seen one of these in person, and all I could think about was how exciting it will be to share this great and unusual find with the rest of the Steiff collecting world!  (This pedal car is pictured here on the left.)

But then the story gets even more interesting! The same man with the Steiff pedal car then took a tiny woolen miniature Pomeranian dog (now lot TD 13-7009) out of this pocket. He told me that he suspected that the dog was made by Steiff due to its white paper ear tag, but that it felt it was probably not terribly valuable and not worth enough to be auctioned off. Much to his surprise, I told him that the small dog would also do quite well at auction, and that his car and dog would be important lots in the upcoming October overall sale.  (This dog is pictured here on the left.)

I sometimes do see very rare or uncataloged items, and that is due in part to our business location, which is relatively close to Giengen.  My company very often receives consignments from people who live nearby the Steiff factory who have - or had - relatives who were employed by Steiff. And that is true in this auction as well, where we are listing a large and most likely one of a kind rabbit, lot TD 13-1503, from the estate of a former long term Steiff employee.  He is brown and white dralon and was most likely a prototype that was never put into production.  I particularly like his eyes, which are backed in felt. (This rabbit is pictured here on the left.)

Steiffgal: Your printed catalogs are so professionally done, well illustrated, and most informative. But how do you decide what appears on the cover? Is it the age of the items, or the lot numbers, or values, or something else?

Carsten Esser: We try to have the items on our catalog covers to be representative of the entire auction, as well as highlight some very special pieces, too. We choose items which are the "celebrities" of an auction (like Black Jack, the 1912 black bear who appeared on our summer, 2014 catalog cover and hammered for 15,000 €), items in extremely good or like new condition, very unusual treasures (like the White Teddy Girl on a mohair cushion who also appeared on our summer, 2014 catalog cover and hammered for 8,000 ), highly valued items, and things that go together nicely, like "couples." Our current cover features two such pairs: two small Teddy bears (lots 13-7001 and 13-7002) and a Fluffy cat and Rattler dog who have been together for many, many decades. They all came to us from the same private estate. If you check out our fall, 2014 catalog cover, you'd have to agree that they look great together! (Cover pets Fluffy and Rattler are pictured here on the left.)

Steiffgal: Carsten, as always, thank you so much for your time, and sharing some of your behind the scenes auction secrets with the Steifflife readers today!  

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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Getting A Leg Up On This Fantastic Midcentury Felt Steiff Stork

It's all good when it comes to Steiff's storks! And just why is that? According to German history and tradition, these long legged lovelies are associated with luck and happiness, and are very good neighbors indeed. So let's take the high road and check out a fantastic example of a mid twentieth century Steiff stork and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This very impressive tall drink of water is called Storch Adebar or Stork Adebar. He is 60 cm tall, unjointed, standing and made primarily from off white felt. His wings come to life with scalloped feathers and very light grey airbrushed stencil details. His tail feathers are made from black felt. He has delightful, solid orange felt legs with prominent, distinct knees and over-sized feet. His face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, black hand painted highlighting, and a most prominent, over-sized orange felt beak. He has a particularly charming and old fashioned look to him for sure - perhaps because he is made entirely from felt, which is Steiff's legacy material. Adebar was produced in 17, 35, and 60 cm from 1953 through 1969.

Storks have found their nest in the Steiff line from the very beginning - appearing in the company's debut catalog of 1892! Like most of Steiff’s first commercial toy items, these storks were produced from felt. Models were made in 7 sizes ranging from 14 to 100 cm through 1918. These earliest storks had metal legs that were wrapped tightly in waxed orange cord, a charming design treatment for Steiff birds through the 1920s or so. You may have seen this limb detailing on Steiff's hens, chicks, and roosters from this period. A nice example of a 1910-era Steiff stork is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Christie's. Early Steiff stork novelties included an ink wipe, produced from 1892 through 1894, and a hanging pram toy, produced in 1916. In 1925, Steiff updated its traditional stork pattern by changing the body shape slightly, wrapping the legs in felt instead of cord, and producing the birds with an open mouth. This model was produced in 43, 60 and 100 cm through 1939.

The "Adabar" stork pattern debuted in the early 1950's, a few years after the toy factory reopened for business post World War II. It was at this time that this big bird was finally was given a "proper" name. His pattern was a slightly updated and simplified version of the company's prewar model. Steiff also produced a 50 cm "studio" or lifesized stork in plush from 1980 through 1984; interestingly, he was not called "Adebar." This studio piece is pictured here on the left. In 1991, Adabar was brought back to the line, and was made in trivera velvet with plastic legs in 18 cm through 1993. And, more recently, Steiff produced a little felt standing stork holding what appears to be a little “bundle of joy,” clearly touching back to the reputation and legacy of this bird throughout the world.

So why are storks considered to be such lucky charms? This all started many centuries ago. For example, in Germany, there was the belief that if a stork built its nest on a home, then that dwelling would be protected from a house fire. In addition, this "neighbor" stork would insure good luck to all the people who lived in that home. Another tradition suggested that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. The babies would be delivered to new mothers directly, or dropped down the chimney! As such, couples that wanted children would put treats on their windowsills to attract storks. Even today, storks and new babies are universally associated with each other! 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Adebar sends some very good luck your way soon.

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

This Rare Steiff Bear - And His Heartwarming Story - Are Truly Hot Stuff!

Does Steiff give you the warm fuzzies? If you are like most enthusiasts, just the thought of a lovely vintage Steiff item brings a smile to your face - and makes your heart race just a bit, too. But some Steiff items are literally "hot stuff" with the real ability to warm cold fingers and toes. Such is the case with this Steiff superstar featured in the upcoming Special Auction Services event in London on November 6th. Check out this toasty Ted and see what makes him so special from the design and historical perspectives.

This heart "warming" bear is cataloged as follows: "A rare Steiff Hot-water Bottle Teddy Bear, with golden mohair, black boot button eyes, pronounced muzzle, black stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs, hump, the front seam opens with four brass eye and hook fasteners, opening to reveal metal cylindrical canister with brown cloth lining, circa 1908 –19.3/4in. (50cm.) high (pads replaced, the originals have been removed, some slight wear and missing some nose and mouth stitching)." This bear is only one of 90 made between 1907 and 1912, and was developed in response to a record cold winter in Germany at the time of his introduction. He has an auction estimate of £10,000 to 15,000, which roughly converts to $16,000 to $24,000.

According to Daniel Agnew, Doll and Teddy Bear Specialist at SAS, "His fur is probably in the best condition of all the previous ones I have sold, and this is the only one with this fastening. The others have been laces.  I also know of one example which has pop-studs."

Despite their huge appeal to collectors, little else is known about these adorable and functional Teddy bears.  Their article number was 5335b, which corresponds to 5=jointed, 3=mohair, 35=cm (size sitting), b=hot water bottle or "Warmflasche."  And just why were so few made?  Given his complex construction, it quite probable that they were expensive to make, and therefore quite a pretty penny to buy.  This may have limited his potential audience of buyers.  In addition, this product concept, although charming and fully understandable today, may just have been too advanced or confusing in the early 1900's - when people had Teddy bears, and hot water bottles, but not a hybrid of the two.  Today, bidding for vintage Steiff hot water bottle Teddy bears at auction usually brings the room to a boil.  And, in response, Steiff has created several recent modern replicas to satisfy collector's interests in these rarities.  

Now let's turn up the heat on this delightful collectible by learning more about its provenance.  

The consignor's grandmother, Mildred Behrendt, received the Steiff hot water bottle Teddy as a gift shortly after she was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1907. While Mildred’s parents were born in Milwaukee, her maternal grandmother was born in Germany in 1868. The winter of 1907 brought frigid temperatures to Germany; the Behrendts and their German relatives shared a common desire to keep warm.   

When Mildred’s relatives sent the Steiff hot water Teddy to her in 1908, they began what developed into a 100 year gift-giving tradition. Mildred cherished the bear throughout her life. She passed it and her love of Steiff animals on to her daughter, Lois, the consignor's mother.  Lois kept the Teddy in pristine condition. This teddy presided over Lois' collection of beloved Steiff stuffed animals. 

As an adult, Lois continued the family tradition by selecting a special Steiff animal to give to her daughter - the consignor - every Christmas.  Over time, this extended to Lois picking out new animals from Steiff’s collection to give to the consignor's two children in a similar fashion.  As such, the consignor's family truly represents four generation of Steiff lovers and collectors.

Lois truly loved all things Steiff, and the brand continued to be so important to her throughout her life.  Steiff's Jocko the monkey, outrageous spotted gecko, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and the growling bear were some of her very favorites.  She watched eagerly as her grandchildren opened the boxes containing the special Steiff animals each Christmas Eve. During the holidays, Lois and and her husband accompanied their two grandchildren to a winter wonderland inhabited by movable and life-sized Steiff animals. The amazing exhibit is a reflection of the Milwaukee community’s fascination with Steiff animals and the marvelous history behind them. An example of a typical Steiff holiday-themed window display is pictured here on the left.

And just how can the consignor "bear" to part with such a beloved legacy treasure?  She says, "Steiff bears have been an important part of our family’s holiday traditions for generations and we are eager to share this remarkable bear with the world."

Steiffgal hopes this background on Steiff's rare hot water bottle Teddy bears and the story of the Behrendt family has added a warm glow to your day!

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

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