Saturday, December 27, 2014

Time Travelling Steiff Auction Highlights - Part 1!

Nothing is better than studying precious Steiff items in person, but that is not always possible for many reasons. A great - and budget friendly - way to learn about exceptional button-in-ear rarities is through auction catalogs. In addition to collecting vintage Steiff, you probably won't be surprising to learn that Steiffgal also collects auction catalogs, both for entertainment and research purposes. Most recently, she spent just a few dollars on a relatively vintage catalog from 1998. A picture of the catalog's cover is featured here on the left. The auction was held on Saturday, April 25, 1998 in Germany; the auctioneer was Horst Poestgens. Little did she know how many treasures the catalog featured! Here are three highlights from this long-ago sale; in next week's blog she will describe three more. Steiffgal is certain that they will make you want to turn the clock back to 1998 as well!
This first auction highlight is truly an original! This lot, #33, is cataloged as... "Original Teddy, Steiff, circa 1905/06, button in ear, grey mohair (type Richard Steiff-Teddy), black shoe button eyes, black embroidered nose and claws (missing on left paw), expertly restored hole in felt on left paw, growler defect, long bent arms, expressive humped back, pointed muzzle, Teddy has no mohair loss, good condition, an interesting collector' item, standing size: 35 cm/14"."

 And - given that he is as described -  just what makes this such an incredibly rare bear? His color, construction, and proportions suggest he is one of the absolute earliest disk jointed bears created by the company. And it is quite possible that Richard Steiff himself directly had a hand in bringing him to life! Steiffgal once read that Richard Steiff made his early prototype bears in grey mohair as that was the color of material at hand - and that the grey mohair was originally purchased for the manufacture of elephants. She has not been able to confirm that through other sources, but the theory would make sense from the logistics and R&D perspectives. According to the Cieslik's Button in Ear book, in reference to these early grey bears, "Only two examples of the bear are known to have been made in gray plush. It is possible that this color was used for a few hand made samples and not for an actual series."

Steiffgal thinks this second auction highlight deserves a "best of show" nod as well! This lot, #38, is cataloged as... "Wolf Pomeranian, Steiff, 1930's, button in ear and remains of red woven tag, long mohair white, white short mohair lower legs, inner ears and mouth, standing, turnable head, painted back glass eyes, black embroidered nose and claws, punch growler, dog in mint condition, standing size: 30 cm/12"."

Steiff has a very long history of manufacturing Spitz or Pomeranian dogs, but this example is truly in a class by itself! And that is because Steiffgal can't find any reference to it at all in the standard Steiff reference materials. His larger size, oversized eyes, and his facial/muzzle construction are quite distinct from the company's other Spitz models from 1902 through the mid-1940's time frame. His long mohair forehead and sweet expression give him a youthful, innocent look; one that was quite prevalent in Steiff designs of the late 1920's. Because he does indeed have traces of his red ear tag, it is entirely possible that he was designed and produced at the same time as the beloved - and childlike - Teddy Clown, Teddy Baby, Bully, and Molly models.

Today's last auction highlight is pretty as a postcard. Literally! This lot, #66, is simply cataloged as... "Original Steiff postcard with Steiff felt dolls, motive, Dutch village, 1912, very good condition, very rare."

Steiff's wonderful dolls, bears, and animals have always been as attractive in print as they are in real life. Steiff has used this to their advantage in terms of advertising, marketing, and promotions from about the early 19-teens onward. The company's charming center-seamed felt "children" and "student" dolls were used in many classic photo shoots including circuses, skiing vignettes, cultural and "small town" local settings, toy rooms, Christmas celebrations, and other playful and imaginative displays. These shots were intended as illustrations for catalogs and postcards, among other printed items. (If this is of interest to you, check out the book Advertising Art of Steiff Teddy Bears & Playthings by Dottie Ayers and Donna Harrison. It features many of these beloved images and is one of Steiffgal's favorites.)

The postcard itself is delightful in so many ways - the theme, layout, composition, and attention to lifelike detail are simply charming and universally appealing. However, on a more personal note, Steiffgal noticed that the card also features two Dutch children dolls that she has in her own personal collection - Alida and Harry, who are pictured here on the left. Alida, who is featured in the front and relative center with a boy and a rabbit on the postcard, was made from 1909 through 1919 in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm. She is described as "felt, jointed, Dutchwoman, original costume, Sunday best." Harry, pictured in the left of the postcard talking to another boy, was made from 1908 through 1925 in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm. He is described as "felt, jointed, Dutch fisherman, original costume." By "original costume" Steiff means that the dolls are dressed in apparel that is traditional to a country - in this case, the Netherlands. And by "Sunday best", that would imply "fancier" clothing for going to Church on Sunday, which makes sense in the case of Alida given her elaborately embroidered dress bodice and red cuffs.

Steiffgal hopes this review of some long-ago auction highlights has been as fun as a time travel adventure!  And be on the lookout for more additional highlights from this great catalog in next week's blog edition!

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Here's A Steiff-y Holiday Pug Hug, Just For You!

Are you in the mood for a Steiff-y holiday hug? Or even better, a Steiff-y holiday pug hug? Of course you are! Then check out this most unusual Steiff dog doll that will certainly warm your heart. He's certainly got Steiffgal's all a-flutter!

This darling dressed doggy is none other than Steiff's Pupphund or pug dog doll. He is 22 cm, standing, and head jointed. His arms hang softly at his sides, and he has flat feet for standing. Pug's head, ears, and the tops of his hands and feet are (or in this case were) made from mohair. His body is made from a tan linen fabric. He is filled both with soft stuffing and crunchy excelsior. His head and face come to life with floppy ears, oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, a pink mouth, and a distinct brown inset muzzle area. He retains his large, long trailing f button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff IDs.  

According to Coco Chanel, “Fashion changes, but style endures.” Such is the case with our sweet pup pal. He is dressed to the nines in brown cotton pants, a tan checked shirt, and a light grey-blue felt tam-o-shanter style hat which is "topped off" with a pom-pom. His shirt and pants are original to him, but it is not clear if his hat is. It is of Steiff quality and design and fits him quite well; Steiffgal simply has not ever seen another one like it. Pupphund was made in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1932 through 1935 only. Each size came in six different clothing styles, which included pyjamas, swimsuits, dresses, and play suits.  You can see another one of Puggy's outfits here on the left, the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book.  

Take a good look at Pupphund's pug-mug. It is quite unusual and as far as Steiffgal can tell, this doll pattern is the only item produced by Steiff with this basic design. Steiff often made their charming characters in a number of "theme and variation" ways. For example, many popular and now legacy 1920's and 1930's era designs were often produced as puppets, in sitting and standing versions, as music boxes, in different colors, as handbags, night dress bags, or other novelties. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with this pug design - which is too bad for collectors today! 

 So how did this pug doll pattern come about? There are few clues here to work with. Steiff produced two different pre-war pugs; a grey standing mohair version on wheels from 1916 through 1927, and a caricatured blond and white mohair pug from 1925 through 1927. However, Pupphund really does not share any characteristics with either of these items. The only design element this pug dog doll does seem to share with any other Steiff dogs of its period is its distinctive pink mouth stitching. This can also be seen on Steiff's Ball Chin Chin, a 15 cm novelty which was produced from 1932 through 1935 as well. Ball Chin Chin is pictured on the left for your review; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book.  

As you can see from the photo to the left, the resemblance between Steiff's pug dog doll and real pugs is absolutely striking! 

Steiffgal hopes this conversation on this rare and darling Steiff dog doll has made you feel as snug as a pug in a zebra striped rug!  And happy holidays to all the Steiff fans out there.  Your readership and friendship are most appreciated! 

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Perfect Stocking Stuffers... Early Steiff Woolen Miniatures!

One of Steiffgal's favorite things about this time of year is what her nephews call the "big socks," or Christmas stockings. After all, what's more fun that an oversized piece of faux hosiery filled to the brim with sweets and gifts?  So this got Steiffgal thinking - what would be perfect Steiff stocking stuffers?  Maybe the company's early woolen miniatures or "woolies?"  After all, they don't take up too much room, wrap easily, have a fantastic legacy, and truly capture the precious nature of the season! So let's check out these three very vintage "tiny treasures" to really get into the spirit of the holidays!

Bird's the word with this first pre-war Steiff woolie stocking stuffer.  This mellow yellow fellow is Steiff's Golden Bunting bird.  He is 8 cm, head jointed, and made from yellow, tan, brown, and olive green woolen yarns.  He stands upon metal legs that have been painted brown.  His tail feathers are made from brown felt, and his beak is made from orange felt.  He has tiny black button eyes.  Yellow Bunting wears his Steiff button and tag like a bracelet around his leg.  He never had a chest tag.

This golden oldie was produced in 4 and 8 cm from 1934 through 1943.  Around the same time period, Steiff also made woolie Robins, Green Woodpeckers, Finches, Blue Tits, and Sparrows.  Like the Golden Bunting, all were made in 4 and 8 cm and had very similar construction.  Only their yarn colors differentiated from species to species.  You can see several of the 4 cm versions of these other birds - and also the 8 cm Golden Bunting - in the picture on the left.  It is interesting to note that Steiff reintroduced all their 4 and 8 cm Robin, Green Woodpecker, Finch, Blue Tit, and Sparrow models right after the factory reopened for toy-making business in the late 1940's.  However, the Golden Bunting version, for some mystery reason, never appeared in the line after 1943.

Steiffgal's just quackers over this second woolie Steiff stocking stuffer.  Here we have a little 4 cm Steiff duck.  His body, head, and backside pom-pom are made from yellow woolen yarn.  His decorative head pom-pom is made from white woolen yarn.  His large, friendly beak and oversized feet and legs are made from orange felt.  His face is detailed with black bead eyes and a touch of orange airbrushing.  His button and tag, which have been lost to time, would have been on one of his feet.

This darling woolie duck was made in only this size and color combination from 1931 through 1941.  For the most part, pre-war Steiff woolie birds were designed to stand on metal legs, so this lying duck is somewhat unusual in terms of form and presentation.  

Not a creature was stirring - except for this mouse!  This final Steiff woolie stocking stuffer is not only insanely adorable, but also extremely seasonally appropriate!  This is Steiff's woolie mouse in felt slippers.  He is 9 cm, standing, head jointed, and made from white and orange woolen yarn.  His head and lower body are white, while his midsection is orange.  His hands and ears are made from single thick felt.  His legs are made from grey metal which has been painted light pink.  His little slippers are made from single thick orange felt and literally "slip on" his feet.  His tiny face comes to life with red bead eyes, a touch of pink to indicate his nose and mouth, and a few clear monofilament whiskers.  When he was a younger man - eh, mouse - he had a long matching tail.  He retains his tiny short trailing f Steiff button in his ear.
This petite treat was made in from 1936 through 1942 in this size only.  He also came in several other color combinations, including grey and red and brown and yellow.   Steiff also made several other standing woolie models with tiny felt slippers around this same time period; these included birds, rabbits, ladybugs, beetles, and bumblebees. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's tiny pre-war woolies has gotten you excited for the holidays in a mighty big way.

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

Just Who Is This Remarkable And Rare Steiff Rodent?

In the mood for a little Steiff puzzler?  Then check out this mysterious forest friend who's keeping very, very quiet abut his identity. Does he look familiar to you?  As far as Steiffgal can tell, he does not appear in any of the standard Steiff reference books.  But, he did squirrel away a little clue about himself many years ago in a most clever way. But more about that in a bit.  But first, take a look and see what you think!
What is the tale behind this rare rodent?  Here we have a 22 cm, begging Steiff sweetheart.  He is made from shorter tan mohair and is unjointed.  His hands are made from double thick felt.  His prominent tail is made from very long, wavy mohair.  He is expertly hand airbrushed all over with tan, brown, orange, and black highlights.  His adorable face is highlighted with over-sized black eyes, a simple black hand embroidered nose and mouth, clear monofilament whiskers, and single sided mohair ears. 

His IDs help just a bit in identifying him.  He retains all of his original Steiff IDs including a large colorful bear faced chest tag, his raised script button, and yellow ear tag with the article number 2029/02.  This combination of IDs suggest he was made no later than 1969.  However, his actual article number doesn't translate into anything that actually describes him or his size.  This is possible because in 1968, Steiff started to give each item its own unique number, rather than relying on its traditional numbering system that had alot of redundancies to it. 

So just who is this guy?  Given his configuration, detailing, and era, is possible that he could be a squirrel, a chipmunk, or a marmot. Steiff has a legacy of creating all of these fuzzy friends, and they share many similar general characteristics.  These include body position (begging); double thick felt hands and/or feet; large and fluffy tails; and eager faces detailed with oversized eyes and whiskers. 

It took an international effort to crack this nut - oops, case!  Thanks to a tip from Steiff Super fan Alaina Russell from Canada, it appears that this example appeared in the FAO Schwarz toy catalog in 1968-1969, and is indeed a sensational squirrel! His picture appears here on the left.  It is interesting to see that he is grouped with another field and forest friend, Dormy the Edible dormouse.  

The squirrel's FAO Schwarz catalog description reads as follows...
"Tame and friendly, this begging grey squirrel in soft plush, has a long bushy tail and looks very natural. 7-1/2" tall. Ship wt. 2 lbs. $6.95"

It is not possible to tell from the information at hand if he was produced exclusively for FAO Schwarz or not.  However, regardless of his manufacturing status, it is clear that he is quite rare and was produced in extremely small numbers overall.  Have you ever seen another one?  He really is fabulous!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the mystery FAO Schwarz squirrel has left you bright eyed and bushy tailed.

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