Saturday, January 31, 2015

This Very Vintage White Jocko Is More Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys!

It's easy to go bananas over special Steiff finds... especially when when it comes to the company's beloved primates! A few weeks ago, Steiffgal saw a great vintage Steiff white Jocko up for auction on an online platform. She put in a bid, and in all honesty, forgot about the auction. Much to her surprise, she got an email saying she had won the lot! A few weeks later, the charming chimp arrived at her home. And he was even BETTER than expected! Check him out here... isn't he adorable?

This chimp-champ is Steiff's delightful and early pre-war white Jocko chimp. Jocko measures 15 cm sitting and 25 cm standing. He is five ways jointed and made from lovely white mohair which has mellowed to a more vanilla color over time. His hands, feet, face, and ears are made from light peach colored felt. His face is detailed with green and black glass pupil eyes set in eye pockets and a fuzzy white mohair chin. Jocko's face and ears truly come to life with delightful grey, pink, and black paint and airbrushing. He has a distinctly innocent, childlike look to him that is rather precious and endearing. White Jocko was produced in 10, 13, 15, 18, 22, and 25 cm from 1925 through 1943. Post war, white Jocko was again produced in 10 and 15 cm from 1949 through 1961. In 1966, he was also produced as a "bendie" version in 11 cm.

White Jocko has an important place on the Steiff primate family tree.  Of course, Jocko is a chimp, and chimpanzees are legacy animals for Steiff.  Chimps first appeared in the company's debut catalog of  1892. In 1903, a large, primitive looking string jointed monkey (PB 60) was introduced to the world. A few years later, in 1909, Steiff redesigned their monkey pattern towards a more lifelike appearance. This new brown mohair chimp design featured detailed felt hands, feet, and facial features, including eye pockets and a white mohair chin in the medium and larger sized versions. The updated pattern was produced in 15 sizes, ranging from 10 to 90 cm, at various times from 1909 through 1943, and then again from 1949 through 1990.  The chimpanzee received his "official" Steiff name, Jocko, in 1929. A collection of post war Steiff brown Jockos are pictured here on the left.

It is interesting to note that white Jocko - who is clearly based on brown Jocko - was introduced in 1925.  This is around the time that Steiff started introducing a number of particularly innocent, feminine, and youthful looking models, including Molly the Puppy, Teddy Rose, and Fluffy the Cat.  These new product introductions reflected the cultural priorities and levity of the "roaring 1920's", and well as design directives from Richard Steiff himself!

White Jocko celebrated his 80th anniversary in 2004.  As such, Steiff created a charming fully jointed version to mark his important birthday.  He was produced as a worldwide exclusive in an edition size of 1,500 pieces. You can see this lovely replica here to the left, pictured alongside his very vintage cousin for comparison.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Steiff's white Jocko chimp has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

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

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Having A Ball With This Terrific Steiff Roly Poly Bear

Most Steiff collectors would take a tumble for an unexpected Steiff discovery!  And that's exactly what Steiffgal did when an inquiry from a colleague about this great and very vintage Steiff treasure landed in her email in-box.  Steady yourself and take a look at this marvelous merrymaker!

Oh baby, here we have a delightful "child-proof" item intended for the youngest Steiff enthusiasts.  This is Steiff's "Roly Poly" Bear.  Many of us grew up with "Weebles," those funny egg shaped character toys that "wobble but they don't fall down."  This Roly Poly cub is an early version of this toy idea.  

Roly Poly Bear is made from mohair with a very distinct shape - extremely round (almost ball-like) on the bottom, with a standard jointed Teddy bear head.  He has jointed arms but no legs at all.  His face is detailed with black shoebutton eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth.  He retains his long trailing "f" button as his Steiff ID. Given his stitching is brown, it is safe to assume that this bear started out life with white mohair - which has aged and mellowed to darker vanilla color over time.  Overall, this pattern was produced in 16, 19, 23, and 29 cm from 1909 through 1916.  During that entire time, it was produced in blond mohair.  However, in 1912 it was also produced in white mohair in the smaller sizes.  So this is one rare bear indeed!

Steiff's soft Roly Polys are great Steiff novelty items.  Models produced over time include rabbits, cats, and dolls. But these are not the first type of "rounded bottom" products that the company produced.  It is possible that Roly Polys are based in part on the company's much older wooden bottom "tumblers," which were smaller, standard line items (usually in the sitting or begging position) that were mounted on a solid wooden hemisphere.  Like the Roly Polys, they swayed and tumbled about, but did not fall completely over - unlike their wooden cousins the "skittles" - which were designed like bowling pins to fall down!  The big difference between the Roly Polys and the tumblers was that Roly Polys had a rounded bottom that was integral to their body and design, while tumblers could be basically any shape - as the featured animal or doll was mounted to a rounded bottom.  Wooden bottomed tumblers appeared in the line as early as 1894, and were produced on and off through the early 1940's. The photo on the left shows a very early wooden bottomed felt clown tumbler; this shot was taken at Margarete Steiff's birth house in Giengen, Germany where this item is also on display.

It is interesting to note that Steiff's Roly Polys made two distinct appearances in the Steiff line.  The first was basically from around 1909 through the late 19-teens... the era of the little white Roly Poly under discussion here.  These ball-like creatures came 'round again from 1937 through 1943 overall, in the form of three designs:  a 20 cm mohair Roly Poly Teddy baby, a 20 mohair Roly Poly Rabbit, and a 25 cm felt Roly Poly clown doll.  Most memorably, an all but pristine example of the Roly Poly Teddy baby realized almost $17,000 at auction at Christie's in London in October, 2010!  This terrific Ted is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Roly Polys and tumblers been a well rounded experience for you.

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Climb Every Mountain For This Great Vintage Steiff St. Bernard Dog!

The excitement of finding wonderful vintage Steiff treasures is certainly universal... and all collectors love to be able to say... "Look what I found!" Check out this note from a reader from Germany who asks for advice on a possible purchase of a very vintage Steiff dog. Leonie writes: 

"Dear Steiffgal, 
Could you give me an advice for a purchase? I saw a Steiff prewar St. Bernard dog on eBay. He lost most of his fur, and his button, too. He is 28 cm high and his price is 95 euro. Should I buy him or is he too expensive? I have also sent a picture. I would appreciate an answer very much. Best regards, Leonie"

Who wouldn't climb every mountain for this wonderful mountain-loving canine?  And yes, Steiffgal says YES, GO FOR IT!  What we have here is a much loved 1930's-era Steiff sitting St. Bernard dog.  This model was made both in white and brownish-copper mohair and white and tan wool plush in 10, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm.  The mohair version appeared in the line from 1929 through 1937, and the wool plush version from 1929 through 1932.  Given this photo, it is hard to tell if Leonie's pup was originally made from mohair or wool plush.  Both versions were adorable, very puppy-like, and featured realistic fur coloring.  Each model had a dear face that was detailed with expressive brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand-embroidered nose and mouth, and a distinctive muzzle which came to life with black and pink airbrushing. These sitting St. Bernard models had their tails wrapped gently around their backsides, much like how "real" dogs sit... especially when they are on their best behavior!

The mohair version of Steiff's sitting St. Bernard dog - like several very popular models of the 1930's - was also produced as a tail-moves-head model.  The one big difference between the regular and tail-moves-head version of this design is the position of the tail.  The regular versions have wrapped tails, while the tail-moves-head versions have a stretched-out tail.  The sitting tail-moves-head version was made in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, and 36 cm from 1931 through 1934.  These dynamic doggies in good or better condition are quite rare on the secondary market;  in 2013 Teddy Dorado sold a 29 cm version for over 7,000 euro!  And just how beloved is this moving model?  In 1993,  Steiff made a replica of their special tail-moves-head St. Bernard in in an edition size of 4,000.  This replica is pictured here on the left. 

St. Bernard dogs continue to be collector's favorites today. Many enthusiasts can't get enough of the company's models from the late 1940's through the 60's, and it is easy to see why! It is interesting to note that the first St. Bernard to appear after the factory reopened for business post World War II was a larger standing mohair model on wheels. He was based on the company's pre-war design and was manufactured in 43, 50, 60, and 62 cm from 1949 through 1957. A slightly simplified standing model, also based on the prewar design, was available in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1953 through 1957.  These early standing post-war St. Bernards are pictured here on the left.

In the early 1960's, Steiff again updated their standard line St. Bernard and even gave him a name for the first time - Bernie. Bernie was made from mohair and available sitting or standing on all fours. New Bernie had a different pattern of facial airbrushing, a chunkier build, and a smaller scale tail; standing Bernie also featured a cask attached to his collar. Standing Bernie is pictured here on the left. Overall, sitting Bernie was produced in 12 and 22 cm from 1963 through 1970 while standing Bernie was made in 22 cm from 1964 through 1966. In about 1970, Steiff also produced a most impressive display sized St. Bernard, perhaps as an exclusive for the high end toy retailer FAO Schwarz. And, since then, St. Bernards have always been a standard feature in the Steiff line, mostly appearing in large size plush models for children's fun and play. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's wonderful legacy St. Bernards has been a warm and fuzzy experience for you! 

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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Time Travelling Steiff Auction Highlights - Part 2!

Last week, we took a peek back in time and checked out a few auction highlights from a long ago sale. The event was held on Saturday, April 25, 1998 in Germany and managed by auctioneer Horst Poestgens. Steiffgal recently purchased the catalog from this sale and was just floored at some of the amazing treasures it featured. Here are three more absolute standouts from this wonderful Steiff event.

You can't help but think, "oh, baby" with this first auction highlight under review today. This lot, #49, is cataloged in part as... "Prototype of a Steiff snap-joint teddy baby with neck mechanism, 1936. Pre-war button in ear, corn colored mohair, velvet paws and soles, brown-black painted back glass eyes, turnable arms (discs), nose embroidered vertically with light brown tread, open felt mouth, lower jaw notchlessly movable via a built-in hinge, legs movable by snap joint mechanism, excelsior stuffed, head turnable from tail by means of neck mechanism, known from Steiff (like the circus bears or snap joint Dicky bears from the 1930's), standing 30 cm/12", sitting 24 cm/9-1/2", very nice pot bellied bear shape.  Very attractive friendly expression.  This teddy is the only known specimen in the finish worldwide (sample)!! He dates from the time and trial series the snap joint Dicky of 1936." 

Let's snap to it and see what make this little love such a remarkable bear. In the 1930's, Steiff designed and produced a number of items capable of mechanical movements. This started with a tail-moves-head feature. Several of the most popular dogs, rabbits, and cats of the time were made with this detailing. Steiff then took this "movement momentum" one step further by experimenting with just a handful of "snap" style items, which had internal metal joints that allowed these top-tier toys further flexibility in their body positioning. As far as readily available references and sources reveal, Steiff officially produced four such "snap" models: a 30 cm blonde Snap Dicky (pictured here on the left, photo from Christie's), a 30 cm brown Circus bear, a 25 or 28 cm grey or white Circus Elephant, and four variations of a very rare 28 cm "Dream Baby No. 103" doll.  

The Horst Poestgens Snap Teddy Baby in some respects looks a little bit like a Snap Dicky. It is interesting to note that like Snap Dicky, this Snap Teddy Baby also has velvet paw pads. Teddy Baby models from this period in this size were usually made with felt pads.  However, unlike Snap Dicky, this Snap Teddy Baby's pads do not have stenciled footprints, are round and toddler-like, and lack snap fingers and toes.  There is precedence for previously undocumented snap style items to appear on the secondary market; in 2010, Christie's sold a petite 18 cm Snap Dicky bear (pictured here on the left, photo from Christie's).  So, it is entirely possible, given the exploratory and evolutionary nature of its development, the limited number of snap items produced, and the fact that previously unknown snap-style examples occasionally surface in the secondary market, that this Snap Teddy Baby is indeed an utterly charming, insanely rare, one of a kind, uncataloged prototype.

Although Snap Teddy Baby is indeed a hard act to follow, this next auction highlight also gives a terrific performance.  This lot, #57, is cataloged as... "Somersault chimpanzee, Steiff, circa 1910, button in ear and remains of white tag, cinnamon colored mohair, light brown felt face, ears, hands, and feet, the thumbs on both hands expertly repaired (hardly visible), right hand likewise on back of hand, implanted painted back glass eyes, somersault clockwork functions, absolute mint condition, very rare, sitting size 23 cm/9 inches."  

Doesn't this sweetie just make your head spin?  Steiff's tumblers are all time collector's favorites, and seldom appear on the secondary market in delightful, working condition.   This somersaulting chimp example is actually only the second one Steiffgal has ever seen for sale.  These tumbling treasures are activated by an internal clockwork mechanism and literally do somersaults when their arms are wound up. Steiff produced several types of "purzel" animals, including bears, monkeys, and elephants, and a few doll models, including Eskimos and clowns.  Steiff's somersaulting chimp was produced in 23, 26, and 36 cm overall from 1909 through 1919.  

All of Steiff's purzel tumblers are based on popular standard line items of the time with slight tweaks to their design and assembly.  These items tend to have their arms attached slightly lower on their shoulders than their non-tumbling brothers.  And, the arms can sometimes look slightly less "flush" with the body than with the static versions. Tumblers are also significantly heavier than their non-tumbling counterparts, due to their internal metal mechanisms. You can see the physical differences here with the picture on the left of a regular Steiff bear (L) and the tumbling version (R); both bears are 28 cm and were produced in the 1906-09 time frame.

Steiffgal's just quackers over this final auction highlight from this Horst Poestgens auction.  This lot, #82, is cataloged as... "Doll duck pair, Steiff, 1920's, button in ear and white paper tag, article no. 28, linen body with loosely sewn on wings, yellow mohair head, wing tips and back of felt, painted brown claws, pretty head coloring, turning head, orange felt beaks, white wool pom pom on head, black shoe button eyes, original felt/cotton clothes, slightly used condition, interesting early collector's item."

Steiffgal has a very special place in her heart for Steiff's 1930 - 1950's era dressed animal dolls, and these are no exception.  According to Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book, these duck dolls were produced in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1931 through 1935 overall.  Each size was detailed in one of six styles of clothing, which included a sports shirt and blue trousers (probably the boy duck in this case), pajamas, red patterned trousers, a swimsuit, a salmon red dress (probably the girl duck in this case), or a blue playsuit.  Another more pristine example of the company's duck-doll is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1894-1942 Sortiment. It is interesting to note that the duck in the red shorts does not have a white pom pom on his head, while the pair on offer do.  Another point to consider about the duck couple is their identification.  The cataloging specifically mentioned a white paper tag. However, technically, the white paper tag was only used through 1925/26, and these dolls were made in the early 1930's.  As such, they "should" have red ear tags. In this case, it is entirely possible that Steiff had a bunch of extra "28" imprinted white ear tags in inventory, and simply used the white tags in the place of the red tags for efficiency.   

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of three amazing Steiff lots inspires you to find some wonderful Steiff treasures at auction in 2015!

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