Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fawning All Over This Delightful and Very Early Steiff Deer On Wheels

Steiffgal loves to "field" questions from all over the world. So this wonderful inquiry from Canada about a very vintage field and forest friend really caught her eye. Check out this note from Kendra, who shares through a series of correspondences...

"Hi Steiffgal,

I have a Steiff deer that stands approximately 18-½ high at the head and is 18-½” long from the nose to the tail. The closest I can come to describing the material would be a felt-like texture. The eyes are solid black. It appears to have had a red mouth at one time. The diameter of the button in ear is 5mm. This item was purchased at an estate auction several years ago.  Is there anything that you can tell me about this piece?

Thank you, Kendra"

Oh deer, where to start with this lovely creation?  What we have here is Steiff's early deer on wheels.  He is standing, unjointed, and riding upon a metal carriage with four metal wheels.  His handsome head and face are detailed with felt lined ears, great felt horns, and black button eyes.  Based on a close up study of his actual material, Steiffgal believes he might be made from what's called "simple plush," a very early material Steiff used on "furry" animals at the turn of last century.  It is possible that he left the factory in Giengen wearing a simple collar with a bell.  This pattern was produced in 22, 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm from 1899 through 1919 overall.  

Given that models with horns were only produced through 1908, and that the deer has a tiny trailing "f" button, it can be determined that Kendra's deer on wheels - which is either the 43 or 50 cm version -  was most likely manufactured in the 1906 to 1908 time frame.

It's easy to get the warm fuzzies looking at this wonderful deer!  And his materials are truly reflective of the transitional era of his manufacture.  Mohair became viable on a commercial scale in Germany around 1903.  It turned out to be a great material for Steiff's newly introduced Teddy bears, as well as other naturally "furry" animals in the line.  However, before 1903, Steiff was producing fuzzy products including dogs, cats, bears, and field and forest animals like deer.  In order to give these earliest turn of last century items as much of a realistic touch as possible, they were made from period toy making fabrics, including early textured plush materials like this "simple plush" and short pile plush. As time went on, Steiff started transitioning their designs from these early fabrics to mohair, which could be produced in almost infinite options in terms of color and texture.  It also offered a soft, lush, authentic appearance, which perfectly aligned with Steiff's position as a growing worldwide leader in the international toy marketplace.  

Steiffgal hopes you have fawned all over this discussion on Kendra's vintage deer!

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Steiff's Delightful Puppy and Puppet Pooch Pal Pairs

Dog-gonnit!  Who doesn't just love Steiff's delightful canine designs from the 1950's and 1960's?  Their universal appeal makes them top dogs in the eyes of many Steiff collectors.  Many of these popular pups were also made as hand puppets.  For some reason, they are a little less popular than their full doggie inspirations, despite the fact that they are fun to collect and easy to display.  Let's take a look at four really sweet puppet and puppy pooch pairs - and maybe you'll be inspired to add a few of these happy hand puppets to your collection, too! 

Starting off this review is the "dynamic duo" of Steiff's Dally puppet and Dally puppy.  This Dalmatian puppet is 17 cm, unjointed, and made from white mohair.   Of course, his back and head are covered with delightful black dots! His open mouth is lined in pink velvet.  He has three black claws on each of his paws. Hand Dally has black and brown pupil eyes and a black hand stitched nose.  He is one of the rarer Steiff post war puppets, and was only in the line from 1955 through 1956.  The little "spotty dotty" dog on his left is 10 cm and head jointed. And, like his puppet cousin, Dally has an open pink velvet mouth, brown and black pupil eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose.  Dally the dog was produced in 10, 17, and 28 cm from 1953 through 1969. 

Let's now step into the ring with these great Steiff Boxer examples.  The puppet is 17 cm; his body, head, and and hands are made from tan mohair while his muzzle is made from black velvet. Boxer has very nice brown airbrushing on his face and back, and black airbrushing on the top of his muzzle. His ears are lined in peach colored felt. Boxer is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes, a black hand stitched nose, and black stitched claws on his paws. He was produced from 1951 through 1963. His little companion on his right is sitting, 10 cm, and head jointed.  Like many of Steiff's baby-sized items of the period, he has tiny felt ears.  He shares the same mohair, coloring, muzzle, and facial detailing as his puppet buddy, albeit on a much smaller scale.  Steiff manufactured sitting Boxer from 1951 through 1961 in 10 and 14 cm. He was called Sarras from 1951 through 1958 and Boxer from 1959 through 1961.

These next two Steiff dog pairs deserve a little "Pek" on the cheek for sure.   Here we have Peky Pekingese as a puppet and a dog toy.  The puppet version of Peky is 17 cm, unjointed, and made from soft blond mohair with a great golden glow to it.  Her back and head are highlighted with a touch of tan airbrushing. Her ears are made from longer matching color mohair.  Peky's little pouting face comes to life with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a little black airbrushing, a hand embroidered nose, and a wonderfully detailed, dimensional muzzle made from mohair and velvet.  Like puppet Dally, puppet Peky also was only in the line for one year, in this case from 1963 through 1964. Peky's little counterpart on her right is 8 cm, standing, and head jointed.  As you can see, she is the "mini me" of her puppet pal in terms of her coloring, construction, and just plain appeal! Peky the Pekingese dog was produced in 8, 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1953 though 1977.

Our last great pup and puppet pals are as snug as a bug in a rug! These two buddies are Steiff's Mopsy Pugs.  The puppet version is 17 cm and made from light brown mohair.  She has darker brown highlights on her facial mask, forehead, and the tips of her paws.  Her ears fold over just like a real pugs do!  Her goofy pug face can only be described as "pugly" with its black and white google style eyes, black hand embroidered nose, and playful, sticking-out orange felt tongue.  Puppet Mopsy appeared in the line from 1960 through 1978.  This pug puppet's playful pal is 12 cm, sitting and head jointed.  And the two keep it all in the family with her similar coloring, "wrinkle-y" forehead and muzzle, and quizzical, asymmetric look! Mopsy the pug was produced in 12 and 22 cm from 1960 through 1981. 

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on Steiff's doggy hand puppets (and their full bodied counterparts) deserves a hearty round of applause!

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

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Horsing Around With This Fantastic Steiff Wooden Stick Pony

Hold your horses!  Check out this great inquiry from a reader from the heartland of America.  Looks like she's had this treasure for awhile... but Steiffgal thinks he may go back at least half a century!  Kim writes:


I am writing to you to ask if this could be a Steiff stick pony. I purchased this at a garage sale 15-20 yrs ago. I cannot read the button clearly. It is located on the left side. The toy is made of wood and has a leather harness. The mane is hair... not sure what kind. The features are painted and it is 41 inches long. I would appreciate any information you can give me.

Thank you!"

Well, this pony is no phony!  He is indeed Steiff's Hobby Horse.  Some people refer to these toys as "stick ponies." He is constructed from solid wood.  His head is made from a thick piece of wood which has been finished with a smooth varnish.  His face comes to life with red, black and white paint.  His harness is both painted on, as well as a strip of red leather, held in place with metal hardware.  His black mane is probably actual horsehair or long mohair.  His "body" is a long wooden dowel, and he rides upon two red painted wheels.   This pony on the go was made in 100 cm from 1924 through 1941, and then again from 1949 through 1973.  He was also made in a smaller size - 80 cm - from 1937 through 1941. 

The Hobby Horse appears to have the raised script version of the Steiff button; this would put his manufacture date roughly in the 1950 through 1969 time frame.  However, given he appeared in the line right before, and right after World War II, it is possible that he was produced pre-war, stored away, and buttoned and distributed a handful of years after factory opened for toymaking business after the war.  This sometimes happens with items from this period, making actual dating challenging.  Only he knows his actual birthday for sure.   In addition, his detailing and mane are also slightly different than those pictured in standard Steiff reference books.  Again, this happens sometimes when an item has been in the line for a long, long time - in this case, almost 50 years. Product details are often incrementally updated on standard line, legacy items to keep up with design trends, consumer preferences, and material supply and availability.

Steiff's Hobby Horse examples are as rare as Triple Crown victories!  The earliest examples appeared in the line from 1898 through 1905 in 120 and 140 cm.  They were made from brown felt and unlike future examples, included the horse's head, front legs, and torso as part of the design.  These were followed by a more conventional pattern - just the head - which were manufactured in 112 cm from 1914 through 1943.  Depending on their production time, these head-only Hobby Horses were made from felt, paper plush, or cotton fabric, and had two or three wheels.  However, all examples were finished with a leather halter and fine hand painting.  From 1927 through 1935, Steiff produced a 112 cm Hobby Horse made from mohair.  This upscale design had a more elaborate halter and a lovely long mane.  A close variation on this design was produced in brown felt in 100 cm post war, from 1949 through 1970.  He is pictured here on the left. The last Steiff Hobby Horse to appear in the catalog was made in 100 cm from 1975 through 1977; it was quite basic in design and had two handles instead of reins and was painted a flat yellow color.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Hobby Horses has been a galloping success for you.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Setting Records With This Wonderful Steiff Vintage Rabbit on Wheels!

Hoppy Easter, dear Steiff friends and collectors!  Just in the nick of time, look who just cruised into town - a marvelous vintage Steiff bunny on wheels.  No wonder he's on a cart and taking things easy today... he had a very long night of delivering candy worldwide last night!  Let's take a look at this rolling rabbit and see what makes him our much deserved "Celebrity of the Week!".

This cheerful-earful has enormous appeal!  He is 25 cm tall overall, five ways jointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and made from blond mohair.  Rabbit has very straight arms, thick and chunky thighs, and long narrow feet.  He does not have any paw pads.  His distinctly old fashioned face is detailed with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a pink nose, and a black mouth.  There is a tiny spot of red on the tip of his mouth, perhaps to suggest his tongue.  He retains a few of his clear monofilament whiskers.  He rides upon a metal carriage with four large wooden wheels.  When the cart is pulled along, it appears that the rabbit is bobbing up and down, pumping the carriage forward with his arms and body.

Steiff produced these pull toy rabbits in 25 cm from 1926 through 1943, and then again from 1949 through 1964.  They were called "Record Rabbits" from 1926 through 1950, and then "Record Hansi" from 1951 through 1964.  A post war Steiff "Record Hansi" is pictured here on the left for reference.

It's never polite to ask someone's age (or weight) for sure.  And we can't check out his driver's license to get this information, unfortunately.  But it would be very interesting to know about how old he is, given he does not have any IDs, and appeared in the Steiff line for almost four decades!  Dating Steiff "legacy" items without IDs, like Jockos, Mollies, and Waldis - to name a few - can be very challenging.  It is also an art more than science, where tiny details and differences can help at least narrow down a production time frame. 

Based on a few hours of research and comparing photos of Steiff's wheeled and period rabbits from the late 1920's through the mid 1960's, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this particular example is from the pre-war production timeframe.  Here's why:

1.  The rabbit under discussion here has a hand embroidered, closed mouth.  Steiff's "record" style rabbits produced post WWII seem to have open, smiling, mouths.  You can clearly see this difference in the two photos above.

2.  The rabbit under discussion here has really large glass pupil eyes, giving him that distinct "youthful" look of items designed and produced in the late 1920's.  They have a distinct arch of blush/tan colored highlighting around them, which is typical to other Steiff rabbits from the late 1920's period.  You can see these facial details here on the photo here on the left. These eyes also exactly match those of other late 1920's era Steiff items in Steiffgal's collection.  Steiff's "record" style rabbits produced post WWII seem to feature smaller, more proportional eyes. 

3.  The rabbit under discussion here has extremely narrow feet and no felt paw pads.  Steiff's "record" style rabbits produced post WWII seem to have wider feet and felt paw pads. You can see these paws on the photo of the Record Hansi above.

4.  The rabbit under discussion here has a tiny drop of red on his lips; this is pictured close up on the photo to the left. The only other rabbit that comes to Steiffgal's mind that has this red dot lip feature and nose stitching pattern is a late 1920's rabbit that was auctioned off at the James D. Julia 2014 early summer toy auction.  You can check out that 1920's rabbit by clicking here; you can also see how it shares many of the same facial characteristics, general proportions, and scale of the "mystery" record rabbit.

So, what do you think about this rabbit on the go? Is he the "wheel deal" in terms of his senior citizen status? If Steiffgal had to put her money on this record style bunny, she'd date him to about 1930, give or take a handful of years. But, only he knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Steiff rabbit on wheels is truly one for the record!

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