Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's Steiff Christmas In July - Well, Almost!

It's Christmas in July! Well, almost! The magic of Steiff certainly lasts all year, with unexpected "gifts" like this sometimes showing up in the most delightful ways. Check out this note from a new friend who writes about a very special heirloom that has been in her family for over six decades. Through a series of correspondences, she shares....

"For 60+ years, this Santa miraculously appeared in the center of the dining room table during every Christmas Eve. Although, as a little girl, I paid particular attention to the goings on, Santa always arrived unannounced as if by magic. By Christmas morning he would be gone, leaving a child’s presents behind. It was the same for my children, and hopefully it will be for theirs. 

I have tried to find out more about my Christmas friends, but cannot seem to find a reference other than the Steiff’s Santa himself. There are smaller sleighs, but clearly, this one, with is bridles and sleigh attachments was something quite unusual. The small presents are all wrapped and appear “attached” to the display.
I believe my parents purchased this centerpiece in Germany in the 1950's. We lived in several cities in Germany when I was growing up. I think my mother once suggested that it was in the Steiff shop window as a display piece for Christmas. I think she had to wait until after Christmas to purchase it and then waited the full year to place it in our world.

Might you know more? I would appreciate all that you can tell me about these 60 year old friends. Thank you so very much.

What a wonderful item, with such great family history.  Let's first take a look at the two core Steiff items in the piece - the Santa doll and his reindeer.  

Santa clearly rules the reins here!  This sweet doll is clearly Steiff's earliest post WWII Santa doll. An example is shown here on the left. He is s 31 cm and five ways jointed. Santa has a rubber head; felt body; bright red felt suit, boots, and cap trimmed in white wool plush; and a white fluffy mohair beard.   He is self standing and has an amazing resemblance to the jolly man from the north pole!  From the collector's perspective, it is interesting to note that Santa's head was created from the same molds and patterns used for Steiff's three lucky dwarfs, Gucki, Lucki, and Pucki.  Santa was produced in 13, 18, and 31 cm from 1953 through 1963. 

It's time to buck the trend and check out Santa's dear deer.  The display features three Steiff's Rehbock or Roebuck. An example of this pattern is shown here on the left. They are each an impressive 35 cm tall, unjointed, and made from tan mohair. They are beautifully airbrushed with golden brown highlights, making them truly handsome beasts. Each also has highlight detailing on his legs, body, and face. All have ears are lined in mohair, white mohair tails, and fabulous felt antlers.  Their faces all come to life with black button eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a red accent on their snouts.  This pattern was made from 1954 through 1974 in this size only. 

So what does this all mean in terms of dating the display?  It is Steiffgal's best educated guess, given the configuration of the items pictured and the timeline suggested by the owner, that this was put together around 1954.  This the earliest date that both the rubber faced Santa and the large mohair roebucks both appeared in the line.  It goes without saying that this is a very attractive showpiece - that is made from relatively standard line toys from the early to mid-1950's.

The sled, decorated and branded harnesses, fittings, and wrapped gifts do look to be Steiff quality and were not produced on a commercial scale.  You can see a close up of some of these accessories here on the left.  Again, it is Steiffgal's feeling that this display was originally designed by Steiff in Giengen as a special request window display or focal point for a toy, department, or other high end store in Germany.  And, given its period of production, as well as craftsmanship, is possible that it was part of a larger animated window display as well.  
A few things in the display were not made by Steiff, including some clip-on koala bears, but they were most added on in a loving fashion over the years to enhance the presentation (most likely from a youngster's point of view.)  It is not clear if some other Steiff items in or on the sled, including a small velvet giraffe, mohair pony, and a small gnome or two, are original to the display or like the clip on koalas, were added in at some point. 

It is Steiffgal's understanding that it was not out of the question for stores to sell these elaborate holiday display items post season to special customers.  These were not in general available to the public.  Or, perhaps it is possible that the current owner had family or a family friend with connections to a store or even a Steiff executive who was able to procure this for her family.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this wonderful Christmas family heirloom has put you in a most festive state of mind.
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Steiff's Window Display Guidelines From The Late 1950's

It's hard to argue that it's "the more the merrier" when it comes to Steiff.  Our sweet mohair friends from Giengen certainly look their finest when grouped with others.  Their gatherings always seem to say, "Let the fun begin!"  Recently, Steiffgal purchased a vintage Steiff catalog from 1957-58.  The front of this great piece of ephemera is pictured here on the left. In addition to the delightful illustrations and interesting product descriptions, this particular reference also included two groupings of specific presentation guidelines for storekeepers.   Let's take a look at these recommendations.  Is this the way you display your Steiff treasures as well?

Taking things by the book, the first group of helpful hints were....

Window Decoration and General Display of Steiff Animals

Steiff animals lend themselves most formidably in the creation of countless display motives e.g. circus, zoo, barnyard, meadow, etc. * A cleverly designed display will attract the passerby. * You too can center your whole display around one of these popular motives. * Whenever it is possible, please acquaint the buying public with the vast Steiff assortment.  Make your display as neat as possible, for the first impression of the product you are displaying should be a favorable one. * The public will buy Steiff products in the store showing the largest selection. * The collectors, constantly on the prowl for new species in the Steiff line will single out the store exhibiting the greatest variety. * Steiff animals should be on display constantly. Should space problems however not permit disposal of an entire window, group your Steiff animals together and do not scatter them individually all over the window.  * When arranging a display large or small make certain that you have a Steiff sign (see next page), to place in the center of your animal group.

And the second group were...

Helpful Hints in Selling Steiff Animals

After unpacking:
1.  Straighten ears. Face animal, place both thumbs in the ear and bring them into the correct position.
2.  Straighten ribbon or collar.  Ribbon or collar should not be twisted and the name tag denoting the animal should always be in front center.
3. Brush the animal. Brush the animal against the grain with a coarse brush to give it the "Natural Look."

The display:
Steiff animals look lost and forlorn if placed singly and amidst other toys.  Place them in groups or families, and whenever possible use a Steiff sign with your display.  

If showcases are available use same, for your Steiff animals look even more lifelike when displayed under or behind glass. The bigger your assortment the bigger your potential sales volume.  

Your importer of Steiff toys will assist you further with any display and advertising problem you may have, concerning the Steiff product.  

Please remember that many of your customers are "Steiff collectors" and would like to see the best possible variety in your store.  They also want to be kept abreast of "What is new in the Steiff animal kingdom." 

It is interesting to note that in both sets of display tips, the use of a Steiff sign was mentioned. And in the photographs associated with the second set, one was featured in all of the vignettes. Here on the left, you can see a close up of this sign from the late 1950's. It measures 12 cm wide and 8 cm tall. It is oval in shape and is made from cardboard. The front face is black velvet. The letters and logo are dimensionally printed in red. The sign stands via a small cardboard easel on the back. Steiffgal keeps this example in with a collection of 1950's era dogs and it indeed adds an interesting focal point to the display.

Steiffgal hopes this review of vintage Steiff presentation guidelines has brought a touch of order to you day!

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things From The 2015 Teddy Dorado Steiff Sommer Auction

Going once, going twice... the countdown to the annual Steiff Sommer Family Event has definitely begun.  This year's celebration will be held on Steiff's campus in Giengen, Germany, from July 3rd through the 5th.  One of the highlights of this annual pilgrimage for many Steiff collectors is the Steiff auction, hosted by Teddy Dorado. The auction takes place on Saturday evening, July 4th.  This year's event features so many fantastic items it is difficult to pick out highlights - each is a winner in its own right.  But here are three that really called to Steiffgal personally.  Do they speak to you as well?

Steiffgal can't help but go nuts over this first example.  Here we have a 17 cm mohair squirrel from 1925.  His adorable face, great jointing including his tail, and delightful overall presentation put him in a class all to himself. Plus, Steiffgal has always dreamed of owning something with the elusive Steiff "muster" or sample button. 

Squirrel is cataloged as...  "made of reddish brown mohair plush with airbrushing in dark brown; front side made of natural white mohair plush; black shoe button eyes underlaid with white felt discs; brown stitched nose, mouth & claws; whiskers; six times jointed: swivel head, arms, legs & tail; very firmly excelsior stuffed; inoperative squeaker; large Steiff "Muster" sample button in right ear; fur without any loss of mohair; very clean, unfaded by daylight, no odor & all original; in mint condition overall without ears ca. 6.7in. (17cm) high."

If this second selection puts you to sleep, then she is doing her job just right.  Here we have a fantastic example of Steiff's 30 cm Cockie Cocker Spaniel pajama bag.  Although "relatively" recent, this playful "zipper" design is seldom if ever seen on the secondary market, is very collectible, and has been on Steiffgal's wish list forever.  

Cockie is cataloged as... "made of white mohair plush with black airbrushing; large black-white Googly glass eyes; black stitched nose; bottom with "Zipp" zipper; body with inlay from light cotton fabric as pyjama pouch & hand puppet; right front paw with squeaker; detachable red collar; large raised script Steiff Button In Ear; yellow ear tag with price area & hand written (price) note on the back; large chest tag "Cockie" with sticker on the back; very clean, unfaded by daylight, no odor & all original; in mint condition overall ca. 14.2in. (36cm) high & arm span ca. 12.6in. (32cm)."

This third and final item really takes the cake - the wedding cake, that is!  Here is a charming and unusual example of an otherwise standard line woolen miniature bird wedding party which has been customized with marvelous extra detailing.  This dear vignette has earned its wings with the addition of delightful felt flowers and a festive ruffled ribbon flourish.  A similar edge treatment was also used on the company's rare and period "couch animals." 

The grouping is cataloged as... "party of four woollen birds all in felt slippers on oval grass green cardboard; according to the consignor once a wedding gift to a Steiff employee; special edition because of flowers from felt on cardboard & its surrounding ruche of yellow taffeta; cardboard with underscored Steiff button; in excellent condition overall; (1) large blue tit as bride with wedding veil; (2) large finch as groom with black hat & flower on chest; (3) small golden bunting; metal feet damaged; (4) small robin with white Steiff tag 6504,1 cardboard measures ca. 7.1in. (18cm) x 4.3in. (11cm)." 

Steiffgal was fortunate to catch up with her friend and colleague Carsten Esser, who is the owner and auctioneer of Teddy Dorado, to speak with him briefly about the upcoming Steiff Sommer Auction.  Here is a bit of their most recent conversation: 

Steiffgal:  I can tell by looking through your catalog that this auction will be spectacular and that you are about to make many collectors very happy!  So what makes this year's Teddy Dorado Steiff Sommer Auction so special to you?  

Carsten:  I think that because Teddy Dorado has been hosting the Steiff Sommer for a number of years now, the items we present get better and better for this very special event. Believe it or not, I reviewed over 7,000 items to select the almost 80 items that will be sold on July 4th! (Note:  this means that just a little over 1% of Steiff items presented made the cut for the this auction!) 

The Steiff Sommer auction also attracts the very finest buyers and sellers. For example, a lot of three really breathtaking and early velveteen rabbits in the auction came from a stunning collection outside of Germany. The consignor is very smart about Steiff and knows that this particular auction would be the very finest to present these rabbits to the world. We are also getting many fine opportunities through referrals, which is a great result of working with more and more satisfied customers over time. This is how four mint, late 1940’s lots came to Teddy Dorado. These “time capsule” treasures include a silk plush Teddy Baby, silk plush Fellow Airedale Terrier, silk plush Sealyham, and a mohair Tabby.  

Steiffgal:  Yes, it is like these items were made yesterday, they are marvelous in every way.  Like these selections, many of the items in this summer's auction seem particularly precious and rare. How do you select which items appear in the summer auction?   

Carsten:  I founded Teddy Dorado from the collector’s perspective, and it is from this viewpoint that I try to present the most interesting items for sale through our events. As such, I select items for this auction just from my personal feeling and my knowledge of the interests of our worldwide bidders - it is that simple! And the stunning positive feedback of our customers - both buyers and sellers - shows us again and again that we are on the right track in doing so.

Steiffgal:  I could not help but notice that there are a great number of vintage woolen miniature items in the Sommer Auction. Why do you think they are so beloved by collectors all over the world?  

Carsten:  Dogs and woolies seem to be a general theme of the upcoming Steiff auction. I personally love these Steiff categories very much, but as always condition, rarity, age, quality, and rarity were our main priorities in selecting them. Woolen miniatures are the ideal Steiff ambassadors, as well as the perfect representation of the best of Steiff with their lovable designs and highest quality craftsmanship. They are also easy to pack and ship, don’t need much display space, and are in great demand with collectors who cherish them as charming companions for other toys, as well as just on their own.

Steiffgal:  And finally, of all the lots in the Sommer auction, if you could have any for your own collection, which one would it be and why?   

Carsten:  When I started Teddy Dorado, I gave up collecting so I could offer all the best finds to our collectors all over the globe. However, many items in this auction truly did catch my eye as wonderful and rare collectibles. Perhaps the best example of this is our opening lot. This very special treasure simply has it all. It is a unique diorama of tiny white mohair bears surrounded by woolen miniatures. It is utterly charming and unique. I see many, many Steiff treasures each year, but I must say, this example is truly Steiff at its very best! I so look forward to beginning our 2015 Steiff Sommer Auction event with this extraordinary offering.   

Steiffgal:  Many thanks for your time, and best of luck!    

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on some of Teddy Dorado's upcoming sale highlights has been almost exciting as a live auction event!  You can check out the entire catalog by clicking here.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Things Are All Buttoned Up - Steiff Style - At Julia's Upcoming Antique Advertising, Toy, And Doll Auction

It's the most wonderful time of the year... to be a Steiff enthusiast!  Buying and selling opportunities really do heat up (no pun intended) as the calendar flips to June and July!  One auction many collectors truly look forward to is the June 19th Antique Advertising, Toy, and Doll event at James D. Julia Auctioneers in Fairfield, Maine.  This auction usually features some exceptional Steiff lots, and this year is no different.  Here are three lots from this sale that particularly caught Steiffgal's eye!

This first highlight is one great beast of burden!  Here we have lot 2085, a fantastic (and totally irresistible) Steiff riding oxen with IDs.  He is measures 13” h (33 cm) x 21” w (53 cm). He is standing, unjointed, and rides upon a metal riding carriage with a wooden steering handle. This barnyard buddy is made from short tan and coppery-orange mohair with longer tan mohair on his tail tip. His face comes to life with black button eyes and leather horns; he also has leather hooves.  He rides upon four red metal wheels and has his original red and white pull cord which is finished with a red wooden knob with a Steiff medallion.  He retains his  long trailing “f” style button and traces of his paper ear tag as his Steiff IDs. 

This model was produced in 9 sizes ranging from 14 to 80 cm from 1909 through 1943. Many people confuse this pattern with Steiff's cow on wheels, but his distinctive coloring, body shape, and horns define him as an ox in this cattle-battle. Despite its longevity in the line, these riding ox are seldom seen on the secondary market. This particular model has particularly vibrant coloring and a most appealing presentation. 

It's time to pony up to our second Julia's Steiff highlight.  Next we have lot 2087, a stately and elegant felt Steiff riding horse.  He measures 6-1/2″ h (42cm) x 18″ w (46cm). This pretty pony is standing, unjointed, and glides upon a metal riding carriage with four metal wheels.  Horse has a wooden steering handle.  He is made from brown and tan felt with a real horsehair tail and mane. You can't help but notice his face, which is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes. His lifelike hooves are painted black.  Horse is dressed to the nines with a velvet, fabric trimmed saddle cloth and leather fittings which appear original or at least period appropriate. This example retains its Steiff long trailing “f” style button and its original red and white pull cord. Like the ox mentioned previously, the pony's pull cord also has a red wooden knob finished with a Steiff logo'ed metal medallion.  

This model is an absolute legacy pattern for Steiff.  It was produced overall in 10 sizes ranging from 12 to 80 cm and is remarkable as it is one of only a handful that appeared continuously in the Steiff catalog from its debut in 1892 through the last days of the company’s toy production during WWII in the early 1940s. 

They say fine feathers make fine birds, and such is the case in this final Julia's Steiff highlight.  Here we have lot 2090, a lot of seven absolutely lovely post war mohair Steiff birds which range in size from 4″ h (10 cm) to 6-1/2″ h (17 cm) tall.  Consider feathering your nest with this group which includes a 17 cm mohair finch with felt wing and tail feathers, red painted metal feet, and all Steiff IDs; a 12 cm mohair tit with felt wing and tail feathers, red painted metal feet, and a Steiff button and chest tag; a 10 cm mohair tit with hair wing and tail feathers, brown metal feet, and all Steiff IDs; a 10 cm mohair tit with stenciled velvet wing and tail feathers, tan plastic feet, and a Steiff button and chest tag; a 10 cm mohair sparrow with stenciled velvet wing and tail feathers, tan plastic feet, and a Steiff button and chest tag; and a 10 cm mohair bullfinch with stenciled velvet wing and tail feathers, tan plastic feet, and a Steiff button and chest tag.  All of these sweet-tweet-treats have plastic beaks and present in the most charming way.  These birds of a feather were all produced in the 1955 to 1973 time frame. 

Bird's the word when it comes to Steiff for many collectors. The earliest Steiff birds with legs, such as storks, pigeons, hens, roosters, and ducks, had felt covered or cord wrapped metal feet and legs.  As time went on, many models were transitioned to all metal legs and feet.  In the 1960's and 1970's, a number of Steiff birds - including the company's beloved woolen miniature birds - strut their stuff on all plastic legs and feet. 

Steiffgal hopes this preview of some of the great Steiff auction highlights to be sold at James D. Julia's June, 2015 toy auction has been a best of show experience for you! The full catalog is now online and can be accessed by clicking here.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stumbling Across A Fantastic Steiff Feline

Steiffgal's not lyin'... this story is gonna knock you right off of your feet!  Check out this note from a reader who just stumbled across the most adorable and extremely rare lying Steiff cat - for free!  Alicia writes:

Thanks in advance for any help or more information with this cat.  I came upon her at a garage sale today. It was actually in a FREE box. I didn't even know about Steiff but grabbed the old stuffed animals in there - well, because they looked old! It wasn't until I got home and tried to make out the metal piece on her ear that I realized I had an old Steiff cat. Yay!  I've done quite a bit of searching and can't find one just like her so I'm asking you if you could give me any more information.

She looks like she's laying down. Tan or blond in color. I think mohair. Looks lightly striped. The eyes are green - and maybe glass? You can see stitching in the seams. Her nose and mouth are pink thread. A little red dot marks the mouth. The inside of the ears are not felt - they are the same as the rest of the body. The arms and legs do not move - the head rotates 360 degrees. She is 9.5" long NOT including the tail. The Steiff pin is a dark silver color and the last F loops down and goes until under the E. No other tags.
Thanks much!!

This pretty kitty (and her story) are gonna have everyone talking for sure! Steiff named her simply Katze or Cat. She is is made of tan mohair, is head jointed, and is in a lying or crouching position. She is airbrushed with light brown stripes, making her one terrific Tabby. Her tail is quite long and thin and is positioned straight outward. Cat's youthful face comes to life with oversized green and black slit pupil eyes and a pink hand-embroidered nose. When she was new, she left the factory with a pastel colored silk ribbon and little metal bell.  Steiff produced this design in white, and white and brown, in 13 and 15 cm from 1927 through 1928 only. Having seen the 13 cm version in real life, it is Steiffgal's guess that this is the 15 cm.  Given her very limited time in production, this pattern is seldom seen on the secondary market and is usually of great interest to collectors.  

This precious pattern was also made as a "couch animal cat" - meaning the kitten was mounted on an oval felt mat which was trimmed in a ribbon ruffle - in 10 and 12 cm from 1928 through 1930.   

In addition to its rarity, there are several factors that really add to the appeal of Alicia's lucky find. First, her cat was designed and produced in the mid to late 1920's.  This period is emerging as a new favorite for collectors, and is famous for its playful, wide-eyed, innocent, and whimsical looking patterns - think Molly the Puppy, Teddy Clown, and Bully the Bulldog, for example.  Secondly, its general lying position design is based on some of the company's late 19th century legacy cat designs, which usually had a woolen ball between their two front paws.  You can see an example of this above on the left. And thirdly, Alicia's kitten has a truly distinctive front and back leg construction.  These bent limbs are graceful, angular, and have lifelike proportions.  Such attention to detail is not seen often on earlier cat models.  

Now for the question that often turns Steiffgal into a real-life Grumpy Cat.  So what's the value of this lying kitten? As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and Steiffgal has not see the item firsthand to check for any structural or aesthetic issues that do not appear easily in photos - like a smoky smell, dry mohair, insect damage, or other problems.  Clearly, someone could argue that this cat is worth nothing, as that's what Alicia paid for it!  But, assuming that it is indeed as lovely as the photos suggest, it is possible that it could sell at auction in the $800 to $1,200 range.  A slightly smaller version of a similar lying Steiff cat from the same time period realized $1,185 at a James D. Julia Antique Advertising, Toy, and Doll Auction in 2014.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great found lying Steiff kitten was the cat's meow for you.

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