Friday, August 21, 2015

Dressed To The Nines With This Fantastic Steiff Mascot Rarity

It's just about back to school time around here. Accordingly, lots of families are off to the stores to pick up new shoes, clothing, and backpacks for the new academic year. If Steiffgal could do her fall shopping anywhere on the planet, it would most definitely be at Breuninger, a high end department store in Germany. And why is that? Their logo - a bear of course - that was made into one of the most sought after Steiff editions ever! Take a look at this little guy and see what makes him so interesting from the collector's perspective.

They say clothes make the man - but perhaps they make the bear in this case as well? Here we have a fantastic example of Steiff's Breuni bear. He is about 13 cm tall, standing, and head jointed. He is made from blonde mohair. His arms are lined in metal wires and are posable; his legs and torso are stationary. Breuni has oversized, felt soled flat feet designed for standing. His charming face is detailed with black button eyes, a felt muzzle, distinctive black nose, and a simple brown hand embroidered mouth. Breuni is dressed to the nines in blue felt shorts, a red and white double breasted blazer with buttons, a blue bow tie, and fingered white gloves. He retains his Steiff chest tag, raised script button, and legible ear tag with the numbers "714" on it; this translates to 7=in caricature and 14=14 cm.

Talk about a personal shopper! This treasure was produced exclusively for Breuninger in this size only in 1956 and 1957; it is Steiffgal's understanding that he was not actually produced as an item for sale but as a premium that the store distributed to customer contest winners and employees. As such, very few were produced and he was not available to the general public - adding to his rarity. 

Now let's catalog one more really cool thing about this Ted. If you look closely, you will see that he is holding a tiny copy of the store's toy catalog. It is titled Breuninger Spielwaren 1956(Breuninger Toys 1956) and is suspended like a shopping bag around his right hand. And, if you pull out a magnifying glass, you can make out a teeny tiny Steiff Niki rabbit, as well as a Steiff Mecki hedgehog doll on it. Both of these items were introduced in the early 1950's and were extremely popular at the time. The catalog cover also features two toy vehicles which theoretically could also have been made by Steiff, as Steiff was producing these sorts of items in the mid-1950's as well. However, they are just too tiny for Steiffgal to tell for sure.
Breuni was introduced as Breuninger's logo mascot in 1952. He was often featured in store advertising and print catalogs; you can see him on the cover of a 1954 publication here on the left. He is still used for store marketing today, and is a beloved and well recognized brand, especially with kids. In 1995, Steiff produced a delightful replica of their original Breuni in an edition size of 1,500. However, unlike the original that was technically 14 cm, this reissue was slightly taller at 20 cm. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Breuninger's rare and well dressed Steiff cub has suited you well.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Good (Steiff) Things Come In Threes At Morphy's Early Fall Toy Auction

Looking to add something really special to your growing Steiff hug?  A good place to do so may be at Morphy's upcoming Toys, Dolls, Trains, and Marbles early fall auction on September 10th - 12th, 2015.  This sales event, which features delightful temptations from every toy category, also has several very fine Steiff lots on offer, too.  Here are three marvelous highlights that truly caught Steiffgal's imagination.  This auction, and these early Steiff treasures,  just may make saying "fairwell" to summer a little easier!

Regular readers of this blog won't be surprised that Steiffgal has a big case of puppy love over this first auction highlight.  It is lot 111A and is cataloged as...  
 "A highly desirable Steiff dog of the early part of the 20th century. This fellow retains his original tag as well as stiff straw collar. Overall his coloring, orange and cream, with a velvet nose, he is in very fine plus condition with only minimal mohair loss in a couple spots. Most likely a grading of 8.5 or 9 out of a 10 point scale would be appropriate? Size 9" to top of head.  Estimated at $1,250 - $1,750."

This top dog is Steiff's wonderful Bully the Bulldog. Bully was launched in 1927 and was an instant sensation with both children (as a plaything) and adults (as a collectible and an accessory). He was modeled on the French Bulldog—the “it” companion of those in the know all across Europe at the time. Like this wonderful example, all vintage Steiff Bullies were head jointed, had oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes, a hand-embroidered black nose, and a simple snout and jaw constructed to give him his requisite jowls. Most were black and white or orange and white. Bully was made in velvet and mohair, as well as sitting and standing, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 cm.  This original Bully appeared in the Steiff catalog through 1939.  

And just what makes this Bully the pick of the Morphy's litter? Collectors can't help but notice his majestic size, vibrant coloring, and fantastic overall presentation. His spectacular horsehair collar, a traditional accessory of "society dogs" of his period, appears to be in like-new condition. Last, and hardly least, he retains both his long trailing F Steiff button as well as his rare metal rimmed chest tag - in itself a coveted rarity.  Although Steiff records show that 250,000 Bullies were manufactured from 1927 through 1932, this example is truly one in a million.  

If you are looking for some wonderful Teddy hugs, this next selection has your name written all over it.  It is lot 121A and is simply cataloged as...

"Fully jointed bear appears to be a Steiff, with sewn nose and black button eyes, felt paw pads with hole in one. Some soil and wear. Very appealing face! Condition (Very Good).  Estimated at $400 - 600."

This bare bear indeed is a Steiff, and given his presentation, is probably from the 1906-1910 or so time frame.  His size is not specified, but because his nose stitching pattern is horizontal, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he probably measures between 12" and 14" tall, plus or minus a smidge.  The company's precious cubs from this early era are known for their long arms, spoon shaped paws, narrow feet, pronounced back humps, and black button eyes.  Steiff bears in this height range from the turn of last century were often called "doll bears." This is so because their size was similar to that of a typical little girl's doll, and to make these bears appealing as toys for both boys and girls. 

This bear has it buttoned up as an auction pick. His mohair has a delightful sheen to it, and he sports that marvelous Steiff "sitting slouch" which only comes with time. Ted's endearing face calls to collectors with its close-set eyes and distinctive, pointy nose. And, if you look closely at his head shot online, you can see that he appears to retains his pièce de résistance, his Steiff Knopf im Ohr.  What's not to love?

This last Morphy's Steiff auction highlight may simply bowl you over.  It is lot 997 and is cataloged as...

"A nice example of an early Steiff 9 Pin in the form of a dog. Velvet covered body with shoe button eyes and still retaining a button in the right ear this fellow has a minor tear/aged repair at his collar on the right side. Overall very nice condition with minimal soiling to velvet. Size 7-1/4''T. Estimated at $250 - 450."  

There's no need to beg for more information on this cute canine. What we have here is a sweet example of an early Steiff velvet Dachshund skittle. The dog itself is in the begging position, unjointed, and made from tan velvet that has been airbrushed with brown highlights. His adorable face comes to life with black button eyes and a simple hand embroidered nose and mouth. Remarkably, this pup retains his tail, which is long and narrow and has a tendency to snap off over time.  The dog is mounted on a solid wooden plinth which is shaped somewhat like a bowling pin and designed to tumble over upon impact; the dog plus the plinth is called a skittle.

This skittle left the factory in Germany as part of a set of skittles, a centuries old parlor game analogous to what we now call bowling.  Skittle sets appeared in Steiff's 1892 debut catalog.  The sets produced for the European market had nine total skittles, while those for America had ten total (as in tenpin bowling).  Steiff's animal skittle sets consisted of a series of pins and one kingpin; the kingpin wore a felt jacket and crown, and was mounted on a slightly taller plinth.   Each skittle set came with two multicolored felt covered balls.  The dachshund on the skittle is a standard line item that was produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1901 through 1927.  However, Steiff's dachshund skittle set was only produced from 1901 through 1912.  Given that early time frame, this example conceivably could have an elephant, blank, or small trailing F button as his Steiff ID.  

This final Steiff selection beats a perfect game anytime.  Steiff skittles are absolute rarities as so few exist today; they were basically designed as a sporting goods to be used and enjoyed, and most were.  As such, this example in lovely vintage condition with ID represents the best of all worlds for collectors, given that it is both a skittle and a dog.  It is interesting to note that a slightly older felt Steiff dachshund skittle realized $1,718.25 at James D. Julia in 2014. Easy to display and impressive in presentation, this Steiff dachshund skittle might just take home a blue ribbon as well in this upcoming sales event.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of the finest Steiff collectibles on offer at Morphy's upcoming auction has been a highlight experience for you.

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Looking For Material Evidence On This Unusual Steiff Floppy Kitten

Check out this inquiry that just tip-toed in on little cat's feet from a reader in New Jersey.  She asks about an unusual detail she noted on one of Steiff's beloved "Floppy" or sleeping animal patterns.  What's to make of this pretty Steiff kitty?

Linda shares, in part:
"My sleeping cat has a velvet snout and ears.  It does not have any ID.    I just can't seem to find any example like this in books or online. What do think of this? Many thanks for your help!"

No need to whisper around this sweet sleeping girl.  What we have here is Steiff's Floppy Kitty Cat. She is unjointed, lying down, and made from nice white mohair which has been gently airbrushed with black stripes. She is very softly stuffed.  Kitty has closed stitched eyes and is exceptionally cuddly. Her face is detailed with a pink hand stitched nose and mouth; she appears to have retained her original clear monofilament whiskers.  Overall, Floppy Kitty was produced from 1953 through 1969 and came in two sizes, 17 and 28 cm.  Linda's kitten is the smaller version.  

Steiff produced a great number of "sleeping" style animals during the 1950's through the 1970's. These included a baby lion, tiger, panda bear, fox, Zotty bear, Siamese cat, Cocker Spaniel, seal, and elephant, among others. They were all prone in position and referred to as "floppy" or "cosy" animals. Most were made in two standard sizes, 17 and 28 cm; all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal "sleeping eyes". All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known Steiff animal designs.  The baby lion and tiger are pictured here on the left.

Linda's Floppy Kitty is particularly interesting because of its velvet muzzle and ears.  These areas on this model were traditionally made from mohair.  It is the first time that Steiffgal has seen a Floppy Kitty with this unexpected facial detailing.  It was not unusual for Steiff to use velvet highlights on the smallest version of some of their animals (like many dogs and cats) or even make the smallest version of an animal entirely in velvet when the rest of the sizes were mohair (like pigs, zebras, giraffes, etc.) The smallest sized, fully jointed Steiff Kitty also has a velvet muzzle but felt ears; she is pictured above on the left for reference.  
Although there is no hard material evidence, it is Steiffgal's strongest suspicion that this velvet muzzled Floppy Kitty is an early version of the standard line all mohair Floppy Kitty model (pictured here on the left.)  Here are three theories concerning the velvet version:

1.  It is possible that this version was made with velvet early on to save on mohair - as mohair was still relatively rare and hard to get post war until the early 1950's when the fabric factories were in full swing again. 

2.  It is also possible that this was a sample or a trial of this pattern, to keep it consistent in materials and design with the regular jointed Kitty already in the line. 

3.  It is also possible that this model was made early on with a velvet muzzle and ears, but because velvet tends to get dirty easily and is impossible to wash - and this product was designed as a play and bedtime animal - that the material was changed to a more surface washable option.

So what's the real story behind this meow-mixup?  Unfortunately, only Linda's cat knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual sleeping Steiff cat has been a relaxing bedtime story for you.

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