Friday, November 27, 2015

Buttoning Up Your Steiff Holiday Wish List With Highlights From Morphy's December 2015 Toy Auction

Is your Steiff holiday wish list buttoned up yet? Well, if you need a few ideas, look no further than Morphy Auctions' upcoming Premier Toy & Advertising Sale, which will be held December 18th-20th, 2015.  This great event features over 40 top tier button-in-ear treasures representing a full spectrum of Steiff categories and price points.   It will probably come as no surprise that Steiffgal's got a plush-crush on most of these lovely lots.  Here's a few that really caught her eye... and why!

Morphy's Lot #112
Well, hello Dolly... or in this case, Dollies!  Check out lot #112, a "Pair of Exquisite Steiff Dolls in Bavarian Clothes."  This charming couple is cataloged as... 
"This wonderful pair consists of Anton the boy and Lisl the girl. Both are approximately 35cm tall, fully jointed, and made from felt and linen. Anton has honey blond mohair hair and black shoebutton eyes. He wears a white cotton shirt, black felt lederhosen-style shorts with green suspenders, a felt Tyrolean jacket with leather buttons (one missing), and woolen socks. Lisl has blonde mohair hair that has darkened over time and stunning cobalt and black pupil eyes. She wears a white cotton shirt and apron which have darkened over time, a black calico and felt dirndl with beaded decorations, a colorful neck scarf, and tall socks. As is typical to Steiff dolls of the period, both are wearing hats and handmade shoes. Both dolls appeared in the Steiff line from 1909 to 1927 in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60cm; Lisl was also produced in a 75cm in 1912 only. Anton's black eyes suggest he was produced earlier than Lisl. Both doll's IDs have been lost to time. Both dolls have charming, youthful faces and present beautifully together. Auction estimate:  $2,000 - 3,000."

Similar Steiff Dolls At The UFDC Museum, Kansas City
And what makes these two so dolly delightful from the collector's vantage point?  Their incredibly dear looks, larger size, lovely condition, and traditional German attire. Anton and Lisl are picture-perfect examples of Steiff's "Children" style dolls, which appeared in the line from 1909 through the late 1920's.  Unlike earlier Steiff dolls that were more caricatured, harsh, and designed for adult collectors, these dolls were realistically proportioned, had gentle personalities, and angelic, rosy faces.  They truly were designed for child's fun and play.  These models were all fully jointed and had felt heads and bodies - except right around WWI when felt was scarce and the bodies were sometimes made from rough cotton or linen type materials. All of these dolls were dressed head to toe in handmade clothing that included school uniforms, ethnic costumes, sporting attire, and “Sunday best." 

It is very interesting to note that the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC), the world's largest and best known doll collecting organization, features a pair of Steiff dolls very similar to Anton and Lisl in their outstanding doll museum, located in Kansas City, MO.  This pair from the UFDC museum is pictured above on the left on doll stands. 

Morphy's Lot #268
The next Steiff Morphy Auctions' highlight will absolutely give you the warm and fuzzies... in a very big way indeed! Here we have lot 268, an early postwar white Steiff Teddy bear.  This beautiful bruin is cataloged as... 

"A wonderful example of a 20-1/2" tall mid-century Steiff bear with glass eyes in what appears to be in unplayed with all original condition. This original "Teddy", circa 1948, has a block button, working growler within his chest, vibrant white coloring & even his felt pads are bright showing no discoloration/wear/loss. A knockout Steiff and certainly a fine addition to any bear and/or Steiff collection! Auction estimate:  $1,500. - 2,500."

Steiff Block Button Example
And what makes this terrific Ted so special from the collector's point of view? Well, here Steiffgal has to say, "Be still my heart!" This bear's size, coloring, classic appearance, condition, and that little detail called his "block letter" button make him a universal celebrity. This "block letter" button is really desirable, and means that the word "Steiff" appears in all capital letters. This button was only used on items from around 1947 through 1952, and is extremely rare. As a matter of fact, Steiffgal only has four or five items with this button amongst her collection of 1,000+ vintage items, including a transitional (i.e., pre- to post war) period squirrel.  This same block letter button from Steiffgal's squirrel is pictured here on the left. 

Morphy's Lot #120
This third Morphy Auction Steiff highlight is a charm, in so many ways.  Here we have lot #120, Steiff's smallest pre-war begging rabbit with a tail moves head mechanism.  This petite treat is cataloged as...  

"This 9 cm rabbit is an extremely rare version of the Steiff's collectible tail-moves-head novelties from the 1930's. She is unjointed, excelsior stuffed, and begging. Her body is made tan colored mohair that has overall light losses consistent with age. Her tiny face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a few remaining clear monofilament whisker. Her tail-moves-head mechanism is in perfect working order. Rabbit has her trailing "f" button and slight traces of her red ear tag as her Steiff IDs. This pattern was produced in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, and 36 cm from 1931-1938. Auction estimate:  $500-1,000."

And what makes this head turner so special from the collector's perspective? This rabbit manages to get a lot of great into a small package for sure.  Her size, presentation, rarity, and mechanical movements make her one honey bunny.  Steiff's tail moves head models are among the company's most beloved and sought after treasures.  These early "action super heroes" of the 1930's included cats, dogs, goats, and lambs, among others.  For the most part, each was based on standard line popular designs of the time, and left the factory with a round cardboard tag on its tail that read "turn here and I will move my head." Tail turns head items were considered higher end, luxury toys, and most were produced through the late 1930's. 

A Copy Of Patsy Ziemer's Book
In addition, this rabbit has a fantastic and fully documented provenance.  It was consigned from its original owners, the family of the late Patsy Ziemer. Patsy and her family escaped from Nazi Germany and came to America in 1939. Once in the US, twelve year old Patsy and her father authored the best selling book, Two Thousand And Ten Days of Hitler, which described her life in pre-war Germany.  You can see an original copy of this book pictured here on the left.  Copies of family documents, including more information on Patsy's amazing and accomplished life, are included with this rabbit (and other items for sale at Morphy's from this family's collection.)

Steiffgal hopes this preview of highlights from Morphy's December, 2015 Premier Toy Auction has put you in a playful and holiday mood.  

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

This Most Unusual Steiff Skunk Is Begging For Your Attention

It's never a good idea to see things only in black and white.  Unless of course, you are studying Steiff's wonderful skunks!  So pull out your magnifying glasses and thinking caps, and take a look at this most unusual example.  Have you ever come across one of these two-toned treasures?

No need to hold your breath for information on this little stinker. Here we have the strange, wonderful, and highly unusual Phuy Skunk. And why so unusual? In the Steiff reference books, the only thing listed about him is that he was made in 1965, and his "purpose is unknown." Physically, Phuy is 18 cm. He is in a begging position, although he can also lay down if he gets tired. His body is made from short black and white mohair, while his tail is made from long black and white mohair. He has double-thick felt paws and feet; his feet are stenciled with little foot prints. He has an open, felt lined mouth, a pink hand embroidered nose, brown and black pupil eyes, and mono-filament whiskers. 

Phuy is sometimes confused with another begging buddy named Cosy Skunk. This fellow is 22 cm, unjointed, and can lay down or sit up. His body is made from short black and white dralon. His robust tail is made from long, black and white dralon. His face is detailed with felt ears, black and brown pupil eyes, clear whiskers, and a pink hand embroidered nose and closed mouth. He has white, double thick felt front hand paws, but no feet paws. There is no stenciling on his felt paws. This smelly sweetheart was manufactured from 1960-1974 in this size only.  He is pictured here on the left.

It stinks that there isn't much information available about Phuy. But, it was not unusual for Steiff to produce an animal in a very small edition size, and as a result, not keep detailed records about it. Sometimes these rarities were produced for, or ended up at, specialty retailers such as F.A.O. Schwarz. A good example of this is the company's "Mystery Squirrel" which does not (as far as Steiffgal knows) appear in any of the standard Steiff reference books, but is featured in the F.A.O. Schwarz catalog of 1968-1969. He is pictured here on the left. It is interesting to note that this Mystery Squirrel, like Phuy, is a "field and forest friend," is made from mohair, and is in the same general (begging) body position. Mystery Squirrel is pictured here on the left. 

As rare as Phuy is, he is not the rarest Steiff skunk Steiffgal knows of. Check out this remarkable, and probably one of a kind Steiff Skunk sold by Teddy Dorado in 2013 at the annual Steiff Sommer Auction in Giengen, Germany. He hammered at 950 euro!  This absolute rarity is cataloged as... "Disney character begging skunk, 18 cm, a unique specimen in mint condition from 1978-1979. Art.-No. Art.-No. 7958/18. Made of black, pink & white trevira velvet; chest from pink Dralon plush; white hair on top of head & white-black tail made of long pile woven fur; black-white googly eyes; cord tongue; unjointed in begging position; limbs excelsior stuffed; manufactured without voice & chest tag; small golden coloured Steiff raised script button in ear; Steiff ear tag shows hand written Art.-No. & wrong information about covering material; in mint condition overall; item without report in any Steiff catalogue."  This Disney character skunk is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Teddy Dorado.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Phuy Skunk has been a well deserved breath of fresh air for you. 

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Delightful Steiff Head-Turning Mystery!

Everyone loves a good Steiff mystery. And this one just might color your world, as well as have you nodding your head in agreement. Check out this note from a new friend who lives overseas. She writes in part:


I wonder if you have seen a Steiff like this before.

He looks to be from around the 1930-40's as his head is quite small and long body unlike the 1950's shape. He is 10 inches high. The front of his body and the inset of his ears are cream mohair and the rest of him is golden. His head is unjointed and he has a canister type thing in his body; you turn his tail and his head goes from side to side. He is not a yes/no as the tail does not move up and down.  

I have not seen one like him before. I would love to hear what you think and also what you think his value is.  Many thanks!"

This Ted is one rare bear indeed! Steiffgal has only seen one or two other examples in many decades of collecting and studying Steiff items. 
What we have here is Steiff's "Original Teddy bear with neck mechanism." This little guy with the big clunky name was produced in 1955 only in 18 or 25 cm. He is arm and leg jointed, and his little tail turns his head. This bear pattern is known among other factors for his ears and belly which are a lighter hue than his head, limbs, and body.  He also has a tail, which is an extremely unusual detail feature on Steiff mohair bears from any era. His back side and tail are pictured here on the left.

This bear is neck and neck in rarity with other unusual Steiff items from the early 1950's, including a little known 15 cm clockwork tumbling bear called "Turbo Teddy Somersault Bear" made in 1951 only. One thing that's a bit unusual about today's "head turner" is his production era - the 1950's. After receiving patents for "tail moves head" mechanisms, Steiff introduced a series of these items in the 1930's. For the most part, these were based on the most popular and beloved patterns of the time and included cats, dogs, rabbits, penguins, goats, and lambs, and even Mickey Mouse, among others. These were advertised as, "The ingenious head-movement makes Steiff animals appear alive."  The Bully pictured on the left is one of Steiff's early tail moves head items and appeared in the line in 11, 15, 18, 23, 26, and 31 cm from 1931 through 1935 overall.

Overall, about 25 different tail turns head models were produced through the late 1930's and very early 1940's. Interestingly, there was not a Teddy bear on this pre-war production list. It would be almost two decades later that the Teddy bear with neck mechanism under discussion today would appear in the line - and just for a year at that.  In 1990 and 1991, the company produced the 25 cm version of this bear as a replica in a limited edition size of 4,000 pieces.  This replica tail moves head Steiff bear is pictured here on the left.
And now for the question that requires a mohair crystal ball - his value.  As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it.  This item rarely if ever appears on the secondary market and is on the wish lists of many Steiff collectors.  However, there really are no readily available comps to help frame an estimate.  In the broadest sense, Steiffgal guesstimates that he might sell in the $1,500-3,000 range... but only he - and his next future owner - know for sure! 

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on the company's Teddy bear with neck mechanism has been a dynamic read for you.  
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Playing Dress Up With This Gorgeous And Very Rare Steiff Pressed Felt Faced Doll

All dressed up and nowhere to go? Not this beautiful Steiff girl doll! Although Steiff is best known for its wonderful mohair Teddy bears and animals, the company also produced extraordinary and high quality felt dolls through the early 1950's. This sweet treat is the best of all possible worlds, with her fabulous and well coordinated outfit and amazingly appealing presentation.  Let's take a look at her and see what makes her so special from the product design and historical  perspectives. 

This sweet flower is Steiff's Rosl. She is 35 cm, standing, head and leg jointed, and made from flesh colored felt. Her arms hang softly at her sides. She has well defined hands, a sweet and toddler-esque face, and shapely limbs. She comes to life with a blond mohair wig, lovely inset blue glass pupil eyes, and delicately hand painted facial features. She was made in this size only from 1939 through 1941.  

Like all of Steiff's early felt dolls, Rosl is absolutely dressed to the nines. Her elaborate, well coordinated outfit consists of a red and white cotton calico dress, a blue and white silken apron, lace trimmed white cotton underwear and slip, white socks and felt shoes, and a blue hood. The material on her apron and hood is the same. Each garment is gorgeously tailored and detailed with ric-rac, lace, and/or matching trims. It has always been Steiff's tradition to dress their dolls, especially the girl ones, in great shoes and head wear.

Steiff's pressed felt faced dolls debuted in 1936 and were produced on a commercial scale from 1937 through 1943, and then again in 1949 and 1950. Overall, about 27 different versions of these dolls appeared in the line through 1950. Over time, both boys and girl models were produced in 35 ad 43 cm. These dolls were created to replace the company's better known and very collectible early dolls with center seamed faces. Steiff had been working since the 1920's to find a way to produce seamless faced dolls. But due to the nature of the felt material, this proved to be very complicated from a production standpoint. After years of trying, the Steiff designers finally mastered the art of creating felt pressed faces by reinforcing the molded material with a plastic backing.  
Rosl, and all of her pressed felt faced cousins, have very delicate and well formed head features - including lifelike ears. However, her ear shape and position was not conducive for the company's traditional "button in ear" branding. As such, instead of Steiff buttons in their ears, each Steiff pressed felt faced doll was given a special red rubber bracelet that had their button and yellow flag attached like a charm, as well as a named chest tag.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's delightfully dressed Rosl doll has you feeling pretty today.

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