Saturday, December 31, 2016

Is This Steiff Jungle Gem A Diamond In The Rough?

Let's end 2016 in a wild way! Check out this note from a reader on the east coast who found an Ivy-League tier Steiff treasure and wants to learn more about it. Jacob, in part, writes...

"I was hoping you could tell me a bit more about a Steiff tiger that I found recently. It is similar to one you've written a blog post about already but with some noticeable differences. It is an approximately 40 cm long, 23 cm tall mohair tiger wearing a black felt vest with an orange "Princeton" P. It has a Steiff button in the ear and a tag that says "US Zone Germany." It is standing, rather than sitting and does not have a jointed head as the one you've written about did. However, it does have the "cartoon" eyes."

Wow, Steiffgal is seeing stripes over this cool cat. This indeed is the standing, larger version of Steiff's early 1950's Princeton Tiger. He is unjointed and made from mohair that has been hand airbrushed with black stripes. His face comes to life with a prominent, felt lined open mouth, white wooden teeth, and green and black "squint" style glass eyes. And, of course, what makes him head of the class is his orange and black felt "P" blanket. He was made as an exclusive for the upscale US toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz in the c. 1951-1952 timeframe.

Now let's take a little trip backwards in time and check out some interesting things about this grrrr-eat example. Here you can see this tiger's original advertising from the 1951 F.A.O. Schwarz catalog. Other Steiff mascots listed with him include the sitting Princeton Tiger, a sitting and standing Yale Bulldog, a sitting and standing Navy Goat, an Army Mule, and a Columbia Lion. They ranged in price at the time from $7.50-10.00. This is the equivalent of $69.62 to $92.83 in 2016 dollars. Steiff is, and always has been, a premium product. Ironically, the mascots pictured just below the Steiff versions that were made in France are more expensive than the Steiff ones upon their introduction. It is Steiffgal's strongest suspicion that they would have mostly sentimental value today.

Steiff also created other smaller scaled school and institutional mascots in the late 1950's and early 1960's. These were all standing and included a 14 cm Yale Bulldog in 1957, a 10 cm Princeton Tiger in 1957-1958, 12 and 14 cm Army Donkeys in 1957, a 15 cm Navy Goat in 1957, and a 25 cm Navy Goat in 1957-60.

Is this jungle gem a diamond in the rough? Well, as always, something is worth what someone will pay for it. These marvelous mascots come on the secondary market quite infrequently, so "comps" are hard to come by. However, in June 2016, a standing Yale Bulldog illustrated along with the standing Princeton Tiger in the 1951 F.A.O. Schwarz catalog sold at auction here in the US. Estimated at $600-1,200, it realized $900.  This "Handsome Dan" is pictured here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Jacob's great tiger puts you on the prowl for some great Steiff finds in 2017! Happy New Year, dear readers!

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Steiffgal's Just Boy Crazy Over This Late 1930's Steiff Doll!

Oh boy!  Literally!  Santa stopped off at Steiffgal's house a tad early, delivering this sweet little guy just in time for the holidays.  He came all the way from Germany and was won at a recent toy sale there. Steiffgal has a thing for Steiff's early felt dolls, but she was particularly excited about this darling little man. Here's a little bit about him, and what makes him so interesting from the collector's perspective.

This handsome devil is Steiff's Seppl.  He is a great example of the company's pressed felt faced dolls, which appeared in the line overall from about 1936 through the very early 1950's.  Seppl is 35 cm tall, standing, solidly stuffed with excelsior, leg and head jointed, and made from felt.  He has lovely and very real looking blue, white, and black glass pupil eyes, a mischievous facial expression, and a shock of blond mohair hair.  He wears a very traditional German outfit.  This consists of black wool shorts with green embroidery; green suspenders; a white button down cotton shirt with a collar; a grey wool jacket trimmed in green with leather buttons; a green Alpine style hat; black tie style shoes; and grey and green knitted calf socks.  Seppl was produced in this size only from 1938 through 1943.

Seppl and his fellow seamless felt faced dolls were introduced in the late 1930's and were the "stars" of many of the company's advertising and sales materials at that time. This is understandable, given their charming presentation and personalities.  Here on the left you can spot Seppl and his gal-pal Lisl, who is also dressed in traditional clothing, as they appeared in one of the company's sales catalogs from 1938/1939.  You can see from his information that he is supposed to weigh 220 g (Steiffgal weighed her Seppl, who came in at 213 g); measure 35 cm (true) and cost 6.80 marks at the time. In 1938, 2.49 marks = $1 USD; as such, 6.80 marks = $2.73 USD. According to inflation calculators, $2.73 in 1938 had the same buying power as $44.84 in 2016.

Steiff has a half century of tradition of creating delightful cloth dolls, starting around 1903.  It is interesting to note that Steiff's earliest dolls were, for the most part, overwhelmingly male in gender.  Models included policemen, soldiers, soccer players, scouts, and other truly masculine designs. It wasn't until around 1909 that Steiff started creating both male and female doll models on a relatively large scale.  However, through the late 19-teens or early 1920's, many were still male, as the company's lines of international soldier and police dolls were a major emphasis on production.  You can see three typical male Steiff felt dolls here on the left from the c. 1909 through 1916 time frame. 

After WWI, the gender balance in Steiff's doll production changed significantly.  The soldier and police dolls were no longer of great interest, and Steiff's production of them dropped dramatically.  Female dolls started gaining popularity, and more and more were seen in the catalog.  By the time that seamless pressed felt faced dolls like Seppl appeared in the catalog, the company was really focusing on producing girl dolls for little girls.  For example, Steiff produced 27 versions of its pressed felt faced dolls in the 1938-1943 period.  Of those models produced, only 7 were boys, Seppl being one of them. As such, Steiff boy dolls from this period are quite rare.  You can see Seppl's cousin Rosl, who was produced from 1939 through 1941, here on the left. Once the factory reopened for toy making business in the late 1940's, Steiff again produced these pressed felt faced dolls for a handful of years.  However, all of the post war models were girls.  

Steiffgal hopes that you have enjoyed learning about Seppl, and that Santa also brings you a marvelous vintage Steiff treasure this year as well.  Happy holidays, dear Steiff readers!

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Outfoxing The Mystery Behind This Very Vintage Steiff Dog

Who doesn't love a surprise? Especially when it may have to do with Steiff! Check out this note from a new friend who writes about a "foundling" discovered in the home of a relative. Caroline shares,

"Hi there,

I was wondering if you could help me identify this charming straw stuffed dog? It was found in the basement of my mother-in-law's house back in the 60's but clearly it's a lot older. It has a hole in the right ear (there is velvet inside the ears) which made me think it could be Steiff if there was once a button there. I'm not sure if they were ever stuffed with straw or made of this material?

Anyway I know he's not not worth a lot but I love him and I'd love to know a bit more about him. Thank you so much for your time. 

Kindest regards,

Well, let's pull up a chair and check out this sitting sweetie. From what Steiffgal can make out from the photos, it is her best guess that this is an early Steiff Fox Terrier. It is not clear about his measurements, but based on his remaining materials, it is most likely that he originally was made from white mohair; the woolen covering has entirely been lost to time in this case. If he has a "crunchy" feeling to him when he is squeezed, then he is stuffed with excelsior, which would be consistent with his era of production. 

This early and beloved Steiff pattern is known for several design features.  These include one white ear and one orange one; pert black shoe button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth; a black circle drawn around the dog's right eye; velvet lined ears; and adorable, perfectly-to-scale prominently formed back leg haunches. Steiffgal has also seen several of these early Fox Terriers detailed with an orange airbrushed ring around their tail end, although it is not clear if this model has this based on these limited photos.  

Steiff has a long history with Fox Terriers, and they have always been an important breed in Steiff's kennel club. They made their first appearance in 1899, just a handful of years after the company's debut commercial catalog launch in 1892. This particular sitting version, named simply "Foxterrier," has its origins as far back the very early 1900's, when a similar model was produced in felt in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1902 to 1924. This sitting pattern was produced in mohair in 7, 17, 22, 28, and 35 from 1902 through 1929, as well as lamb's wool plush in 12, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1903 through 1917.   

This basic sitting Foxterrier pattern made a somewhat interesting "solo" appearance in 1928. For that year only, this design was also produced in mohair in 7, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm but was specifically given the name "Spotty." This name appeared on a white tag with a metal wire rim worn as a chest tag. Two of these 1928 Spotty dogs are pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.    

And what's up with this name-game? It is Steiffgal's best guess that this update from a generic breed to a more "playful" name in 1928 was not random, but part of a larger strategy. In the mid- to late 1920's, Steiff began producing a great number of beloved dogs and giving them endearing, child-like names. This was a directive straight from company management and was made to help reinvigorate the product line and align design priorities to the societal trends and preferences of the time. This marketing tactic proved quite successful, starting with the introduction of "Molly" the puppy dog, who debuted in 1925. Other named pups introduced around this era include "Treff" the Bloodhound in 1928, "Fellow" the puppy dog in 1928, and "Bully" the Bulldog in 1927.  You have to admit, the name "Spotty" is much sweeter and appealing than "Foxterrier!"

In 2013 - perhaps in honor of his 85th birthday? - Steiff produced a charming 17 cm replica of 1928's Spotty in an edition size of 1,000 pieces for the worldwide market.

Unfortunately, due to its condition, it is difficult to put a firm date on Caroline's Steiff dog. However, given the information available about the pattern and assuming that it did have a button-in-ear at one time, it would be safe to say that it was manufactured in the 1904 through 1929 time frame.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Caroline's vintage Foxterrier has made you sit up and take notice!

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

This Unusual Steiff Penguin Is All Dressed Up With No Place To Go!

Now that the holiday hooligans are in full swing, Steiffgal thought it would be a good time to invite readers to chill out and meet one of her favorite seasonal friends - a wonderful and unusually sized early postwar Steiff penguin. There's just something about these delightful black and white buddies that make them universal favorites. Perhaps it is their charming appearance, playful personalities, or their adorable wiggle walk (or all of the above!) What do you think?

Consider this your formal introduction to Steiffgal's beloved "Tux." Tux is a super-sized version of Steiff's early and original Peggy penguin design. He is pictured here on the left, towering over his 10 cm cousin of the same pattern. Tux measures a little over 50 cm tall. He is standing, unjointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and made from black and white mohair. His beak and oversized, fat feet are made from red felt and have black painted detailing on them. His wings are floppy and hang gently at his sides. His face comes to life with green and black slit pupil style eyes. His squeaker works loudly and clearly! Tux's Peggy pattern appeared in the line from 1952 through 1956 and was produced on a commercial scale in 10, 14, and 22 cm.

In the mid-1950s, Steiff gave its standard line Peggy penguin design a little makeover. The “new” Peggy was now more angular and lifelike; she had additional airbrushed details, a pointy beak, and slimmer grey feet. Larger versions were head jointed. The updated Peggy penguin appeared in the line from 1956 through 1975 in 10, 14, 22, 35, and 50 cm. She was also produced as a studio edition in 80 cm for a few years in the 1960s.

It is interesting to note that Tux at 50 cm is more than twice as big as the largest standard sized Steiff early Peggy of the era. However, he is about the same size as the smaller and beloved real-life "Gentoo" breed of penguins, for which he has a somewhat similar appearance. You can see a happy trio of Gentoo penguins here on the left. As such, perhaps Tux could be considered an early postwar "Studio" example by default!

Tux's IDs are consistent with his era of production. He has a linen "US Zone" tag sewn into his front hip seam, a raised script button, and a yellow tag with the numbers 4350,2 printed on it. This corresponds to 4=sitting up or begging, 3=mohair, 50=50 cm tall, and ,2=double press voice, growler, or pull cord voice - all which truly describe him in the broadest sense.  

Steiffgal hopes that Tux has added a touch of elegance and sophistication to you day.

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Best of The West!

Talk about a California gold rush, Steiff style! Steiffgal recently traveled out west to attend Steiff celebrations on behalf of the company. Attendees were invited to share their personal treasures at these events at fun "show and tell" sessions.  And boy, did they ever! Steiffgal had the pleasure of seeing a number of family heirlooms, some childhood favorites, delightful woolen miniatures, and even one of the company's extremely rare "125 carat" bears, made with real gold mohair. Here are a few of the 14k vintage treasures collectors brought along that really caught Steiffgal's eye!

Sit and stay and take a look at this great King Charles Charly dog. This precious pooch is 14 cm high, sitting, head jointed, and made from white and brownish/orange tipped mohair. His adorable face comes to life with oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a hand embroidered black and white nose and mouth, and an irresistible, "pouty" expression. He was produced in 7 sizes ranging from 10 to 35 cm from 1928 through 1936. Sitting Charly was also produced as a music box in 17 and 22 cm from 1928 through 1931 and on a pincushion in 17 cm from 1929 through 1932.

And what makes this Charly a champion? Steiffgal loves his mile-long ears and huge personality. His size makes him easy to display, and a perfect companion for a larger vintage doll or bear. Plus, a dear friend of hers has a real-life Charly, so this breed and pattern really pulls on her heartstrings.

Rolling right along, this early postwar elephant on wheels also made a huge impression on Steiffgal! This big boy is Steiff's Zieh Elefant or Pull Toy Elephant. He is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from lovely grey mohair. His face is detailed with black eyes that are backed in pink felt, a smiling mouth, and white felt tusks. The bell on his trunk helps announce his arrival.  Elephant's feet pads are grey felt. He is dressed to the nines in a red and yellow trimmed blanket; this is original to him. His red leather headwear has been lost to time. He glides along on four blue wooden wheels. This elephant on wheels was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1950 through 1961 overall.

Why is this piece so ele-fantasic? This timeless pattern includes design elements from as early as the 19-teens. His condition is the perfect balance between showing some love and play wear, yet still fine enough to have tremendous collector's interest and appeal. And who can resist his open, smiling mouth and delightful felt tusks?  Certainly not Steiffgal!

And finally, size defies with this beautiful baby bunny. This happy hopper is begging, unjoined, and made from white velvet. He is unjointed and decorated with a few brown spots here and there. His face just shines with black shoe button eyes, a simple brown hand embroidered nose and mouth, red airbrushed highlights, and clear monofilament whiskers. His red ribbon is original to him; one way to "test" for this is to see if the ribbon is stitched in place, or if there is evidence if that was once the case. This version of Steiff's velvet begging rabbit was produced in 4 sizes ranging from 10 to 28 cm from 1899 through 1927 overall.

Begging to know what's so cool about this sweet treat? First, his condition is really amazing, showing only minimal darkening over time. He was originally very white, but white velvet tends to become tan or even brown over time, even with careful handling. Kudos to his current owners for keeping him so well protected! Second, his pattern is among the most desirable, early designs produced by Steiff. Collectors can't seem to get enough of the company's small, early, velvet patterns. A similar sized velvet begging rabbit in far less pristine condition recently sold for about $1,000 on eBay. And finally, you can't help but notice his wonderful IDs - his full white ear tag and long trailing "F" style button. The numbers on his ear tag correspond to: 4=begging or standing on back legs; 4=velvet; and 14=14 cm tall. These "small" tag details make all the difference in determining if an item is good or great.  And this begging rabbit is blue ribbon calibre indeed!

Steiffgal hopes this quick peek at event "show and tell" highlights has put you in a festive mood indeed.

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

This Lovely Steiff Silk Plush Elephant Is Simply Unforgettable

Talk about big love! Steiff has a long and deep history with elephants, with a felt elephant being the animal pattern that catalyzed the company into the toymaking business before the turn of last century. And it is interesting to note that the company chose an elephant with a raised trunk (in the shape of an "S") as its earliest logo, and also put an elephant on its first "button-in-ear" branding. 

There's just something unforgettable about the company's elephants from every era, and its always interesting to find Steiff treasures that span pre- and post- war production. So today's elephant under review is jumbo news indeed!

It's game on with this fantastic Steiff "play elephant." This gentle giant is 22 cm tall, standing, and unjointed. He is stuffed with excelsior and has a working squeaker in his belly. He is made from grey artificial silk material; the tip of his tail is decorated with longer mohair. His face comes to life with soft, floppy ears; black button eyes backed in felt, and a youthful, open, and smiling felt lined mouth. His red felt blanket, which is original to him, is decorated with yellow edging and a stylized yellow and green flower on either side. His Steiff ID is a tiny, 4 mm trailing "F" button.

Is it polite to ask his age? Play elephant was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1938 through 1942, and postwar in 22 cm only in 1948 though 1949. Given he is 22 cm and has a button that was used both before and after the war, it is impossible to tell his exact date of manufacture. And for better or worse, elephants are very good at keeping secrets! Either way, he does have a delightful, innocent, and old fashioned look to him.

Let's change things up a bit and look at the economics behind this excellent elephant. The photo on the left shows a Steiff advertisement from around 1940. (If you click on it, it should be large and legible on your screen.) On the bottom you can see the pre-war version of this silk plush elephant; at the time, the 17 cm version cost 4.30 DM; the 22 cm version cost 6.50 DM; and the 28 cm version cost 9.50 DM. Given that in 1940 there were approximately 2.5 DM to the dollar, these prices roughly translate to $1.72, $2.60, and $3.80 in 1940 US dollars. Using an online inflation calculator which adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index, this roughly translates to $29.38, $44.40, and $64.90 in US dollars in 2015.  Steiff has always been a premium product at a premium price!

Artificial silk plush was used as a less expensive and more readily available alternative fabric by Steiff during periods of manufacturing hardship. So it is not a surprise that this popular elephant design was produced in this fabric both as the country was entering into World War II, and then once the war was over but supply chains of conventional materials had yet to be re-established. References show that this exact play elephant pattern in 22 cm was made in mohair in 1950 through 1951. As such, it does appear that by the early 1950's traditional toy making materials and fabrics were again being manufactured for commercial use, and supply chains were functioning and dependable again.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic pre- and post- war elephant has been a memorable one for you.  

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This Distinctive Steiff Teddy Baby Is One International Sensation!

Teddy hugs from London! Literally! Steiffgal has just returned from a very quick hop "across the pond," where she attended the delightful and inaugural London International Antique Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy Fair. Many thanks to friends Hilary Pauley and Daniel Agnew for their great job in bringing this brilliant event to life. Held on November 19th and 20th, 2016, this weekend happening featured a full day of seminars, speakers, and learning on Saturday, followed by a collector's fair in Olympia Hall on Sunday - showcasing a dizzying array of the finest antique dolls, plush, trains, and toys.  And, of course, Steiff!  

Steiffgal was walking the fair when - oh baby! - did this distinctive Teddy catch her eye! So much so, that this cheeky cub is now happily residing in the United States as part of her collection. And, as a nod to her adoption location, she's been named "Olympia!" 

Olympia is an example of the iconic Teddy Baby pattern, which was produced as a standard line design in the Steiff catalog from 1929 through 1957. This particular Ted is 28 cm standing and fully jointed. Her body is made from brown cotton plush, her muzzle and the tops of her feet are made from very short tan mohair, and her paw pads are made from tan linen. Her always happy and smiling mouth is lined in peach colored felt. She has four black hand embroidered claws on each paw. Her precious face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose. Her squeaker works loudly and clearly! Olympia was produced around 1950, give or take a year or two, and just a handful of years after the Giengen factory reopened for toymaking business after the conclusion of WWII.

Olympia has several design and physical features that truly are worthy of a gold medal, as well as reflective of the period in which she was made. 

First, its easy to have a plush crush on her very unusual material. Her body, head, and limbs are made out of brown cotton plush. This fabric has both a cotton backing and a cotton pile. The best way to describe it is that it feels like a cotton bathroom towel that has been through a number of wash and dry cycles; a little bumpy in texture but with an overall and somewhat smooth feel. It is not like mohair, which can be distinctive and prickly; or silk plush, which is shiny and smooth feeling; or wool plush, which is continuous in texture and more "dense." It is Steiffgal's guess that this material was used instead of the company's more traditional fabrics on her body as these were in very short supply or extremely expensive at the time.  

For the most part, cotton plush does not appear all that durable, at least on this Teddy Baby example. Although Olympia has a little playwear to her, her plush has a few losses, and seems more matted and worn than it should be, especially given how sound and hearty her body is otherwise. Usually paw pads and feet seams show wear and tear, but Olympia's are all original, and in excellent, even like new, condition.  

Second, her pad pads are hands-down interesting. They are made from tan linen. This material was used as a substitute for wool felt when it was in short supply. Steiffgal has a number of c. 1950 Steiff bears with the same linen material on their pads, including one made from artificial silk plush. It is interesting to note that a similar linen fabric was used in the place of felt on the bodies of Steiff's 19-teen doll line around the time of WWI for probably the same logistical and supply reasons.  

And finally, her ID really buttons her up as a rarity. Olympia proudly bears an "all capital" Steiff button, which was used for just a handful of years in the very late 1940's and early 1950's. Steiffgal has just a few other Steiff treasures in her collection with this style button; some sport a US Zone tag, other do not. Clearly, the early postwar years were a period of great transition and evolution for Steiff in terms of design and IDs. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Olympia, the cotton plush Teddy Baby bear from London, will be met with international appeal!

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This Steiff Silk Plush Foal Is This Week's Mane Attraction!

Pony up and check out this fantastic find from a new friend on the West Coast. Apparently she purchased him as part of group of other vintage and antique toys, including a few dolls and other stuffed animals. But in addition to his pretty presentation, this farm friend also has tremendous horsepower from the historical and product development perspectives. Here's why!

It's off to the (horse) races with this sweet example of Steiff's young "Foal." He is 28 cm tall, standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from white and tan artificial silk fabric. His body is lightly airbrushed with brown on his back, legs, and head. His diamond shaped forehead blaze is white. Foal's ears are lined in a felt-like material and highlighted with pink airbrushing on their insides. His hooves are made from brown felt. His mane and tail are made from slightly longer artificial silk plush. Foal's dear face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, painted nostrils, and a touch of airbrushing around his eyes for dimension. He proudly wears his short trailing "f" button in his ear as his Steiff ID. Foal was made in this size only in this material in 1948.  

This artificial silk plush foal occupies a most distinctive stall in the barnyard lineup, spanning both pre- and postwar production. Here's where he fits into the timeline of his great pattern.

  • 1932-1943:  The first version of this foal appeared in the Steiff line in 22, 28, and 35 cm and was made in wool plush.
  • 1948:  Here is where today's silk plush foal fits in; he was made in 28 cm only.
  • 1949-1951:  Foal again was made in wool plush, but only in 28 cm.
  • 1952-1961:  Foal is now produced in 14 cm and 28 cm; the 14 cm version is made from velvet with felt ears and a mohair tail and mane while and the 28 cm version is made from mohair. The velvet version is pictured below.

It is interesting to note that wool plush was a fabric of choice for this pattern both before and after the war.  Wool plush, which has a "durable" construction and a denser texture than mohair or artificial silk plush, was a popular fabric used on Steiff items in the 1930's and early 1940's, and then again postwar through the 1960's on handful of legacy items.  It has a distinctly old fashioned look to it and takes airbrushing well.  For the most part, Steiff used wool plush as an alternative fabric choice during challenging economic and manufacturing periods.  As such, wool plush fabric is often associated with Steiff products manufactured +/- ten years around the WWII period. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this proud pony has put a little gallop in your step today.

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

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bridging Time With This Remarkable Steiff Doll In Her Original Packaging

Do you think time travel is real? Well, this remarkable Steiff find will take you back many decades, even if you are a non-believer! Check out this fantastic vintage Steiff doll, in her all original packaging! It is as if she were made yesterday. But how old is she really? Let's look at her details to try and figure that out.

Here we have Steiff's “Cenzi” doll in her original labeled box, including its original tissue paper. She is one of Steiff's "pressed felt faced dolls," which debuted in the company's catalogs in the mid to late 1930's. Cenzi is 35 cm tall, head and leg jointed, and made from felt. She wears a dress made from red and blue artificial silk fabric. It is detailed with a felt collar, white sleeves, and a matching apron. Her hat is made from yellow felt and her shoes are made from red felt. Cenzi has all of her IDs, including her named chest tag, Steiff button, and yellow tag, which are worn on a red rubber bracelet around her wrist. 

Cenzi's box is made from heavy brown cardboard. It is held together with metal staples. On one end, there is a tan and blue label that is printed with the words "Steiff, Made in Germany, Importe D'Allemagne, and Marke Knopf Im Or," and a Teddy bear face. The label is printed with the words "Cenzi 95/35." The other end of the box is plain, without any marks.   

What's so interesting about Cenzi is that her detailing really spans both pre- and postwar norms for these sorts of dolls. Even her IDs, including her tiny trailing "F" button, watermelon shaped bear faced chest tag, and yellow wrist tag are seen on both pre- and early postwar models. According to records, Cenzi was “officially” produced in 1949-50. However, she has several subtle features that could possibly put her production up to a decade earlier.

First, Cenzi has her US Zone tag hand stitched into her apron. This might be because she was originally made without one before the factory shut down for toy making operations during WWII. As all toys leaving the factory in the late 1940's and very early 1950's required this tag, it might have been sewn on in a convenient place just before her distribution. Other similar post 1950 Steiff dolls usually have this tag sewn into one of their limb seams. You can see this detailing here on the left on another Steiff doll of the period.

Second, Cenzi has "quality control" issues that suggest she was produced at a very challenging time with limited resources - perhaps in the early 1940's. It is interesting to note that she has mismatching ribbons on her hat. They are not faded, they really are different. One is pink and the other one is red. This is most unusual in terms of quality control for Steiff. And even though she is "new in box" with no other play wear, 2 out of 3 of her dress snaps are are missing paint and appear chipped. It is entirely possible that her clothing was manufactured with these damaged buttons and left over scraps of ribbon were used on her hat as no alternatives were available. She also has a cheek rub, but upon close inspection it appears from the factory and not as a result of rough handling. 

Finally, the series and article numbers printed on her label correspond to the company's pre-war doll numbering system. According to the Sortiment books, the pre-war pressed felt faced dolls had a series number of 95, while the postwar pressed felt faced dolls had a series number of 90.

So when indeed was this timeless beauty's birthday? Only she knows for sure, and she's not talking! But what is certain is that like all of Steiff's wonderful dolls, bears, and animals, she has stood the test of time and will be admired - and studied - for generations to come.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's "Cenzi" has thrown you into a frenzy. 

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Science Proves Why Steiff's Petsy Bear Is Truly Irresistible!

Steiffgal's got a very special houseguest this month - an original late 1920's Steiff Petsy bear. He's visiting the Northeast for a few more weeks, then its off to his new forever home in Europe. Early and original Petsy bears hold a unique place in Steiff collector's hearts. Their adorable looks, charming personalities, and distinctly child-like features really are in a class by themselves in terms of Steiff bear designs. All of this got Steiffgal wondering... is there a scientific reason why this might be the case?

All kidding aside, let's first take a closer look at this blue-eyed baby. Petsy is 43 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from brown tipped mohair, which has faded and thinned significantly in this case. His paw pads are made from tan felt. His pert face comes to life with a prominent center facial seam, oversized blue and black pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and proportionally large, wire rimmed ears. His big blue bow, although a delightful accessory, is not original to him. Tipped Petsy had a short, but sweet, appearance in the Steiff catalog, only appearing from 1928 through the very early 1930's. He was made in ten sizes ranging from 15 to 50 cm sitting (or 22 to 75 cm standing.) Tipped Petsy was also produced as a musical Ted in 17 and 20 cm (or 25 and 30 cm standing), on a four wheeled rolling cart in 20 and 25 cm, as a 17 cm puppet, and as a 17 cm purse.

So just what makes Petsy's design so baby-like and absolutely precious? In this case, it's a bit of brilliant business strategy meets science. From the business end of things, Petsy is the vision of Richard Steiff, whose product design priorities and directives in the mid- to late- 1920's included creating colorful patterns with softer, kinder, youthful expressions that reflected the "look and feel" of the roaring, playful 1920's. 

However, few could argue that Petsy is not just appealing, but uber-cute. And that's where the science end of things may help to explain things. According to The Daily Mail's "How It Works" researchers, there is a phenomenon called "baby schema" which makes adults find certain configurations of body proportions on animals, children, and even some inanimate objects absolutely irresistible. From an evolutionary perspective, this may reflect the universal need to care for and protect our youngsters. Seeing cute things also releases dopamine, a neurochemical responsible in part for making us all feel good. Doesn't the cute photo on the left of the puppy and kitten make you smile?

According to scientists, these "cute" features include:

  • A wide, prominent forehead 
  • A proportionally large, round, symmetrical head 
  • Big eyes placed low on the face 
  • Soft textures 
  • Rounded body and features 
Petsy gets an A+ in meeting these requirements. His forehead is quite distinctive, and further emphasized by his center seam. His head is round and absolutely symetrical. His eyes are large, wide, and placed relatively low on his face. His brown tipped mohair is very soft and fluffy, and invites touching. And his chubby proportions and almost completely round ears complete the package. 

But the science of "cute" also has practical implications for Steiff collectors. According to another published study from research conducted in Japan, people did better on tasks requiring focused attention better after viewing cute images - those that met the scientific criteria listed above. The findings of the work suggest that cute things may be used as "an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work."  So, given this is true, Steiffgal suggests always having a dear Steiff friend close at hand to insure you do your very best... and that every day should be Take Your Teddy To Work Day!  

Steiffgal hopes this article helped to add a little dopamine to your day!

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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Sitting Pretty With This Rare And Unusual Prewar Steiff Sealyham Dog

Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable! Today's Steiff find really takes sitting down on the job to a new level - in the best way possible. Check out this remarkable sitting Sealyham and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Let's paws and check out sitting Sealy's details.  This white wonder is 22 cm tall, head jointed, and made from very long white mohair, which has mellowed to a vanilla color. He has three black claws on each of his padless paws, and a pert little tail. His adorable face comes to life with a fuzzy muzzle, oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. There is just a trace of pink airbrushing on his mouth, as often seen on Steiff's dogs. His prominent, triangular shaped ears are lined in tan felt. He retains his long trailing "f" button as his Steiff ID. When he left the factory in Giengen he wore a leather collar with a bell; unfortunately these accessories have been lost to time. Sitting Sealy was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1930 through 1939. 

The Sealyham breed was considered one of the more stylish and desired breeds of the late 1920's and early 1930's. As such, Steiff created several versions of this "it" dog. In addition to this sitting style, Steiff also produced a similar standing model. The standing version came in eight sizes ranging from 8 to 35 cm and appeared from 1930 through 1943. Pre-1943, Steiff made numerous Sealyhams on wheels, a tail turns head version, a few nomotta wool woolen miniature or "woolie" Sealyhams, and a 30 cm Sealyham night dress bag. Sealyhams were produced again immediately after the factory reopened for business in the late 1940's. However, only standing examples were produced. These models, which appeared through 1957, had very minor if any changes in fundamental design from the model launched in 1930.

This Sealyham pattern was introduced during what could only be called Steiff's "dog days." This period began in the mid-1920's with the introduction of the company's "Molly the Puppy" pattern. Molly's 1925 debut proved so popular that she is credited for opening the floodgates to a huge influx of Steiff dog designs, including Sealyhams and their black mohair Scotty "cousins." (If you look at the photo on the left, you can see several similarities between sitting Sealy and Molly, including their identical oversized eyes, gentle expressions, and body positions and general presentations.) Between 1925 and 1938, close to 40 new canine species were noted in the Steiff catalogs. These included the now classic Bully Bulldog, Arco the German Shepherd, and Peky the Pekinese, as well as some lesser-known designs including Cheerio, the laughing dog, Putzi, a caricatured standing dog, and Lord the Great Dane.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this rare and unusual sitting Sealyham has been a welcome respite in your busy day.

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

It's Twice As Nice With These Two Steiff Tabby Cats From The Late 1920's

Although by nature more of a "dog" person, Steiffgal has started to put a few more Steiff kittens into her meow mix lately. Her most recent additions have something in common - they are both sweet "Tabby" style cats from the late 1920's. Check out these two fantastic felines and see if they have you "feline groovy" too.

Standing Tabby in all of her glory.
This first Tabby has a purr-fectly angelic look to her. She is 10 cm tall, standing on all fours, is head jointed, and made from tan mohair that has been striped with orange highlights. Her limbs and tail are elegant and shapely Her face comes to life with oversized teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of red right on her lips. She has a particularly inquiring look on her face. This Tabby even retains a few of her original monofilament whiskers remaining on her muzzle and forehead. This cool cat was made in mohair in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1928 through 1937.

Lying Tabby closely observing something.
The second Tabby appears to be lying down on the job, but that's ok in this case. She is unjointed and measures 5 cm tall and 10 cm long (not including her tail.) She is lying in a very relaxed way, as if she's observing something very interesting in the room - perhaps a dust bunny, or a window shade moving in the breeze? Tabby is made from tan mohair that is striped in more tan or light brown colored highlights. Her sweet face comes to life with oversized light teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of red right on her lips. She retains most of her original monofilament whiskers. Lying Tabby, in all honesty, was made in 8 sizes ranging fro 5 to 20 cm from 1928 through 1935.

Close up of standing Tabby's face.
Both of these Tabby patterns reflected Steiff's approach to cat design and production in the 1920's. It was at this time that the company started diversifying their cat offerings, as well as matching their cats’ appearances to the cultural preferences of the time. Steiff’s cats from the mid-1920’s onward were distinctly feminine, fluffy, and playful in appearance - much like all things popular from the “roaring ‘20s.” Felines from this period often had oversized, childlike eyes; were made from brightly colored materials; and had youthful detailing or textures. They were in great demand both as playthings for children as well as companions for adults. It is also interesting to note that it was at this time that the company began giving “real” names to its cat designs, with the first one being “Fluffy,” a blue-tipped mohair sweetie who was introduced in 1926. Prior to that, any cat in the line was simply named “Cat." Fluffy was a smashing success, and remains a collector's favorite today.

Close up of lying Tabby's face.
It is safe to say that Fluffy let the cat out of the bag in terms of creating a huge demand for Steiff's cat offerings. As such, Steiff quickly followed up on Fluffy’s popularity with a number of additional cat introductions. Like Fluffy, these were all designed and named to evoke softness, gentleness, and cuddling. These included the adult “Kitty,” who was standing on all fours, fully jointed, and featured a “tail moves head” mechanism; baby “Tabby,” who was standing on all fours or lying; the exotic, blue eyed, sitting “Siamy” Siamese Temple cat; and “Susi,” a very pretty sitting, head jointed tabby cat. Kitty, Tabby, Siamy, and Susi were all manufactured through the early 1940’s. And due to their popularity, they all reappeared in the line in the late 1940’s after the factory reopened for toy making business at the conclusion of WWII.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's early Tabby cats has made for a pleasant paws in your day.  

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This Remarkably Costumed Steiff Doll Is Rarer Than Hen's Teeth!

How egg-citing is this?! That was egg-actly Steiffgal's response when she was presented with this most remarkable Steiff rarity.  Check out this not so "Spring Chicken" doll and see what makes her so egg-straordinary from the design and historical perspectives.

Bird's the word with this fantastic Steiff doll which dates from the early part of the 20th century.  She wears what can only be described as a fitted "mohair chicken suit." This most unusual costume cannot be removed from her body and is detailed with sleeves finished like wingtips and a hood featuring a red felt comb and a top and bottom yellow felt beak. Her legs are bare, and it is unclear if she is wearing any undergarments. Steiffgal has never seen anything like this before, have you?

This costumed cutie appears to be one of Steiff's "children" style dolls that debuted in the line around 1908-09. These beloved dolls are best known for their realistic proportions, charming personalities, and angelic faces. They are made from felt, solidly stuffed and fully jointed, and have youthful facial details - including a center seam, pert expressions, rosy complexions, mohair wigs, and black button eyes (the earliest models) or glass pupil eyes (from about 1910 onward.)  Both little boys and little girls were produced, in sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm over time. All of these standard line children dolls were dressed head to toe in handmade outfits that ranged from school clothes to sporting attire to “Sunday best”; for the most part, girl models also came with matching hats.  Except, of course, for this novel example!

Although Steiffgal has only seen this doll through pictures, and not firsthand, it is her thinking that the chicken suit is most likely original to Steiff. This suspicion is based on three somewhat random and historical facts and coincidences.  These include:

Time frame and concept. There is historical precedent for Steiff to make childlike dolls in mohair suits and costumes, especially in the early 1900's. For example, the company produced a series of fully jointed felt Eskimo dolls from 1908 through 1919. These were made to piggy-back on the commercial excitement surrounding Admiral Peary's race to the geographic north pole. An example of an early Steiff Eskimo doll is pictured here on the left; you can see the similarities in appearance, materials, and presentation between this model and the one under discussion today. 

Materials: The mohair used on the costume is perfect in terms of its scale and texture to resemble feathers. It is also quite playful, and gives the piece a most delightful appearance. It is interesting to note that the same yellow mohair was also used for the same "lighthearted" purpose on another beloved Steiff character doll of the time, Puck the Gnome, who is pictured here on the left. This petite treat was made in 20, 30, and 40 cm from 1914 through 1943.  Although his clothing changed and evolved over his three-decade long appearance in the line, his cheerful yellow mohair cap remained a constant in his design. 

Culture:  For some reason that Steiffgal cannot exactly figure out, dressing up like barnyard fowl was a popular trend in the 19-teens and early 20's. Both adults and children seemed to enjoy doing so, with costumes ranging from simple head wear to head to toe feathers! In 1919, Ladies Home Journal featured an article on party costumes designed after chickens, owls, and peacocks!  This remarkable story is pictured here on the left for your enjoyment.  Net-net, dressing a Steiff doll as a chicken - although a little out of the ordinary today - was not out of the question almost 100 years ago, and Steiff indeed has a strong legacy of reflecting what's happening in the popular culture in its products and designs.  

Another chicken and egg question is, "what's the back story to this adorable doll?" As far as Steiffgal can tell, she does not specifically appear in any Steiff or doll reference books, and there is no formal history on her.  As such, we can only speculate how she came to be.  Here are a few possible scenarios. Perhaps she was created as a sample or trial, and never put into production.  She could have been originally made as part of a one of a kind special order or window display.  She also might have been made as a "whimsy" or "end of day" item - these are one of a kind pieces that Steiff employees created on their own on work breaks or before or after formal work hours just for fun.   Unfortunately, only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic Steiff dressed doll has been more entertaining than a chick flick for you.

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