Friday, May 27, 2016

Hunting For Clues About This Great Steiff Outdoorsman Bear

Do you have any plans for the upcoming long holiday Memorial Day weekend holiday? Perhaps you might be headed out for a little camping and outdoor fun to kick off the summer season! Well, that's exactly what this little wilderness-loving Steiff cub has in mind as well! Check out this most unusual and well attired bear and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Let's start hunting for clues about this hearty outdoorsman. He is 22 cm, fully jointed, and made of caramel colored mohair. His sweetly serious face comes to life with a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth and glass pupil eyes. He dons an orange felt cap with a wide brim; a green felt jacket detailed with a small collar, scalloped edging, long fringe, and a laced up front; and tall, faux brown leather boots. When he left the factory in Giengen, he had a wooden hunting rifle suspended from a leather cord tacked onto his shoulder. 

This bear was produced in 1953 and 1954 and is one of Steiff's "Nimrod" Teddy bears.  He was designed and manufactured in honor of the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the jointed Teddy bear as we know and love him today.  Also produced at this same time, and for the same reason, was Steiff's far better known "Jackie" style Teddy bear. Jackie, known for her pink nose stitch, distinctive belly button, and impish personality, was made in 17, 25, 35, and 75 cm from 1953 through 1955 only. Like Nimrod Teddies, Jackie bears are exceptionally rare on the secondary market given their appeal, limited production, and their brief time in the line.  A print advertisement featuring these two early, very special edition Teddy bears from 1953 is pictured here on the left.  The photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.
The Nimrod bears were all based on the company's early postwar, newly redesigned "Original Teddy" pattern. This design, which featured a stockier build and shorter limbs than the company's prewar standard line bears, was produced from 1950 through 1966 in 10, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 28, 35, 40, 43, 50, 65, 75, and 100 cm.  Overall, four Nimrod bears - in addition to the one under discussion here today - were produced.  These included a 22 or 50 white version which donned a green cap, an orange felt shirt, and brown boots; a 22 cm gold version which wore a green cap, a brown felt shirt, and brown boots; and a 22 cm caramel version detailed with an orange cap, green scarf, and very tall brown "wader" style boots.  All carried wooden rifles suspended from a leather cord.  You can see a few more of these original Nimrod bears here on the left; the photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.  

In addition to their well designed outfits, proper footwear, and outdoorsy personalities, Nimrod bears also have distinctive numbering on their yellow ear tags.  The caramel one under discussion today is numbered 5322 N.  This translates into 5=jointed, 3=mohair, 22=22 cm, and N=Nimrod.  You can see this numbering on the picture here on the left. Steiffgal has seen letters after article numbers, but they usually refer to colors or gender of an item, not its actual name.  So this configuration is quite unusual.  

Why would the company produce a series of hunting themed bears in honor of this special golden anniversary? Most collectors are aware that the Teddy bear got its name (and arguably its popularity) from Theodore Roosevelt, who refused to shoot a baby bear cub on on a hunting adventure in Mississippi at the turn of last century.  These Nimrod bears are a gentle nod to that key happening that in its own way helped to place Steiff on the map as a global company. The Nimrod bears and a Steiff likeness of President Roosevelt were featured on the cover of a Steiff brochure commemorating his 100th birthday in 1958.  The photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.  

And last but not least, what about the name Nimrod? Although Steiffgal cannot unearth anything definite about Steiff's choice of this name, she did discover that this might be a reference to an ancient biblical figure. According to scholars, Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah, who built an ark to save all the animals during the great flood. Nimrod is personally described in the bible as "a mighty hunter."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's rare Nimrod Teddy bears has you on the hunt for one to add to your collection as well!

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

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Steiff Studio Birds of a Feather Flock Together At Morphy Auctions' June Sales Event!

Care to feather your nest with Steiff's fantastic birds? Then Steiffgal's got a hot tip for you! There is a totally amazing selection of Steiff birds - including incredibly rare Studio examples - coming up for sale at the upcoming Morphy Auctions' premier toy sale at the end of June. Here are three larger-than-life rarities that really took flight with her!

Isn't she pretty in pink? There's no denying that this first pick, a Steiff Studio flamingo, is truly in a class by itself. This item, lot #819 in the sale, is cataloged as...

"This fantastic Steiff flamingo would light up any room with a tropical ray of sunshine! This big bird measures 65 inches tall. He is standing, unjointed, and made from a variety of materials, including short mohair, longer decorative hair, dralon, and synthetic leather. His very long legs are made from metal and detailed with realistic knees and feet. His wings are made from mohair that has been airbrushed in shades of pink and black. His tail and tail feathers are made from black and white felt. His head and neck are detachable and fit via two prongs into his chest area. Flamingo's face comes alive with gold, green and black eyes and a rubber beak and facial mask. This rubber is drying and has minor losses around the eye areas but is otherwise fine. Flamingo has his button and hand written yellow tag as his Steiff IDs. This is the first Studio flamingo this cataloger has handled. Flamingo was produced in the 1960's and came in this size only. Condition: As noted. With light surface dust and light fading; overall in very good condition. Provenance: From a fine New England collection. Estimate: $1,000-2,000."

Bird's certainly the word with this absolute rarity. Her height, presentation, personality, and coloring are incredibly distinctive. And although she has a huge presence, she takes up very little footprint in any room so she's really easy to display. Flamingos, despite their beauty and cultural appeal, have only been produced a handful of times by Steiff in the past. Steiffgal's favorite by far was a 2004 limited edition made in mohair in an edition size of 1,500 pieces for North America. This beautiful pink bird was named "Gloria" as a nod to musician Gloria Estefan of the group "Miami Sound Machine." Steiffgal's Gloria is pictured here on the left. 

The next big bird highlight is certain to whet your appetite. Here we have, of all things, a Steiff Studio turkey. This Thanksgiving favorite, lot #831 in the sale, is cataloged as...

"Any Steiff collector would be more than thankful to have this big bird in their collection. Turkey measures approximately 30' tall and 30' wide. He is standing, unjointed, and made from tan and black mohair, longer decorative hair, and felt. His legs and feet are made from metal and covered in grey felt. His elaborate wings, tail feathers, and body are made from mohair that has been vibrantly and realistically airbrushed in shades of brown, green, and pink - giving the appearance of feathers and feathering. His head and tail feathers are detachable for storage and shipping. His head and neck are made from a solid piece of molded rubber with large shiny black eyes. This whole area is quite authentic looking, and is finished in shades of pink, grey, and tan. The underside of his head is signed by Hans Otto and Steiff and his wife, most likely during the 1980's when this couple visited the United States on Steiff goodwill tours. Turkey has his button and traces of his yellow tag as his Steiff IDs. This is the first Studio turkey this cataloger has handled. Turkey was produced in 1967 and came in this size only. Condition: As noted. Very small holes in felt feet. With light surface dust and light fading; overall in very good condition. Provenance: From a fine New England collection. Estimate: $1,000-2,000."

It's time to talk turkey about this amazing piece!  Steiffgal has seen this example in the flesh (or in the feathers, in this case) so she can say with all honesty that he is extraordinarily impressive.  His coloring, materials, and construction are simply marvelous.  But, if you are considering adding him to your flock, please take into consideration his size - he requires a very large space to display, given his dimensions and attitude!  Like his cousin the flamingo mentioned above, Steiff also hasn't produced very many turkeys over the years.  The best known ones include silly mohair Tucky and dralon Putty.  Steiffgal happens to love turkeys, and not just because they are one of the state birds of Massachusetts (where she lives) or that a flock of wild ones live in the park across the street from her home. Her favorite Steiff turkey is Tommy, who was produced in a limited edition size of 1,500 for the US market in 2005, and is named after one of Steiff's longest serving mid-west sales reps. Tommy is pictured here on the left. 

Three's a charm when it comes to this last fantastic Steiff Studio bird up for sale at Morphy's.  Here we have a life sized vulture - yup, a vulture.  This super scavenger, lot #836, is cataloged as...

"This seldom if ever seen Steiff Studio vulture does not appear in Pfeiffer's Steiff Sortiment, collector's go-to Steiff reference book. He measures 22 inches tall with a wingspan of at least 24 inches. He is standing, unjointed, and made from a variety of materials, including mohair, woven plush, and dralon. A few of his breathtaking details include huge mohair feet with rubber claws; impressive, dimensional outstretched wings and tail feathers that are die cut, airbrushed, and trimmed in white fur; and a "collar" of white fur around his neck. His face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, copious airbrushing, and a rubber beak. This beak is loose and has dried out. The bottom section has crumbled and fallen off, but is included in the lot. Vulture retains his button and oversized, hand written yellow tag as his Steiff IDs. This is the first Studio vulture this cataloger has handled. Vulture was most likely produced in the mid-1960's, based on his materials and design details. Condition: As noted. With light surface dust and light fading; overall in very good condition. Provenance: From a fine New England collection. Estimate: $1,000-2,000."

Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, "What an odd bird?" And Steiffgal would have to agree.  But, one thing that makes Steiff so incredibly fun to study, and collect over time, are kooky, undocumented rarities such as this one from the 1960's.  And, believe it or not, that was not the only Studio vulture the company produced over the years.  From 1995-2003, Steiff manufactured a 45 cm Studio vulture on a commercial scale. An example of this more modern version is pictured here on the left.  He was made from woven fur and like a real vulture, has a bald head - which plays a key role in helping the bird cool off in the summer and warm up in the winter.   

Steiffgal hopes you have enjoyed this bird's eye view of some of the fine feathered friends coming up for sale at Morphy Auctions three day Premier Toy Sale Event on June 24th-26th, 2016.  All Steiff lots will go under the hammer on June 25th starting at 9am. For more information on the sale, and the entire online catalog, please click here!

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Begging For More Information On This Remarkable Steiff Bonzo With All IDs!

Here's one "bucket list" Steiff item most enthusiasts would get on their hands and knees to add to their collection! Check out this truly remarkable velvet begging Bonzo dog from 1927 - with all IDs! Steiffgal's pal Daniel Agnew, of Special Auction Services in the UK, will be auctioning it off as part of his June 9, 2016 sales event. The full catalog for this exciting event will be online in the next week or so.  In the meantime, let's check out this top dog and see what makes him so desirable from the design and historical perspectives.

This comical canine, lot 848 in the upcoming sale, is cataloged as...

"An extremely rare Steiff Begging Bonzo 1927, of cream velvet, clear glass eyes with dark pink and light pink backs, red felt tongue, black velvet right rear, swivel head, jointed limbs, painted and airbrushed facial features and paw pads, inoperative squeaker, original red leather collar with white card tag with metal rim ‘Begging Bonzo Steiff Original’ one side and ‘Germany Copyright G.E. Studdy’ to the reverse, FF button with complete red tag numbered 5417 - 9in. (23cm.) high (very slightly discoloured and stomach seam resewn) - According to Steiff 115 examples of Bonzo was made in eight sizes, all were unsold as G. E. Studdy did not like their samples and the license went with to the Chad Valley version. Seven examples in different sizes are retained in the Steiff archive, but it is not known what happened to the others. Steiff went onto produce a similar looking character dog which they called Cheerio £10,000-£15,000"

This Bonzo is truly in a class by itself... almost! It is only the second one ever that Steiffgal personally has seen go up for sale, and the first ever in this size. In 2010, Christie's in London sold a 27 cm version with all IDs for £16,250 or $25,724! This Christie's example had his red Steiff tag numbered "5422," meaning 5=jointed, 4=velvet, and 22=22 cm sitting. This big boy appears here on the left; the photo is from Christie's.

Although Bonzo never "officially" made the Steiff line, he did make a little known appearance in another rare novelty pattern of the time. Bonzo was produced as a "Bonzoette," which was a very long limbed, dressed version of his design. These items were called "car and play" dolls or "Charleston Animals," based on the Charleston dance craze of the 1920’s, with its fast moving arm and leg movements. Other "play and car dolls" included Bulliette, the bulldog, Fluffiette, the cat, and Rabbiette, the rabbit. Each doll had the head of the character, mohair or velvet paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several bright, happy "jelly bean" colors and in 20, 30, and 43 cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker. Bonzo was made in 30 and 43 cm in blue or orange in 1928 only and is arguably the rarest of all of these "play and car" dolls. These long legged Steiff novelties appeared overall in the line from 1927 through 1932. A picture of Bonzoette appears on the left, it is taken from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment Book

As noted in the cataloging above, Bonzo is in part responsible for the design and introduction of another late 1920's Steiff rarity, Cheerio the Puppy. This pattern is known for his todder-esque appearance, huge eyes, open mouth, and happy-go-lucky personality. Several versions were produced. A begging version was manufactured in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928 though 1931. Begging Cheerio was also made as a press and release music pup in 22 and 28 cm from 1928 through 1930. Cheerio was also manufactured standing on all fours in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928 through 1932. Standing Cheerio also appeared as a press and release music box in 17 and 22 cm from 1928 through 1930. And, like Bonzo, Cheerio was also produced as a "car and play doll." "Cheerioette" appeared in the line 30 and 43 cm from 1928 through 1931.  A begging Cheerio, from Steiffgal's collection, is pictured here on the left. 

Be sure to check out Daniel's amazing Steiff Bonzo, and other Steiff and Teddy treasures, at the upcoming SAS toy auction event on June 9th, 2016.  For more information on this sale, please click here!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's fantastic and really rare Bonzo dog has gotten your tail a'wagging!

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

Saturday, May 7, 2016

It's A Family Affair When It Comes To Steiff's Classic Pre-War Canines!

For many lucky collectors, Steiff is truly a family affair when parents, siblings, and other relatives also participate in the "button-in-ear" fun! Steiffgal "inherited" her love of Steiff, as well as some of her beloved Steiff family heirlooms, from her paternal Grandmother. Given that Mother's Day in the USA is right around the corner, Steiffgal thought it would be fun to share some of her favorite "family" photos. But don't worry, there's no embarrassing snapshots of cousins in ill-fitting swimsuits eating ice cream cones together on vacation in 1974. These are pictures of families of pre-war Steiff dogs doing what they do best - looking irresistible!

This first family has always been considered "royalty" among Steiff fans. Here we have a sweet trio of the company's "Charly" dogs. These, of course, are modeled after the King Charles Spaniel breed. Each is standing on all fours and made from mohair. All but the bitty baby are head jointed. This pattern is known for its very long, floppy ears and pert tails. Charly dogs traditionally come to life with expressive and oversized eyes, a prominent forehead, freckles on their muzzles, and hand embroidered noses and mouths. Papa Charly is 14 cm tall and 16 cm long; Mama is 8 cm tall and 10 cm long; and Baby is 6 cm tall and 9 cm long; these measurements do not include their tails. Overall, standing Charly was manufactured in six sizes ranging from 7 to 22 cm from 1928 through 1938.

Sit and stay and have a good look at this second Steiff family. These black and white beauties are, of course, a pack of Steiff's Bully dogs. Their pattern is based on the English Bulldog breed. These Bully dogs are all sitting and head jointed.  Papa and Mama are primarily made from black and white mohair and have poseable ears lined in wires. Baby is made from black and white velvet and has stationary ears. All have face and muzzle areas made from tan velvet, prominent jowls, very large brown and black glass pupil eyes, and black, hand-embroidered noses. Papa Bully is 19 cm tall; Mama is 15 cm tall; and Baby is 9 cm tall. Sitting black and white mohair Bully dogs were produced in 9 sizes ranging from 10 to 50 cm from 1927 through 1938 while sitting black and white velvet Bully dogs were produced in 4 sizes ranging from 7 to 17 cm from 1927 through 1939.  

Hold your horses! Most interestingly, these beautiful Bullies all retain some or all of their original and traditional horsehair collars. These are made from long, thin strips of material which are doubled over width-wise; the horsehair fibers are sewn in between the faces of the material. Each collar is held together with a little knot under Bully's chin. The horsehair collar was a typical accessory of the 1920s and indicated a "regal" nature of the item wearing it.

Great Scot, we've already made it to the third and final Steiff family under discussion today. These grey-black pups are utterly charming Steiff Scotty dogs. All are standing and made from black mohair that almost has a "salt and pepper" cast to it. Mama, on the left, is a rare example of the company's tail- turns-head Scotty. She has tri-color almond shaped glass eyes and felt lined ears. Baby, in the middle, and Papa, on the left, have dark black mohair ears, round black and brown glass pupil eyes, and handsome, original black and white woven leather collars that close with two Steiff buttons each. Papa is head jointed and Baby is unjointed. Papa Scotty is 14 cm tall and 20 cm long; Mama is 10 cm tall and 22 cm long; and Baby is 8 cm tall and 12 cm long; these measurements do not include their tails. Tail-moves-head Scotty was produced in 6 sizes ranging from 9 to 26 cm from 1931 through 1934 while the company's regular line standing Scotty dogs were produced overall in 8 sizes ranging from 8 to 35 cm in either gray or grey-black from 1930 through 1943.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of these great Steiff dog trios has been a family affair for you!

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

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Steiffgal's Quite Keen On This Steiff-Man Named Green!

Ever felt like running away and joining the circus? Well, this inquiry from a new friend in Europe about a fantastic Steiff entertainer may just have you packing your bags! Check out Åslaug's great family heirloom, a rare Steiff doll. She shares over a number of correspondences....


Do you know what the name/number of this Steiff-man is?

My mother in law was the owner of this. She collected a lot of things. Kind of a hoarder. She passed away in January. Among the things she has left behind is more than 1,000 dolls. Mostly bought at flea markets. Most of all she was interested in the culture and specially toys of her childhood.

A lot of her collected items has been given away to different collections and museums. But, this doll I fell in love with and we are intending to keep it. We also found 15 Steiff animals. Have sold seven, but have some still.

Kind regards and thank you from Norway"

No clowning around... this is one find that belongs in the spotlight! What Åslaug has here is a Steiff doll named "Green," probably because of the color of his eye-catching coat. Green is 43 cm tall and fully jointed. In addition to his gold and button trimmed outerwear, he wears a yellow felt vest, black felt pants, and Victorian looking, buttoned up "spat" style footwear. His face and head comes to life with black shoebuton eyes, a hand painted mouth, rosy cheeks, and a shock of handsome silver-grey hair. Green appeared in the line from 1911 through 1919. His series number is 88 (indicating that his pattern is a doll) and his article number is 43, meaning in this case that he stands 43 cm tall. A picture of Green as he appeared as new is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. 

Green was produced as one of many characters performing in a charming series of circus themed window displays.  Green is cataloged as a "lackey," which probably means he would have acted as a footman or assistant to other performers or to the circus managers.  Steiff's circus displays were created by Steiff creative freelancer Albert Schlopsnies starting in 1910. The first Steiff circus display made its debut at the Wertheim Department Store in Berlin. According to Cieslik's Button In Ear The History of the Teddy Bear And His Friends, "It had three circus-rings and visitors to the Steiff show were given a circus program - a comic adaptation of an actual program." (A copy of this program is to the left; if you click on it you can read the most entertaining text. The photo is from Cieslik.) Over the next decade, about 30 authentic character dolls including clowns, ringmasters, acrobats, musicians, and other performers were produced - in addition to stables of circus performing animals. Many characters were based on real life circus professionals at the time. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's turn-of-last century circus performers and displays has been the greatest show on Earth for you.

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