Saturday, July 23, 2016

Just When You Think You Have Seen Everything...

Have you ever said to yourself... there's no question about it, I have definitely seen it all? That's what Steiffgal thought in terms of Steiff, and now she has egg on her face. Apparently with Steiff, that's clearly impossible! Recently, Steiffgal was invited on a "housecall" to see a most unusual treasure.  And guess who was there to greet her? Check out this fantastic, fine feathered friend and see what makes him so interesting from the design and collector's perspectives.

Bird's the word when it comes to this enormous Steiff display ostrich. He is standing, unjointed, excelsior stuffed, and extremely lifelike! He stands at 220 cm, or about 7-1/2 feet tall. (He's so large that Steiffgal had to stand on a sofa to take a full body photo of him!) He has an internal metal "skeleton" for structure and stability. His head comes off for ease of packing and shipping. Starting from the top, his head and neck are made of white and tan dralon. His beak is made from yellow felt, and he has oversized brown and black pupil eyes and long eyelashes. (Steiffgal's studio zebra, from the same era, has these identical eyes and eyelash detailing.) Ostrich's face comes to life with black airbrushed highlights. His body and wings are made from very long, black, wavy mohair, while his tail feathers are made from the same style mohair in white. His muscular looking legs are totally fabulous, and made from short yellow mohair that has been highlighted and sculpted with black airbrushing. His feet have two "toes" on each, and have a metal support rod in them to help with standing and stability. At one time, he may have had a metal base to help with this as well.

This marvelous bird - clearly outstanding in so many ways - was produced by Steiff in 1960 and 1967 only, according to Steiff publications. 

Ostrich also has a great owner history. He was purchased in the very early 1970's as a "gag" birthday gift for his owner, who is indeed a Steiff collector. She had originally wanted a Steiff studio deer, but when her college sorority sisters went to try and purchase one at Kaufman's Department Store in Pennsylvania, the retailer did not have one in stock. However, they did have this ostrich available. It originally was priced at $350 - a lot of money at the time, and even more so when you are a college student - but was marked down to $50. The friends did not have enough money in their pockets at the time, so they went to other friends so they could contribute towards the ostrich. They quickly collected $5 from 10 friends, and purchased the ostrich for the owner. Of course, the gift was enormously successful, and today, almost 50 years later, the ostrich remains the star of the family's Steiff collection. 

Today, the ostrich "feathers the nest" of her daughter and son-in-law's family living room and makes for quite the focal point indeed.

Interest in these "big birds" has really taken flight recently. At the June, 2016 toy sale at Morphy Auctions in Denver, PA, five vintage Steiff display birds came under the hammer. There was enormous, global interest in this event's Steiff studio peacock, vulture, turkey, flamingo, and parrot. The turkey was the star of the day - which is pretty unusual for the species, except at Thanksgiving - realizing $5,185! It is Steiffgal's guess, given this recent sales history and having seen this ostrich firsthand, that this piece would probably sell at auction at this level as well. Now that's what Steiffgal would call a pretty good nest egg.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this rare Steiff ostrich has been a larger than life experience for you.  

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's A Clothes Call When It Comes To Steiff's Turn Of Last Century Dressed Teddy Bears

All dressed up and no place to go? Or in the case of this reader's question, perhaps it is just the opposite! It's a clothes call with this very interesting inquiry from a vintage Steiff enthusiast.

Susan simply asks...

"I own a 1915 Steiff Bear and I am looking to find out what period clothes it originally wore, if any. If so, where could I obtain them please? Thank you!"

Steiffgal's got this one buttoned up. For the most part, Steiff's early bears did not leave the factory in Giengen dressed. The vast, vast majority through about 1925 were "bear;" after the mid-1920's most were adorned with colorful silk ribbons. This in part was a directive from Richard Steiff himself. At that time, he was living in the United States but frequently wrote home to his family in Germany with suggestions and ideas to improve the business both domestically and internationally. In 1925, one of these notes included...

"Our Teddies, in the showroom here in New York, appear colorless, sober, and insipid. I feel inclined to decorate all the Teddies we have left with huge, colorful silk ribbons; only then can we ask a slightly higher price.” 

However, from 1908 through 1917 overall, the Steiff did produce and distribute a series of eight standard line, fully jointed Teddy bears dressed in simple swimsuits, sailor suits, and other felt and knitted outfits. Steiffgal calls these the "B Series" as all the bears had short names starting with the letter "B." Their names were Babad, Babo Baho, Bagi, Basa, Basi, Batro and Baru. They appeared in eight sizes ranging from 22 to 70 cm in the company's traditional mohair colors. All of these early dressed animals were product line extensions of the company's regular line bears. Today, it is very hard to find original versions of these dressed bears, as the felt and knitted outfits tended to fall apart (moths, etc.) and/or would be lost to time, as children took them on and off the items as playthings. The postcard image above shows many of these dressed bears and is probably from around 1912, plus or minus a few years.

Somewhat recently, Steiff has replicated members of the "B Series" so collectors can appreciate these sweet cubs today. In 2006, one of the special Steiff club editions was the lovely girl-bear "Bagi" in a somewhat mismatched blue felt suit. Also appearing around the same time was "Basa the Baby Sailor" in a nautically themed blue suit.  He is pictured here on the left.

It is interesting to note that over the same time period - from 1908 through 1917 - Steiff was also producing a series of adorable, to-scale felt human children dolls, also dressed in adorable, well made clothing.

As for finding an original "B Series" outfit, Steiffgal thinks that might be a challenge, but not entirely impossible. These clothes very infrequently come up for sale or auction on the secondary market. But here are a few suggestions to to pursue. Of course, keep an eye out on web stores like and that sometimes list antique doll/animal clothes like this. Also peruse webstores that sell antique Teddy bears and dolls, as they often have clothing and accessories for sale as well. Attend local or national doll shows with good salerooms and see what clothing is on offer - and ask dealers to keep an eye out for you. And finally, if you are crafty - or know someone who is - perhaps sew or knit one of these outfits to replicate the original. After all, even old bears appreciate a stylin' new set of threads!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early dressed bears has suited you well.

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

The More The Merrier With Steiff's Scottie Terriers!

Great Scott!  Just what is it about little black dogs that makes Steiffgal go a little crazy?  Well, maybe its because she has two real life black pugs as her adored fur babies.  But since Steiff has not yet made a black pug (hint, hint...) Steiffgal has fallen almost as hard for the company's sweet black Scottish Terriers. Here are a few recent Scottie additions to her collection you might find quite interesting as well.

Go big or go home!  Or in this case, both!  Here we have an almost life-sized Scottie. He measures 28 cm tall and 36 cm long, not counting his pert tail. That adds another 9 cm to his presentation. He is standing on all fours, head jointed, and made from long black mohair. He has tan embroidered claws. His ears are lined in black felt.  His face comes to life with large white, brown, and black almond shaped glass eyes, a long shaggy mohair beard, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  His IDs include a raised script style button and a US Zone tag.  This model was produced in 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, and 35 cm from 1949 through 1957.  So this version is the second to largest size (as they are "measured" vertically from head to toe) and most likely made in around 1952, give or take a year or two.  Here in the picture on the left you can see Scottie modeling with the beautiful and perfect real-life black pug Booboo.

The biggest Steiff Scottie produced ever, as far as Steiffgal can tell, is a 43 cm version produced as a ride-on animal from 1950 through 1961.  His design appears to be the same as Steiffgal's big boy,  (pictured here on the left) just blown up in scale to almost twice the size.  It is interesting to note that Steiff never produced a Studio Scottie, at least on a commercial scale. 

This second Scottie
highlight is the wheel-deal indeed. Here we have Steiff's early postwar Scottie on eccentric wheels.  He measures 13 cm tall and 21 cm long; 24 cm including his tail. He is standing on all fours, head jointed, and made from short mohair. His beard is made from longer black mohair. His ears are lined in black felt. His face comes to life with proportional white, brown, and black almond shaped glass eyes and a black embroidered nose and mouth. Scottie is mounted to a metal chassis and glides along on four red wooden eccentric wheels. He retains his raised script style button as his ID. This model was produced in 14 and 17 cm from 1949 through 1957 overall. This pup on the go is the smaller version of this model, and probably made towards the tail end of the production period.

Scottie on wheels is a legacy design for Steiff - one produced both pre- and post World War II.  The photo here on the left is a close up beauty shot of him; his collar is not original to him but was indeed made by Steiff.  Three versions of Scottie dogs on wheels were produced prewar. The first was a Scottie on eccentric wheels which was made in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1932 to 1943 overall. The second was a Scottie on regular wheels which was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1932 to 1943 overall; those from 1932 through 1936 came with a squeaker. And the third was a version that squeaked automatically when he was pulled along; he was produced in 17 cm from 1939 through 1942. This was called the "barking dog" version.  

And the third's the charm with this last interesting Scottie.  Well, actually pair of Scotties, they've been inseparable since meeting up in the collection. Here we have two silk plush Scotties.  The smaller one measures 14 cm tall and 19 cm long; 22 cm including his tail. The larger one measures 16 cm tall and 22 cm long; 26 cm including his tail. Both are standing on all fours, head jointed, and have round brown and black glass pupil eyes. As mentioned above, both are made from artificial silk plush. This material started out soft and shiny, but over time tends to lose its sheen and get a little dull and matted down, especially the longer versions. This is the case here. Unlike wool plush, longer artificial silk plush does not have a slightly "coarse" touch to it. 

The detailing and IDs on the larger and smaller silk plush versions are a bit different, which is interesting given that both were only produced in 1949 - according to Steiff records.  The smaller one has a shaggy black mohair beard and a raised script button as his ID.  The larger one has a sort of shaggy black artificial silk plush beard, and a blank button as his ID.  Based on these differences, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the larger one was indeed manufactured and distributed in the very late 1940's.  However, because the smaller one has mohair detailing, as well as a raised script button (which technically launched in the early 1950's) it is likely that the smaller one was produced and distributed at a later date than the larger one when mohair was more readily available for toy making purposes.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of interesting post war Scottie dogs has added a pleasant paws to your day.  

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

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Perfect Steiff Hot Dog For This Fourth Of July Weekend!

Well, the Fourth of July weekend is upon us, and summer - at least here in these parts - is in full swing. Many friends and families celebrate this fine holiday with parties and cookouts featuring hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. So Steiffgal thought the time was perfect to introduce you to her latest warm weather find - also a hot dog - but just not the type you enjoy with mustard. (But feel free to relish her!) Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Gretl!  Gretl is named after a friend's real life Dachshund who also toddles along and has a thing for the UPS delivery man.

Steiffgal is literally jumping for joy over this "Hopping Dachshund." She is 22 cm tall and 30 cm wide, not including her long, skinny tail. She is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from short brown mohair. She has three black claws on each of her feet. Her face, which has a rather pensive look to it given her forehead-muzzle seam construction, comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a hand embroidered black nose and mouth. She mounted on two metal dowels and rides upon four oversized, natural colored wooden wheels. Sometimes these types of wheels have some Steiff identification like the company's name carved or stamped on them, but these are plain. Gretl's pull string is attached directly to her neck and is original to her. She left the factory in Giengen with a leather collar, but that has been lost to time. Gretl retains her tiny long trailing "f" button and traces of her white ear tag as her Steiff IDs. 

Gretl was officially made in this size in mohair from 1912 through 1917, and then again from 1923 through 1926. Given her small button and white ear tag fragments, she was produced at the earlier part of this time frame. Her pattern in mohair was brought back into the line in 1927 through 1929, this time in three sizes: 17, 20, and 22 cm. These later versions had larger trailing "f" buttons and white or red ear tags as their Steiff IDs.

It is always interesting to look at manufacturing dates when it comes to Steiff's legacy patterns and characters. Gretl's pattern in mohair seemed to take a hiatus for a few years between 1918 and the early 1920's. And why is this? As a result of World War I, which ended in November, 1918, the company was suffering from the results of the war. Manufacturing, material supplies, inventories, and infrastructure were in disarray as the country was starting to figure out how to manage the postwar rebuilding process. Felt, mohair, and other high end materials were in extremely limited supplies, and for several prior years had been allocated almost exclusively towards military purposes.  

But Steiff, being an amazingly creative and resilient company, found a way to work around those supply chain issues and keep itself busy as well as in business. Given the abundance of wood in the area, the company started producing things like toys, building sets and furniture for children. Steiff also found a way to produce substitute materials from local alternative natural products including nettles and wood. These substitute material selections appeared in the line from 1919 through 1921, and included models of the company's most popular standard line bears, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other favorites. And, given the popularity of the company's "Hopping Dachshund," she too was produced in 1918 through 1920 in substitute, improvised fabrics. You can see Gretl's cousin from this period in the illustration on the left; she is hiding out on the bottom shelf on the far right. This illustration is from Steiff's c. 1919 catalog; the picture is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends, 1989.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Hopping Gretl and her interesting product development history has been the wheel-deal for you.

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