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!

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