Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cataloging The Finest Steiff Treasures From 1932!

Anyone care to go on a little time travel adventure? Steiffgal just purchased a wonderful Christmas catalog from F.A.O. Schwarz from 1932. Flipping through it is better than a front row seat in a program about the history of this great toy store! One of the things that is so interesting about this catalog is how many Steiff items are featured within its pages - and on its cover! Let's have a look inside and see how people in the United States were celebrating with Steiff 85 years ago.

Steiff starts out in the pole position in this great catalog, being featured exclusively on the back cover! Pictured friends include Steiff's kangaroo, Mickey Mouse, white Jocko monkey, Teddy Baby bear, and Fluffy Cat, all playing around a giant red mohair play ball. It is interesting to note, as far as Steiffgal can tell, that the kangaroo and Mickey are the only items that are specifically listed for sale; there is no mention of the white Jocko, Teddy baby, Fluffy cat, and ball within this catalog's pages. This is somewhat unusual given their prime positioning on this key sales document, and all four unmentioned items were clearly in production at the time of the publication. Nonetheless, as the photo's banner proclaims, Steiff proves that "It's fun to shop at SCHWARZ."

So, first things first. Steiff indeed is noted on the front inside cover (which is not numbered) of this catalog. In the upper left hand corner of the page is Steiff's "Wooly Lamb." It is described as, "Everywhere the children go this lamb is sure to go along. It's adorably appealing with its woolly white coat, closely resembles lambs wool, realistically touched here and there with natural tints. Flexible ears and a squeaky voice. Bell on neck ribbon.  Measures 8" high. $2.00." $2 in 1932 had the same buying power as $33.07 in 2017. This item appears to be Steiff's standing, unjointed Lamm or Lamb, which was produced in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928-1936 overall.  

Page 1 features two and maybe even three Steiff goodies. The first two are Steiff hand puppets - one labeled "Hand Monkey" and the other "Hand Mickey." Hand Monkey is clearly a Jocko puppet, and is described as, "An amusing toy, realistically animated by the movement of the fingers. Superior make, fine brown plush. 9-1/2",   $1.00." Hand Jocko appeared in the line from 1911-1943 overall. Hand Mickey is a Steiff Mickey Mouse puppet, and is described as, "Just slip Mickey over your hand and he will perform for you as you wish. Black and white plush, $1.00." Hand Mickey appeared in the line from 1931-1933. In both cases$1 in 1932 had the same buying power as $16.54 in 2017.  

The third item is probably partially Steiff, and most likely put together in house at F.A.O. Schwarz. It is a "Monkey With Organ," and it is described as, "An appealing little fellow, sitting on a wooden organ box. Organ plays two different tunes when you turn the crank. Strap to hang around neck. Very appropriate to these times. $6.00." This looks to be a standard line 22 or 25 cm brown Steiff Jocko on a lovely, high quality European music box. F.A.O. Schwarz was well known for creating these sorts of special editions by combining a few top tier items into one really special, usually very expensive one. And this fits the bill here: $6 in 1932 had the same buying power as $99.22 in 2017. Steiff's standard line, fully jointed brown mohair Jocko monkey appeared in the line from 1909-1943 overall.

Things are on a (Steiff) roll on page 2 of this catalog, with a pair of Steiff record style pull toys. The first is "Mickey on Coaster." It is described as, "A beloved friend in a different role. Mickey, all velvet covered, rides merrily on his own coaster when pulled about by the cord. 8-1/2"." This is clearly Steiff's Record Mickey, who appeared in the line from 1931-1933. The second is "Monkey Peter." It is described as, "Peter, made of gay red felt, sits expectantly upon a coaster. When you draw it by the cord, he makes a comical movement and sound with his voice. Height 9-1/2." This selection is a red felt version of Steiff's Record Peter, which appeared in the line in 20 and 25 cm from 1913-1938. Both were priced at $2.50; $2.50 in 1932 had the same buying power as $41.34 in 2017.

Page 6 of this catalog really goes to the dogs, with many popular breeds listed. These include Sealyhams, Pekingese, Fox Terriers, and Scotch Terriers. It is impossible to tell with 110% certainty if these models were indeed made by Steiff, as the black and white photos are small and don't reveal many details, and the descriptions are somewhat generic. However, all of these dog breeds were in the Steiff line at the time, so it is probable that at least a few of these were indeed whelped in Giengen.

Page 7 offers up several familiar and beloved Steiff friends, with Teddy bears playing a prominent roll. These cubs are described as, "A faithful friend and just as loveable as ever. Jolly jointed Teddy Bear of fine plush in cinnamon or white." They were advertised in seven sizes ranging from 10" to 20", and were priced from $1.50 to $7.50; this equals $24.80 to $124.02 in 2017 dollars.   

A "Kangaroo With Its Youngster" makes a bouncing appearance here. She is described as, "This gentle mother Kangaroo of silky plush has a voice and moves her head. The little one can be used as a separate toy." The pair were offered in 14" for $4.75 or 19" for $7.50; this equals $78.55 and $124.02 in 2017 dollars. This head jointed model was Steiff's Kangaroo, which was produced in 10, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1929-1939 overall.  

"Mickey and Minnie Mouse" again rule the house. These charming dolls are described as, "Here is the gay and loveable Mickey and Minnie (new), in various sizes, all soft stuffed and covered with high quality velour." Five sizes of each, ranging from 7 to 19 inches, were noted, with prices spanning $1.00 to $5.00. This translates into $16.54 to $82.68 in 2017 dollars. These of course are the Steiff models, produced from 1931 to 1936 overall. 

And tucked into the bottom right hand page is a dear "Pony." This handsome horse is described as, "A soft stuffed animal for small boys. In brown and white plush, with flowing mane and tail." It was available in 8" for $3.50 and 10-1/2" for $4.75. This translates into $57.88 and $78.55 in 2017 dollars. Given its appearance and size, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this pony is Steiff's standing, unjointed white and brown Pony, produced from 1931-1939 overall in 17, 22, and 28 cm.

Finally, this catalog proves that good things come to those who wait - and sometimes in small packages, too. Under the category of "Unusual Stocking Toys," at the end of the document, the following is listed:  "Pair of Wooly Birds." They are simply described as, "on 4-1/2" voice bellow platform. $0.75." This pair is most certainly Steiff's rare and unusual "Chirp Couple," consisting of two metal legged woolen miniature birds on a see-sawing whistle platform. This piece was in the line from 1932-1943 and is very, very rare today, given the ephemeral nature of its construction. Its price, which translates to $12.40 today, seems unbelievable, given that the Auctioneer Teddy Dorado sold one for 1,600 euro in 2014!

Steiffgal hopes that you have enjoyed this historical - and virtual - Steiff shopping spree!

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Care To Play Carpool Karaoke With This Mysterious Monkey Passenger?

This delightful inquiry puts Steiffgal right into 5th gear! Put the pedal to metal and check out this note from a new friend from the UK. Peter writes...

"I am hoping you can identify the toy primate in the back of this miniature car, please?  The photo was taken in December of 1912, in London.  For reference in size, the girl, in the driver's seat, is 4 years old, while her brother, the passenger, is 2 and seems the same size as the primate.  
I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thank you."

Let's go into overdrive and check out this back seat driver. Based on the quality of the photo, it is impossible to tell with certainty about the details or the manufacturer of this marvelous monkey.  But the photo does hold a handful of  clues that could link the passenger to Steiff. 

Here's a road map to start this investigation. From what Steiffgal can tell, there are two circumstantial details of the photo and one known fact of the period that support the Steiff monkey hypothesis.  First, the image was taken in England in 1912, and we know that Steiff was actively supplying the British market with its high end toys at that time.  Second, Steiff did produce very large, dark brown monkeys during the first quarter of the 20th century.  And, thirdly, the Steiff nephews were very interested in automobiles (and all things mechanical.) The Steiff family was the first in their small town to own an automobile, purchasing it around 1912. Shortly after, the company started to produce all sorts of car related novelties, including radiator caps, headlight covers, and travel mascots. These things were advertised internationally, so the world beyond Giengen was probably starting to associate Steiff items with cars.  A picture of Steiff's monkey radiator cap from 1912/13 is pictured here on the left; the photo is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear, the History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

So what's on this monkey's driver's license? Now, if, and that's a BIG IF, the monkey was made by Steiff, which model could he be? According to Peter, the little boy sitting in the car, who is about the same size as the monkey, is 2 years old. The average height of a 2 year old boy is about 36 inches, or about 90 cm. The monkey is most likely fully jointed (as it is sitting), has a prominent flat facial mask, and long bent arms. Given all that, it is Steiffgal's best detective work that the monkey may be Steiff's early, but not earliest, Affe, or Monkey. This five ways jointed model was produced in brown mohair from 1904 through 1928, in sizes including 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 120 cm. His ears, face, and hands were made from felt. His simple but charming face was detailed with black shoebutton eyes and a stitched nose and mouth. He also had a tail. When he left the factory, he would have had a small Steiff trailing "f" button and a white paper ear tag with the numbers "5390" on it as his identification. This translates to 5=jointed, 3=mohair, and 90=90 cm. A photo of a cousin of Affe 5390 is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Christie's. 

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this turn of last century joyride!

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Getting Around To Solving This Unusual Steiff Mystery

Well, here's a little Steiff history-mystery! Check out this note about Steiff bear with some cryptic writing on his belly. Could this bear be a musical prototype? A new friend, in part, writes...

"I found your blog and thought I would reach out. Today I acquired what, from your blog, I have determined to be a mohair Musical Teddy. Unfortunately, it does not have the ear tag, though still has the made in Germany on the back, and has been signed on one paw by Hans Otto and the other paw is dated 1983. 

Interestingly, there is also writing on the red musical circle that appears to say 1954-55 and then has a series of numbers underneath that. The antiques store where I bought it seemed to think it was a "salesman sample". I just wondered if you had ever run across such a thing?"

Well, let's strike up the band and see what we have here. This bear is 
definitely an example of Steiff's Music Teddy. This bear was produced from 1951 through 1957. He is 35 cm, five ways jointed, and made from caramel colored mohair. His hand and foot pads are made from tannish peach colored felt. His face is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. Smack dab in the middle of his belly is a red felt circle; when he was new, it had the word "music" in printed in white on it. When this spot was squeezed and released, it played a sweet lullaby. 

Let's paws for a second here and check out the information on the bear's feet. From the writing on the bear's lower pads, it appears that this piece was brought to a Steiff sponsored event in the early 1980's and signed by Hans Otto Steiff. Hans Otto Steiff was the former President of Steiff in Germany and a direct descendant of the founder, Margarete Steiff. Hans Otto and and his wife Brigit toured the USA several times in the 1980's, meeting collectors, attending events, and signing Steiff items.

Now let's circle back to the strange marks on his red felt belly patch. After thinking about this for awhile, it is Steiffgal's strongest suspicion that these numbers do not indicate that this bear is a prototype. The date on the patch, which reads 1954/5, doesn't really align with anything in this bear's production history. This bear was introduced in 1951 and was in the line from 1957. So if it was a prototype, meaning that it was produced prior to general line introduction, the date on the red circle would probably read 1950 or 1951. Or if it were a piece designed for the archives after manufacturing was complete, the date might read 1951/7, or something like that.

So what does this all mean?  Although there is no way to tell for sure, his presentation suggests that he was a beloved toy at one point in his life, based on his playwear pattern. Steiffgal speculates that that the date 1954/5 refers to the year that he was purchased or adopted, and the other numbers (12 9335,3) refer to the numbers that were on his original ear tag, which has since gone missing. These correspond to 12 = bear, 9 = mechanical, 3 = mohair, 35 = 35 cm, and 3 = with music box. Perhaps his owner put the dates and numbers on the red circle so they would forever be attached to his history, as the ear tags very often get lost to time. Or, it is possible that someone bought him from the owner, and asked them about the year they purchased him, or it could have been information from an antique dealer provided to someone at purchase. Besides his red felt circle, there really is no other place to record any writing or marks on him.

Steiffgal hopes her evaluation of this red-bellied mystery has been spot on with you.

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