Saturday, December 30, 2017

Welcoming 2018 With These Once In A Blue Moon Steiff Rarities

You've probably heard the expression, "once in a blue moon." This phrase is meant to indicate that something happens extremely infrequently, and specifically refers to periods when two full moons occur in the same month. Well, 2018 greets us with two full moons in January, hopefully signaling auspicious things on the horizon for everyone on the cusp of the new year.

To celebrate this special occurrence, and to welcome 2018 in the warmest way possible, please say hello to five "once in a blue moon" Steiff finds. These characters are quite unusual (at least to Steiff enthusiasts here in the United States) and demonstrate Steiff's enormous talents in bringing fictional characters to life. Perhaps they will send you over the moon as well! 

You can't help but dig this first "blue moon" find. Here we have Max Mole. He is 15 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from brown woven fur. His feet are flat, cardboard lined, and enable him to stand. They are made from brown faux leather, much like the soles on the feet on Steiff's standing Zooby the circus bear. He has four felt claws on each hand. His prominent snout has been slightly sheared, then painted a salmon pink. His nose is made from felt, and he has simple black button eyes. He dons a yellow plastic "hard hat" emblazoned with a DB logo; it is visually secured to his head via a black painted strap. This hard working mole was produced in 1999 only as an advertising specialty for Deutsche Bahn, the German railway company headquartered in Berlin.

All that glistens is not gold - but in this situation - it is "Goldi." This petite treat is 15 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from soft plush. Her fabulous and largely scaled head is made from SEVEN different materials, including five colors of short plush, one color of long plush, and felt - for her prominent teeth! Her eyes are simple black buttons and she has black whiskers. Goldi is dressed to the nines in removable clothing including a teal velour shirt and yellow cotton overalls featuring the Commerzbank logo. This precious gem was made in 2007 for Commerzbank, a global financial services company that was founded in 1870 and has its headquarters in Frankfurt. 

It is interesting to note that Steiff also produced a 32 cm Goldi the Hamster in 1978-1980 for Commerzbank. This happy hamster is best known as the mascot of Germany’s “Kinder-Verkehrs-Club” or “Children’s Traffic Club” which was sponsored by Commerzbank over time. This countrywide program was launched in 1976 and ran until 1997. The goal of the program was to help parents of three to six year old children teach their youngsters about road and traffic safety.

Things are twice as nice with this next pair of rarities. Here we have two very playful Steiff dragons. They are both sitting, unjointed, and made from soft yellow plush. Their bellies are white while their wings, back scales, inner ears, and open mouths are orange plush. Their blue tongues are made from felt and their cartoonish eyes are machine embroidered. Each has two sets of arms. The larger one stands 26 cm tall, while the smaller one, which has a keyring attached to it, is 14 cm tall. They bear the GVS logo and are the company's natural gas mascots. Given their form and IDs, this dragon duo was most likely made within the last few years. GVS is short for GasVersorgung Süddeutschland GmbH; they are one of Germany's largest gas companies. According to their website, they "supply natural gas to public utilities companies, regional gas suppliers, industrial customers and power stations both within Germany and abroad."

Next in this monster-mashup is this fine green hand puppet, also in the form of a dragon. This lean green machine is 35 cm tall and made from trivera velvet. His body is green, his wings are pink, his ears are blue, and his mouth is peach colored. He is detailed with green felt back scales, grey faux suede "hair", and oversized black and white google style plastic eyes. You can open and close his huge mouth from inside his hollow body. This playful puppet was made in 1991 as a promotional item for the printer Oldenburg, which is now part of the De Gruyter group. This large publishing house is headquartered in Berlin and has a company history that goes back over 260 years!

Now for a refreshing change, please consider this last "blue moon" Steiff selection. Here we have a very chubby, cartoon looking 30 cm unicorn called "Fritz Horn." This name appears on his yellow Steiff ear tag. His unjointed body is made from white velour and his feet are made from black fabric. His tail and back mane are made from black spotted white velour. His eyes, nose, and mouth are machine embroidered in black. And what's that thing on his head? Why it’s a black velour "fritz-kola" bottle horn, of course! This black and white beauty was made in 2016 for the Hamburg based Fritz Kola company, which was started in 2002 by two childhood friends. This quirky, playful European specialty brand is "mainly known for its high caffeine content (about 25 mg per 100 mL) and its strong lemon flavour as well as its distinctive glass bottles," according to its website.

Steiffgal hopes this review of "once in a blue moon" rarities helps your stars align for a very happy and healthy 2018.  

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reminiscing About Christmas, Steiff Style!

There's no place like home for the holidays - no matter where home may be at the moment! Steiff has always helped to make our annual wintertime celebrations even more special, by finding its way in to stockings, under trees or around the menorah or kinara. Check out this photo and brief story from the December/January 2018 edition of the magazine Reminisce. According to its website, this publication is "The nation’s premier nostalgia magazine, Reminisce celebrates what we loved then and how it shapes our lives now." Do you recognize a few special friends here?

Look what can happen when you get onto Santa's "nice" list! Here we have a vintage photo of two charming young girls and their father posing next to a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. You can click on it to make it larger. The copy reads, "Joyous Noel. In 1960, the year I turned 5, my family celebrated Christmas in Karlsruhe, Germany, where my father, Gabby, an engineer, worked for the Singer sewing machine company. My other sister, Phyrene, 13, loved stuffed animals as much as I did. My mom, Fernanda, took the photo. Phyllis Gebhard, Milwaukee, WI." And dog-gonnit, you can't help but notice the pretty pooches the girls are holding - they are "button in ear" dogs made by our pals in Giengen.  It doesn't get much better than this!

These Steiff dogs would have any collector's tail a-wagging. Phyrene's gift is Steiff's happy Hexie the Dachshund. Hexie is standing and made from light and darker tan mohair which has been detailed with copper colored airbrushed highlights to give her more dimension. She has really jolly black and white google eyes and a black hand embroidered black nose and mouth. All Hexies left the factory wearing a thin red collar. This delightful doggie was originally manufactured in 9, 13, 20, and 25 cm between 1954 and 1974. It is interesting to note that the German word for "witch" is "hexe." Perhaps she was given this name because she was designed to cast a magic spell over collectors with her irresistible looks and impish personality?

Phyllis has it made in the shade with her new friend. Her pup is Steiff's Maidy the Poodle. Maidy is standing, unjointed, and made from Steiff's lovely and unusual black "Persian Lamb" textured mohair. She has a slightly longer mohair "beard" around her chin. Her eyes are lovely and distinctive; they are large hand blown almond shaped and feature a black pupil, brown iris, and white corners. Her ears are lined in black mohair. Maidy is one of those Steiff "One-derful" items, made for just a year or so. Specifically, she appeared in the Steiff catalog in 1959 only in 25 and 30 cm. Collectors may recognize Maidy's distinctive fabric as almost identical to the covering of Steiff's larger "Swapl" Persian lambs. These baa-ing black beauties appeared in the line in 10, 14, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1957 to 1964 overall.

Stitching thing up here, a little research shows that the Singer factory in Karlsruhe did indeed manufacture sewing machines from 1954 until 1982. This timing perfectly aligns with Phyllis' story. According to, "The Singer factory in Karlsruhe, Germany was in production from 1954 until 1982. In 1954 Singer purchased the factory and sewing machine business of the Haid-und-Neu company in Karlsruhe, Germany. Haid-und-Neu had been manufacturing sewing machines in Karlsruhe since the 1860’s and had purpose built the existing factory in 1893... Machines produced at the Karlsruhe factory were identified by a suffix G added to their model numbers. i.e. 215G. Serial numbers took the form of PA, PB, PC etc. followed by 6 digits starting at 000001 up to 999999." 

Steiffgal hopes that this special season celebrating peace, love, and joy helps bring more of those essential things to the fabric of our lives in 2018.  

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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This Late 1920's-Era Deer Is A "Reh" Of Sunshine Indeed!

Oh deer! What do we have here? Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of handling a lovely vintage Steiff fawn with the most charming expression and presentation. Check out this fantastic field and forest friend and see what makes her so interesting from the historical and product design evolution perspectives.

This "reh" (German for deer!) of sunshine is Steiff's "Deer." She measures about 28 cm both standing and wide. Deer is unjointed and made from burnt-orange tipped mohair. The insides of her ears and her fanny are made from white mohair. Her hooves are indicated by black airbrushing. Reh's face comes to life with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a distinctively shaped, hand embroidered nose highlighted with a white stitch, and a tiny red accent to indicate her mouth. She retains her long trailing "F" button and traces of her red ear tag as her Steiff IDs.

So just how old is this darling deer? It is interesting to note that this exact model is not noted in either the Steiff Sortiment reference book or Steiff's catalogs. But, because it is impolite to ask anyone directly about their age, Steiffgal's detective work suggests that she was made in the 1929-1934 time frame. An almost identical deer, albeit on red wooden wheels, is noted in Steiff's records. This model was produced in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1929 through 1936. Because the model under discussion today has bits of her red ear tag, which was the eartag color through about 1934, this deer is probably no older than 1934. You can see the wheeled version here on the left; the image is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment.
This deer has two key design details that place her at a very interesting place in the deer product development timeline.

Materials. You can't help but notice this deer's wonderful and colorful fabric - a burnt orange tipped mohair. They "heyday" for tipped mohair at Steiff occurred during the mid to late 1920's through the early 1930's. Other well known famous patterns from that era that used this distinctive, playful, and happy fabric included Petsy the Baby Bear (1928 through 1930); Teddy Clown (1926 through 1930); and Fluffy the Cat (1926 through 1943.) Very few items were with tipped mohair were introduced in the line after the 1930's.

Form. This wide-eyed and youthful deer's appearance aligns perfectly with the mid- to late 1920's Steiff aesthetic. Items produced during this time frame were for the most part utterly charming, with a distinctively toddler-esque, feminine, and happy appearance. In the mid-1930's, Steiff updated some of its fawn and roebuck pattens. These new designs were made from tan, airbrushed, mohair; had more shapely legs and bodies; and more realistic and lifelife necks and faces. In addition, their legs were made from velvet instead of mohair. There are several possible reasons for this fabric change. One might be that during the mid- to late 1930's, mohair was becoming more expensive and less available due to political and economic realities. Steiff's mid-1930's-1943 fawn with velvet legs is pictured here on the left; the image is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on this unusual and appealing Steiff deer has you fawning over Steiff's great late 1920's era items.

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ready Oar Not, Check Out This Amazing Steiff Rowing Frog!

This week's fantastic Steiff find has Steiffgal jumping for joy! And you probably will be too, after learning about this amazing amphibian. Steiffgal heard about this extremely early and rare Steiff frog through another Steiff enthusiast who just happens to have an amazing eye and great taste. Check out this lean green rowing machine and see what makes him so extraordinarily (but not obviously) interesting from the design and product development perspectives. 

The information available about him online simply notes"From my personal collection, here is a rare model of the Steiff factory period 1904-1905 with the original elephant button. Stands at about 11 3/4" (30 cm) tall without the feet. I collect the Steiff animals since 30 years and i have found only 4 models with the elephant button, Here is for sale one that i had found 20 years ago in the south west of France. This model was made only between 1903 and 1908. Unfortunately the feet are missing but the button is always present and the velvet is in good condition (just need a little repair at 2 seams), the felt at the hands is used at the extremity of the fingers (see pics). the swimsuit in red felt has some little holes. the outfit is missing. It is always a rare and very interesting item. it is possible to restore the feet if you ask to a Steiff specialist."

Let's leapfrog to the details behind this remarkable rarity. As described by his owner above, he was indeed produced between 1903 and 1908. Because he does not have ears, his treasured and earliest elephant button is located in his red shorts. Today's example is missing three design elements. His elaborate finger digits, which originally appeared like "lollipops," have been lost to time. He also had long, thin feet, which according to a few photos, could have been designed as simple athletic shoes. He also left the factory in Giengen holding an oar, suggesting he was designed to be a rower or a member of a crew team. When he was new, he appeared as the photo on the left, which is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

This hoppy-go-lucky fellow has enormous historical relevance, and could be the topic of a several hour talk all unto himself. However, there are two really, really cool things about him that confirm his gold medal status. 

The first is his "doll like" form. Given his anthropomorphic (i.e., sharing human characteristics) presentation, including his standing body position, red shorts, probable shoes, and oar accessory, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he was made as part of Steiff's earliest and little-known all cloth doll line. In 1903, Richard Steiff designed and produced a series of soft cloth play dolls designed to replace the company's somewhat generic bisque-headed dolls. This new line, as far as Steiffgal has been able to research, was entirely, or almost entirely, consisted of only male dolls, including soccer players, policemen, farmers, military personnel, natives, and early cartoon characters. This appears to be the only "animal doll" produced as part of this series. It is exciting to think that Richard Steiff himself may have made this frog doll! An advertising photo of this early collection is pictured above; this illustration is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear book.

Things also line up with this frog's form relative to other dolls being produced at the time. Here on the left you can see a photo of another early Steiff doll; he is called "Negro" and appeared in the line from 1903-1904. This doll is 35 cm, string jointed, and was made in either velvet or felt. His face comes alive with a prominent center seam, black button eyes framed by embroidery, and a hand embroidered mouth. Steiffgal does not think that it is a coincidence that both the frog doll under discussion and this doll are wearing very similar red shorts with a white tie around the waist, and share many of the same proportions. The photo of the black velvet doll is from the collection of Nancy Smith. 

The second important and key element to this frog doll is "the company he keeps." This frog appears in a 1903/04 catalog photograph used to debut the company's new editions at the annual Leipzig Spring Fair, along with the "Negro" doll and other masculine themed string jointed dolls. But what's so special about that? It's the same picture that debuted PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear. Talk about being at the right place at the right time, eh? A snapshot of this catalog page is shown here on the left; you can spot the frog with the oar in the very far right of the picture. You can also click on the photo to make it larger. According to the hand written notes on the photo, these frog dolls were 21 Deutchmark per twelve. This picture is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear book.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early and athletic frog doll has got your pulse racing!

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Boys To Men: Three Awesome And Extraordinarily Rare Steiff eBay Finds

Rare beyond compare! That was Steiffgal's thought when looking back at a few really captivating and recent sales on eBay. Shopping on this platform is like going to a giant antique mall or store - you never know what's going to turn up. And once in a blue moon, world class collectibles do indeed make an appearance. Here are three recent WAH-HOO good Steiff items that recently traded hands on this ubiquitous global auction website.

This first fantastic find is the wheel-deal indeed. According to its description, "For your consideration is this rare pull toy Record Boy by Steiff. Plush bean character with felt clothing. He is riding a tricycle and when rolled he moves his torso and heap up and down to action tricycle's propelling lever. Toy has a bellow underneath that produces sound as toy moves. Toy is about 9.5 inches tall by 7.5 inches long by 4.5 inches wide." 
This boy on the go had 4 total bidders, 7 total bids, and sold for $2,150.75.

Does his sale price shock you? It shouldn't, given this character's rarity and cultural status! This item is actually Steiff's Shockheaded Peter doll on a four wheeled cart, from the famous German book of the same name. "Record" refers to these pump and go hand-driven vehicles. This mobile marvel appeared in the Steiff line from 1916 through 1927. Steiff also produced a Shockheaded Peter doll in in 3 sizes ranging from 30 to 43 cm from 1909 though 1927. It is interesting to note that Steiff's Peter dolls had long leather fingernails (like the boy in the book) but this version on a cart does not.  Here on the left you can see a 1916/1917 advertising photo featuring Peter and other "record" friends of the era; the photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

Shockheaded Peter is a German folkloric treasure. It is written in distinctive, versed “chapters.” The book debuted in 1845 and was authored by Heinrich Hoffmann, a German psychiatrist who penned the tale for his three year old son as a Christmas gift when he could not find one he liked commercially. Each of the book’s ten tales has a distinct lesson, with the story demonstrating what happens when that lesson is not followed. For example, in story #3, a girl plays with matches and burns to death. The book’s title refers to story #1, where a boy (Peter) does not follow hygienic practices (for example, trimming his fingernails, combing his hair, and bathing) and as a result is an outcast. 

It's no game when it comes to this next auction find - a turn of last century Steiff footballer. He is described in part as, "Rare Antique Steiff Felt Jointed Doll. Doll was handed down from my Great Grandfather 30 - 40 years ago. I have not been able to find another one so that I would be able to describe it. Looks like a rugby player or hobo? Doll is in original condition just like I received it. I believe the inside composition is straw. Clothes show wear and fading in areas. Missing Right Arm. Eyes are glass and the right eye has come unattached but sits in the socket quite well. Leather Boots are very detailed. Top of Boots are split but are still intact with the doll as pics show."

This sports star scored 8 total bidders, 27 total bids, and sold for $1,402.77.

It's a life goal for Steiffgal to add one of these marvelous dolls to her collection! These student athletes were produced in 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm from 1913 through 1920 overall. These were designed to resemble American Ivy League soccer players. Their outfits were available in a variety of different color combinations, including blue for Yale, crimson for Harvard, orange or black for Princeton, and light blue for Columbia. The one under discussion here is probably a Harvard model, given the hue of his sweater. The dolls themselves were playfully configured to have a distinctly youthful, collegiate presentation with their chunky proportions, cherubic faces, and google-style black and white glass eyes. And their outfits reflected the uniform styles of the period; it is interesting to note that their leather shoes had inlaid "treads" on the soles, most likely a nod to early sporting cleats. Here on the left you can see a two early Yale players; the photo is from Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

Things are going to really heat up with this last Steiff surprise. It is simply noted by the seller as, "This auction is for a vintage Steiff Man figure chimney sweeper. This item is in Very Good condition and is being offered at No Reserve, Final Sale." 

This little fellow caught fire with 9 total bidders, 21 total bids, and sold for $1,276.13.

The lucky winning bidder did indeed hit the sweep-stakes with this petite treat.  This doll, made entirely from felt, is 15 cm tall and was designed to hang from the rear view mirror of a car. His unjointed body and traditional top hat are made from black felt and his charming flesh colored face comes to life with black button eyes and simple hand-painted features. He carries his own to-scale ladder and hand-brush.  This sweep appeared in the line from 1936 through 1943.

Chimney sweeps have a long and interesting history, especially in Europe. It is considered quite auspicious if a bride sees one on her wedding day. And friends often exchange chimney sweep toys and tokens as good luck charms, especially during the winter holidays. Another example of this pre-war Steiff chimney sweep sold for 474 British pounds at an auction at Christies in London in 2010. This roughly translate into about $750 in today's dollars.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these three very rare Steiff finds has helped to sharpen your treasure hunting skills!

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