Monday, December 31, 2018

On The Up and Up With This Darling Steiff Strupp

Just try and outfox this Steiff question. Name one of Steiff's most prolific dog breeds. For sure, the company's beloved Dachshunds, Bulldogs, and Boxers come to mind. Also less top of mind to some, but certainly ranking, would be the company's Fox Terriers. Fox Terriers have been around almost as long as the Steiff catalog, which debuted in 1892. Let's take a look at a most unusual pre-war example and see what makes him so interesting from the design and product development perspectives.

Pull up a seat and check out this sitting Strupp dog. He is 17 cm tall, made from white mohair, and is head jointed. He has a few black hand airbrushed spots on his body and back. Strupp has black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws. His earnest face comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and prominent, jet-black mohair ears. Sitting Strupp was produced in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1928 through 1932 overall. It is interesting to note that this model of Strupp was only produced sitting; Steiff often produced their dogs and cats from his era in a number of body positions.

Steiff also manufactured a number of Fox Terriers named Strupp in the 1928 through 1934 time frame. However, they looked really different than the sitting Strupp under discussion here. The standing Strupps of the period had black mohair patches on their bodies, a black ear and a white ear, and tawny airbrushing on their faces. The company also made a grey and white sitting tail turns head Fox Terrier named Strupp, but he really presents much more like the company's traditional Fox Terrier design with a prominent, very long mohair muzzle. You can see this grey and white Strupp pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. So it is Steiffgal's best guess that Strupp might have been a popular name for Fox Terriers at the time, and that is why Steiff called all these different Fox Terrier designs "Strupp."

Now let's paws and consider this Strupp's place on the product development timeline. The first Fox Terrier appeared in the Steiff line in 1899. It was on wheels and made from felt. Since then, Steiff has produced close to 40 different Fox Terrier models pre-WWll and over 20 designs from the late 1940’s onward. As part of the company's strategy to reflect the culture of the "roaring 20s," Steiff updated or launched many new pets that featured distinctly childlike, playful, and innocent personalities. They also started giving their dogs and cats sweet, endearing names - like Molly, Bully, Fluffy, and Foxy; previous to that, most were simply noted as their biological breed. Fox Terriers were a big part of this strategy, with other models including "Ajax," Spotty," and "Foxy." A lovely, rare pre-war wool plush lying Fox Terrier is pictured above; it is from our dear friend and fellow Steiff enthusiast Daniel Agnew. 

And just what makes a Fox Terrier, well, a Fox Terrier? As his name suggests, this dog was bred to assist in fox hunting. Besides breed size and appearance standards, they have to be able to perform three key hunting tasks. First, they have to have the endurance to keep up with foxhounds, who lead the hunt. Second, they have to be small enough follow foxes down into their holes during the chase. And third, they have to be feisty when they do indeed encounter a cornered fox.

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed this discussion on Steiff's very rare Strupp pup!

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

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Going Ape Over Steiff's Unusual 20th Century Chimps

It's no secret that Steiffgal is completely bananas over Steiff's delightful and ever-happy Jocko the chimp. This marvelous monkey pattern has been in Steiff's catalog since 1909, and was given his “official” Steiff name, Jocko, in 1929. Over the years since his introduction, Jocko has been produced in sizes ranging from 10 cm to a whopping 150 cm, as well as a pull toy on wheels, a somersaulting chimp, a stringed marionette, a hand puppet and even a child’s handbag, among other treasured items.

Because the Jocko design has been around for more than a century, and its pattern is somewhat complex, it is not unusual to see slight variations on it over time. This may mean finding one in a color that is a little different from the standard brown or white versions, one is a fabric that is not traditional mohair, one that may have a distinctive expression or detailing, or even one in an unexpected size. Here are four of Steiffgal's favorite smaller first and second quarter 20th century Jockos; each one is special in his own way. All are 25 cm and fully jointed unless noted otherwise. Which of these fab four is your favorite?

1. Mystery Jocko
This first Jocko stands out aesthetically in several ways. First, Steiffgal has never seen his particular woolen fabric on any other Steiff item. It is very short, extremely dense, somewhat prickly, and an intense, lush brown - like dark chocolate or roasted coffee beans. Also unusual is his assembly; he has a slightly-to-the-left seam up his back shaped like the letter "J." Finally, his scale is chunky and his body is rather "V" shaped; broad shoulders tapering down to smallish hips. Traditional Jockos have more "H" shaped trunks from top to bottom. This peculiar primate retains his long trailing "f" Steiff button, very roughly dating him in the c. 1909 to 1936 time frame.

2. Work of Art Jocko
What makes this Jocko so eye catching is his amazing head detailing and coloration. His face is detailed with green and black glass pupil eyes set in eye pockets and a fuzzy white mohair chin. Jocko's face and ears truly come to life with delightful grey, pink, and black paint and airbrushing. He actually looks alive, and that he is making eye contact with you in real life! Work of Art Jocko has a distinctly innocent, childlike look to him that is rather precious and endearing. Prewar, Steiff made white Jockos in six sizes ranging from 10 to 25 cm from 1925 through 1943. 
Given his short trailing "f" button, Work of Art Jocko was most likely born in the late 1930s.

3. Oh Baby Jocko
This childlike chimp makes this exclusive list for his interesting ID - although his absolutely irresistible childlike expression is also a big plus! When Steiff resumed its toymaking business after the conclusion of WWII, most of its early production focused on pre-war best sellers. Of course, Jocko made this cut easily! Oh Baby Jocko has a very rare blank ear button as his ID, as well as a canvas "made in the US Zone" tag sewn into his leg seam. The company's early postwar blank buttons are quite rare and add tremendous collector and historical interest to any mid-century Steiff treasure. As suspected, Baby Jocko's IDs dates his departure from the Steiff factory around 1950, give or take a year or two. 

4. Ginger Prince Jocko
Unlike the other special Jockos noted above, this future king of the jungle Jocko measures 15 cm tall. He has a short trailing "f" button, most likely dating him to the late 1930s. You can't help but notice his AMAZING orange mohair. His fabric is backed in a light orange color, while the mohair strands are a lovely, deep orange color. He has faded a touch, but it is clear that he was "born" a glorious and unique (at least to Jockos) color. It is possible that Ginger Prince Jocko is distantly "related" to another preferred primate, Steiff's Mimocculo Orangutan, as they are both made from brilliant orange mohair. However, given that Steiff produced their smaller, non-eye moving Mimocculos only through 1933, that Mimocculo had a more elaborate facial construction, and that Ginger Prince Jocko most likely dates from the late 1930s... the two are more likely second or third cousins than brothers in this case!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on interesting 20th century Steiff Jockos has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Jumping For Joy Over This Early Steiff Rabbit With A Secret

Most collectors are all ears to learn more about a new Steiff find. So this one should get your nose twitching for sure! Check out this recent find from the recent London International Antique Doll, Teddy Bear, and Toy Fair. He's one hoppy handful indeed!

There's not a hare out of place with this sweet baby bunny. He measures 8 cm tall by 15 cm long. He is sitting, unjointed, and made from a soft white plush material called lamb's wool plush. This material has a short but "lumpy-bumpy" surface to it, like a real lamb. His ears are lined in pink velvet. His face comes to life with red felt backed black button eyes and a simple pink hand embroidered nose and mouth. He retains a few of his original clear mono filament whiskers. His red ribbon is perfect for him but not original; his original accessories included a light blue ribbon and a little bell. Rabbit retains his original long trailing 'f" button as his Steiff ID. He was produced in 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1901-1924 overall.

Does this little guy have a familiar ring to him? Yes, for two reasons... one obvious, and one not so much.

The first is that his pattern is a legacy and very early one for Steiff. It was produced from the late 1800's onward in felt, velvet, and this lamb's wool plush. Like many of the company's initial designs, it is somewhat primitive (in the best way possible) with simple lines and a basic form. 

The second is that this rabbit is actually also a rattle. He has a noisemaker placed within his torso; this makes a distinctly "tinkle-tinkle" sound when he is shaken about. Of course, this is music to Steiffgal's ears! Steiff sometimes produced the smallest, or almost smallest, versions of popular items from the first quarter of the 20th century as rattles. Steiffgal has handled rattle bears, squirrels, dogs, cats, and now this rabbit - all discovered by serendipity! As far as Steiffgal knows, there is no reference book that lists what Steiff animals were made as rattles. So always gently shake a small, early Steiff find - you just might find it holds a playful secret!  The picture on the left is from Pfeiffer's Sortiment 1892-1943 and shows what this fun bun looked like when he left the factory in Germany a century or so ago. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early rattle rabbit has you jumping for joy.

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

Sunday, December 2, 2018

It's Hard Not To Gloat Over This Marvelous Steiff Goat!

This next Steiff find is one barn burner indeed! Check out this sweet farmyard friend that Steiffgal recently added to her Steiff herd. His adorable presentation and personality can't help but get your goat!

Here we have Steiff's late 1920s-era Ziege or goat. He is standing, unjointed, and made from tan mohair. He has brown airbrushed spots all over his body and back. His back legs are particularly shapely, with well defined bends in his "knees." He has a pert tail and large, almost triangular shaped ears. His face comes to life with green-teal and black glass slit pupil eyes (the same ones used on Steiff's felines of the same production era), black hand embroidered nostrils and mouth, and a touch of red highlighting on his snout. He has a non-working side squeaker in his belly.  This great goat was made in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1928-1932; this is the smallest, or 17 cm version. 

Now let's bleat about Steiff's wonderful legacy of producing goats. They have appeared in the Steiff catalog in one form or another almost continuously since the very late 1800's. Like most of Steiff's output, the earliest were made from felt or early plush materials. The first mohair goat debuted in 1906, just three years after mohair became available on a commercial scale in 1903. These were fully jointed and produced in either white or white and black in four sizes ranging from 22 to 43 cm (measured vertically from head to toe.) Other models - including those on regular or eccentric wheels, pram and pull toys, tail moves head versions, and riding goats - appeared through the early 1940s. The company's most famous postwar model, Zicky, was introduced in 1952. He was made freestanding in 5 sizes ranging from 10 to 35 cm through 1972, as well as on eccentric wheels in 14 cm from 1953-1957 and lying down in 10 and 14 cm from 1954-1956.

Two prewar models that are certain to have collectors act the giddy goat are a handsome wool plush 28 cm model with prominent felt horns from 1938-1942 and a palm-sized woolen miniature goat which was made in 10 or 17 cm from 1935-1939. The woolen miniature version is pictured here on the left and the photo is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book. There's no mistaking his goat-like qualities, given his great eyes and perfectly proportioned ears. Isn't it amazing how many "goaty" details Steiff was able to squeeze into such a petite treat?

Taking a page from history, here on the left you can see how goats were presented in the 1929 Steiff catalog - including the one under discussion here today. It is interesting to note that they share real estate with the company's handsome tigers. This is because the catalog presents the range by series number, with tigers being 70 and goats being 74. Series numbers appear to have been assigned to the "type" or grouping an animal falls into, as well as where it may fall in alphabetical order. This playful picture is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Katalog 1920-1929. You can click on the photo to enlarge it for better viewing.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this beautiful pre-war Billy has helped you separate the sheep from the goats.

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

Sunday, November 25, 2018

My Lips Are Sealed Over This Rare Steiff Closed Mouth Teddy Baby Bear

Smile, and the world smiles with you. But sometimes with Steiff, a treasure does not have to be "bearing" a grin to make the world happy. Such is the case with this petite treat that Steiffgal recently added to her collection. Take a look at this happy handful and see what makes him so distinctive from the design and product development perspectives.

Oh baby! Steiff enthusiasts are certain to recognize this beloved pattern as that of Teddy baby. This version is about 17 cm tall, standing, fully jointed and made from chocolate brown mohair. His paw pads are made from tan felt. He has all the legacy Teddy baby features, including flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing; downward curving paws; a prominent muzzle; and a delightful, childlike appearance. However, unlike most prewar Teddy baby bears 15 cm tall and larger, this one has a closed mouth - making him quite the rare bear indeed!  

Let's give a shout out to this pensive pattern. Just for comparison, consider the following history. Steiff's beloved, open mouthed brown mohair Teddy babies were made prewar in 13 sizes ranging from 9 to 65 cm from 1930 - 1943 overall. Given the number of years and sizes produced, these appear with somewhat regularity on the secondary market. However, Steiff manufactured its brown mohair closed mouthed Teddy babies only in six sizes ranging from 15 to 45 cm from 1929 - 1931 overall. So simply based on the numbers, finding a Steiff prewar, closed mouth Teddy baby is sort of like hitting the lottery! Here on the left you can see three Steiff brown Teddy baby bears: the one on the left is the closed mouth version under discussion today, the one in the middle is an open mouthed version from the 1950s, and the one on the right is an open mouthed version from the 1930s.

It's always fun, and interesting, to think about why a pattern was produced for only a handful of years. Clearly, the closed mouth version was introduced with optimism, as shown in this leaflet from October, 1929. The picture is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Katalog 1920-1929. Although there is nothing exactly documented (at least that Steiffgal can find) about why the closed mouth pattern was discontinued so quickly, here are three possible reasons why.

The first, from the business/financial perspective, is that the open mouth version simply sold much better than the closed mouth version. Although the two are similar, the open mouth version appears sweeter and kinder than the closed mouth, more "pouty" version. This may have called to consumers' preferences, and pocketbooks, and the company simply "fished where the fish are."

The second, from the product development perspective, is that the open mouthed version might have better reflected the company's design priorities than did the closed mouth version. The general Teddy baby pattern was invented due to a late 1920's directive of Richard Steiff. He asked that the company develop products with "smiling faces that come alive." It is pretty clear that the open mouthed version is more "smile-ly" than the closed mouth version.  

The third is a bit more esoteric. From the historical and public relations perspectives, it is possible that the open mouth version might have projected a kinder, more welcoming face for the company than did the more solemn, closed mouth version. This is important when you consider what was happening in Germany and the world at the time that the pattern launched. Germany entered a period of economic depression and widespread unemployment in 1929 while growing anti-German sentiment were starting to cripple Steiff's export markets. As such, the happy-go-lucky open mouthed Teddy baby was the perfect, joyful fit as the company's brand ambassador at a most challenging time.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on closed mouth Teddy baby bears has opened up new ways of thinking for you about this delightful legacy pattern. 

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Hammering Out A Few Steiff Highlights From Special Auction Services' November, 2018 Sales Event!

Is it possible for most Steiff collectors to catalog their interest in the brand? Probably not... but thankfully there are publications that can at least capture some of our Steiff wishes and dreams! Steiffgal just got her hands on one fine example of this - the catalog from the upcoming Special Auction Services (SAS) sale featuring Teddy bears and soft toys. This event, to be held on Tuesday November 27th in London, features almost 600 lots of delightful modern to antique temptations. There is truly something for every Steiff and soft plush enthusiast at this important auction. Here are three Steiff lots that caught Steiffgal's eye - and why!

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. This pretty much sums up this first highlight pick, and NO, it has nothing to do with a wedding. Here we have lot #260, which is cataloged as, "A Steiff limited edition Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit 100 Years Anniversary Edition, 2922 for the year 2002, in original box with tag certificate." This modern day Peter Rabbit is estimated at 50 - 80 GBP, which equals about $62 - 104.
What's not to love about this happy hopper? Peter Rabbit is a legacy pattern for Steiff, and was one of the company's earliest licensed characters from literature, culture, or the arts. (For more about that, please click here.) This modern edition incorporates the best of the old - blue jacket and slippers - and the new - a felt carrot and a distinctly impish presentation - elements associated with this beloved fictional character. And, for friends outside of London, did you know that Peter is also the "Money Bunny?" He and other Beatrix Potter pals are featured on a series of 50 pence coins created in 2016 and 2017 for the United Kingdom. Steiffgal had the pleasure of discovering one of these coins in a handful of change she received for a transaction made during a recent trip to London.

Tag, you're it with this second selection. Here we have lot #436, an adorable Steiff Jackie bear in the smallest size made. She is cataloged as, "A rare Steiff Jackie Jubilee Teddy Bear 1953, With beige mohair, brown and black glass eyes, brown stitched nose, mouth and claws, cream stitched highlight to nose, swivel head, jointed limbs with felt pads, inoperative squeaker, remains of US Zone tag in arm seam, original pink ribbon and large chest tag with Eulan shop stamp on reverse —6¾in. (17cm.) high (thinning spot to forehead) - Jackie was made in 1953 to celebrate 50 years of the Teddy Bear, stock number 5317 - 22,862 pieces were made in this size." This Steiff Jackie bear is estimated at 300 - 400 GBP, which equals about $383 - 511.

Collectors are universally tickled pink over this legacy Steiff pattern, with fine examples sometimes realizing big four figures at auction.  A 35 cm version sold for €6,400 at the 2018 Steiff Sommer festival auction presented by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH. What is particularly appealing about the one on offer at SAS is its impressive and large chest tag. Steiffgal has owned and handled a number of Jackie bears over time, but none retained this key form of identification. There is no Steiff collector on the planet who would say "no" to a Jackie retaining this impressive, and seemingly fleeting, ID. And of course, you can't but help notice this particular Jackie's endearing and pouty facial expression that exudes "take me home!" Steiffgals' current Jackie family is pictured here on the left; for more about Steiff's Jackie bears, please click here. 

And we're really going to the dogs with this third and final auction favorite. Here we have lot #431, a prewar Steiff Sealyham pup made from artificial silk plush. She is cataloged as, "A fine Steiff Sealyham late 1930s-1940s, with light golden artificial silk plush, orange and black glass eyes, black stitched nose and mouth, white mohair muzzle, pink airbrushing to claws, around nose and eyes, swivel head, standing, red leather collar, STEIFF button with yellow cloth tag No.1614,0 and card tag on collar —8in. (20.5cm.) long." This Steiff Sealyham is estimated at 200 - 300 GBP, which equals about $255 - 383.

Artificial silk plush holds a soft spot in Steiffgal's heart. This material, used a few years before and after WWII, was a substitute for higher end, natural fabrics including wool plush, felt, alpaca, and mohair when these materials were not available or limited for toy making due to rationing or wartime priorities. Sometimes artificial silk plush was used for every element of the toy's construction. Other times, this wartime fabric was used on the vast majority of the body, with the small balance constructed out of mohair or felt highlights as is in the case of this dog. For the most part, artificial silk plush looks shiny, silky, and inviting for a very short time.  It thins and looses its gloss and softness quickly even with light playwear. So finding a piece such as this canine - in lovely condition, with all IDs - happens once in a blue moon. And its form, that of a Sealyham, only adds to its appeal. Steiff has done a masterful job on the dog's muzzle, integrating just a touch of longer and slightly contrasting white mohair into the design. This attention to detail really brings the piece to life. A collection of art silk items is shown here above on the left; for more information on this interesting material please click here. 

Steiffgal hopes that three's a charm when it comes to this SAS auction highlight tour! The sale will be held at SAS's Auction Room One, located 81 Greenham Business Park, Newbury, RG19 6HW on November 27th, 2018 starting at 10am. For more information, please see the SAS website, located at

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

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Look Who Reappeared On Little Cats Feet?

Reunited, and it feels so good! Childhood and Steiff often go hand in hand, so it is always a sweet treat to come across a old button-in-ear friend from long ago. This just happened to a new friend from across the pond, who asks about her blue-eyed beauty. Vicki from the UK writes...

"Hi, I recently found my childhood toy in my dad's under stair cupboard. She is what appears to me to be a leopard I have attached a photo of front and back. She's a hand puppet with a stuffed head with a solid finger hole in her head (difficult to describe) the button is in her ear with some yellow fabric still present although ragged. She has blue glassy eyes and whiskers. I would like to know if you can tell me the age as I can't find anything similar when I search online just cats but she's not tabby. Thanks for your help. I'm from Hertfordshire. She has no claw stitches but her nose is sewn with pink thread. Inside the fabric is very rough but I'm guessing it's mohair (I wasn't sure if real fur?) I've had her since I was little and I'm 38."

Well, isn't this the cat's meow? What we have here is not actually a leopard but a kitty, although the two probably share alot of the same feline DNA in real life. Steiff has named her "Hand Minka Cat." This oversized puppet measures about 30 cm tall and is made from white and patterned woven fur. Her head is stuffed with soft foam, which has a tendency to break down over time. Her face comes alive with a pronounced white muzzle, oversized blue and black pupil eyes, a pink nose, and dark whiskers. She left the factory wearing a red ribbon. Minka Cat appeared in the line in this size and color combination only from 1978 to 1984. Given Vicki was born in 1980, her ownership timeline corresponds perfectly to the production era of this puppet.

Puppets are legacy novelties for Steiff, and a cat puppet has been in the line since about 1912. As for Vicki's particular cat puppet, it is part of a series of larger, all woven fur puppets from 1978. These included a bear, rabbit, dog, owl, donkey, penguin, and this cat. All were 30 cm in size and had charming, childlike presentations to them. They were more soft and silly than serious - and clearly designed for play. 

The 1970's were a challenging time at Steiff in terms of production and costs, as the competition with products from Japan really disrupted the toy marketplace. The year after Minka debuted, in 1979, Steiff launched its "Hand Cat" puppet, which was 27 cm in size and had a blue trevira velvet body. Only its head and paws were made from patterned plush. His only "detail" was  small white felt collar. All of these updates to the pattern were probably done for the purpose of making a smaller, cheaper, more efficient-to-produce cat puppet for the line. Hand Cat appeared though 1983. You can see this Hand Cat puppet here on the left; the picture is from Pfeiffer's 1947-2003 Sortiment

Like a cat with nine lives, it is interesting to note that in 1984, Steiff re-engineered its trevira bodied Hand Cat puppet - again.  It now featured an even simpler face, which saved on labor costs, and was made in a much more basic grey plush fabric, which saved on material costs. This model appeared in the line from 1984 through 1992 overall. You can see this cat - and other soft plush puppets on offer at the time - pictured here on the left; the photo is from Steiff's "Steiff Collection 1992" customer catalog. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Vicki's cat puppet has been a happy handful for you.

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

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Rolling Out The Red Carpet For This Amazing Steiff Ball Rabbit

It's easy to have a ball with Steiff! Especially when it comes to the company's tiny and wonderful "baby balltier" or ball animals designed for babies. Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of adding one of these bitty bunnies to her Steiff hug. Check out what makes these unusual novelties so interesting from the historical and product development perspectives.

Rounding things out, this adorable, 9 cm tall bunny is head jointed and made from tan colored mohair. His body is a simple, round form about the size of an apricot. His head is about the size of a ping-pong ball and is detailed with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a simple, red hand embroidered nose and mouth. His ears are made from felt. Rabbit's two front limbs and little tail are all made from tan colored woolen pom-poms. His clear monofilament whiskers have unfortunately been lost to time. This ball rabbit pattern was made from 1934 through 1943. This excellent example has a long trailing "F" button, dating him to the earlier part of this time frame.

Steiff also produced a larger 15 cm version of this bouncing bundle of joy from 1932 through 1942. This bigger bunny featured dimensional mohair ears and limbs as well as a rubberized, pastel colored ribbon band so he could be used as a "toss and catch" toy or perhaps even as a pram toy. This ribbon feature is so ephemeral that Steiffgal has never actually seen one in person. The 15 cm version of this novelty is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's Steiff 1892-1943 Sortiment.

Steiff rolled out a series of teeny-tiny ball animals starting in the early 1930s. This would prove to be a challenging decade for the company. Germany entered a period of economic depression and widespread unemployment in 1929. At the same time, growing overseas sentiment began negatively impacting Steiff's export markets. As a result, Steiff's product development strategy included focusing on creating a range of lower-tier (i.e. affordable and efficient to produce) products for their domestic market to keep their toymaking business viable. It is interesting to note that the company's inexpensive, palm sized woolen miniature animals (including numerous rabbits in various body positions) also debuted around this same time. 

Coming full circle, Steiff produced about eight types of ball style animals overall. These were all based on simplified patterns of the company's most popular designs of the time. In addition to the rabbits discussed above, the collection also included Teddy bears, elephants, ducks, cats, lions, a Chin-Chin dog, and a Molly the Puppy. What's amazing about these items is that any survived at all given they were made to fit in the palm of a child's hand and designed as toys for youngsters! Here on the left you can see the page from the 1938 Steiff catalog featuring an assortment of these well-rounded items. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these charming Steiff baby toys has put you in a playful mood indeed.

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

Can't Miss Steiff and Teddy Bear Fun In Billund, Denmark!

What could be more exciting and interesting than an ENTIRE museum dedicated to Teddy bears? How about one located in a gorgeous and historical villa in Denmark? Just the thought of such a destination gets most cub collectors scrambling to find their passports! Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of speaking to Laura Beatrice Ricks, who has the dream job of being the General Manager of the Teddy Bear Art Museum in Billund, Denmark. This museum (pictured above) opened in May of 2018 and is already capturing the eyes - and the hearts - of Teddy bear enthusiasts worldwide. Come learn what she had to say about this destination that needs to be on the to-do list of every bear fan. 

Steiffgal: Thank you for taking the time to speak with the MySteiffLife readers today. Could you please tell us why you decided to create a museum based on Teddy bears and art.

Laura Beatrice Ricks: For us, it was important to show that a Teddy bear is not just a toy, but a work of art. Our name "Teddy Bear Art Museum" is to emphasize this. Just as a blank canvas can become a painter’s masterpiece so too can a length of mohair and some sewing thread become a one of a kind Teddy bear. Every one of the Museum’s 1,000 exhibits has a special expression and look, backing up the idea of art.

Steiffgal: Tell us the relationship between the museum and Lego.

LBR: Teddy Bear Art Museum is owned by Gunhild Kirk Johansen and her husband, Mogens. Gunhild was a child in the house where the Museum is now situated, built in 1959. Gunhild’s grandfather, Ole Kirk Christiansen, founded LEGO. Her father, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, made LEGO the success it is today. Gunhild’s younger brother, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, continued the good work and is Chairman of the Board at LEGO. The small town of Billund would be nothing without this entrepreneurial and hard-working family who have made it the Capital of Children and a wonderful place to visit, particularly with children. Although this house was previously a private home, it is very spacious as in the early days of LEGO Billund did not have any hotels which meant that guests were able to stay the night in the family villa.

Steiffgal: Tell us about your typical visitors.

LBR: The typical visitor is a woman from 50 years old and up. Luckily, we also have many children with their parents or grandchildren. Billund has a large international airport (Denmark’s 2nd biggest airport after Copenhagen – and again, thanks to the LEGO family who founded the airport). This means we have many visitors from abroad.

Steiffgal: Many museums now include significant activities and attractions specifically for children. Is this true at your museum, and if so, what are you doing for children?

LBR: We consider children to be a very important part of a museum. If children do not visit museums then they may not come as adults either. Our child-focused programing and activities include:

1. A number of large, cuddly Teddy bears for children to play with dotted around the Museum.

2. Several different versions of treasure hunts for children, and the children do not need to be able to read to enjoy these adventures. 

3. A wall display with a magnetic, dress-up Muffy VanderBear. 

4. A table in our Teddy Bear CafĂ© with drawing materials and bear books, Paddington, as well as Muffy bears they can dress. 

5. During school holidays, we arrange Teddy bear-related courses for children. These are designed for children aged 7 and up and include painting stones with Teddy bears, sewing felt Teddy bears, and making brooches of silk clay, among others. 

6. We have 30 minute “pop in“ workshops where a child visiting the Museum can make a small project. 

7. We have had one “Night at the Teddy Bear Museum” event when 12 children spent the night in the VanderBear exhibition. We made Teddy bear shaped pizzas and craft projects and then slept with 1,000 Teddy bears. The children all brought their own Teddy bears to the event. It was a huge success. 

Steiffgal: Where do most of the bears on display come from? Were they part of the owner’s original collection, or were they purchased specifically for the museum, or something else?

LBR: We have two main permanent collection from approximately 14 countries: Johnny and Gitte Pinholt Thorsen’s eclectic collection of one of a kind Teddy bears and the Museum’s owner, Gunhild Kirk Johansen’s collection of the VanderBear family and one of a kind Teddy bears. The collections predate the Museum as private collections.

Steiffgal: How is it decided what specific bears will be on exhibit in the museum?

LBR: Gitte Thorsen, the Museum’s Design Master and Curator, selects the Teddy bears. We have bears produced by commercial makers, bears made by artists, and of course, the original and historic Alfonzo from Steiff - the Prince of our museum!

Steiffgal: How often do you create special exhibits, and how often do you update your exhibits?  

LBR: The first special exhibition is on display from our opening in May until December 2018. Our guest exhibition with Paddington is also on display from May-December 2018. We are closed in January and re-open in February, 2019 with a new exhibition on Steiff.

Steiffgal: Tell us more about this upcoming special exhibition on Steiff bears. Will you have a party to launch this new display? 

LBR: It is an exclusive Steiff exhibition with items from Steiff’s archives in Giengen, Germany and includes bears and animals. The Museum’s oldest bear is Peachy, a Steiff bear from 1905-1907. He is pictured here on the left. Steiff is kindly lending the Museum articles from their collection. And yes, the Museum will hold a party to open the new exhibition!

Steiffgal: If an artist has a bear that they would like the museum to show or have, or if a collector has a very unusual bear they would like the museum to show or have, does the museum take these sorts of offers?  

LBR: We have received a number of donations of special Teddy bears. We regularly purchase artist bears. We also purchased Steiff’s Alfonzo from Teddy Bears of Witney after Ian Pout contacted us about this. He was keen to provide Alfonzo with a good new home where he would be on display rather than disappearing in a private collection. As the mother of Alfonzo’s original owner, Princess Xenia, was Princess Maria of Greece and Denmark, the world-famous Teddy bear already had a Danish connection. She is pictured here on the left.

Steiffgal: And finally, if collectors are not able to make the journey to your museum, but want to visit or follow it virtually, how can they do that?

LBR: We have a virtual link around the Museum kindly filmed by our friend and associate Sebastian Marqvardt. Please click on this link to view this tour.
  You can also learn more on our website Homepage, Facebook and Instagram pages, and our Newsletter.

Steiffgal: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing all of this exciting news and information about the museum. Please keep us posted on the February, 2019 Steiff exhibit - we'd love to see photos from it and learn about some of the featured Steiff highlights!

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

Sunday, October 21, 2018

All Treats and No Tricks With These Tiny Orange Steiff Treasures

When you were a kid, what was your favorite Halloween score? For Steiffgal, it was Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. How times have changed! Today, a REAL hair-raising treat would be a palm sized Steiff goodie in a Halloween pail, wouldn't you agree? So, to celebrate this spooky season in a more grownup fashion, here are a few orange hued "snack sized" treats to satisfy your Steiff sweet tooth. (Please click on any photo to enlarge it for viewing and study.) 

It's hard to outfox this teeny tiny Steiff woolen miniature Pitty fox. He is sitting, measures 5 cm, and is made from orange and white woolen threads. His face comes to life with an itty-bitty black bead nose and eyes and felt ears. Steiff's woolen miniatures are often head jointed, but Steiffgal is not sure if this is the case here as he remains in his original cardboard and plastic packaging. Steiff created a series of ten Pitty woolen miniature animals in the 1977 through 1981 time frame; all were distributed in similar bubble style packaging. It is Steiffgal's best guess is that this is the case so they could be merchandised and sold off of a standard counter rack.

Steiffgal's also nuts over this woolen miniature squirrel. She is also from the "Pitty" line. She is begging, measures 5 cm, and is made from orange woolen threads. She has a peach colored base and hands, orange felt ears, and a black button nose and eyes. Like Pitty fox, it is not clear if she is head jointed or not. On the back of her cardboard packaging, she has a white paper price tag from Saks Fifth Avenue. It notes that she costs $5. Adjusted for inflation, $5.00 in 1980 is equal to $16.07 in 2018. Pitty squirrel certainly packs alot of personality into a very small presentation!

This next happy handful is a late 1920s-era Steiff Charly King Charles Spaniel dog. He has distinctive orange mohair highlights on his ears, backside, and tail. Most of Steiff's Charly dogs were produced with brown mohair highlights, so this one is a little more unusual. Charly is sitting and head jointed. He has extremely long fuzzy ears; large, childlike brown and black-pupil eyes; a very detailed facial seam structure; and a prominent tail. Steiff made this Charly pattern both sitting (10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, and 35 cm) and standing (7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 22, 25, and 36 cm) through 1939.

Charly likes to troop the colors with this similarly hued Bully the Bulldog. This white and orange mohair pup is 10 cm, sitting, head jointed, and made from orange and white mohair. Orange and white Bully dogs are a little rarer than black and white Bully dogs as they were in the line for fewer years. Bully's face and muzzle area are tan velvet. He has very large brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black, hand-embroidered nose. Most remarkably, Bully retains his original and traditional horsehair collar. This is made from a long, thin strip of material which is doubled over width-wise; the horsehair fibers are sewn in between the faces of the material. The horsehair collar was a typical pre-war accessory and indicated a "regal" nature of the item wearing it. Bully was made in velvet and mohair, as well as sitting and standing, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 cm in the 1927 through 1937 time frame overall. 

And this discussion would be unbearable without a cub representative in the mix. Here we have a 6 cm Teddy Baby Replica 1930. He is technically cataloged as "maize" in color to reflect his corn colored hue. This tiny Ted is fully jointed and has all the traditional Teddy Baby characteristics - including downturned wrists, flat feet made for standing, and a charming, youthful face - albeit on a super small scale. Maize Teddy Baby appeared in the line from 1998 through 2001.

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion of tiny orange treasures all treats and no tricks. 

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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Oh, Shoot!

"Welcome to our world of toys!" When you think of those words, what comes to mind? F.A.O. Schwarz, of course! And the good news is that all Steiff, doll, and toy collectors will soon have the opportunity to hear that delightful tune again, as the store reopens for business on November 16th, 2018 in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It's the update we've all be waiting for, after tearfully saying goodbye to this world-class institution for what we all thought was forever in 2015. Do whatever you have to do... walk, take a car, bus, train, plane, or the subway to visit the new store when it debuts soon. Steiffgal is certain that you will experience "The Return to Wonder" the store promises! (The photo of a mini "pop up" F.A.O. Schwarz store shown above is from

As part of this grand opening celebration, Steiffgal (and her collection) had the pleasure of contributing to a short film that will be shown as part of the store's debut in a few weeks. The movie focuses on the remarkable legacy of the F.A.O. Schwarz company and the instrumental role the Schwarz family had in the world economy and business community from the mid-1800s onward. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at how a very long day of filming here at Steiffgal's house will help bring parts of that story to life.

After a week of frenetic planning, the crew from the Ewers Brothers film production company arrived on location around 9am. The team included a director, a producer, an assistant producer, a cinematographer, and an assistant cinematographer. All were fantastic, extremely professional, respectful of the collection and house, and just plain fun to be around. The team brought an enormous amount of movie-making items in hard cases, tubes, suitcases, rolls, and just about any packing case you can imagine. As the parking and traffic was crazy in Steiffgal's neighborhood at this time, load-in was a little complicated logistically, but everyone was in good humor and this task was accomplished within 30 minutes or so. Given the amount of materials they brought, these items took over much of Steiffgal's first floor, including the kitchen! 

Next, the crew toured the house to find the best place to "set up camp" for the interview sessions. They needed an area with an interesting background, the right light, and enough space to arrange what seemed like an infinite amount of technologies, a huge camera, multiple screens, and other filming apparatus. It was decided that this would take place in Steiffgal's living room, which is also the largest room in the house. Within an hour, this usually quiet space (which just that morning was where Steiffgal and family enjoyed a low-keyed breakfast and coffee) was transformed into what looked like an international broadcasting booth!

An important part of putting together a film like this is the inclusion of old photos, letters, catalogs, and other ephemeral things to round out the story and to ground it in history. Steiffgal, with the help of the Schwarz family and some wonderful and generous toy-colleagues, pulled together a table full of these items expressly for this purpose. The film team brought along an electronic scanner. The assistant producer studied these historical documents and scanned the ones that would be relevant and helpful to the project. It took her practically the entire day to complete this herculean task.

The main interview set took about two hours to arrange and finalize. This time was spent adjusting light levels, angles, volumes, noise controls, and other factors that all come together to make the ideal venue. Steiffgal was surprised when simple black metal chairs from her porch were selected as the interview seats, not the couch as she anticipated. All in all, the set from the interviewee's perspective consisted of two chairs facing each other, about two feet apart. The camera was behind one of the chairs. The person being interviewed faced the camera; the interviewer sat in the other chair and never appeared on camera. There were various lights, screens, and other apparatus all within that very small space. The producer held a device about the size of a tablet that allowed her to view what the camera saw and make adjustments as needed.

Overall, the crew interviewed three people during the day - two members of the F.A.O. Schwarz family and Steiffgal. Each interview took about an hour and was casual and very conversational. The interviewer had carefully prepared a slate of general questions for everyone, as well as specific questions per person. For example, family members were asked about their memories of the store and their relatives, what it was like to "grow up Schwarz," and the role of toys and play in their lives. Steiffgal was asked what the store means to collectors, why F.A.O. Schwarz editions are coveted even today, the role of the catalog, and all about Steiff's life-sized animals that are practically synonymous with the store. Because of street sounds and sirens, filming was occasionally put on hold until these noises passed. But for the most part, the hour long interview just flew by, and the interviewer did a masterful job at developing rapport and making his interviewees feel as comfortable - and sound as articulate - as possible! And, in case you were wondering, Steiffgal did indeed hold a special and meaningful Steiff animal in her arms during filming. So stay tuned about that!

Once the interviews were completed, the crew again rearranged the house for shooting "B" roll. These are shots or images that are used in the film between segments or as transitional visuals. It took at least another hour to set up the cameras and lights for this. The camera was positioned on a multi-wheeled dolly and could be fluidly and evenly moved to film panoramic images of the collection. The team was interested in capturing the size, scale, and variety of the studio pieces, as well as the beauty and range of Steiff animals that appeared on the shelves of F.A.O. Schwarz over the years. Steiffgal was delighted that Jocko chimps of all sizes and shapes, as well as a number of other collector's favorites, were prominently featured in the "B" roll shots. Here on the left you can see cinematographer Chris Ewers preparing a few familiar Steiff faces for filming.

The crew's final shooting location was the second floor of the house, including Steiffgal's study and her stairway landing, where a few cases of Steiff are on display. Many of the items from these areas have provenance to F.A.O Schwarz so it was important that these treasures were included in the filming. All of the movie making apparatus used for the "B" roll was brought into these small spaces and there was hardly any room to stand! But the crew did a masterful job in working around the limited footprint and truly brought the collection to life under their magic touch.

The full day of shooting wrapped up around 7pm. Everyone felt great about the quality and quantity of footage generated. The team quickly packed, bundled, and cased up all of their filmmaking tools and loaded up their vehicles. They also helped to reconfigure the house back to its original condition. Hugs and high fives were exchanged. Once the team left Steiffgal's home, there was no physical trace of the extraordinary things that had occurred in the space that day. But you can best believe that the wonderful memories of this once-in-a-lifetime experience will last forever!

Steiffgal's hopes that you enjoyed this sneak peak into some of the preparations going into the relaunch of the world's most favorite and beloved toy store in November, 2018. Steiffgal extends a huge thank you to the Ewers Brothers team for a job well done, and cannot recommend them highly enough for their professionalism, insight, humor, and just plain wonderfulness! Director Erik Ewers (here on the left, under the supervision of a Steiff Moorland sheep) and crew have recently completed a documentary on the Mayo Clinic, airing on PBS. You can read more about that by clicking here. For more information on F.A.O. Schwarz, please follow all the happenings and excitement at Once this movie has been completed and launched, Steiffgal will share the link and post a copy here on the blog.

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