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 www.cnbc.com.)

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 www.faoschwarz.com. 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!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Let The Good Times Roll With This Vintage Steiff Molly Dog On Wheels

Mark Twain once wrote, “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.” And who could disagree? No company can match Steiff's attention to detail, quality, and appeal when it comes to our favorite canines. Next to Teddy bears, dogs have always been Steiff's most beloved and popular editions.  

Steiff's pre-war dogs on wheels could easily be considered the best of all worlds. These endearing, softly proportioned pets are adorable on their own, as well as the perfect pals for turn of last century dolls. Their wheels give them a distinctly playful - and old fashioned - appearance. So Steiffgal was more than delighted to learn of a very large - perhaps lifesized - 1920s era Steiff Molly on the go! This particular Molly on wheels is scaled to be either a large pull toy, or a small riding animal for a toddler. 

This Steiff pretty puppy is the wheel-deal indeed. She is standing, unjointed, and 35 cm tall. She is made from very long tipped tan mohair which has faded overall to a vanilla color over time, but is still very lush and full. Her floppy ears are "folded over" as they have been since her launch in the mid-1920's. She has oversized brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. She rides upon four red wooden wheels. Molly on wheels was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1927-1943 overall. This example was made in the earliest part of that time frame, given that she retains her long trailing "f" button and traces of her red ear tag, as pictured here.  

Steiff's Molly the Puppy is a very important design for three key reason.

1.  First, she is one of the very few Steiff dogs that doesn’t have a “breed” associated with her. For example, Terry is the Steiff Airedale, Foxy is the Steiff Fox Terrier, and Snobby is the Steiff Poodle. This model is simply known as Molly the Puppy.

2.  Second, her 1925 introduction was so successful that she can be credited for opening the floodgates to a huge influx of Steiff dog designs. Between 1925 and 1938, close to 40 new canine species were noted in the Steiff catalogs after her debut. These included the now classic Bully Bulldog, Arco the German Shepherd, and Peky the Pekinese, as well as some lesser-known designs including Cheerio, the laughing dog, Putzi, a caricatured standing dog, and Lord the Great Dane.

3.  And third, she was a prime source of highly successful “theme and variation” product launches. Through the early 1940s, Molly appeared sitting and standing and in numerous color combinations, including red and white, green and white, and blue and white. She appeared as a puppet, purse, pincushion, music box, and Charleston animal, among other items. Smaller versions appeared standing on eccentric wheels, while larger ones, like the example under discussion today, appeared on centered wheels. Steiff used her basic appealing, endearing “young dog” pattern on other lesser known dogs of the 1920s and 1930s, including Trolly (a white, yellow, and brown St. Bernhard puppy), Flock (a blonde and white puppy), Zotty (a white puppy) and Fellow (a black and white puppy). A picture of Fellow and Molly are featured here on the left, the photo is from Theriaults. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar Molly the Puppy on wheels has been more fun than a joyride for you!

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

This Huge Steiff Chimp Is More Fun Than A Barrel Full Of Monkeys!

What's on your Steiff bucket list? For the longest time, Steiffgal dreamed of adopting a Studio Jocko chimp. She had seen a few in photographs and immediately fell in love with their scale, playful looks, and charming personalities. Whenever Steiffgal asked her what she wanted for a birthday, anniversary, or holiday gift, she would jokingly exclaim, "a Studio Jocko!" Well, be careful what you wish for... because wishes - especially Steiff wishes - can come true. Please meet Studio Jocko, Steiffgal's new beloved Steiff pal. Here he is pictured on the left, relaxing on the couch with a few relatives. 

It's easy to go bananas over this great ape. He stands 150 cm tall (5 feet) and is head and arm jointed. He is made of really long, chocolate brown mohair. His face, feet, ears, and hands are made from tan felt and are detailed with light airbrushing to give them additional dimension and depth. He has typical Jocko chimp detailing, like pert eyes set into eye pockets, a white mohair chin, and an open, smiling mouth - albeit on a huge scale. Jocko has an internal rod metal skeleton for stability, and he stands on two flat feet. He is solidly stuffed with excelsior, which must have taken several strong men weeks if not months to complete. According to the Sortiment book, this big boy was produced in this size only in 1960 and 1967. Here on the left is the Steiff Display Animal catalog page from 1967 featuring him. 

Now let's take a brief "guided tour" of Jocko.  

As you can see, he really is a very big dude indeed. Here he is pictured with Steiffgal. Just for reference, Steiffgal is 5'5". It is Steiffgal's best estimate that if indeed he were real and made from muscle and bone, his girth and proportions would put him between 300-400 pounds. He actually weighs about 25 pounds.  

His handsome, proportionally large face is simply irresistible - and always smiling! It measures 22 inches from his chin to the top of his head, and 20 inches ear to ear.

Here is a close up of his dimensional and very lifelike ear. You can see the smallest 4 inch Jocko resting on it so you get an idea of its scale. Big Jocko's ears measure 5.5 inches high each. 

And here is a close up of his hand. Again, the smallest Jocko helps to put his size in context. His hands measure about 8 inches long and 9 inches wide.  

Jocko has flat felt feet to help him stand (with a little help.) They measure 14 inches long and 8 inches wide. 

As you can see, Jocko is extremely photogenic. If you are in the Maryland area on September 28th and 29th, 2018, Jumbo Jocko and Steiffgal will be attending the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) Region 11 conference in Towson, MD. We will be manning a Steiff table in the salesroom with lots of Steiff temptations for doll and Steiff collectors alike. Jocko looks forward to meeting as many Steiff fans as possible at this great event, and is available for once-in-a-lifetime selfies. Click here for more information on this UFDC celebration.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on her Studio Jocko has been a larger than life experience for you.

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Playing the Name Game With This Adorable Vintage Steiff Bear


Looks can be deceiving! This sweet vintage Steiff bear looks sad or thoughtful, but he's actually just trying to tug at your heartstrings. At least that's what Steiffgal thinks! This petite prince joined Steiffgal's hug over the summer, and she couldn't be happier about it! Let's take a look at his history and design and see what makes him so interesting from the collector's perspective.

What we have here is a smaller scaled Steiff Dicky bear. He measures 23 cm standing and is fully jointed. His body is made from blonde mohair and his muzzle is made from white mohair. His dear face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. His mouth is somewhat asymmetrical, adding to his appeal and personality. Unlike the majority of Dicky bears, this particular example has plain tan colored felt paw pads and not stencilled velvet ones. 

Dicky was produced in blond, white, and brown in a wide range of sizes. All were five ways jointed and had the same distinctively shaped and constructed muzzle. His pattern was specifically designed to be as cost, labor, and material efficient as possible, given that he was launched during a period of economic depression and widespread unemployment in Germany. The blond and white versions were mohair and were made in 15, 29, 23, 25, 30, 32, 35, 43, 45, 50, 65, and 75 cm (measured standing) from 1930 to 1937 overall. A dark brown wool plush version was made in 25, 32, and 43 cm (measured standing) from 1935 thorough 1941. This particular Dickie has a long trailing "f" button and tiny traces of a red ear tag, dating him to the beginning of this production timeline.

One thing that has always been interesting to Steiffgal about this pattern is its name. Some of Steiff's bears and animals started having "endearing" names in the 1920's. Before that, most things were just cataloged as their species or breed. For example, Petsy the Baby Bear, Molly the Puppy, Bully the Bulldog, and and Charly the King Charles Spaniel all debuted during the "roaring '20s." A quick search of the most popular German boy names in 1930 reveals that "Richard" was the 50th most common of the year. So chances are, this bear was not named for popular cultural appeal. Steiffgal wonders if perchance he was named endearingly for Richard Steiff, the genius who invented the fully jointed Teddy bear as we know him today, for Steiff around 1903? Naming a model for a member of the Steiff family is not without precedence; it is thought that the company's adorable Susi cat, introduced in 1936, was also named for a Steiff family relative. Only Dickie knows for sure!

It's also a clothes call with Dicky's new wardrobe. As pictured above, Dicky arrived from overseas naked, and clearly had been someone's best friend for a number of years - given his somewhat "threadbear" presentation! Sometimes, if this is the case, it is a good idea to give a new vintage friend some protective clothing. As such, Steiffgal's sister jumped into action and handmade this sweet boy his trousers, red t-shirt, and grey sweater. Notice how the button on his cardigan matches the mushroom design on his pants! Isn't he stylin'? A shout-out to Steiff Sis for such a great job.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this pensive Dicky has been thought provoking for you.

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

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Your Jaw Will Drop When You See This Turn Of Last Century Steiff Tom Cat!

Mouth agape! That was exactly Steiffgal's reaction when this turn-of-last-century rarity finally made its way into her Steiff collection. Like every Steiff enthusiast, Steiffgal also has a wish list, and this terrific Tom had been on it forever - until now! Check out this cover boy (really - and more about that later!) and see what makes this fantastic feline so interesting from the historical and design perspectives.

They say orange is the new black, but sometimes being old is in vogue, too! Here on the left is Steiff's original Tom Cat in the smallest sized produced. He is standing, unjointed, and made from jet black velvet. Measured vertically, he's 8 cm from the top of his head to his toes and 10 cm from the top of his tush to his toes. His thin, almost straight tail measures 8 cm long and .5 cm wide - and even more astonishingly - it is stuffed with excelsior! How did they do that, given its scale and configuration? Tom Cat wears his original silken bow and bell. This pattern was produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1903 through 1919 in black velvet, and in 14 and 17 cm in white velvet from 1906 through 1908. This example retains his original blank button, dating his production to around 1905 or 1906.

Face it, you can't look away from Tom Cat's distinctive head design and construction. He comes to life with tiny, triangular shaped ears, black seed bead eyes backed in yellow felt, and an open, pink felt lined mouth. The lining is held in place with tiny pinkish-tan colored stitches - perhaps to resemble teeth? You can see where the seamstress tied the knot of pinkish-tan thread for these stitches on the cat's chin area. This is a tiny but interesting detail; it is not unusual to see an embroidery thread  knot on the face of an early Steiff bear or animal. Tom Cat also retains a number of his clear, monofilament whiskers. One could say he has a face only a (Steiff) mother could love! You can see all of these delicate details on the photo trio above. 

This Tom Cat is truly a headliner - from both aesthetic and well as historical angles. This petite treat was featured in an important photograph from the company's 1904/04 product line catalog. But what's so special about that? It's the same picture that debuted PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear! Timing is everything, eh? A snapshot of this catalog page is shown here on the left; you can spot the arched back Tom Cat a little to the right of center standing on top of a donkey on wheels. Given the scale of the items in the image, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the Tom Cat pictured is the 17 cm version. What you can't see on the photo is the cat's intricate mouth construction, but you can make out his bow and bell. This picture is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends reference book, published in 1989.

Now let's paws and look at the details noted on the photo. According to the hand written notes along the bottom of the page, these original black velvet Tom Cats were 14.40 Deutchmark per twelve. That is VERY ROUGHLY equivalent to $0.30 each in 1903.  This translates to approximately $8.59 in today's US dollars, given inflation and other financial and economic factors. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of this rare Tom Cat has left you on your toes for your next great find!

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

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Care to Rock and Roll With This Adorable Antique Steiff Tumbler?

You are sure to take a tumble over this week's featured Steiff rarity! Steiff is well known for producing novelty items based on some of its most popular designs, and this hare-raising piece is a perfect example of that. So steady yourself and check out this wonderful - and totally adorable - Steiff tumbling rabbit.

This bun is truly designed for fun! The rabbit is 12 cm tall and made from velvet. This measurement takes into account the vertical height from his head to his feet and does not include his ears. He is begging and unjointed. His body and presentation are quite simplified, but his form is unmistakably that of a rabbit. His face comes to life with black button eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. He is airbrushed with a few brown spots here and there. His bow and bell are original to him. Rabbit sits upon a naturally colored wooden hemisphere which is detailed with a decorative groove around its perimeter. The wooden base is really heavy and shows little wear. Rockin' rabbit retains its tiny long trailing "F" button in ear as his Steiff ID. This novelty was made in velvet in 12 and 17 cm from 1901-1917 overall.

Given its popularity, the number of items using this  basic "heavy bottomed" pattern multiplied like jackrabbits in the Steiff line starting in the late 19th century. It first appeared in felt as early as 1892 and was produced over time in white, spotted white (like this tumbler), grey, black, or brown in sizes ranging from 10 to 28 cm. It was made in a number of other materials, including velvet, short pile plush, wool plush, or mohair through the end of World War I. Some came with a basket on their backs (perhaps to resemble the Easter Rabbit?), and a few of the smallest velvet versions were produced as pincushions or rattles.

This very vertical design was also perfect to mount on the tops of wooden skittles. Steiff made rabbit skittles in both felt and velvet. Sets for the American market featured 10 pins while those for the European market had 9. These sets consisted of 8 or 9 begging rabbits and one rabbit king pin dressed in a red felt top coat and crown. All were mounted on wooden plinths with the king pin on a slightly higher platform. Felt sets appeared from 1892-1912 and the velvet ones from 1901-1916. The picture on the left is from James D. Julia; this set sold for $7,110 in 2014.

Given the history and longevity of this early begging rabbit pattern, it is not terribly unusual to find examples that never had a button as they were produced around 1904 or earlier. As most collectors are aware, Steiff debuted its now ubiquitous branding in 1904 with their "elephant" style button. 

This basic bunny pattern is also a best seller for another important reason. He also represents one of Steiff's earliest, and most important licensing agreements - that of "Peter Rabbit!" in 1902, Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit became a worldwide sensation due to its simple, universal story and beautiful illustrations. Ms. Potter created a little Peter Rabbit doll and registered it in the London patent office. Despite numerous attempts, she could not find a manufacturer in England to produce her toy. Steiff got wind of this, and soon became the producer of the "official" Peter Rabbit doll for the English market. The company took their basic rabbit pattern and added a felt topcoat and slippers to his design. Steiff's Peter Rabbit appeared in the company's product line in velvet or wool plush in sizes ranging from 10 to 28 cm from about 1904-1919 overall. Today, an early and all original Steiff Peter Rabbit can easily generate big four figures at auction.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great tumbling rabbit has been a windfall for you.

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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Shake A Leg And Check Out This Precious Steiff Rattle Lamb!


How novel! That's how Steiffgal felt when she came across this tiny Steiff treasure at a friend's house recently. It goes without saying that he is adorable, officially qualify as "antique," and has a distinctly playful personality. But more on that later! He lives on a shelf in a beautifully curated collection in New England, along with many fine dolls, bears, and Steiff friends. Take a look at this happy handful and see what would have him a premier plaything more than a century ago.

There's no need to count sheep over this bitty barnyard buddy. Here we have a too cute for words Steiff lamb! It is simply amazing that this item is in such nice shape given its age and that it was designed as a play toy for babies! Steiffgal suspects that it was purchased as a gift for some lucky child and used primarily as a nursery decoration, not a toy. Or, sadly, the child passed away in infancy and never got to enjoy the toy - or life. The lamb measures about 3 inches tall, head to toe. He is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from lamb's wool plush. His face, ears, and legs are made from felt. His legs are lined in metal wire. His face comes to life with teeny black button eyes and a very simple hand embroidered pink nose and mouth. His bell and ribbon are original to him. He retains all of his original Steiff IDs, including his tiny long trailing "F" button and linen backed white paper ear tag.  

Numbers don't lie! According to the Sortiment books and his prominent ear tag numbering, this lamb was produced from 1902 through 1917 overall, and as a "pram toy." This particular model was made in the 1910 through 1917 time frame. Pram toys were hanging toys designed to dangle from a baby's carriage or crib. Most of Steiff's earliest pram toys were constructed from elastic cord and woolen pom-poms, suspended from a white ivory carved ring. The "1" on the ear tag means "standing" and the "5" means lamb's wool plush. The "75" identifies it as a "hanging toy" while the "46" identifies it as a lamb.  

Now shake a leg and check out his little secret. This lamb actually is also a rattle, elevating him to novelty status! As a rattle, he makes a little "click click" sound when jiggled about. Steiffgal has handled rattle bears, dogs, cats, squirrels, and now this lamb. They all share the similar construction of having a small sealed glass tube filled with beads inserted into their torsos. Usually, but not always, rattles were made from the smallest versions of Steiff's most popular designs. The "youngest" product Steiffgal has seen with a rattle is a c. 1929 velvet sitting "Pip" dog. You can see this "chatty" Pip pictured here on the left. It is her best guess that the company stopped making rattle items in this fashion from the 1930's onward. 

Steiffgal has not been able to figure out any ear tag numerical code that distinctly and specifically identifies an item as having a rattle feature. So finding one, which usually comes about by accident, is always such a delightful surprise!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this wonderful Steiff novelty as shaken you up a bit!

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

This Fantastic Steiff Rarity Takes The Pole Position!


Steiffgal recently got an email question about a Steiff item that literally gave her chills - in the best way possible! Around these parts, the temperature has been averaging about 95 degrees lately, with high humidity, too. So what could be more welcome than a question about a cold weather themed doll! Let's all take a virtual break from this uncomfortable summer heatwave and check out this inquiry from Nils from Norway. Steiffgal thinks you'll agree - his fantastic rarity takes the pole position!

Nils simply asks, "I wonder if you can help me with the value and age on my Steiff skier?  He is 36 cm tall and his button is in his cap."


Pretty cool, eh? From what she can tell from the photos, Nil's doll is standing, fully jointed, and appears to be in the company's earlier "character" doll scale. This means that his limbs, feet, and torso are not in "typical" human proportions, but exceptionally long and narrow in this case. His face is more "cartoonish" than handsome or realistic as seen in Steiff's later doll models. He has blue glass eyes; this feature became standard on Steiff's dolls from the early 19-teens onward. Also typical to his early era is the fact that his felt outfit is integral to his body. Later models often had partially or fully removable clothing. It is interesting to note that his Steiff button is located on his hat. According to Nils, he does not have ears, so this button's location is "closest" to where his button-in-ear would be. (Steiffgal also has a little Steiff Barney Google doll without ears; his button is located the back of his jacket; these "out of place" buttons are seen infrequently but are still original.)

Dolls from the first quarter of last century are also "famous" for their great detailing and accessories, and Nil's skier is a fine example of that. His blue uniform includes perfectly proportional buttons, pockets, and trims. His skis and poles are made from wood and are original to him; the skis are marked "Steiff" on their top face. These are pictured here on the left. Steiff used wood as a material extensively in their product line throughout much of the pre- WWII war era. For example, consider Steiff's fantastic array of early mohair and felt animals on wooden wheels, wooden animal and vehicle pull toys, skittle and roly-poly novelties, and blocks and puzzles. Nil's skier doll is also wearing a backpack. Some of Steiff's soldier and student dolls from the same era also carried satchels, totes, or backpacks, and Steiffgal is all but certain this accessory is original to him. 

There is a blizzard of information about Steiff's winter-themed felt dolls. Children and adult dolls doing sports like skiing and tobogganing, were very popular in the Steiff line from about 1909 through the late 19-teens. Many different skier dolls were made; some came with skis and poles but Steiff also made this perfectly to scale athletic gear available for purchase separately. The company created a number of memorable advertising photographs using this playful outdoor theme; it is suspected that the pictures were posed and shot on or very near the Steiff campus during the winter months. 

The quest to identify this athletic doll left Steiffgal breathless. As for Nil's doll, Steiffgal initially thought he was Steiff's "Norwegian Skier," given his presentation and current residence! According to Pfeiffer, the Norwegian Skier is.... "felt, jointed, Norwegian skier, blue ski suit, cap, and gloves, skis and ski poles, in box." The Norwegian Skier was made in 50 cm and was in the line from 1913-1918. However, a closer look at the Norwegian Skier shows his body is more humanly proportioned (and includes ears!), while Nil's doll is definitely more "character" in form. A little more research suggests that Nil's doll is most likely the company's "Skinny Skier." According to Pfeiffer, the Skinny Skier is... "felt, jointed, very thin shape, complete winter sports outfit." He is also pictured with oversized gloves and a backpack, just like the ones Nil's doll is wearing. The Skinny Skier was made in 40 cm from 1913-1928; Nil's version is a shade shorter but these dolls were all hand made, so slight variations like this are expected. You can see a picture of the Skinny Skier, along with his pal the Fat Skier, here on the left; the photo is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear: The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

It can be a slippery slope when it comes to assessing value on a rarity like this. As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and true valuations can only take place after a careful in person review. Many condition factors, like insect damage, odors, jointing, and internal integrity cannot be captured in photos. However, from what is visible, the doll looks to be in good to very good condition, retaining many of its original details. Given it is as presented, with no significant structural or aesthetic issues, this doll MIGHT sell at auction in the $1,250-$2,500 range. 

Steiffgal thanks you for being a good sport by reading this discussion on this Steiff skier doll!

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

This Steiff Woolen Miniature Bunny Is A Shoe-In!

There is no question that size defies when it comes to Steiff's wonderful woolen miniature animals, especially those produced before World War II. It is absolutely amazing how much personality and detailing the company was able to include in the design of these tiny treasures - some no more than a few centimeters tall or wide! A few of these charming, larger scaled pets also featured internal wire skeletons, so they were practically as posable as the company's standard line Teddy bears and animals. Steiffgal recently added one very special palm-sized example to her collection, and she's sure you'll be all ears to learn more about him. Check out this handsome hare and see what makes him so special!

This petite treat deserves a standing ovation! He is 9 cm tall, begging, and made from Nomotta wool. His head, upper body, and tail are made from tan colored threads, while his lower body is made from red colored threads. His ears are made from tan felt and his arms, which have been lot to time, would have been made from the same material. He is fully string jointed, meaning that he can move his head and body side to side. His face come to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and traces of a pink airbrushed nose and mouth. He had clear monofilament whiskers when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany eight decades ago. Rabbit's legs are made from metal and he retains his adorable, all original tan felt slippers, which you can see here on the photo to the left. He retains his tiny, long trailing "f" style button-in-ear. This happy hopper was made in this size only from 1936 through 1941.

This boy bunny was actually produced as a hare pair - really! Steiff launched this little Romeo as half of a "his and her" rabbit couple. The girl, who was the same size and had the same construction as the boy, differed in her coloration. Her upper body was made from red colored thread and her lower body was made from tan colored threads - just the opposite of the boy. And her slippers were red instead of tan, like the boy's footwear. You can see this cute couple on the photo here on the left, it is taken from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

Given their popularity, the number of woolen miniature bunnies in Steiff's pre-war line multiplied like, well, jackrabbits. They were produced in all sorts of sizes and configurations, including lying and hopping versions. A great rarity is the company's "ski rabbit," a 17 cm woolen miniature bunny wearing a scarf and accessorized with wooden skis and ski poles. Others were made into "congratulators" which were designed as gifts to be personalized with messages from the giver to the recipient. A tumbler featuring a 10 cm white or brown woolen miniature begging rabbit was also produced from 1936 through 1941. You can see a few of these variations, along with the rabbit under discussion today, in this page from Steiff's 1938 catalog. You can click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this woolen miniature rabbit in slippers has made you smile from head to toe. 

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

This Charming Steiff Doll Is Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice!

It's smooth sailing when it comes to this week's Steiff treasure! Steiffgal was asked by a friend to handle a wonderful vintage doll. When this sweetie arrived at Steiffgal's home, she was even more adorable and interesting than advertised. Come take a look at this early 20th century felt doll and see what secrets she holds!

This charming little girl is sugar and spice and everything nice. She is 28 cm, fully jointed, and made from flesh colored felt. Her precious and youthful face comes to life with a traditional Steiff center seam, blue and black pupil eyes, a 3D nose, set-in mouth, and proportional ears. Her mohair wig, which has faded to a silvery color, was most likely brown, given the color of its cotton backing. She wears a simple white cotton dress, a white cotton sailor's shirt trimmed in dark navy or black, great striped knitted socks, and red felt tie shoes with leather soles. Steiff produced this happy, childlike style of doll from around 1908 through the mid-1920's in standard sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm.  

It's no clothes call when it comes to this beautiful girl's outfit. Steiffgal is not able to exactly match her dress and top to any listed in the standard Steiff reference books. However, given their materials and design, it is her best guess that they are original to her. One clue is the hook and eye construction on her dress. This closure system is very typical to Steiff doll clothing from the first quarter of the 20th century. It is also Steiffgal's suspicion that at one point she had some sort of underwear or underpants, as her dress length is a bit "revealing," at least for the period in which she was made. Steiff also usually produced their girl dolls with hats, and Steiffgal also thinks that this doll's hat, like her undergarments, must have been lost to time.

This doll is definitely a sole sister. Her red felt shoes appear original, except for a replaced tie. This shoe style was very popular on Steiff dolls from her time frame, but this is the first time Steiffgal has seen a pair in red. However, another Steiff doll wearing identical red shoes is pictured in Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book. Her socks are also original and really eyecatching; Steiffgal has a doll in her personal collection wearing very similar hosiery.

Now let's talk about this doll's birth year. As noted, this style of doll was produced in the general line for nearly two decades.  But she has a few clues that hone down this time frame a bit.  

First, note that her hands are very simple, almost fist-like. This style of hand was updated to a more distinctive hand with pronounced finger digits starting around 1910 or so. You can see a close up of this doll's early hands here on the photo on the left. 

Second, this dolls is made entirely from felt. This is a subtle, but important detail. Starting around 1915, Steiff started changing the fabrics on these dolls as a response to material shortages associated with WWI. Felt was an important fabric and was being used for uniforms and blankets at the time. Steiff's dolls, which were traditionally made from all felt, started to appear with felt faces, but their bodies and/or limbs could be made from linen or even inexpensive muslin fabrics. The body parts made from the substitute materials were mostly hidden under clothes. You can see a little boy doll here on the left with this World War I construction... his head and arms/hands are felt; his legs are linen, and his torso is muslin.

Third, this little girl doll has glass pupil in eyes. Steiff's earliest dolls had black shoe button eyes. Starting around 1909 or 1910, most were detailed with more lifelike, and more endearing, glass eyes.

All of these factors converge her year of origin to roughly 1910. The combination of fist hands and glass eyes is interesting, and indicates that she was made at a transitional time in the design and development of this beloved pattern.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great sailor girl doll has been oceans of fun for you.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Let Me Call You Sweetheart!

Won't you be my Teddy bear? All Steiff collectors agree - there's no better six words in the entire world! And that's just how Steiffgal felt when a new vintage friend joined her hug a few weeks ago. He was purchased at an auction in Germany sight unseen, and when he crossed the pond and arrived at his new home, he was even BETTER than expected. Don't you just love when that happens? Come meet Marshmallow, and learn why he is so interesting from the historical and product development perspectives.

This precious cub is as sweet as sugar! Marshmallow is 30 cm standing, 20 cm sitting, and fully jointed. He is made from white wool plush and is solidly stuffed with excelsior. His pads are made from flesh colored felt that has faded considerably. His simple but beautiful face comes to life with round black and brown glass pupil eyes and a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has four brown claws on each of his paws. He has a non-working squeaker in his belly. Marshmallow's IDs have been lost to time, but it is Steiffgal's best guess that he was made in the mid-1930's to early 1940's, given his materials and presentation.

Now let's dive into material matters. Although wool plush is a lovely and very durable material, Steiff has usually made items from this fabric just before, during, or after periods of war or hardship. It is considered a "substitute" material, used in the place of more expensive and higher quality mohair. Sometimes these items also have linen or lesser quality felt on their pads or lining their ears as well.  Wool plush has a really old fashioned look to it, and has a "continuous" but bumpy feel on its surface - not like mohair which can feel softly "prickly" like a hooked rug. 

It is interesting to note that Steiff created many of its beloved and most popular 1930's-era designs in wool plush. Sometimes these items, like the company's Teddy baby bears, are specifically called out in the standard Steiff reference books. But others are not. For example, Steiffgal has a wool plush Jocko monkey in her hug; he is identical to the mohair version we all know and love. And as far as Steiffgal can tell, this white wool plush Teddy bear is not noted in the Sortiment books.  She handled a similar blonde wool plush Steiff bear for an auction client several years ago - so they were produced in some volume - but probably not many overall. 

Another factor that makes this wool plush bear quite the "looker" is his general appearance. His body has a distinctly long and lean look to it, and his dear face has quite a pensive expression. After studying bears from every decade, it has been Steiffgal's observation that bears from the mid-1930's to the early 1940's do indeed have this more "austere" look to them - perhaps matching the socio-economic climate of the time in Germany? Bears from this era also are usually produced in very basic hues, like white and blonde. Just for comparison, check out this photo on the left.  It features a similarly sized c.1906 Ted, a c.1929 Teddy Baby, and Marshmallow from the c.mid to late 1930's. What a difference a decade or two makes!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this wool plush cub has been beary enjoyable for you.

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