Sunday, January 14, 2018

This Charming Antique Steiff Doll Is Dressed For Success

Well, that was a clothes call! Steiffgal saw a wonderful antique Steiff doll in a really eye-catching outfit listed online, but the seller would not ship to the United States. After a little back and forth with the seller - including assuring her that this doll would love her new home in America and would have lots of new Steiff friends here - everything worked out and the transaction was completed. All's well that ends well! Now it's your turn to check out this darling girl and see what makes her, and her costume, so appealing.  Does she call to you as well?

This lovely little lady is named Lena. She is 35 cm tall and arm and leg jointed. She is one of Steiff's late 1930's era pressed felt faced dolls. Her seamless face comes to life with inset glass pupil eyes, a well formed and dimensional nose and mouth, and painted eyebrows. Her cheeks and lips are also highlighted to give her more contrast and coloration. Her long-ish blond hair is made from mohair, and her body and limbs are made from flesh colored felt. Lena's Steiff IDs include a small trailing F style button and yellow tag which are worn on a red rubber bracelet around her wrist (as her ears are molded as part of her head and cannot accommodate a button). She may have had a named, watermelon style bear faced chest tag when she left the factory in Giengen almost 80 years ago, but it has been lost to time.  

Lena's all original costume is as pretty as a picture. She wears a blue felt dress and a cotton blouse with white sleeves. Her apron is made from a light blue floral fabric; her bodice is decorated with red, blue, white, and green embroidered trim. Under all these layers she dons a red, white, and blue calico skirt. Her thigh-high white socks are made from cotton, and her black Mary-Jane style shoes are felt. Her "proper topper" is a black head scarf.

Lena, and many of her dolly brothers and sisters, are featured in Steiff's 1938/39 product catalog. You can see the page here on the left; Lena is the middle doll in the middle row. Please click on the illustration to make it bigger. She appears to have caught the attention of a sweet Waldi dog, as well as the handsome boy named Jockel on her right. The numbers around her correspond to 35 = 35 cm tall, 220 g = how much she weighs, and 8.40 = she costs 8.40 German marks. She is the heaviest, and also the most expensive, doll model on the catalog page; in today's dollars she would cost roughly $55. It is also interesting to note that she also has another word in her brief documentation - "Vierlanderin." 

Such a morsel of information made Steiffgal hungry to learn more. It turns out that Vierlande is a four district area of about 77 square kilometers located in Hamburg in southeast Germany. Digging a little deeper, it appears that Lena is wearing a traditional Vierlande outfit which includes a dark dress, white shirt, lighter apron, elaborate bodice, and a large hat. Steiff has a long tradition of producing dolls in national or ethnic clothing, starting at the turn of the 20th century when they made a series of regionally dressed farmers from different areas around Germany. The picture of the Vierlander on the right is from 1900 and is from Museums Victoria in Australia. As always, Steiff has done a masterful job capturing the details and authenticity behind this lovely outfit.

Steiffgal hopes you are totally in-to this great doll out-fit!

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

Sunday, January 7, 2018

This Latest Steiff Find Is The Cat's Meow

Sometimes, the best things in life tiptoe in on little cat's feet.  And such is the case with this week's happy find!  Steiffgal popped into an antique show while traveling recently.  There were many great vintage temptations on offer, but hardly any Steiff... until the VERY LAST booth in the hall.  Check out what was hiding out among a bunch of old toys, puzzles, and other vintage childhood favorites.

What a purr-fectly wonderful discovery! Here we have a nice example Steiff's very early post war "Kitty" cat. She is 17 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from mohair. Her body, limbs, tail, and face are made from very light grey mohair, while her paws, chest, muzzle, and ears are off white mohair. Her back, arms, legs, tail, and the sides of her head are lightly airbrushed with darker gray stripes, making her the true Tabby! Her all original and early slit pupil eyes are made from green-teal and black glass. Kitty has pink hand embroidered facial features, with a red dot on her mouth to indicate her lips. Her claws are red and she retains her original clear mono-filament whiskers. Steiff's Kitty was made from 1949 through 1970 in 10, 17, and 22 cm. This example's coloration, eyes, and "Made in the US Zone" put her in the very early portion of this time frame. 

They say cats have nine lives, and in the case of this example, that is exactly true! Today, when a toy is produced, it usually appears on the market for just a handful of years.  This is due to the "limited edition" phenomenon, as well as changes in market preferences - especially for things like licensed characters. But, in the case of Steiff's 20th century production, some items would appear for years, decades, or even generations.  For example, the company's Molly dogs were introduced in the 1920's and were produced through the end of the 1970's.  And Steiff's black "Scary Cat" pattern appeared in the company's debut catalog of 1903, and is still being manufactured on and off to this day!  Post war, this fully jointed cat pattern was clearly a fan favorite, appearing in the line for almost 20 years. 

Despite her longevity, this pattern did experience a few updates and changes over time. These changes were aesthetic, to keep up with modern preferences, but also structural, to help keep her manufacturing costs in check. So what are some differences between the older and newer Kitty cats? Here on the left, you can see a more "modern" Kitty, produced during the early 1970's. As you can tell, the older ones simply have a more "vintage" look to them. But here are three objective, key physical details that may help to date this beloved and legacy pattern. 

Eyes: Older Kitties have distinctive green-teal and black glass slit pupil eyes, while newer ones have olive-green and black slit pupil plastic eyes.

Coloration and ID: Older Kitties have grey and off white coats that are airbrushed in grey stripes, while newer ones have off white coats what are airbrushed in darker grey or black stripes. Older ones tend to have powder pink noses, while newer ones tend to have darker pink noses.  Older ones also often, but not always, have a "US Zone" tag sewn into their front leg seam. 

Materials: The smallest older Kitties have felt ears and a white velvet muzzle, while newer ones have mohair ears and muzzles. You can see two examples of the earliest Kitties with these details here (along with their sweet friend, a woolie mouse from F.A.O. Schwarz!) 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's fully jointed kittens has been the cat's meow for you.

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