Monday, April 16, 2018

Horsing Around With This 1930's-Era Steiff Pony On Wheels

Whoa Nelly! Can one simple digit make all the difference when identifying and dating vintage Steiff?  In this case - yes!  Check out this lovely vintage horse on wheels. Everything about her goes by the numbers!

This pretty pony belongs to one of Steiffgal's Steiff pals. The horse measures about 28 cm by 28 cm. She is standing, made from soft, very lightly textured brown and white fabric, and comes to life with a black plush mane and tail. She is authentically dressed in red leather reins and a saddle, along with a green felt blanket. She rides upon four red wooden wheels. This is one of Steiff's most beloved and legacy pre-war patterns, and was produced in a number of materials and sizes - ranging from 12 to 80 cm - in the c. 1892 through 1943 time frame. Early on, she was also available paired with a number of complementary items, including a doll, jockey, cart, or sled. Pony retains her long trailing F button and her fully legible red ear tag, dating her initially in the broad c. 1926 to 1934 time frame.

Given her materials, presentation, and age, this is one excellent equine indeed!

But there's something really interesting about this horse that sent Steiffgal into a full gallop. At very first glance, both Steiffgal and her pal thought she was made from felt. If that were the case, her condition truly would be outstanding, given how prewar items made from felt or with felt detailing (like paw pads) almost always have at least a few holes or nibbles in them. But this fabric was flawless! So what's going on here? Check out her red ear tag, which reads "1228." This corresponds to: 1=standing, 2=short pile plush/coat plush, and 28=28 cm. 

Hold your horses! It turns out that Steiff was making their horse on wheels pattern in another fabric called "coat plush" in 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1932 through 1934.  It is interesting to note that in the 1930's, the company started using alot of "substitute" fabrics like wool plush, curled wood plush, and artificial silk plush on some of their most beloved patterns. That was most likely due to supply chain and socio-political issues of the era. These alternative fabrics were still available and affordable. And except for artificial silk plush, all were really quite durable - which helps to explain in part why this horse is in such nice shape. If you look closely at the horse's fabric, you will see that indeed it has a light "fuzzy" texture and feel to it.  And, because the surface is not flat and almost completely even like felt, the seams are not as smooth and "fluid" between the different fabrics. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this great 1930's Steiff horse has set you a'blaze!

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

This Rare Steiff 50th Anniversary Booklet Is Worth Its Weight In Gold!

It's easy to celebrate all things Steiff! Steiff introduced the world to its fully jointed Teddy bears in 1903. In honor of the golden anniversary of this accomplishment in 1953, the company designed and produced an entirely new and novel Teddy bear design. It was named Jackie and she was made in 17, 25, 35, and 75 cm from 1953-55 only.

Collectors could bearly get enough of Jackie. For many reasons - including her charming appeal, airbrushed belly button, pink-highlighted nose, and short time in the line - Jackie remains one of the most beloved Steiff bear designs of all times. Accompanying Jackie was a small celebration booklet, which told the history of the company in words and pictures. To find a mid century Jackie bear in very good condition with IDs is a dream come true for many collectors; to find one with this original booklet is practically unheard of!

But sometimes wishes do come true, at least in part. Steiffgal recently had the pleasure of finding one of these original Jackie booklets for sale, and was delighted to add it to her Steiff ephemera collection. The piece itself is very small - measuring 10.5 cm x 7.5 cm closed, or 10.5 cm x 15 cm opened up.  There are 14 total printed pages, and all words are in German. The booklet is bound by one staple. It is printed on paper which has most likely mellowed to a tan color over time. Let's take a peek into this time capsule and see what secrets it might hold about the company we all know and love. 

You can click on any of the pictures of the spreads to make them bigger on your screen!

Here is the front and back spread of the booklet. As you can see, the cover features the delightful Jackie bear, complete with her special anniversary chest tag. It is interesting to note that she is pictured without her Steiff button or ear tag. The front reads, "a small teddy travels in the wide world," probably in reference to Steiff's humble beginnings which progressed to international standing and recognition. The back very roughly translates to, "This is the story of the Teddy bear with the button in ear by Margarete Steiff GmbH."

Featured on pages 2 and 3 of the booklet are two iconic Steiff images.  The first is of company founder, Margarete Steiff.  The other is of the two very distinctive church steeples which are the prominent features on the Giengen horizon - even today. The headline of the spread reads, "The history of the Teddy bear." 

Pages 4 and 5 are graced with the headlines, "At the beginning was a small felt elephant" and "Richard Steiff, the inventor of the teddy bear." The illustrations include a small grey felt elephant, which was Margarete's first "toy," a picture of her in her wheelchair hand sewing something, and a handsome headshot of Richard Steiff. Richard, Margarete's nephew, came up with the idea of the fully jointed Teddy bear after studying how real bears move and interact at a local zoo.  

The next pages - 6 and 7 - are dedicated to 1903, the year Steiff Teddy bears really went global. The headlines roughly translate to, "In New York from 1903 onward" and "The Leipzig Fair debut in 1903." The page is illustrated with a skyline of New York City, an early and very fuzzy Steiff Teddy, and a man hammering shut a wooden crate, presumably filled with Steiff Teddy bears heading to the USA. This page most likely references how 3,000 early Steiff bears were ordered by an American distributor (The George Borgfeld Company of NYC) at the 1903 Leipzig Fair. The whereabouts of those Teds have been lost to time. This mystery is still ongoing today.  

Pages 8 and 9 are all words. Given the headline, which translates to "Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt gave him his name," these key passages probably explain why Steiff's Teddy bears from Germany were branded after the famous American President. Roosevelt refused to shoot a baby bear cub on on a hunting adventure in Mississippi at the turn of last century.

Next up on pages 10 and 11 are a charming series of illustrations featuring Steiff's "Nimrod" bears. Like Jackie, the Nimrod bears were produced in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Teddy bear. They appeared in the line in 1953 and 1954 in 22 and 50 cm. Four versions were made in a variety of hunting themed outfits. These "outdoorsmen" bears are a gentle nod back to President Roosevelt - who was instrumental in his own way in helping Steiff grow and thrive in the early 1900's. 

The headline on page 11 translates to "The Steiff factory is built entirely of glass" and is referencing the illustration that is found on page 12.

And here on page 12 you can see this glass factory. This feat of architecture is sometimes referred to the "1903 Building" because that's when it was built, or the "Maiden's Aquarium," because you could see from the outside of the building all of the beautiful seamstresses working inside. The headlines roughly translate to, "Steiff animals, the beloved toys of all children," "Only the best for our children," and "Steiff button in ear - adorable playmates." These statements, now over half a century old, still ring completely true today.

The final spread of the booklet, which includes pages 14 and 15, present a playful quartet of photos featuring company's now most iconic designs of the early 1950's. Most of these charmers were completely new post-war introductions. The items pictured are:

  • A standing duck, made in 11 and 18 cm from 1952-76. 
  • A grey elephant, made in 7, 10, 17, 22, and 35 cm from 1950-78.
  • A Niki rabbit, made in 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1951-64.
  • A Zotty Teddy, made in 9 sizes ranging from 17 to 100 cm from 1951-78.
  • A young lying lion, produced in 17, 28, 43, and 60 cm from 1953-59.
  • A Mecki hedgehog doll, produced from 1951 onward in 17, 28, 50, and 100 cm over time.
  • A Papa lion, made in 14 and 22 cm from 1949-61.
  • A Jocko, made in 9 sizes ranging from 10 to 80 cm from 1949-81.
  • A Disney Bambi, made in 14 and 22 cm from 1951-1972.
  • A Pucki dwarf, made in 13, 18, 30, 55, and 115 cm from 1963-73. 
  • A Peky dog, made 8, 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1952-77.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this quick time-travel adventure back to 1953!

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