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.
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