Sunday, December 29, 2019

Welcoming 2020 With Hogs and Kisses!

It's time to welcome a new decade with 2020 being just on the horizon. So, how about launching the new year in the best possible - and auspicious - way? Pigs are considered "lucky charms" in Irish, Chinese, and German traditions, among many others. So this moment seems perfect to take a look at this precious pink porker who really knows how to move and groove. She'll undoubtedly put you in a celebratory mood!

This pretty piggy has enormous squeal-appeal. She's just about life-sized compared to a baby piglet, and equally as adorable. Pig is about 9" tall, 16" wide, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and made from soft pink mohair. She is arm and leg jointed. Her lifelike face is detailed with black shoe button eyes, a prominent muzzle, and an inset velvet tipped snout that has been airbrushed with pink nostrils and a mouth. Her pert ears are made entirely from mohair and are dimensional. Her true-to-scale tail is actually in a curly-Q as you would see in a live pig; it is lined in wire and is poseable. This queen of the barnyard retains her small long trailing "f" button as her Steiff ID. This pattern appeared in the line from c.1913-1918.

Jointed pigs are pretty rare in the Steiff line. As far as Steiffgal can tell, this example is just one of two produced prewar - or ever. The first debuted in 1908. This version had a ball jointed neck, as well as jointed arms and limbs. The ball jointed neck enables the head and neck to be twisted and rotated into different lifelike positions. This proprietary movement was invented by Franz Steiff and registered on May 24, 1908 in the German patent office as a "toy animal with movable head." According to company records, this was accomplished by... "attaching a swivel jointed mechanism to the head which was then secured to the body by means of a tube running from the neck to the torso." Steiff used this feature on a few models, including this pig, as well as polar bears, begging poodles, cats, and opossums. This uber-jointed piglet was produced in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1918 overall. The only one Steiffgal knows of came up for auction in 2018, you can see his listing here.

The pig under discussion here is the second jointed version. Steiffgal suspects that it was produced as a response to economic and marketplace realities of the era.  

*From a supply perspective, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the fully jointed pig with a ball jointed neck was probably pretty expensive to produce - given its complex engineering, unique internal hardware mechanism, and additional manual labor to sew, stuff, and assemble. It was a great product and idea, but somewhat resource intense to bring to life. 

*From the demand perspective, given its time in the line - which considerably overlaps with WWI - Steiffgal also suspects that many consumers did not have alot of extra cash or the inclination to purchase high end toys like this. As such, Steiff most likely simplified elements of their ball jointed pig pattern by removing a big cost/labor element of this design - the neck feature. This reduced the costs for all parties, and made this still-playful pattern a bit more accessible overall.

Pigs really “bring home the bacon” in Germany. There's a German expression, “Ich Habe Schwein Gehabt,” which roughly translates to “I have had pig,” that people say after personally experiencing something lucky or fortunate. This Germanic tradition dates back many centuries of hard times and refers to having enough food to feed a family. If a family had a pig, they were able to eat for a week or more! Today in Germany, pigs made from marzipan are popular holiday time treats and are often given out as little gifts on December 31st to insure luck in the coming year.

Steiffgal thanks you for letting her bend your ear over this fully jointed pig - and happy new year everyone!

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

Monday, December 23, 2019

It's Time To Welcome The Big Man In Red!


Just in Claus you haven't noticed, its just a few hours until Christmas Day is upon us! And nothing says season’s greetings quite like the main man in red - Santa Claus - at least here in the United States.

Check out this page from a 1967 Steiff catalog featuring an almost life-sized Santa Claus doll. You can click on the image to make it bigger. Many collectors are familiar with the company's popular and beloved smaller Santa Claus dolls, which were produced in 13, 18, and 31 cm from 1953 through 1963 overall. This pattern was also made as a puppet. In the 1960s, Steiff produced this big fellow as a display piece in 150 cm, or about 5 feet. These supersized Steiff Santas were dressed to the nines in fine felt tailored suits trimmed in mohair - just like their rockstar namesake!

Today, these life-sized Santas are extremely rare, as for the most part, time has not been kind to them. Because their faces were made from rubber, they tend to dry out, sink, and crack as the years go by. As such, there are not too many of these still around. Steiffgal only knows of one, and he's having a rough go of it. And speaking of faces, it is interesting to note that the same facial mold used to create this display Santa was also used on the company's display sized shepherd and gnomes which were all produced at the same time as this Santa; you can see two of these "lifesized" gnomes here on the left. You can click on the image to make it bigger.

Steiff's Santa catalog page, like many of Steiff's vintage advertising images, is utterly charming, visually engaging, and tells a happy story. It is also fun to check out the other secondary items in the shot - those toys and articles placed around the featured article to help bring it to life. The selections often represent a "time capsule" of popular line items of the time, which is absolutely true in this case as well.

Santa's delightful deliveries from 1967 include:

*A caramel mohair “mask style" original Teddy bear (made from 1966-93 in sizes ranging from 11-100 cm overall.) 

*A grey mohair Snobby poodle (made from 1954-74 in sizes ranging from 10-43 cm overall.) 

*A white plush Diva cat (made from 1967-78 in 35 cm.) 

*A mohair giraffe (made from 1953-74 in sizes ranging from 14-75 cm overall.) 

*A brown mohair jointed Jocko monkey (made from 1949-81 in sizes ranging from 10-80 cm overall.) 

*A grey mohair Jumbo elephant (made from 1952-75 in 22 and 35 cm overall.) 

*A Mungo multicolored monkey (made from 1957-71 in 17, 25, and 35 cm overall.) 

*A tan wool plush camel (made from 1950-69 in 14, 17, 28, and 35 cm overall.)

Steiffgal ho-ho-hopes this life-sized discussion on Steiff's display Santa Claus has put you in a holly-jolly mood!

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

Sunday, December 15, 2019

This Steiff Tail-Moves-Head Dox Really Rocks!

Care to take a little paws from the holiday madness? That's probably an offer you can't refuse right about now! Then have a look at this darling Dachshund. He's truly a head-turner, in more ways than one! Here's why.

This arm and leg jointed Dox really rocks! He measures about 11 cm tall and about 19 cm wide, not including his tail. His paws, underbelly, face, and muzzle are made from orange tipped mohair. His ears, tail, back, and limbs are made from black mohair. He has three hand painted claws on each foot. His puppy-like face comes to life with a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, proportional black and brown glass pupil eyes, and a touch of black airbrushed highlighting. He retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff IDs. And his secret superpower? He's a rare, tail-moves-head example, meaning that when his long tail is rotated in either direction, his head follows suit! This pretty puppy appeared in the line in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1931-1934 overall.

Dachshunds are legacy Steiff breeds, and have appeared continuously in the line in one form or the other since the late 1800s. This particular black and orange version was introduced in 1929 in the form of a 22 cm standing version. He also appeared on regular or eccentric wheels in five sizes ranging from 17 to 35 cm from 1929-1935 overall, and as a "detachable" variation in 18, 23, and 29 cm from 1936-1939 overall.  

This Doxie has several interesting design elements that align almost perfectly with his launch and production timeline. 

The first, and most obvious, is his tail-moves-head feature. Starting in the early 1930s, Steiff started to produce several of its most popular designs with a tail-moves-head feature. This Doxie puppy pattern, which reflects the late 1920s happy, childlike aesthetic Steiff is known for (think Molly, Charly, Pip, Bully, etc.) must have been a best seller at the time to merit this novelty upgrade. 

The second is his assembly. Doxie is made from two distinctly different mohair fabrics which are patched together. This type of construction was typical for the 1920s, and was more expensive and labor intense than simply making an item from one type of mohair, or airbrushing color(s) onto one type of mohair. For the most part, Steiff's patched construction was all but phased out by the late 1930s and replaced with more efficient production operations. 

And the third is his orange tipped mohair. Joyful, colorfully tipped mohair debuted in Steiff line in the mid-1920s. Items including rabbits, penguins, deer, and even gnomes featured similar orange tipped mohair through the late 1930s. There's no question that this playful fabric added a touch of whimsy to these very period products. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's two colored dachshund has been more than twice as nice for you.

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

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sit and Stay With This Marvelous Prewar White Steiff Sealyham

Do you like things sealed with a kiss? Usually, there's never any downside to that, especially when it comes to all things button-in-ear. So grab a chair and take a look at this tiny sitting sweetie. You're certain to appreciate the leg up on what makes him (and his kissing cousin) so interesting from the pre-war product design perspectives.  

Your seat-mate for today's discussion is this charming sitting Sealyham. He is head jointed and made from white mohair that has mellowed to a vanilla color over time. He measures 10 cm high and 11 cm long, not including his sweet tail. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes. a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and traces of pink airbrushing around his eyes and lips, He wears his original red collar and brass bell and retains his short trailing "f" button as his ID. Sitting Sealyham was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22 and 25 cm from 1930 through 1939. The sitting version of this breed is somewhat rarer than the standing version as it was produced for fewer years. Given this petite pooch has short trailing "f" button, its a safe bet to conclude that he was made post 1935 or so.

Steiff's prewar Scotty and Sealyham dogs have much in common between their two patterns, including their looks, proportions, materials, and sizes produced. Clearly, Sealyhams were made in white, while Scottys were made in grey or black. Besides color, one small design difference between the two that Steiffgal has noticed are their eyes. From the ones she has seen, some prewar Scotty dogs have almond shaped glass eyes, while others have round glass pupil eyes... while all prewar Sealyhams seem to have round glass pupil eyes. 

So picture this! Check out the page from Steiff's 1938/39 catalog featuring Scotty and Sealyham dogs pictured here on the left. You can click on it to make it bigger. It is interesting to see that Scottys are noted on wheels (eccentric at 17 and 22 cm, and riding at 28 and 25 cm) on the breed page, while a Sealyham model on detachable riding wheels appears later on in the catalog, on a page promoting novelties. If you look at the bottom of the page, you see the words, "dasselbe Modell auch in weiss als Sealyham" under an image of a black Scotty. This translates to the "same model in white as Sealyham," further suggesting that the black Scotty and the white Sealyham are basically "cut from the same cloth." 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this tiny white pup has been on the up and up.

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

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Care To Feather Your Nest With This Steiff Prewar Woolen Miniature Owl?

Whoooo loves ya babe? Well, perhaps this remarkable and very rare miniature marvel is best suited to answer that question! Steiff launched its very successful series of tiny Nomotta yarn animals in the early 1930s. This particular bird is amongst the most eye-catching, and desirable, of the company's prewar collection. Check out his story to see what makes him so fantastic from the design and historical perspectives.

This fine feathered friend is Steiff's owl.He is 8 cm tall, head jointed, and made of dense, high quality woolen yarns. His coloring includes white, yellow and purple/grey threads. His tiny, wise, and inquisitive face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a perfectly to scale single-thick tan felt beak. He stands upon two metal legs and feet that have been painted dark brown. His original IDs, which have been lost to time in this case, consisted of a red or white tag held in place with a Steiff button around one of his ankles. Woolen miniature owl was produced in this size and this color set only from 1934-1939.

It is simply astonishing how real this tiny treasure looks compared to his real life inspiration. Woolen threads interpret well into feathers, and in this case, a light touch of airbrushed dots and specks on his back and chest truly help him take flight. His jointed head, when slightly cocked at an angle, suggests he's thinking about ways to solve for world peace or another major global issue! And his playful and prominent feet and legs are a marvelous take on those oversized features seen on owls in the wild.

Steiff's prewar woolen miniature birds debuted in 1931, and were an immediate sensation with children and collectors alike - given their low price point and incredibly appealing presentations. It seemed like everyone wanted to feather their nests with these happy handfuls! Steiff's first woolen miniature songbird-style birds were quite simple and generic. They had felt beaks and tails, metal legs and feet, and were produced in six basic color combinations in 4 and 8 cm. Starting in 1933, specific songbird breeds in the form of robins, woodpeckers, finches, blue tits, sparrows, and gold buntings were introduced. 

More detailed,"exotic" bird woolen miniature rarities - including a canary, parakeet, and this owl - were Steiff catalog highlights from 1934 through 1940. These three beaked beauties featured proportional, elongated bodies and extraordinary, true-to-life shaded coloration. The canary and parakeet sported lifelike, long felt tail feathers and were also available as a novelties perched on wooden and metal stands. Today, these prewar pretties are as rare as crow's teeth!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this handsome prewar Steiff woolen miniature owl has been a great learning experience for you.

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

Friday, November 22, 2019

When It Comes To Steiff, Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Given that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, how about spicing things up around here, too... Steiff style! Steiffgal was recently in London at the fantastic 200 Years of Childhood weekend. This grand multi-day affair featured a gala dinner as well as antique toy related lectures and a breathtaking salesroom. Steiffgal spotted this happy handful out of the corner of her eye, and it was love at first sight. Now he's crossed the pond with her and happily living amongst lots of new Steiff friends. Check out this sweet boy and see what makes him such a treat for all the senses.

Here we have a most unusual prewar Steiff Jocko on wheels; this design is also "officially" named Record Peter. This example is 20 cm and fully jointed. He is made from mohair and his hands, feet, face, and ears are made from tan colored felt. Jocko's gentle face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a seamed mouth, and light airbrushed highlights on his nose area and forehead. He rides upon a black metal, four-wheeled cart. The centered wheels are solid wood and painted red. When Record Peter is pulled, his arms and legs move back and forth vigorously, giving the appearance that he’s working hard to keep his cart moving. When he left the factory in Giengen, Germany nearly a century ago, he had a pull cord attached to the front of his vehicle.

Prewar, Record Peter appeared in the standard Steiff catalog in 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 cm in deep chocolate brown from 1913-1943 and in white in 18 cm from 1925-1934. He was also produced in blue, yellow, green, red, or black mohair in 20 or 25 cm from 1913-1917 overall. However, these specific jewel toned examples are EXTRAORDINARILY rare. Steiffgal knows of only one on the entire planet! But returning to Earth... you can see a close up of this Jocko's face and distinctive coloration here on the left.

There are two factors that make today's ape-on-the-go the wheel deal. The first, of course, is his awesome hue. He's made from cinnamon mohair. Cinnamon is not a standard mohair color when it comes to Steiff's Jocko, monkey, or ape production, wheeled or otherwise. However, once in a blue moon cinnamon examples turn up and they can be of great interest to collectors given their rarity.  In January, 2019 Vectis Auctions sold a very appealing, 28 cm fully jointed cinnamon mohair Jocko in fine condition for 2,900 GBP. This beautiful boy is pictured here on the left.

The second is his proportions. The vast majority of mohair Record Peters that Steiffgal has seen or handled have been the 25 cm size. This is probably the case as the 25 cm versions were made both pre and post war. Steiffgal has never personally handled a 10 or 15 cm Record Peter, ever (but would welcome the opportunity to do so!) Those smaller than 25 cm are just really, really rare overall. 

Rolling onward, how does this 20 cm cinnamon fellow under discussion today compare to the brown mohair 25 cm Record Peter most of us know and love? In terms of the drivers, the 25 cm and 20 cm Jocko chimps have several key design differences. For example, the 25 cm versions have dimensional ears, eyes in eye pockets, and a white mohair chin, while the 20 cm versions have simple felt ears, no eye pockets, and a felt chin. And in terms of their carts, 25 cm Jocko's cart measures 22 cm wide with 8 cm diameter wheels, and 20 cm Jocko's cart measures 18 cm wide with 6 cm diameter wheels. You can see these two Sunday drivers pictured side by side here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this cinnamon Record Peter has been a savory delight for you. 

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Isn't She Pretty In Pink?

It's OK to squeal in delight over this week's fantastic Steiff find! And this one certainly qualifies as both an oldie and a goodie! Check out this absolutely charming barnyard friend and see what makes her so interesting from the historical and product development perspectives.

This perfect little porker is truly a sight for sore eyes. She is standing, unjointed, and measures 6 cm tall by 11 cm long. She is made from pink velvet which has darkened and browned a bit over time. You can see her original vivid coloring in the folds of her ears. Her velvet has a few traces of very light brown detailing here and there. Her tail is long, thin, and authentically curled, just like her live counterpart. Her ears are triangular. Piggy's face comes to life with tiny black seed button eyes, a red tipped snout, and a simple, hand embroidered mouth. This happy handful was made in 8, 12, 14, and 22 cm from 1899-1935 overall.

Piggy's design has a few very cool, and very legacy, details that date this example to the very early part of her production time frame. First of all, she does not have a button, and there is no indication that she ever did. Given Steiff's button branding debuted in 1904, and piggy has been in the line since 1899, it is very possible that she is from the pre-button era. Second, she has tiny, black seed bead style eyes. These are the identical eyes that are featured on the company's earliest, smallest (i.e., 10 cm standing) Teddy bears which debuted in 1909. She is made from velvet - which along with felt - was Steiff's primary toy making material through c. 1903, when mohair became available on a commercial scale. And her nose, which is made from red felt and "appliqu├ęd" on with tiny stitches, is also noted on the felt version of this design... which debuted in 1892!

It is also interesting to note that this particular pig has tiny pinprick sized marks/indentations on her back and sides, hinting that she just might have been used as a pincushion at some point in her life.

Steiff made a number of pigs through the first half of the 20th century. Historically, pigs are associated with good luck, being able to feed one's family, and prosperity. So they are always popular and in demand! And from the manufacturing perspective, they are relatively simple in design and don't require jointing or elaborate seaming or finishes. As such, Steiff built upon these factors and produced pigs in felt, mohair, velvet (like this one under discussion today), and lamb's wool plush. They also appeared fully jointed, on regular and eccentric wheels, as a brush, as a pincushion, and on skittles, just to name a few novelties. The photo here on the left, from Dottie Ayers and Donna Harrison's Adverting Art of Steiff is probably from the very early 19-teens and shows a litter of these perfectly porcine pals. You can click on the photo to make it bigger.

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed pigging out on the details surrounding this happy hog.

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

Let's Make Some Noise About This Unusual 1930s-Era Steiff Cub!

Care to take a stroll down (Steiff) memory lane? Then this seldom-seen and almost antique walking Ted just may fit the bill. Check out this kinetic cub and see what makes him so delightful and noteworthy from the design and product development perspectives. 

Let's make some noise about this bear on the go. He is officially named Growling Bear or "Brummbaer." He measures 9 cm tall and 25 cm from end to end. He is on all fours and in a natural walking position. Ted is unjointed and made from brown mohair with a tan mohair muzzle and paw pads. He has pert, perfectly proportional mohair ears and four black hand embroidered claws on each paw. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes placed exactly on his muzzle seam and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has a large but nonworking side-squeaker in his tummy area. Brummbaer was made in 17, 25, and 32 cm from 1934-1943 overall. This example is the medium sized version.

Brummbaer was "born" at a period of great uncertainty at Steiff. Starting in the mid-1930s, the effects of national geopolitical realities really began to hit Steiff and most businesses throughout Germany. As such, high quality toy making materials such as mohair and felt were becoming more expensive, and less available, due to military rationing. Local, regional, and international distribution channels began to dry up, eventually all but disappearing by the early 1940s. And the great majority of consumers did not have, or were not spending, money on discretionary playthings. So, as always, Steiff made the most of what they did have, and could control, and produced items like Brummbaer starting in the mid-1930s.

So how exactly does Brummbaer fit the mid-1930s Steiff ethos? In a nutshell, it is a great example of a well designed product strategically engineered to deliver "the max for the minimum" in terms of appearance, presentation, materials, and economy. Brummbaer's "walking" form is unusual and appealing. It is interesting how his bent limbs appear dynamic, and moving, without the item actually being jointed (which is expensive and time consuming) in any way. His interesting, eye-catching form arguably has a higher perceived "value" than a standard, static bear bear on all fours; yet from the business perspective, requires about the same amount of material and time to construct. It is also interesting to note, and probably not a coincidence, that Brummbaer was launched just as many of the company's higher end "tail moves head" animals - including a very similarly styled bear on all fours - were being phased out of the line. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar Brummbaer has given you a leg up on this interesting design!

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Is This Turn of Last Century Mohair Goose The Wheel-Deal?

Heads up - there's a goose on the loose! Steiffgal recently came across a most interesting, and very vintage, goose on wheels. His early and endearing presentation, traditional and legacy set of materials, and turn-of-last century manufacturing details certainly appear very Steiff-like. But he does not have any identification, and does not appear in any Steiff reference book or catalog Steiffgal knows of. Take a peek - what do you think?

This fine feathered friend is certainly on a roll. He is standing, unjointed, and measures about 18 cm tall and 28 cm wide. Goose is made from all white mohair and is solidly stuffed with excelsior. His wings are dimensional, stretch backward, and are tacked to his body with a few stitches. His neck is long and graceful. His face comes to life with black button eyes backed in faded red felt, a yellow felt beak, and prominent brown detail embroidery stitching that goes from his eyes to his beak. He glides along on a carriage with four wheels that have traces of gold paint on them. Steiffgal tested the entire rolling mechanism with a magnet and it is made from solid metal.

After much searching around, Steiffgal came across a good picture of a similarly styled goose that Steiff had in the line at the turn of last century. That long-necked bird was standing and had jointed legs. He was made from white mohair, had a yellow felt beak and legs, and almost the identical facial features and detailing - including stitching from the eyes to the beak - as this one on wheels. Steiff's standing, jointed goose was made in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1911-1918. You can see this goose here on the left, it was sold at Christie's in 2010 along with a smaller farm friend. Together the pair realized GBP 1,375.

So what's going on with this easy rider? Here is a possible explanation, with the tell-tale hint in his wheels. Steiff introduced its wooden up-and-down "eccentric" wheels around 1912 and holds a patent on this mechanism. Eccentric wheels were discovered accidentally, but Steiff quickly realized the product-development opportunities created by their roller drilling mistakes. Birds of all sorts were ideal for eccentric wheels, given their natural "waddling" tendencies, and you see wooden eccentric wheels on many Steiff bird models from 1912 onward.

Now let's shift the discussion into fifth gear. This goose is clearly on metal, not wooden wheels. His pattern, as noted above and given he is Steiff, was introduced in 1911, BEFORE wooden eccentric wheels were in the line. It is possible that in 1911 or early 1912, Steiff wanted to see if their existing standing white mohair goose pattern could be modified as a pull toy on metal wheels - and this example could be the result of that experiment. It is interesting to note that Steiff introduced a new mohair goose on eccentric wooden wheels soon after in 1914. This updated pattern, having an orange felt beak and feet, grey and white coloring, a shorter neck, and a more compact body, appeared in 14 and 17 cm prewar through 1943 overall. You can see that updated goose on wheels here on the left; the picture is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual and probably Steiff goose knocked you over with a feather.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Steiff Penguin of Royal Stature!

They say it's not easy being green. But Steiffgal has to disagree, at least in this particular case! A special little someone just waddled his way into her collection, and she couldn't be more excited. Check out this colorful creation and see what makes him so outstanding from the historical and product development perspectives.

Bird's the word with his stunning Steiff King Peng penguin. He stands all of 15 cm and is made from white, green, and orange tipped mohair. His beak is double thick orange felt, and his chubby wings and feet are made from orange velvet. His wings have black hand drawn lines on them. His childlike face is detailed with black and brown glass pupil eyes. Larger versions had cartoon eyes backed in felt. This model is a tail moves head example, meaning that when his tiny green mohair covered metal tail is twisted left and right, his head moves in unison. His long trailing "f" Steiff button is located on the bottom of one of his velvet feet. This polar pal was made in 15, 18, 23, 29, and 36 cm from 1931-1935 overall. He was also produced in the same sizes in a slightly different color combination, with blue/black mohair in the place of the green mohair seen on this example.

Tail moves head editions were amongst Steiff's headliners of the early 1930s. They were produced as a result of the company's emphasis on producing fun, exciting, and endearing novelty items as a way to further capture the pocketbooks - and hearts - of Steiff enthusiasts worldwide. Overall, about 25 different tail turns head models were produced through the late 1930's and very early 1940's. These were advertised as...

"The year 1931 has presented us with the animals with the new head movement… The simplicity of the mechanism, though which the splendid movement is produced, cannot be beaten, yet it is unbreakable and allows lifelike play, full of variety and mimics… When buying new supply in plush toys please be sure to include the STEIFF animals with the new head movement; all numbers equipped with it are marked ‘H.’” 

Most of these newfangled tail moves head items were based on the best selling standard line patterns of the time. Recognizable friends included cats, dogs, rabbits, goats, and lambs, and even Mickey Mouse! Although Steiff did have a penguin in the line in the late 1920s and early 1930s, they did not use that pattern for a tail moves head version. King Peng's introduction most likely corresponds to the worldwide news of Richard Byrd's South Pole exploration, where penguins and other cold-weather animals featured prominently in the story. Since its founding, Steiff has always been extremely conscious of animal themed events and cultural trends and has integrated them when possible into its product line and assortments. You can see the advertisement introducing these merry movers here on the left, the photo is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear: The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends book from 1989.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Steiff King Peng penguin has been a royal experience for you.

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Double Doggie Delights at Auction This Week!

Some things simply stand on their own merits... like Steiff's fantastic prewar animal dolls. These sweet treats - with simple, humanized bodies and animal heads representing the most popular Steiff pets of the 1930s and 1940s - are breathtaking in their beauty and rarity. Within the past few days, two remarkable canine examples came up for auction in Germany. Both really caught Steiffgal's eye. Here's a bit more about this duo of delightful doggies.

There's no question the first one will really whet your appetite. He is lot #15 from Auktionshaus Eppli's Art, Antiques, Asiatica, Jewelry & more... sale held on September 27, 2019. He is cataloged as: 

"STEIFF "Chow doll", 1939-1940. Standing dog doll, button with shortened 2nd "f", remains of yellow tag, plush head and paws, clothing of brown wool plush, belt missing, right foot damaged, signs of use. H: 30 cm."

This doll had a starting bid of €150 and realized €3,600 or $3938.77. 

This extraordinary example was made in this size only from 1939-1940 as noted. He has a simple, head jointed fabric body, feet and hands made from mohair, and a realistically constructed mohair head. He wears a brown collared, long sleeved woolen top and matching pants. They are both removable. The top had a thin brown string belt when he left the factory in Giengen eight decades ago; it is not uncommon to lose accessories like this to playwear and time. Steiffgal has never handled one of these in person and has only read about them in reference books. 

Although he is named Pupp Chow or Chow Doll, Steiffgal thinks his coloring and detailing is more like the company's Wolfspitz dogs than the company's Chow Chow dogs. The Wolfspitz dogs, made from long tawny colored mohair, appeared in the line standing, sitting, and on wheels from 1934-1943 overall. The Chow Chow dogs, made in light brown, dark brown, and white mohair, appeared in the line sitting, standing, and on wheels from 1928-1932 overall. So the Chow Chows were not even in the line at the time of his introduction in the late 1930s. It is possible that "Chow Doll" sounded a lot better than "Wolfspitz Doll", and in reality Chow dogs and Spitz dogs are very closely related genetically.   

Now let's shepherd in an introduction to today's second dog doll auction highlight. He is lot #3037 from the Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH Antique Toy Auction - Spielzeugauktion held on September 28, 2019. He is cataloged as:

"Pupp Arco, head mohair-plush, standing, with button and cloth tag label, number 22 (22 cm), 1937-1939, felt underwear good, cotton shirt, 2 spots, all in all good condition."

This doll was estimated estimated at €650 - €1,300 and realized €2,562 or $2803.09.

This irresistible rarity is clearly based on the company's beloved "Police Dog" Arco the German Shepherd dog. He is dressed in a simplified, traditional farmer's outfit. This consists of an oversized, puffy blue cotton shirt and black felt shorts. He has the identical, generic body construction as noted on the Chow doll, with the same mohair detailing on his feet and hands. His head is based on the one used on Steiff's mohair Arco German Shepherds from the mid-1930s onward. This happy, open mouthed, smiling dog was made sitting, standing, and on wheels from 1935-1943. Pupp Arco was made in 22 and 28 cm from 1937-1940 overall.

The appearance of a farmer's outfit on a police dog model is unexpected, but all original in this case. These animal dolls, for the most part, were dressed in "everyday" work or play or regional/ethnic costumes. Arco is the only animal doll that Steiffgal knows of dressed as a farmer. Although Steiffgal does not have any more factual information on this puzzle, she suspects it might have more to do with economics than anything else. The Arco head is majestic and highly detailed, with an open mouth and large, prominent, felt lined ears. It appears to be among the most labor intensive relative to the other animals represented in this doll line. Perhaps this simple, plain outfit was used to save on the overall time and effort invented in bringing this doll to life? Whatever the reason, Pupp Arco is simply dashing!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's rare dressed dog dolls has been a clothes call for you.

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

So Many Elements Make This Steiff' "Sulphur Mate" Doll So Fantastic!

Cute as a button! There's simply no better description of this darling, and diminutive, Steiff doll. This petite treat recently joined Steiffgal's hug, and she couldn't be more excited about it. Please say hello to Sulphur Mate, and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Hat's off to this fine fellow! Bitty Sulphur Mate is 14 cm, standing, head jointed, and made primarily from felt. His body and outfit are one in the same and made from yellow felt. His oversized slip-in shoes are made from light orange felt. He dons a teal colored, removable hat decorated with tan paper buttons. His darling face beams with its horizontal shaped seam, side glancing, google-style black and white glass cartoon eyes, a pink stitched and painted mouth, and airbrushed features. His hair and beard are made from bright orange tipped mohair, which has faded a bit over time. 

In terms of IDs, this Sulphur Mate retains his trailing "f" button and yellow ear tag marked "114". In this case, the 1=standing and the 14=14cm. It is not clear if this pattern ever had a chest tag. This lucky charm was produced in 14 and 25 cm from 1933 through 1936 overall. The 25 cm version has tri-colored glass eyes, but is almost identical in every other way. Sulphur Mate's design was also repurposed as a coffee warmer in 44 cm in 1934. 

Sulphur Mate has several design features that are elemental to his appeal, and reflect the timeframe in which he was produced and sold. 

The first is his delightfully tipped orange mohair beard and hair. This type of happy, eye-catching material was very typical to the late 1920s/early 1930s; for example, think of Steiff's "Petsy" the Baby Bear, and Molly the Puppy - both are famous, in part, for their great tipped fabrics. 

The second is his accessories. His oversized slip-in shoes - which are most likely a nod to the clogs made famous by Steiff's earlier and well healed gnomes Snik and Snak - are made from orange felt. Steiff's earliest clogs were made from wood and leather; Sulphur Mate's are simple and made from felt. And his hat is inexpensively decorated with small, glued on cardboard circles. Earlier details like this would have been embroidered or painted. With Steiff, over time, it was not unusual for accessories to be sampled and streamlined over time as cost savings measures. This was especially true starting in the early 1930s.

The third is his facial construction. It is interesting to note that this gnome doll was one of the very last dolls designed and produced with Steiff's traditional horizontal or vertical seam face construction. His prominent horizontal seam was necessary create his prominent, large, flat nose; this seaming dates from the early 1900s and can be seen also on some of the company's early farmer dolls.  The company's dolls introduced from the mid-1930's onward all had seamless, pressed felt face assemblies. 

Despite his impish presence and personality, Sulphur Mate has a somewhat scandalous history with Steiff. According to the Cieslik's Button in Ear book, this doll pattern was originally designed by artist Charlotte M. Kirchhoff as a logo for a Bavarian hotel chain owned by Anton Gross. In the early 1930s, Gross asked Steiff to produce Sulphur Mate as a toy. A sample was made, but Gross never placed an order. The sample was placed in the archives. 

In 1933, Otto Steiff came across the sample, really liked it, and put it into production. Between 1933 and 1936, 1,315 Sulphur Mate dolls were made. In 1936, Steiff received a cease and desist letter from Kirchhoff's lawyer, accusing the company of plagiarizing the design. Recognizing the error, Steiff immediately stopped Sulphur Mate's production, and paid Kirchhoff based on their sales of her pattern. Steiff replaced Sulphur Mate in its line with another little gnome in 1937; he was called "Lucky Fellow." He had a somewhat similar body to Sulphur Mate but had a pressed felt face and a mushroom looking hat. You can see Lucky Fellow here on the left; the picture of this little guy is from LiveAuctioneers.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of this well-heeled Sulphur Mate doll has been a "shoe-in" for you!

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Pretty As A Picture: A Conversation With Doll And Steiff Photographer Kewty-Pie


Steiff and dolls of all types have always been best friends. And they also make for fabulous photo subjects. Steiffgal loves and follows the the work of photographer "Kewty-Pie" who brilliantly and delightfully brings the two together in the most playful and novel ways. If you like Steiff, Steiffgal guarantees you will adore her work as well! This artist was kind enough to speak with Steiffgal about her doll passion and interest in all things "button-in-ear." Check out what she had to say.

Some family, real and plastic

Steiffgal: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Simlian: I am Simlian and I live in Singapore with my Mom, my two teenage daughters, and my hubby. I am a working mom and so my weekdays are packed with work mainly. Weekends are for the family both human and plastic.


Snoopy and Woodstock
Steiffgal: Tell us about your doll interests and collection. What types of dolls are your favorites? 

Simlian: I am firstly a toy lover. My interests and collections started with Matchbox cars, then Snoopy, the Peanuts Gang, and Hello Kitty when I was a child.

Years later when I started working, my toy interests expanded to Star Wars and GI Joe figures and dolls. This slowly led to dolls and it was only in 2005 that I purchased my very first doll, a Blythe doll by Takara Tomy. They are about 12" tall with overly sized heads, rather strange proportions, but somehow they felt “right”. Since Blythe, I have also moved a little into the world of ball jointed dolls and other art dolls. My real interest is really in customized dolls. Each one to me is a piece of art made with much care and love by the customisers.

Keeping things in scale 
Steiffgal: Tell us how your interest in taking photos of dolls came about. What type of camera do you use? Do you work in a certain scale?

Simlian: It was through Blythe dolls that I picked up my interest in doll and toy photography. There are so many talented doll photographers on social media... Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, and going through their magical pictures totally lured me into this hobby. I love challenges and it is the process of figuring out solutions to making the dolls or toys seemingly come to life in the pictures that I enjoy the most.

Using perspective to get the perfect shot
I started off with a point and shoot camera I had on hand at the time. I went through three point and shoot cameras before deciding to graduate to a mirrorless camera, a Sony Alpha5, which I currently use. I do not work with only one particular scale as the dolls and toys from different series come in different scales. However, I am very particular about making sure the props are of the same scale as the dolls or toys in the pictures. I play with perspective to achieve scale as well.

Setting up a shot
Steiffgal: Is taking photos of dolls your job or business, or is it a hobby or passion?


Simlian: This is purely my hobby and passion, not at all related to my job.

Steiffgal: How long have you been photographing dolls? How long does it take to set up a shot? Do you do any post-shot editing?

A fun, outdoor shot
Simlian: I really started learning to photograph dolls and toys in 2011. I did not know much then and had to always view and review all the wonderful pictures on social media to learn, try, and practice. I generally plan things in my mind before the shoot although sometimes my mind is a blank and I’ll then just it play by ear. So the actual set up and shoot itself doesn’t take long, perhaps fifteen minutes or less for a picture. As my pictures are generally outdoors, there are many variable factors like wind, daylight, etc. to contend with; hence, I have to be fast with the set up and shoot.

And there are times when I am with my family and I cannot keep them waiting too long so I have to be really quick about it. I do minimal post editing, mainly minor tweaks to get the picture closer to what I see with my eyes in terms of colors.

Dolls in Munich along a shopping street
Steiffgal: Where is the most interesting place you have ever shot dolls? Where is the most challenging place you have ever shot dolls?

Simlian: It is difficult to name one particular place, I would say each place has its story. For example, when I was in Munich a couple of years back, I realized how open the people were to dolls. 

As I was taking pictures of my doll along the shopping street, an older jovial gentleman came up to me and unexpectedly grabbed my doll from my hand. He then cradled my doll in the nook of his arm and then asked me to take a picture of him with my doll. He then called to his wife and daughters over to take a look at my doll. You can see this delightful man and my doll pictured here on the left.

Later, I popped into a shop selling cuckoo clocks and asked permission to take pictures of my doll in the shop. When the shop assistants saw my doll, they happily allowed me to take pictures and then asked me to take pictures with my doll as well.  
Then I went for lunch and the same thing happened in the restaurant.

So I would say my dolls and toys are great conversation starters helping me create memorable and interesting experiences. 

People taking photos of me taking photos
Steiff dogs make any photo better
The more Steiff, the merrier
Outdoor photo shoots are generally more demanding than indoor shoots within controlled settings.  

Outdoors, I have to contend with the winds, the heat, the cold, the sand, and even the people! Once, after setting up my doll, someone walked by and not seeing my doll kicked her almost 3 meters across a crowded room! Luckily no one else kicked her. I almost had a heart attack! And many other times, I have lost props and even toys to the wind... blowing them away. On one of my holidays, I did a set up by the hotel pool, a gust of wind came by and blew some of my miniature books into the pool! I had to ask a swimmer to help me retrieve them.

Steiffgal: Tell us about your interest in Steiff. Why do you use Steiff animals as part of your storytelling?

Simlian: I learned about Steiff when I was a child but it wasn’t that I owned a Steiff then. Steiff wasn’t available where I was then. But my Dad worked for a printing company that printed Steiff postcards then and he brought home the overruns for me. They were in large sheets and silly me I cut them up into the postcards they were meant to be. I think I still have one or two of these cards with me. 

Friends for life
It was only in the early 2000s when I adopted my first Steiff Bear.  I found the vintage mini sized dogs to be the right scale for my dolls. Now I always feel that my pictures are incomplete without a pet or two in them. The Steiff doggies add life and the finishing touch to the picture.

Steiffgal: Do you also collect Steiff items in addition to dolls?

Boys will be boys
Simlian: Yes, I’m always on the look out for the mini dogs to be my dolly pets. But aside from the mini dogs I also find the mini bears and chimps to be great companions as well.

Steiffgal: How do you pair up dolls and Steiff items for your photography?

Simlian: I do so based on the scene I want to set up and the dolls as well. For example if it’s a picture with a boy doll then I would imagine what his pet dog could be like and match from there. Or I could pair my dolls and the Steiff item based on the location of the photo shoot. For example in China, I might use a Steiff Pekingese.

Good company indeed
Steiffgal: What type of Steiff animals are the most camera friendly? Are there any types that do not photograph well?

Simlian: I find all Steiff to be absolutely photogenic. I just need to find their best angles.

Steiffgal: What are people’s reactions to you setting photography shots in public?

A scene from China 
Simlian: I get all sorts of reactions from curiosity to rushing in to get a shot of my set up to directing me on the best location or angle for the picture. There are so many anecdotes! 


Like the time I was at West Lake Hangzhou China. I had set up my dolls and was about to take the picture and realized there’s this elderly gentleman with huge cameras on him standing right in front of me seemingly taking a picture of the back of my dolls. It was rather strange and since he was right in front of me I couldn’t take my picture till he left so I looked up and realized that there was a huge crowd behind me waiting to take pictures of my set up and this elderly gentleman was taking a picture of me with the crowd behind me. It was so funny but a pity that I was alone and couldn’t capture the moment. 

Tourists in Bali getting into the act
And then there was a time in Bali when a pair of tourists conveniently plonked themselves at my set up and asked their friend to take their picture with my dolls.

Steiffgal: And finally, where can readers see more of your delightful work and photos?

Simlian: Please follow me on social media! My Instagram name is @kewtyp, and on Facebook I am S Lian Ong.

Steiffgal: We certainly will! Thank you so much for your time and sharing your hobby and passion with us. 
The teddy bear search engine