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. 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Does This Steiff Story Have A Familiar Ring To It?

Now for something really different, and really fantastic. Steiff animals have always been a part of key family and life cycle events, and here's perfect proof of that. Check out this note from a reader who asks about her Grandmother's special Steiff treasure. She writes, 

"My Aunt, who is in her seventies, recently sent me this lamb that belonged to my Grandmother who was born in 1915. She claims that my Granny’s engagement ring was presented tied to its neck; this would have been in the 1930s. 

My Mom thinks it was a tradition at the time to present a ring attached to a toy or object. She also believes that Grandma's engagement followed her "pinning" at Christmas, which involved a 1930s-era Steiff miniature woolen fawn. My family sent you photos of this little fawn in 2012 and you helped us figure out that mystery a few years ago. It it possible that this this lamb carried the "next step" in Grandma's engagement engagement process? My Granny always loved little stuffed animals and dolls - she collected them later in life. Thank you!"

How fun, and where to start? If you are not familiar with the Steiff woolen miniature fawn "pinning" story mentioned above, please check out that heartwarming post here! The little guy pictured here on the left steals THAT show, and a few hearts along the way! Make sure to scroll to the very end of the story where you can see a remarkable, almost century old photo of the reader's Grandmother at Christmas time with this fantastic Steiff woollie fawn.

So now let's fast forward to the item under discussion today. What we have here is indeed a barnyard buddy, but it is a goat, not a lamb! This goat's name is Zicky. Steiff made these from 1952 through 1972 in 10, 14, 22, 28, and 35 cm. All were unjointed, standing, and made from off white mohair with felt detailing. They came to life with beautiful airbrushed highlighting, including coloration on their backs and legs, and a touch of red on their lips. Zicky goats had black and green slit pupil eyes and black, simple noses and mouths. And given their production era, all had raised script style Steiff buttons, as shown here on the left. Medium and larger sized versions sported wooden or felt horns. All examples left the factory decorated with a silken ribbon and a brass bell. 

This beloved goat pattern was also produced in 14 cm on red wooden eccentric wheels from 1953-1957 and in a somewhat rarer "lying" pattern in 10 and 14 cm from 1954 through 1956.

So, do things align here? Given that the Zicky pattern was introduced in the early 1950s, and the great exchange happened in the 1930s - it is not possible that this goat delivered Granny's ORIGINAL engagement ring, at least in the time and space continuum that Steiffgal knows of. However, it is entirely possible that this goat DID participate in another special ring exchange - perhaps for a 25th wedding anniversary or other milestone event - and the family story just got a little out of order over time.

Steiffgal hopes this great Steiff family story had a familiar ring to it!

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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Spicing Things Up With This Very Vintage Steiff Dachshund

You've heard the expression "age before beauty," but today's special blog guest clearly wins hands down in both categories. This delightful doggie is one of the oldest (and most handsome) canines Steiffgal has in her hug. In dog years, he's nearly 750 years old! Come see what makes him such a top dog in every way.

This precious pooch is standing and five ways (arms, legs, and head) jointed. His head, back, tail, and outer limbs are made from vibrantly hued cinnamon mohair. His chest and inner limbs are made from white mohair which has mellowed to a vanilla color over time. He has three black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws. His face and head come alive with long, floppy felt lined mohair ears, black shoe button eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He retains his original tiny long trailing "f" button and traces of his white ear tag. This pattern appeared in the line in 17 and 22 cm from 1911 through 1913; this is the 17 cm version. These dogs were measured vertically, from the top of their heads to their toes. 

It is so cool how his design details perfectly converge on his era of production. Four really pop here. 

The first is his color. This great cinnamon mohair color is seen once in a blue moon, and mostly on items through the 19-teens. Steiffgal has also seen this color on early bears, monkeys, and squirrels. 

The second is his jointing. Through the 19-teens, it was not unusual for Steiff to joint, or "uber-joint" its popular animals. For example, squirrels and cats were head, limb, AND tail jointed. And some rabbit models were fully jointed - plus had each of their ears jointed! This dandy Doxie is head and limb jointed, which adds to his playfulness, but also to his cost. Fully jointed dogs like this are extremely rare in the Steiff line.

The third is his eyes. This great example has black shoe button eyes, like most items produced before c. 1912 or so. Starting in the mid-teens, Steiff primarily produced their items with black glass, or black and brown glass pupil eyes, to add to their appeal, prestige, and authenticity.

And the last is his facial construction and presentation. After studying this pooch for awhile, Steiffgal noticed that his face has a center seam construction, and a shaved muzzle. These two desirable - and clearly period - design elements are most often seen on Steiff's earliest Teddy bears.

Dachshunds have always been a popular breed in the Steiff production kennel. The 1913 English catalog features eight variations of these "badger dogs." Here on the left you can see this five ways jointed example under discussion today. You can click on the photo to make it larger. He is simply noted as "jointed, fine plush, brown &white/brown." Two models are noted; one at 17 cm and one at 22 cm. And just how much is that doggie in the window? The catalog notes that the 17 cm version costs $1.40 (the equivalent of $36.28 in 2019) and the 22 cm version costs $1.90 (the equivalent of $49.24 in 2019.)

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this darling Doxie has generated a bit of puppy love for you. 

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