Saturday, February 22, 2020

Pick Up The Pace And Check Out This Amazing Steiff Galop Novelty!

And we're off to the races with this next remarkable Steiff find! Steiffgal recently had the opportunity to see this rolling rarity firsthand, thanks to a friend. Its clever and period design, as well as place in Steiff's product development history timeline, are quite unique. Care to learn more? Then take a look at this gorgeous "Galop"... it's truly the wheel-deal!

Things are twice as nice with this Steiff "Galop" pull toy. Its passengers are two petite pets, a Molly the puppy and a black mohair cat. Both are standing and unjointed. Molly is 2.5" tall and the cat is about 3" tall. These cuties each retain their long trailing "f" ear buttons as their Steiff IDs. Molly and the cat are mounted upon an elaborate metal wire chassis via metal loops that are inserted into each of their four legs. Their cart glides upon four red wooden wheels. With a Galop toy of this configuration, the riders shuffle back and forth in opposite tandem as the novelty is pulled along; the rotation of the front wheels is responsible for Molly's movement, while the rotation of the back wheels is responsible for the cat's movement. 

Galop style toys appeared in the Steiff product line from c. 1926 – 1929 overall. In addition to this Molly and black cat model, versions included two bear cubs; an elephant and lion; a fox and a rabbit; Barney Google and a bear cub; Barney Google and Sparkplug; and two goats. 

You'd be cat-atonic not to take special notice of the black kitty aboard this particular Galop example. Steiff did make standing, mohair "tabby" style cats as well as black mohair "Tom" style cats in the 1920s. But Steiffgal has never seen a black mohair "tabby cat" style version from this era. So it is quite possible that this black mohair tabby cat was designed and produced exclusively for this Galop. Producing exclusive items for 1920s-era pull toy novelties does have some precedent. Here on the left, you can see a print advertisement for the company's Galop line, featuring the Molly dog and black mohair cat version under discussion here today. The tri-lingual copy notes, "Two different animals of fine plush on car of special construction. When pulled along, the galloping movement is produced."

Galop novelties - and a series of similar pull toys - were developed in the mid-1920s to meet growing international expectations for dynamic, playful, and charming products that reflected the mood and aesthetics of the "roaring 20s." Through a series of letters to his family in Germany, Richard Steiff himself stressed the need for these sorts of products in the Steiff line, in order that the company appeared forward thinking and "modern" in terms of its production and offerings. Other "two passenger" novelties produced in this series included Roly-Drolys, which appeared in the line from 1924 – 1934, and Wiwags, which appeared in the line from 1924 – 1927. Roly-Droly carts moved their passengers around in circles, while Wiwags see-sawed them up and down, as the toys were rolled about. You can see the mid-1920s catalog page advertising Steiff Galops here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this rare Steiff Galop pull toy got your heart rate up, just a bit!

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Are You All Ears To Learn About This Unusual Prewar Steiff Rabbit?

Steiffgal's simply jumping for joy over this latest collection addition! This remarkable rabbit, produced during a most challenging era at Steiff, has so many interesting details - including his "colorful" history. Come see what makes this begging bun so much fun!

There's not a hare out of place when it comes to this prewar charmer. He is begging, head jointed, and made from long, shaggy tan artificial silk plush which has been highlighted with black (that has faded to a deep forest green.) He measures 23 cm head to toe, and his tan felt lined ears add another 12 cm to his height. His face is detailed with pink and red glass pupil eyes and a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has three matching red claws on each of his feet. Rabbit retains his short trailing "f" button in ear. When he left the factory, he wore a large silk ribbon and bell around his neck. This pattern was produced in 18, 23, and 29 cm from 1938-1943 overall. As rabbits are measured WITHOUT ears, today's bun under discussion is the 23 cm version.

According to his original owner, who now lives in Canada, "My Steiff silk stuffed bunny dates from late 1930s and was purchased in Brussels, Belgium."

This rabbit's appearance and construction align well to his provenance, as well as to the manufacturing realities of the late 1930s and early 1940s at Steiff. It goes without saying that these were challenging times all around in Germany. So creating efficiencies in every area of design and manufacturing was imperative for survival. Steiff has always had a remarkable way of producing the most appealing items during down times, and this bunny pattern brings truly illuminates that. Here are four reasons why.

His fabric: 
This hare's hair is made from artificial silk plush, a material that was more readily available and affordable than mohair and felt just before and after WWII. Steiff made many of its "mainstream" items in this material during this period. It translated well, at least in the short run, to Steiff's animal patterns but lost its appeal and luster quickly. 

His embroidery: 
To save costs and labor, Steiff designed his facial embroidery to be as simple as possible - basically a large red "X" on his muzzle. Just a few years prior, typical rabbit facial embroidery was two colored, and involved "filling in" the nose space with stitches. He also only has claws on his feet, even though it would not be challenging to embroider them on his paws as well. 

His shape: 
Rabbit's shape, although unquestionably "rabbit like," has been simplified and made less graceful and curvy than the company's begging bunnies from the c. 1925-mid-1930s overall.

His coloring:
Although he appears green and tan, he did start out life black and tan. His painting details have simply changed hue over time. It is interesting to note, that from the 1920s through the early 1930s, many animals that were multi-colored were constructed in a "patched" way, meaning that each color was its own color of mohair, and the colored fabric swatches were sewn together. Of course, this was beautiful and lifelike, but also very expensive and time consuming. To create significant efficiencies in production, the company started painting instead of patching animals, and this rabbit is a perfect example of that.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this charming prewar rabbit has been pure hoppy-ness to you!

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

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Finding This Steiff Rarity Was A Hair-Raising Experience!

Steiffgal does not mean to (hedge)hog your time, but this gorgeous gent is worth a look - or two! Steiff's royal couple, Micki and Mecki the hedgehog dolls, are legacy items in the Steiff line and are proudly represented in most Steiff collections. But did you know this pattern had a little twist to it bridging its first and second years of production? Read on to learn more!

Here we have a simply marvelous, 28 cm Mecki hedgehog doll. He is standing and head and arm jointed. His body is solidly stuffed; his legs, arms and torso are made from felt and his head is made from rubber. Mecki has a patch of long tipped mohair on his chest (how macho!) and very long, spikey mohair as his hair. His shoes are black felt with tan soles, and his pants are grey canvas with faux red and blue felt patches. He wears a red plaid shirt and a brown felt vest with leather buttons. He is supposed to look a bit dusty and "dirty," like he's spent the day hard at work, but that's just in his design and he's actually clean as a whistle. His charming and all original accessories include a rope belt, a wooden pipe, and a faux leather "wallet" containing his identification papers.

Mecki and Micki have been produced almost continuously in the Steiff line since 1951. They traditionally have appeared in 17, 28, and 50 cm; Mecki was also produced as a 100 cm Studio model in 1967. The pair were the mascots for a very popular German magazine called HorZu, which covered radio and television news. The magazine is still in business today and mostly covers TV news; it is somewhat like People Magazine here in the U.S. HorZu began publishing in 1946; the hedgehogs made their debut in 1949. Knowing a good thing when it saw it, Steiff negotiated an exclusive licensing rights to produce the dolls in 1951, and they have been a mainstay in the line to this day.

Let's get right to the point here... so what's the big deal with this common item which appeared in the line since, well, forever? So hair's why this example is WAH-HOO good. Mecki and Micki are famous for their legacy style "v" hairlines, meaning that their prickly mohair hair comes to a "v" on their forehead. However, the very FIRST examples, made in 1951, had rounded hairlines. It is incredibly rare to find a rounded hairline HorZu hedgehog doll in any condition, given their heads were made from a rubber material which tends to dry out and fall apart over time. This Mecki is in practically new condition. He retains his US Zone tag in his arm seam as well as his red rubber bangle-style bracelet which anchors his button and yellow ear flag IDs like charms. He'd only be more perfect if he also had his chest tag, but you can't have everything, eh?

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this earliest Mecki doll simply hair-raising (in the best possible way.)

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

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Can't Miss Bear-Affair In June Just Announced!

Looking for something Steiff-y fun to put on your calendar? And who isn't, given its the cold and gloomy days of February (at least around these parts!) Steiffgal has just learned of a really exciting Teddy bear sale happening in June that she wanted to share with you. Mostly, because many of the bears on offer will be WAH-HOO good... but also because of the nature of the sale. Curious? Then read on!

This wonderful bear-affair will feature collection highlights from none other than Hilary Pauley - the remarkable woman who helped to bring London's annual 200 Years of Childhood weekend celebration to life! It will be held on Wednesday, June 10th, 2020 in London, and managed by our friend and colleague Daniel Agnew at SAS Auctions. Hilary and Daniel are pictured here on the left. As of now, the auction is scheduled to present over 300 antique bears, plus a few artist bears, but more are being added all the time. It is possible that up to 350 beautiful bruins may be on offer. Currently, there are about 17 antique Steiff bears on the roster.

Steiffgal has seen Hilary's collection in person, and is still dreaming about it. The bears themselves are WAH-HOO good and are displayed in charming vignettes. And just when you think it couldn't get better, it does. This finely curated hug is housed in a private museum near her home, surrounded by beautiful gardens.  

Steiffgal recently spoke with Daniel about the auction, and how he is preparing for what is undoubtedly going to be the "talk of the town" across the international Teddy bear collecting community this spring. He's what he had to say!

Steiffgal: Can you tell us how you go about researching and cataloging this collection, especially given its very broad scope of manufactures and designs. Do you do it on your own, or do you have a support team?

Daniel: I know Hilary's collection very well and often visit her home and the museum as we work together on the November annual 200 Years of Childhood fair. So Hilary and I are working on the sale together. Hilary has great lists of her bears and we are pulling them out section by section. I am doing a basic listing, then we take a batch of the bears into her beautiful garden and take their photos. At the end of each visit I take them away and they go to my office in Newbury, England. There I will complete the description and include a condition report with each one. 

Steiffgal: Have the bears arrived in your facility yet? It must be delightful to be working in a sea of bears!

Daniel: Some of them have. I will be doing the final batch of cataloguing on the 19th to 21st of February, so by then I will have everything back at the auction house.  

Steiffgal: From the highlights you've shared so far, a delightful chocolate brown cub has already caught my eye. (This sweet treat is pictured here on the left.) So I have to ask, which is your favorite Steiff bear in the sale, and why? 

Daniel: My favourite Steiff in the auction is a wonderful Record Teddy. He is pictured here on the left. You don't see them that often and condition is very good. 

Steiffgal: That's for sure! I recall you sold a 10 cm version of one of these in 2010 at Christies and it realized over 6,000 GBP. They really are rare and marvelous.  And finally, how can we learn more about the sale and its highlights?

Daniel: I am constantly posting highlights on my Facebook page, so you can get a preview there. I will post more information about the sale's logistics there as well as they are finalize. I am also able to send your more photographs of anything you are interested in. So if something catches your eye, and you want to learn more about it, just ask! 

In terms of the catalog, it will be available three weeks before the auction, but if I get it done, it might be earlier. It will go on-line at the same time as the printed copy is available. You can order one by emailing - the auction will be also listed on-line both on our own website and - you can bid live on both platforms.

Steiffgal: Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exciting update with us!

Steiffgal hopes that this "Ted-talk" has been an intriguing paws in your day. 

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