Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cat Got Your Tongue Over These Fantastic Steiff Kittens?

These days, you just can't get enough of creature comforts. And nothing fits that bill better than Steiff's fantastic vintage cats. These purr-fect pets are always available to give - or get - a cuddle. Here are three tiny favorites from Steiffgal's collection. Come take a look to see what makes them so precious from the collectors' and historical perspectives.

Our first fine feline is an adorable example of Steiff's Fluffy cat. This example is 10 cm tall, sitting, and head jointed. She is made from white and blue-grey tipped mohair. Her little tail wraps sweetly around her body. Fluffy's face is detailed with oversized, deep turquoise green and black glass slit pupil eyes and a simple hand embroidered pink nose and mouth. She has managed to hold onto her her original clear monofilament whiskers over time; her blue bow and bell are replaced. Fluffy retains her metal rimmed, named chest tag as her Steiff ID. Pre-World War II, this pattern was produced in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, 35, and 43 cm from 1926 through 1943 overall. After the war, she appeared briefly again in the line in 14, 17, and 22 cm through 1950. 

It's easy to see why this Fluffy has a paw up in Steiffgal's collection. Her adorable presentation matches the vibe of the mid-1920s when she was designed and debuted. She is quite fluffy, and very feminine, with soft coloring and a playful personality. Her oversized eyes are placed low upon her center-seamed face, further emphasizing her childlike innocence. Her size makes her so easy and fun to display... and her fantastic chest tag confirms that she was made in the mid-1920s, dating her at the very beginning of her production timeline.

Now let's get around to our second pretty kitty. Here we have a lovely 9 cm Steiff ball cat. Her body is a simple, round form about the size of a golf ball. Her head is about the size of a walnut and is detailed with a white inset mohair muzzle, black and green glass slit pupil eyes, and a simple, pink hand embroidered nose and mouth. Her sweet little tail wraps around her backside, much like Steiff's fully formed cats of her era. Cat's two front limbs are made from tan colored woolen pom-poms. Her clear monofilament whiskers have unfortunately been lost to time. This ball cat pattern was made from 1932 through 1943 in 9 and 15 cm. This excellent example retains her long trailing "F" button and bits of her red ear tag, dating her to the early 1930s. 

These neat novelties rolled out during a difficult period at Steiff. Starting around 1930, Steiff's product development strategy focused in part on creating a series of affordable, appealing, and small scaled products. This was a very challenging time geopolitically throughout Germany, and many consumers did not have a great deal - if any - disposable income for toys and other "non-essentials." Ball animals, given their size, simplicity, and low material and labor costs, seem to fit the bill pretty well. So the company made eight versions overall; all were based on Steiff's most popular designs of the time. These included rabbits, Teddy bears, elephants, ducks, cats, lions, a Chin-Chin dog, and a Molly the Puppy. It is interesting to note that the company's inexpensive, palm sized woolen miniature animals also debuted in the early 1930s.

And finally, you're gonna have to face the fact that this last kitten has the best facial expression - ever. Here we have an 11 cm Siamy the Siamese cat. She is sitting and head jointed. She is made from tan mohair which has been airbrushed with overall tan and chocolate brown highlights. Her ears are made from light brown felt, and her muzzle is made from brown velvet. Her sweet tail wraps around her little behind. Her face is detailed with striking blue and black glass pupil eyes, a tan hand embroidered nose, and an open, peach felt lined mouth. Siamy appeared in the Steiff catalog post war from 1953 through 1954 only. She was produced in 11, 15, and 23 cm during that time. This precious example retains her red imprinted chest tag, raised script button in ear, and legible yellow ear tag as her Steiff IDs.

Despite their relatively short midcentury appearance, Siamy cats have been noted with numerous subtle differences in their detailing. In all three sizes, some have open mouths while some have closed mouths. Some have pink noses; others have light or dark brown noses. And their coloring also varies dramatically; some are mostly medium to dark brown, while others have just a touch of color contrast. Given this variety, it is easy to see why this pattern is truly the cat's meow and how it has remained a collector's favorite more than a half-century after its production ended. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on some of her favorite Steiff kittens has added a little meow mix to your day.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Boy Oh Boy This Is One Interesting Steiff Doll!

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails - that's what little boys are made of. At least according to an early 19th century nursery rhyme. But what about Steiff little boy dolls? What are they made of? Well, that depends on the timeframe in which they were produced. Take a look at this delightful, and unusual, Steiff boy and see how his composition suggests a pretty specific production era.

Well hello handsome! Here we have Steiff's Erich. He is 35 cm tall and fully jointed. He comes to life with brown hair which has faded to silver over time, lovely blue and black glass pupil eyes, delicate painting to define his eyebrows, nostrils, cheeks, and mouth, and Steiff's distinctive and early vertical center seam facial construction. He also has two small horizontal seams by each of his eyes; these are original to his pattern and help add roundness and softness to his head and face shapes.

Erich is dressed for fun and play in his early 20th century style outfit. He dons a white cotton shirt, a cotton "one-sie" consisting of blue shorts and a black vest, a blue cotton jacket, a linen apron with a pocket, and blue and white striped socks and black felt shoes; most, if not all of these accessories are original to him. He retains his tiny long trailing "f" button and traces of his white ear tag as his IDs. This charming pattern was made in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1912-1927 overall.

So what about his actual composition? With his full permission and consent, Erich is happy to share his noteworthy make-up and is proud of his role in historical research! His head and arms are made from Steiff's traditional high quality felt. His legs are made from smooth, flesh colored linen; their color matches his felt pretty well. And his torso is made from a very coarse, blue and tan colored muslin material. More typically, a pre WWII doll from Steiff has a felt head, torso, and limbs. 

Erich's assembly makes sense if you think about it from the visibility, financial, and historical perspectives... and helps to inform his dating as well. 

  • Visibility: The areas that are most seen - his face and arms - are made from the nicest materials. His legs, which are almost all covered by his shoes, socks, and shorts, are made from a less expensive fabric that somewhat "blends into" the rest of his body. And his torso - which usually never sees the light of day - is made from the cheapest and least elegant material. Overall, when dressed, has the appearance of being a quality, finely designed and produced Steiff doll.
  • Financial: Given his materials, it is likely that Steiff was trying to manufacture him as inexpensively as possible. This suggests that money was tight throughout the German economy - both on the business and consumer sides.
  • Historical: Just before, during, and after WWI, traditional, high quality toy making fabrics like mohair and felt were in short supply, rationed, or simply not available in Germany. Companies used what supplies they had on hand, or what they could source, to keep the business up and running.

Given his presentation, detailing, and body composition, it is Steiffgal's guess that Erich is a "wartime baby" and was born in the c. 1914-1919 time frame. Steiff has always done their best to deliver "only the best for our children" regardless of hardships and supply chain issues. Erich is a great case in point illustrating that business priority. 

Isn't it amazing he still has his boyish good looks, given he's over a century old?

Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on Erich of material interest.

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

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Let These Four Cheerful Cubs Brighten Your Day!

It's hard to bear all the bad news lately. You can't turn on the TV or radio - or check out Facebook - without learning something depressing or scary. In times like this, it's important to take good care of yourself, and surround yourself with loving things. So today's blog has two simple missions - first, to give you a reason to smile and second, to provide a bright spot in your day. Here are a quartet of Steiff friends that are happy to help you with those important goals.

Our first terrific Ted is Penelope. She is one of Steiff's early 1950-era Teddy baby dolls. She stands 22 cm tall and is head jointed. Her unjointed body is made from tan fabric while the tips of her feet and hands are made from brown mohair. Penelope is clearly a fashion plate with her adorable light blue Peter-Pan style blouse, seersucker apron, and blue velvet pants. And this girl loves bling, as you can see from her pendant (which is actually an earring Steiffgal found, but don't tell her!) and her UFDC pocket pin. Steiffgal found Penelope at a doll show in 2016, and they've been close friends ever since. Penelope has accompanied Steiffgal to dreadful things like dentist and doctor visits and the like, and is always a great source of comfort - and conversation.

Here we have Maisy, who's as fresh as a daisy! She is a Steiff Teddy baby bear with really unusual velvety-cloth paw pads. Given this out-of-the-ordinary fabric, she probably dates from just before or just after WWII. Maisy is about 25 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from long and shaggy light maize colored mohair. Her nose and claw stitching is very light brown in color. Like Penelope, she's quite the girly-girl. She loves her pretty denim frock (which was made by Steiff) and is quite proud of her fantastic charm necklace, which features a bunch of playful beaded friends. Steiffgal found Maisy on eBay, and was immediately smitten by her great coloring and eternally optimistic personality. As soon as Maisy jointed the hug, she caught the eye of Charles, a 40 cm white Steiff Teddy baby from around 1930. It's easy to see why. They've been the happy couple ever since.

Our next sweet treat is Candy, who is 28 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from chocolate brown artificial silk plush. Candy was made around 1948 or so. She has very interesting linen paw pads on her hands and feet. She looks a little grumpy, but that's ok if you are a supermodel like she is, and she doesn't want to distract attention away from her totally terrific Teddy bear slippers. These quality kicks are made from brown mohair, have felt soles, and are decorated with brown and tan embroidery; even the bears' ears are dimensional. This slippers were a surprise gift from a friend, so they are even more special! Isn't it interesting how great footwear can make the whole day better? Steiffgal purchased Candy at auction; she wasn't planning on bidding on her, but you know how that goes.

And last but not least is this zany Zooby bear. This little joker is 28 cm and was made in the mid-1960s. He is head and arm jointed. His pointy claws are made from white felt. He is self-standing; the soles of his feet are made from a brown leather-like material; the tops are made from dark brown mohair. From a historical perspective, Zooby’s design is based somewhat on Steiff’s pre-war Zirkus-Baer or Circus Bear, a 32 cm standing bear produced from 1935 through 1939. Zooby likes wearing a felt clown hat, for obvious reasons. You can't help but notice his goofy facial expression, like he's just told a bad joke and is waiting for your hysterical response. Just the thought of that can't help but make you smile, right?

Steiffgal hopes these four cheerful cubs have brought a little humor, levity, and play to your day.

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

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Are You Smitten With This Midcentury Steiff Kitten?

It's time to let the cat out of the bag concerning this week's fantastic Steiff find. The company's delightful vintage button-in-ear kittens have long headlined Steiff and doll collectors' lists of favorites given their incredible appeal, playful personalities, and ease of display. And there's simply nothing cuter than a kindle** of Steiff kittens! Take a look at this delightful, interestingly ID'ed midcentury example and try not to fall in love with her!

This fantastic feline is an early postwar version of Steiff's beloved Susi cat. She is 17 cm tall, sitting, and head jointed. Susi is made from grey and white 
patched style mohair. Her muzzle, front feet, and chest area are white; her body, head, and tail are grey. Her grey mohair is hand airbrushed with bold, eye catching black stripes. Her front claws are red and hand embroidered. Sweet Susi's face comes to life with green and black slit pupil glass eyes, a pink embroidered nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. Her belly squeaker works, sometimes! Her dark pink silk ribbon is original to her. This mohair Susi was made in 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1949-1978 overall. This example was produced in the earliest part of that time frame.

Susi is paws-atively a key design in Steiff's century-plus history of cat production. Steiff debuted its original Susi cat in 1936. Prewar, she was produced in mohair in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1943. In Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment, she is described as "mohair plush, gray tabby, sitting, very pretty model, round shape." It is very unusual to find subjective or "flattering" descriptions in the Sortiment books as they are almost always entirely factual and literal. So Susi's design really must be the cat's meow! Early postwar, Susi - like many of Steiff's legacy prewar patterns - was produced in artificial silk plush as that was the fabric that was available for toy product in the late 1940s. Art silk Susi appeared in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1948-1949 overall.

There is so much to love about this pretty kitty. Her facial expression and presentation are lifelike and irresistible. Her construction has so much integrity, and has a distinctively "old fashioned" quality to it. And her condition is lovely, too; it's amazing she looks almost fresh as a daisy after nearly seven decades. From the historical perspective, Susi's IDs bridge pre- and post-war designs. She has her linen tag style "US Zone" tag sewn into her arm seam; technically, these appeared in items produced in the c. 1947-1953 time frame. She also has her red imprinted, "watermelon" bear faced chest tag. These appeared on items prewar from c. 1928 through the mid 1940s, then again through 1952. This tag features a very angular Teddy bear face with a distinctive "U" shaped muzzle. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early postwar Susi kitten has made you grin like a Cheshire cat.

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

**YES! This is a real word to describe a collection or group of kittens!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

It's Time For A Little Horseplay With This Sweet Steiff Filly On Wheels

Let's saddle up and take a look at this week's delightful vintage Steiff find. Here we have a barnyard friend who's really on the move, and excited to share her story with you. Check out this happy handful and see what makes her so much more than just a dog and pony show!

This pretty pony is the mane event indeed. She's 12 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from tan mohair which has been airbrushed with brown spots. Her tail and mane are made from longer, stiff mohair, and her ears are made from felt. Her face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and black airbrushing to indicate her nose, mouth, and other facial contours. She is ready to hit the trail with her red faux leather saddle, red plastic reins, and red string headwear detailed with yellow felt circle decorations. She is mounted on two metal axels which are connected to four blue wooden eccentric wheels. She bobs to and fro, much like a real filly, when she is pulled along. Pony on wheels was made in this size only from 1954-1957 and then again in 1960. 

Hold your horses! It's no coincidence that the information printed on filly's yellow cloth ear tag pretty much describe her to a "T." The code reads, "1312 ex." This stands for 1=standing, 3=mohair, 12= 12 cm, and ex= riding upon four wooden eccentric wheels. And her thin lettered, raised script button, which debuted in 1952, is perfectly period to her as well.

This delightful pull toy is a natural product line extension of a beloved, standard line item introduced in the early 1950s. This of course was the company's pony, which was made in 12 and 17 cm from 1951-1976 overall. The larger and smaller sizes were quite similar in design, with two details setting them apart. The first is that the smaller version had a dark tan mane, and the larger version had a white mane. The second is that the smaller version had a saddle and headwear made from thin red string and decorated with felt, while the larger one did not have a saddle and had headwear made from faux red leather and metal studs. 

Creating petite pull toys on wooden wheels from the smallest, or smaller versions of popular Steiff designs was an efficient way for the company to grow its product range in the c. 1950-1960 time frame. Versions on wheels were usually produced a few years after the animal design was initially introduced - much like in the case of the pony. For example, Cockie the cocker spaniel was introduced in 1952 in 10, 17, and 25 cm. The 10 cm Cockie was made as a pull toy from 1954-1957 and 1960. Bully the bulldog was introduced in 1951 in 10, 17, and 22 cm. The 10 cm version was made as a pull toy from 1954-1957 and 1960. And the company's postwar mohair donkey - made in 14, 22, and 28 cm from 1950 onward, was made as a 14 cm pull toy from 1954-57 and 1961. You can see Bully and Cockie on wheels here on the left.

These pint-sized, mid-century pull toys remain extremely popular with toy collectors worldwide, and for good reason! They are adorable, don't take up too much room, and look precious posed in groups or accompanying vintage dolls from any era. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this pony on wheels made horse-sense to you.

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