Sunday, May 31, 2020

Boys Will Be Boys When It Comes To Steiff's Max and Moritz Hand Puppets!

In the mood for a little merry mischief? Or perhaps some double trouble? Then this playful pair of puppets is just what the doctor ordered... as you can "take two and call me me in the morning!" Check out these brothers in arms from Steiff and see what makes them so fun, and interesting, from the historical and product development perspectives.

Boys will be boys when it comes to these fictional friends named Max and Moritz. Both are in the form of glove puppets with hollow bodies and softly stuffed heads. They are 30 cm tall and made from trevira velvet, a popular and durable fabric that was popular in the Steiff line in the c. 1970s-1990s timeframe. Their clothing is integral to their bodies. Max is wearing a brown shirt, tan pants, and a red jacket. His short, spiky black hair is made from plush. His round face comes to life with black button eyes, a rounded flat nose, pink highlighted cheeks, and a painted mouth, nostrils, and eyebrows.

Moritz is wearing a blue shirt and light tan pants. His long blonde hair, with a great cowlick in the front, is made from plush. His long, lean face comes to life with black button eyes, a distinctively pointed nose, pink highlighted cheeks, and a painted mouth, nostrils, and eyebrows. Both Max and Moritz retain all of their IDs, including their named chest tags, buttons, yellow tags, and hang tags. These character puppets appeared in the line in this size only from 1979-1982.

These perky puppets are based on the beloved German folk characters Max and Moritz, the "stars" of a book called Max and Moritz (A Story of 7 Boyish Pranks). It was written by author Wilhelm Busch (German, 1832-1908). This work was first published in 1865. This darkly comedic tale is written in verse and consists of seven “chapters.” The brothers are the ultimate troublemakers and they cast their shenanigans throughout their town. The book, still a favorite since its debut 155 years ago, has become an integral part of the German culture and psyche. Author Rudolph Dirks credits Max and Moritz as the inspiration behind his early and important comic strip The Katzenjammer Kids which debuted in 1897. And even today, some German parents are known to have named their twin sons after this devilish duo!

It’s no joke to say that Steiff “maxed out” in its production of Max and Moritz characters over time. The company produced both as full bodied dolls in 30 and 35 cm versions from 1910 through 1926. You can see these handsome dudes here on the left; the photo is from the Cieslik's Button In Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. All were made from felt, fully jointed, and closely mirrored Busch’s original renditions, including the character’s distinctive faces, hairstyles, and body types. These dolls were featured prominently in the company's playful advertising photos of their era. Max and Moritz were also produced as 25 cm “record” or pull toy dolls on wooden wheels from 1916 through 1926 overall. Fast forward, Steiff produced Max and Moritz as tiny 10 cm rubber dolls from 1962 through 1967. These puppets under discussion today are the final appearance of Max and Moritz in the Steiff line as far as Steiffgal can tell.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Max and Moritz hand puppets has added some comic relief to your day!

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Mark Your Calendars For This Can't Miss June, 2020 Steiff Auction!

How exciting... a major event has just been announced for June! And no, it’s not a royal wedding - but everyone is invited to attend, and fascinators and white gloves are appropriate. It's been SOOOO long since a large Steiff collection has come to auction here in the USA, but that wait is over. Potter & Potter Auctions of Chicago, IL just announced its Eclectible Collectible Auction on June 20, 2020. It includes over 120 lots of neat Steiff treats and treasures, including a ton of prototypes, one-of-a-kinds, hand samples, and unproduced items. In honor of wedding season, here are four lots that caught Steiffgal's eye to the theme of "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue."

What's old is new again with lot #29, a pre-production sample of Steiff's "Paper Teddy Bear" replica from 1919. Its auction cataloging reads, "Steiff Club 2010 Teddy Bear, a pre-production example with “Not for Sale” text on verso of tag. Chest tag. 12”. This fully jointed and very appealing example has all IDs, including its black and white "sample" ear tag. This Ted is estimated at $80-150. 

There is so much to love about this "oldie." His IDs, size, and classic presentation are great, and he would fit in perfectly with a new or vintage Steiff, bear, or toy collection. His history is also fascinating. In order to continue soft toy production immediately after WWI, the Steiff company was forced to come up with some alternative fabrics as felt and mohair were not readily available on a commercial scale. Given the abundance of wood in the area, the company started producing things like building sets and furniture for children. Steiff also found a way to produce a tweed-like material from local natural products, including nettles. This engineered fabric was called "paper plush." Paper plush items appeared in the line from 1919 through 1921, and included popular models of the company's standard line bears, dogs, cats, and rabbits. This Ted is a replica of bears from this era. Given there is about a billion to one chance you would find an original c. 1919 paper plush animal, this bear is a sure bet for your collection. 

The "new" kid on the block here is lot #43, a petite pink bear made as an exclusive for the annual "Steiff Sommer" event of 2015. Its cataloging reads, "Steiff Summer 2015 Limited Edition Mini Teddy Bear. Number 19 of 135 bears. Pink and light brown mohair. Black ribbon tie. White tag. 6”. This happy handful is in like new condition and has all of her original IDs. She is estimated at $50-80.

This cutie is a perfect choice for both doll and bear folks. Imagine "Pinky" in the arms of your favorite doll or Ted! How totally adorable would that be?! Her color and presentation are really charming. Her tiny edition size is hugely desirable. And much about her is "debut," at least as far as Steiffgal can tell - most notably, her amazing and almost psychedelic mohair!

It's ok to borrow, especially when the results get everyone feline groovy. A hands down choice for this highlight category is lot #83, a pair of Steiff cats. Their cataloging reads, "Pair of Steiff Cats. Including Kitty limited edition (musical), yellow tag, without EAN or limitation on verso (for 2010 edition), length 12”; and Bagpuss Danbury Mint (yellow tag, EAN 662294), length 13”. The pair is conservatively estimated at $125-225.

Who would not want to add these kittens to their meow mix? It is Steiffgal's best guess that the lovely and almost life-sized musical Kitty is an overproduction of the company's grey and white alpaca cat made in an edition size of 2010 in 2010. When wound up, she plays music and moves the pom pom ball she holds between her two front paws. This may have been originally purchased at the annual tent sale held on the grounds of Steiff in Germany every summer. The Bagpuss is a SUPER COOL rarity that is based on a beloved British TV character cat of the same name. He is made from pink stenciled alpaca which apparently was very difficult to produce, so few actually were distributed. A VERY long time ago, Steiffgal made a video about Steiff's Bagpuss, and all of that information presented is still true today. Take a look here if you can!

And finally, it's time to sing the blues over this last Steiff auction highlight. Here we have lot #13, a pre-production sample of the universally beloved Peter Rabbit. This begging beauty is cataloged as, "Steiff Peter Rabbit Pre-Production Sample. A sample/prototype example of the replica of the 1904 Peter Rabbit, marked “Not for Sale” on ear tag, leather slippers marked on underside: “Regstd. No. 423888/Made in Germany,” height 9 ½”. Peter is estimated at $80-125.

There's not a hare out of place with this wah-hoo good bunny. Most Steiff collectors (including Steiffgal) have an original turn-of-last century Peter Rabbit on their bucket list. Given their absolute rarity and costs... this example just may be a good fix. This toy, of course, is based on English author Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit book which debuted in 1902. This tail - oops, tale - became a worldwide sensation due to its simple story and beautiful illustrations. Ms. Potter created a little Peter Rabbit doll and registered it in the London patent office. Despite numerous attempts, she could not find a manufacturer in England to produce her toy. Steiff got wind of this, and soon became the producer of the "official" Peter Rabbit doll for the English market. Steiff's Peter Rabbit was based on an existing begging rabbit pattern and appeared in the line in a number of sizes through about 1919. All version wore a felt topcoat and slippers.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on some of Potter's June 20, 2020 Steiff sale highlights has been almost exciting as a live auction event! You can learn more about this sale and check out the entire catalog by clicking here.

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

Monday, May 18, 2020

For He's A Jolly Good Fellow!

Dog-gonnit, it's always the perfect time for a little Steiff surprise! Steiffgal most unexpectedly came across this darling doggie. It was the first time she'd ever seen or handled one of these absolute rarities in person. Come take a look at this black and white beauty named Fellow and see what makes him so interesting, and important, from the design and product development perspectives. 

This precious puppy is a fine Fellow indeed. He 17 cm tall, sitting, and head jointed. He is made from long, shaggy black and tan mohair. His precious and pouty face comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has a non-working squeaker in his belly, folded over ears, and three black hand embroidered claws on each of his feet. He retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff ID. This model was produced sitting in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm from 1928 through 1931 overall.

Like many of Steiff's beloved c. 1925-1935 pet patterns, Fellow was also produced in a number of variations and novelties. He was made standing on all fours in 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1928 through 1931 overall. He appeared on regular or eccentric wheels in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 22, and 28 from 1928 through 1931 overall. And the 17 and 22 cm sitting versions, and the 22 cm standing version, were also fitted with a Swiss made press and release music box.

Steiff fans can't help but notice the striking resemblance between Fellow and another beloved button in ear buddy of the same era - Molly the Puppy. You can see the two side to side in the photo below. Molly was introduced in 1925 and was an immediate sensation. She could easily take the title of "mitochondrial Eve" behind the 40 new canine species Steiff introduced between 1925 and 1938. Steiff used Molly's basic appealing, endearing “young dog” pattern on other little known dogs of the 1920s and 1930s, including Trolly (a white, yellow, and brown St. Bernhard puppy), Flock (a blonde and white puppy), Zotty (a white puppy), and this Fellow. 

It is not clear why Fellow only appeared in the catalog for a handful of years. It is possible that his sales were not strong, or that his black mohair material was either very expensive or simply not available on a commercial scale. Another factor might just be Molly's popularity. According to the Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and his Friends, ..."Molly was Steiff's greatest success after the Teddy bear... Between 1925 and 1932, over half a million Molly products were made." As such, Steiff may have decided to "fish where the fish are" and focus on its Molly production, given her sales superstar status.

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed learning all about this fabulous Fellow!

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

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Little Something To Celebrate!

I don't know about you, but the current state of affairs is making Steiffgal a little soft. Soft in the head, soft around the middle, and soft in housekeeping affairs - among a few others. Can you relate? In keeping with the theme of softness, Steiffgal would love to share with you two somewhat recent, but totally irresistible Steiff editions that she keeps around as desk decorations. Both were made as celebratory collaborations with other German companies or organizations. Hopefully you will find joy in them as well!

Check out that mug! Our first plush personality is this sitting, unjointed pug dog. He 12 cm tall and is made from tan and brown soft velvet material. His hugely oversized head comes to life with a tuft of long blonde plush, dimensional jowls, and embroidered features including round, black and white cartoon eyes and a big doggy smile. He has a tiny curly tail just like a real pug. And he wears a brown plush collar. His EAN is 990724, and he was produced in 2011. He does not have a chest tag. This precious pug is a "special edition," but not a numbered, limited edition. 

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce "Cobby," the goodwill ambassador for FCI, or Federation Cynologique Internationale. This translates to "World Canine Organization." FCI is an international federation of national kennel clubs, and is based out of Thuin, Belgium. Cobby is FCI's mascot, and he debuted on May 6th, 2011 in honor of the organization's 100 year anniversary event. Cobby was so beloved, and so well received, that he has become part of FCI's general communications and branding outreach. According to FCI's website, "Our mascot, which was designed by the well-known Steiff company in Germany, is perfect as a reward or as a present for anniversary events, but also for any event in general." And the Steiff loving world couldn't agree more!

Now let's turn the page to our second soft sweetie. Here we have "Mikael the bookworm." He is 15 cm long from start to finish and made from tan, brown, light green, and darker green plush. His unjointed body is "s" shaped. Mikael's preciously pensive and very studious face comes to life with a tuft of tan hair, black bead eyes, a pink smile, and black embroidered glasses. His EAN is 674655. His button and yellow tag are located on a tab on his body. He does not have a chest tag. Mikael is a "special edition" and arrived packaged in a commemorative box, but is not a numbered, limited edition.

Marvelous Mikael, like Cobby, was created to honor a centennial event. He was made in 2019 for a chain of bookstores in Germany called Thalia. This business opened in 1919 in Hamburg at the Thalia Theater. According to Wiki, "The Thalia Theater is one of the three state-owned theatres in Hamburg, Germany. It was founded in 1843 by Charles Maurice Schwartzenberger and named after the muse Thalia." Mikael has a special hang tag in German, which translates roughly to, "Here is Mikael the bookworm. He reads for a living. He is a completely original Steiff design and is only available through Thalia as a limited edition in honor of our 100 year anniversary. He feels most comfortable in hands that also like to leaf through books." As such, this Mikael has found a perfect home with Steiffgal. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on two sort of silly Steiff editions has added a little humor to your day.

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

Sunday, May 3, 2020

This Steifff Woolen Miniature Kitten is Purr-Fect In Every Way

How can something so amazingly tiny be so amazingly cute? Well, size really defies in the case of this very appealing Steiff woolen miniature cat. Steiffgal's been hoping to add one of these fancy felines to her hug for awhile, so she was delighted when this one arrived on little cat's feet. Take a look at this little darling and just try NOT to fall in love with her. 

This happy handful is Steiff's 1970-era woolen miniature cat. She is 6 cm and head jointed. Cat is constructed from grey and white woolen yarn; her body is made from longer threads while her head is made from shorter threads. She has tiny triangular grey felt ears. Her face comes to life with green and black slit pupil eyes, a touch of pink to indicate her mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. Her pink bow is original to her. This basic design was produced in white; white, grey, black and brown; white and black; white and orange brown; and white and grey in 4 and 6 cm from 1970-1974.

In addition to her Steiff button and eartag, this pretty kitty also has a naturally colored wooden tag indicating she was originally purchased at F.A.O. Schwarz. This tag has the identical gold F.A.O. Schwarz bell logo on both sides; its cord is a piece of silky yellow floss. The bell first appeared in the company's advertising and in the stores in 1880. It is based on a similar bell that was carved into the Schwarz family's dining room table at their home in Greenwich, CT as a symbol of success and prosperity. Most of these F.A.O. Schwarz wooden bell tags are red, but Steiffgal has seen a few of these naturally colored ones on items from the 1970s, including Steiff's legacy "mask" style Teddy bears. 

Here on the left, you can see the original Steiff catalog page from 1972 promoting their range of woolen miniature friends. If you click on it, you can make it bigger. The cats are featured on the top left. According to the description, the 4 cm versions cost 3.10 marks and the 6 cm versions cost 4.50 marks. Another woolen miniature cat - a 5 cm sitting version with a mohair tail that appeared in the line from 1954-1978 - cost 4.25 marks. Using an inflation calculator, in 2020 dollars, that means that the 5 cm sitting cat cost the equivalent of $14.63, the 4 cm lying cat cost the equivalent $10.68, and the 6 cm lying cat, the one under discussion here, cost the equivalent of $15.50.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this relatively rare Steiff woolen miniature cat has given you the warm fuzzies.

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