Sunday, June 28, 2020

Stand and Deliver With This Amazing Steiff Tail Turns Head Bear Cub

This next Steiff treasure has one great tail to tell! Check out this amazing, and amazingly charming bear cub. His design looks pretty familiar for sure. But behind his handsome appearance is a little secret with even greater appeal!

This Ted truly stands and delivers. He is 16 cm tall, 30 cm long, and made from brown mohair. His inset muzzle is made from tan mohair. He has tan felt paw pads and four brown hand embroidered claws on each foot. His face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. Ted is very solidly stuffed with excelsior. What brings him from good to great is the fact that he is a tail moves head example, meaning that he has a little mohair tail that can be moved about in a circle. When this happens, his head rotates in unison. This standing tail moves head bear was produced in 18, 23, and 29 cm from 1930 through 1935. His collar was made by Steiff, but is not original to him.

Prewar, Steiff produced a number of tail moves head items as part of its strategy to create playful, irresistible, and novel toys for the American and worldwide marketplaces. The company received a patent for their tail moves head mechanism in the early 1930s. Over time about 25 different tail turns head models were produced through the very early 1940s. For the most part, these were based on the best selling standard line patterns of the time and included cats, dogs, rabbits, penguins, goats, and lambs, and even Mickey Mouse, among others. 

These innovative new toys - designed to get consumers moving and grooving -  were featured on a Steiff catalog cover from 1931. You can see that image here on the left. They were promoted 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.’” 

This tail moves head model was replaced - and possibly upgraded - by another very similar looking brown mohair bear cub in 1935. This was Steiff's snap jointed Circus bear, and he is pictured here on the left. Unlike his earlier tail moves head cousin who was on all fours, the Circus bear was standing. But these two cubs shared a very similar head and muzzle shape, as well as general look and presentation. The Circus bear was 32 cm tall, with disk jointed arms, leg snap joints, and a tail moves head mechanism. He was in the line from 1935 through 1939 and approximately 897 models were manufactured - making him one rare bear indeed. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion about this tail moves head cub has made you want to twist and shout. 

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

This Steiff First Feline Is Of Presidential Caliber

Like many felines, the stories associated with Steiff's fabulous and legacy arched-backed black Tom Cats seem to have nine lives. And here's another one that Steiffgal has just discovered!

Look what just snuck in on little cat's feet. While doing some research for an unrelated Steiff project, Steiffgal came across this very interesting blurb in the Cieslik's Button In Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends reference book. She was looking up information on tea cozies, and the book pictures a black Tom Cat on one of these kitchen-helpers. In addition, the copy describing the photo notes... "This Tom Cat was especially popular at Halloween time in the USA and was also in demand as a souvenir item, as "Blackie the White House Mascot, c. 1924." The picture from Cieslik's book is pictured here on the left. 

This was the first Steiffgal had ever heard of Blackie, so she did a little research. Most people are familiar with US Presidents having a "First Dog" pet as part of their administration family. For example, LBJ invited his famous beagle pair "Him and Her" to many official White House affairs and happenings. But it turns out that in 1924, there was a "First Cat," or actually a pair of First Cats, belonging to President Calvin Coolidge and his wife. According to the Oct. 22, 1923 edition of the New York Tribune, these two pretty kitties made their debut as follows:

“THE NEWEST ARRIVALS AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Introducing Blackie & Tige, two friendly kittens recently received by the President and Mrs. Coolidge. Peter Pan and Laddie Buck, the President’s wire-haired terrier and Airedale, respectively, have refused to be quoted concerning the latest additions to the White House zoo.” This 1923 picture from the story is from the Library of Congress.

So how does all of this fit into Steiff's product development and design history? Purrr-fectly, actually. The original Tom Cat was produced in both black and white velvet. Both versions were very skinny, standing on all fours, unjointed, and had arched backs and open mouths. They all left the factory in Giengen, Germany wearing a silk ribbon and bell. Black Tom cats were produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1904 through 1918. White Tom cats were produced in 14 and 17 cm for three years only - from 1906 through 1908 - and are exceptionally rare. You can see one of these very early velvet Tom Cats here on the left, he dates from around 1905 or 1906.

It is interesting to note that there was a five year gap in black Tom Cat production, with the final ones leaving the Giengen factory in the late 19-teens. Then, all of a sudden, this beloved pattern re-emerged in 1923 - just as Blackie here in the US was making headlines.  Like his older brother, Steiff's 1920s-era black Tom Cat also was standing and unjointed. He was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1943; the 8 and 10 cm sizes were made from black velvet while the 14 cm and larger versions were made from mohair. All sizes had prominent green and black glass eyes. Unlike the original super skinny Tom Cat, design, these were all a little more robust in appearance, had closed mouths, and bushy mohair tails regardless of sizes. These design updates reflect the general mid-1920s Steiff aesthetic of "fluffy, fat, and feminine." You can see one of these 1920-era black Tom Cats here on the left, he dates from about 1923 through 1935. 

Given Steiff has always looked to headline making news for product development inspiration, Steiffgal suspects the grand second debut of its black Tom cat pattern in 1923 was no coincidence at all.

Steiffgal hopes this amazing and little known Steiff cat tale has tickled your whiskers today. 

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

Saturday, June 13, 2020

These Steiff Auction Apes Are More Fun Than A Barrel Full of Monkeys!

It's no secret that Steiffgal is just bananas over Steiff's monkeys from any era. So she was thrilled to see a number of important ones coming up for sale at Potter & Potter's Eclectible Collectible Auction to be held on June 20, 2020. This event features over 120 lots of super sweet Steiff finds, including a ton of prototypes, one-of-a-kinds, hand samples, and unproduced items. So without further ado, let's monkey around a bit and check out some of these premier primates.

It's all fun and games when it comes to this first marvelous monkey. It is lot #90 and cataloged as: "Steiff Jocko Football Player [FAO Schwarz Exclusive]. 1970s. Mohair Jocko in a football uniform, issued exclusively through FAO Schwarz in the early 1970s. 11”. No tags. Uncommon." This athletic ape is estimated at $80-150.  Jocko looks to be in fine shape but is missing his original felt football helmet. This often happens over time when an accessory is not sewn onto an item. The rest of his outfit appears to be in fine condition. And how can you resist his "wild and crazy" blue dralon jersey? Jocko as a football player would be a great fit for a monkey, football, F.A.O. Schwarz, or "wacky 70's" collection.  

Given his time in the line (over a century!) and his global appeal, Jocko has been created in many different materials, forms, and novelties over time. Steiff and F.A.O. Schwarz began their partnership in 1906. Early post World War II, Steiff began creating a series of exclusive products for F.A.O. Schwarz. Some were entirely novel, while others - like this Jocko -  were tweaks and modifications of existing standard line items. Football playing Jocko appeared in the line from 1972-1973 and is considered relatively rare on the secondary market. He is pictured here on the left how he looked when he left the factory in Giengen almost 50 years ago; the image is from Pfeiffer's 1947-2003 Sortiment. 

Steiffgal's willing to go out on a limb for her next primate pick. Here we have Steiff's replica 1903 monkey with extraordinarily long arms and legs. It is lot #85 and cataloged as: "Steiff Monkey 1903 Replica Limited Edition. 2004. From an edition of 1,000. White tag. Brown distressed mohair, felt paws and face. Height 24”. Joints a little tender." This tall drink of water is estimated at $125-250. He has a marvelous, old fashioned look to him, including charming, oversized felt hands and feet. Given his scale and personality, he would be a great focal point for any room needing a little monkeyshines.

This design is a key one in Steiff's product development timeline. In his cataloging, this early ape is described as having "tender joints." Given he is string jointed, it is Steiffgal's suspicion that his joints are a bit wobbly, as they would be in a string jointed item. Steiff's first jointed animals were jointed with string. As you can imagine, these sorts of joints were not durable and broke easily, rendering the toys practically useless. Lot #17, a replica PB55, is another example an early Steiff string jointed animal.  Steiff next experimented with rod jointing. However, this metal infrastructure added a lot of weight - and alot of "uncuddliness" to items. Rod jointed items appeared in the line from c. 1904-1905. Lot #26, a replica 1904 bear, is a nice example of a rod jointed Steiff bear.  Then from c. 1905 onward, Steiff used a cardboard disk and metal pin jointing system, which is still part of production today. You can see the original 1903 string jointed monkey "dancing" with Steiff's original string jointed Teddy bear from company's turn of last century catalog page pictured above; the image is from the Cieslik's Button In Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends. 

And the eyes have it with Steiffgal's third monkey auction highlight. Here we have Steiff's Mimocculo orangutan replica. It is lot #86 and cataloged as: "Steiff Mimocculo 1930 Replica Limited Edition. 1998. Number 111 of an edition of 3,000. Features a squeaker, moving eyes, rust mohair, jointed arms and legs. Height 13”. He is estimated at $125-250. This irresistible and quirky monkey is quite the looker - from his fantastically colored mohair to his incredibly detailed felt facial mask.

Marvelous Mimocculo has both looks and brains... and is also a feat of precise engineering. What makes both the original and replica Mimocculos so unique are their moving eye features. When you pull on his ear, his glass eyeballs move left and right, as well as up and down! The Mimocculo pattern was originally produced from 1930 through 1936 in 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 22, 25, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm; sizes from 17 cm had the distinctive rolling eye mechanism. In 2016, Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion sold a working version of eye rolling Mimocculo for close to $7,400! He is pictured here on the left; the photo is from In the early 1930s, one of Steiff's business development strategies was to produce very high end mechanical novelties, and this is a perfect example of that. So as they say, here's looking at you kid... literally!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on some of Potter's June 20, 2020 Steiff primate sale highlights has been more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!  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, June 8, 2020

Digging For Details On This Divine Doggy Discovery

And what do we have here? It seems like some of the best vintage Steiff surprises turn up when you least expect them! Such is the case of a new friend from the U.K. who writes about a recent doggy discovery. James shares:

"Hello, I found today in my elderly father's house a toy dog on wheels which I think may have belonged to his mother. I found your site and blog really useful in learning more about it. It has a rusty Steiff button in its left ear with a long trailing F. 

It also has a medallion on a collar. I haven't seen a collar in any of the photos of other Steiff dogs I've found so far on the internet, so I wonder whether it might have been added, and so is not original. I would be interested in what you think about the medallion and if you are able to tell me anything more about the dog."

This cute canine is the wheel deal indeed. Although it's hard to tell from the photos, it is Steiffgal's best guess that given his form and presentation that this is Steiff's early Fox Terrier on wheels. You can see this item pictured here on the left, the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment book. He is standing, unjointed, and made from white velvet. His material has been precisely painted brown on his ears and around his eyes. Steiffgal suspects he might have had a few other brown spots here and there that faded over time - most notably right on his back. His face comes to life with a somewhat upturned, pointed snout, black shoe button eyes, and a hand embroidered nose and mouth. He glides along on four metal wheels which are connected by metal axles. As noted, he retains his button in ear as his Steiff ID. 

Velvet Fox Terrier on wheels appeared in 14 and 17 cm (measured vertically, top of head to toe, not including wheels) from 1902 to 1917 overall. Given this early timeline, it would align that this toy belonged to someone born right at the beginning of the 1900s.

Now let's complete the circle here and talk about the dog's collar. Yes, Steiff did put fancy neckwear on many of its fine products during the first quarter of the 20th century. Large, colorful silk ribbons started appearing on mohair Teddy bears and other pets around 1925. But as early as the turn of last century, it was not uncommon for the company to decorate primarily velvet or felt dogs, cats, and some animals on skittles with fitted ribbons or collars detailed with bells, simple disks, or more elaborate medallions. Perhaps the "most famous" medallion bearing example was the company's Caesar, the King's Dog - who had his very own custom medallion based on the one worn by his namesake. From what Steiffgal can unearth, most Steiff "hardware" was attached to an animal's collar via rings or elegantly secured though a system of a disk and bead on smaller items. You can see the ribbon, bell, bead, and disk detailed "necklace" of a c. 1902 felt cat skittle cat below. 

So what's going on with this velvet dog's collar and medallion? In this case, Steiffgal suspects that the medallion here MAY be original to the dog, but probably was reconnected to the collar given its "home repair" presentation.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this velvet Fox Terrier on wheels has answered James' questions about him, in a round-about sort of way.

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