Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Vintage Steiff Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!

What's old is new again when you recreate it using older Steiff friends! One thing Steiffgal has noticed, especially on really image-centric platforms like Instagram and Facebook, is that folks are "recreating" scenes from their childhood as adults - and often incorporating original props, backgrounds, or outfits. These are usually really fun, and cheerful, and show the effect of time on people, beloved artifacts, and settings. Here on the left you can see Steiffgal attempting to "recreate" a fantastic Steiff image she found online. This little girl is NOT Steiffgal, but they clearly share the love for fantastic vintage button-in-ear playthings. 

As Steiffgal was preparing for another Steiff project, she came across a charming company catalog from the late 1930s. This prewar brochure from her collection was printed in sepia tones and featured a number of utterly adorable product vignettes that really called to her - including this one of two farm friends and a cat-doll on a little stroll. So she thought... let's bring this to life again! You can see this vintage image here on the left. 

A picture is worth a thousand words - especially those featuring some of our most beloved vintage button in ear friends. Steiffgal has "recreated" this image using analogous items from her own collection; you can see this attempt here on the left. The calf is standing, unjointed, and made from white and light brown wool plush. He was produced in 14, 17, and 22 cm; Steiffgal's version is the 17 cm size. The lamb is standing, unjointed, and made from white wool plush with a "lumpy-bumpy" texture. He was made in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm; Steiffgal's version is the 14 cm version. And the cat doll is standing, head jointed, and is available dressed in a number of different outfits. She was made in 22 and 28 cm; Steiffgal's version is the 22 cm version. 

It's always fun to use the information documented in vintage ephemera to learn a little bit more about the items being promoted. In this case, we can use the prices listed to figure out how much they would "cost" today. So, here's how each item noted was priced in 1938, and the approximate cost of each today in US dollars using an inflation calculator:

  • The 14 cm calf was 1.90 DM, which is about $14.01 in 2020.
  • The 17 cm calf was 2.50 DM, which is about $18.43 in 2020.
  • The 22 cm calf was 3.50 DM, which is about $28.81 in 2020.
  • The 14 cm lamb was 1.90 DM, which is about $14.01 in 2020.
  • The 17 cm lamb was 2.50 DM, which is about $18.43 in 2020.
  • The 22 cm lamb was 3.50 DM, which is about $28.81 in 2020.
  • The 28 cm lamb was 5.00 DM, which is about $36.87 in 2020.
  • The 22 cm cat doll was 2.50 DM, which is about $18.43 in 2020.
  • The 28 cm cat doll was 3.50 DM, which is about $28.81 in 2020.

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on recreating vintage images has been a picture perfect experience for you!

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

This Prewar St. Bernhard Is Happy To Come To Your Rescue Anytime!

Would you climb every mountain to have a marvelous antique St. Bernhard dog in your Steiff collection?
These delightful, hard working, and loyal companions made their Steiff company debut in 1904 and have been a key dog breed in the line ever since. Check out this great example which climbs to new heights with its fabulous presentation and great set of wheels. He'd be happy to come to your rescue anytime!

This pretty pooch is standing, about 15 cm tall and 22 cm wide, and unjointed.
He is made from tan mohair with a brown patched-in fanny, head, and ears. His stitched-down ears are lined in felt. His tail is fluffy and somewhat oversized. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a brown hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a lightly trimmed muzzle. He has a non-working squeaker in his belly. St. Bernhard rides upon two metal axles connected to four concentric, green painted wooden wheels. His leather collar and wooden barrel are not original to him, but seem appropriate, given his tasks at hand. This fine St. Bernhard example retains his long trailing "f" button in ear and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. 

Steiff produced this eye-catching design on the go in 11 sizes ranging from 12 to 99 cm overall from 1904 through 1927.
Given the huge number of sizes made, and the length of time this model appeared in the line, certain design element updates were noted over time. These included having an open mouth versus a closed one (the earliest ones had open mouths) and the type of wheels (metal on the earliest, wooden from the 19-teens onward.) This particular model under discussion here today, given its IDs and wooden wheels, probably dates from the early 1920s. Here on the left you can see Steiff's print ad for this great pattern in 1912. The image is from Ayers and Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings; you can click on it to make it larger if you want to read the product details. 

And don't worry if this fine fellow has you seeing spots, too.
Steiffgal has also noted that the brown and tan patching on the body migrates a bit, with the brown patch appearing in a number of locations, perhaps in relation to the dog's size. Here on the left you can see the same St. Bernhard dog model on metal wheels with the patching on his side. This handsome hound probably dates from the early turn of last century.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this lovely and popular prewar dog design has been a tail-wagging experience for you.

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

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Begging For More Information About This Prebutton Era Steiff Dachshund

This Dox really rocks! And he's not in bad shape for being 833 years old - in dog years, that is! Check out this petite pooch from the earliest era of Steiff production and see what makes him so interesting from the design and product development perspectives.

This happy handful is 10 cm and unjointed.
He is made entirely from brown painted velvet and is in the begging position - meaning that he's eyeing what you are snacking on and asking for a nibble. His design and proportions are simple and a bit chunky - except for his long, thin, elegant tail and perky, triangular ears. It is very exciting to find an example like this one with his tail still attached, given how delicate and fragile this appendage is, and that it is attached to his body with just a few simple stitches. Doxie's face comes to life with a hand embroidered nose and mouth and tiny bead style black eyes. You only see these tiny bead eyes on the company's earliest products. Doxie wears a simple black leather collar; it probably was accessorized with a little medallion when he left the factory over a century ago.

This pattern was made in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1901-1927.
Given this little guy does not have a button or any indication that he ever did, he is probably from is from the earliest portion of that timeframe... the "prebutton" era. Steiff collectors love examples like this for their age and presentation, while doll collectors often pose these "VIP" pets with their 19th and 20th century prized dolls.

This design is a beloved, legacy pattern that appeared as several product line extension items through the first quarter of the 20th century. These included a 10 or 14 cm basket-bearing pincushion from 1902-1918, a 12 or 17 cm tumbler on a semispherical wooden base from 1901-1917 overall, and a set of 9 or 10 velvet Doxie skittles from 1901-1912. These novelties are extremely rare overall, and generally do extremely well on the secondary market or at auction.

Steiff also produced a number of other similarly styled dog breeds in velvet in the early 1900s.
These were usually begging or sitting, and differentiated by their detailing and painting. These included a 10, 14, and 22 cm sitting Bulldog from 1901-1927; a 10, 14, or 22 cm sitting Pointer; and a 10, 12, 14, 7, and 22 cm sitting Fox Terrier from 1899-1927. Like the velvet Doxie under discussion today, many of these also appeared as pincushions, tumblers, and skittles given their appeal and popularity.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's very early velvet Doxie has been puppy-perfection for you.

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

Sunday, September 6, 2020

This Tiny Steiff Prewar Bully On Wheels Is One Happy Handful Indeed!

What can be tiny and larger than life at the same time? Steiff's utterly charming, miniature sized pets on wheels from the 1920s! Check out this teeny tiny Bully dog on the go. His proportions, presentation, and personality are simply perfect!

This happy handful is the wheel deal indeed. Bully is standing, 10 cm tall, and head jointed. His body is made from black and tan mohair. His face has a velvet inset muzzle. It comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, a few airbrushed freckles and highlights, and dimensional jewels. His factory original accessories include his all original horsehair collar and little brass bell. Some came with this horsehair style collar while others had a studded leather collar. Bully is connected to a metal chassis and rides upon four red wooden eccentric wheels. He retains his long trailing "F" button as his Steiff ID. This adorable rarity was produced in 10, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1927-1935 overall.

One feature that makes this Bully dog design so timeless, and eternally appealing, is that it scales up or down in size so well. This tiny version really does look like an impish pup, ready to get into marvelous mischief. Larger sized Bully dogs take on a more adult personality and presentation. Admit it, you are having a hard time not falling in love with this petite pooch!

It is also interesting to note that this Bully on eccentric wheels novelty was introduced in 1927 - the same year as his general debut. Usually, form and variation items - like versions on wheels, with music boxes, as puppets, and pincushions, for example - come out a year or two after a new design is launched. Clearly, Steiff knew they had a winner on their hands with this beautiful Bull dog, and wasted no time in presenting numerous novelty temptations based on his core pattern. And the numbers rang true - over 250,000 Bully dogs were produced and sold within five years of his introduction.

Steiff's page from their 1929 catalog features a charming illustration featuring a number of Bully dogs - including the one under discussion here today. This image can be seen here on the left, and the photo is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Kataloge 1920-1929. You can click on it to make it bigger. The copy on the page roughly translates to... "The character Bully dog has found many admirers in both children and adults." The model was designed as a toy - for children - but also as a companion and collectible for adults. He did a great job in both roles. The catalog page notes Bully as a standing model, on eccentric wheels, as a riding toy, in velvet and a variety of mohair color combinations, as a long limbed car or boudoir doll, as a puppet, as a purse, as a pincushion, and as a musical dog, among others. 

Steiffgal hopes that size defies when it comes to this discussion on this itty bitty buddy. 

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

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Fawning Over This Lovely, Long Legged Steiff Prewar Rarity!

Isn't she lovely? Although all Steiff creatures are made with TLC and an eye towards appeal and realism, some also have that "X" factor - there's just something simply elegant about them. Such is the case with this lovely prewar field and forest friend. Check out this fantastic fawn and see what makes her so delightful from the design and product evolution perspectives.

There's no doubt you'll be fawning over this lovely, long legged rarity!
Here we have Steiff's 17 cm fawn. She is standing and unjointed. Her body is made from tan mohair, while her legs from the thighs down are made from tan velvet. This has darkened a bit over time, which often is the case with older velvet fabric. Her face is detailed with expressive black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. She has a touch of red to indicate her lips as well. Her ears are pert and triangular shaped. Her legs are especially graceful and angular. and have a touch of black airbrushing to indicate her feet. Fawn was made in 17 and 22 cm from 1934 through 1943 overall. She has a charming and distinctively old fashioned look to her. Although her Steiff button has been lost to time, she would have left the factory with either a long or short trailing "f" style Knopf, depending on her specific year of manufacture.

This velvet legged fawn design was introduced at a very turbulent time in history. Due to evolving geopolitical and financial realities, it goes without saying that things were not so good in Germany from the 1930s through the end of World War II. This impacted Steiff in countless ways and the company had to be extremely strategic in the ways it conducted its business just to stay afloat.  

One thing that collectors can track pretty closely is the company's use of different fabrics during that time.
In the mid-1930s, Steiff introduced this mohair female fawn with velvet legs, as well as a 35 cm mohair male roebuck with velvet legs. He only appeared in the line from 1936-1938. Both are pictured here on the left, hanging out with the wonderful felt doll Snik the gnome. The image is from the company's 1938 product catalog. Using a German marks to US dollar converter, and then an inflation calculator, it is interesting to note that the roebuck would cost the equivalent of about $40.61, the 17 cm fawn would cost the equivalent of about $22.97, and the 22 cm fawn would cost the equivalent of about $28.12 in 2020.  

It is Steiffgal's best guess that the pair's debut and design were carefully planned and took into consideration unreliable supply chain issues as well as economics. Given the scarcity and price of mohair during this time, Steiffgal suspects that velvet was used on the legs instead of mohair in both designs in part as a cost and material saving effort. Fortunately, from the aesthetic perspective, velvet does help give the deer's legs a very shapely and elegant presentation. 

Given how "deerly" beloved its prewar fawn pattern was, Steiff began producing it again once the factory reopened for toy making business in the late 1940s.
The basic design was tweaked just a bit and was made in 17 and 22 cm, first in artificial silk plush in 1948-1949 and then in wool plush from 1949-1953. In 1954, Steiff completely updated its fawn pattern, producing it mohair in 14, 17, and 22 cm through 1978 overall. Like their earlier relatives, these charming, more modern looking deer also had black eyes, but were now chunkier and overall less shapely, and were decorated with a little white stitch across their nose. You can see the 14 cm version of the updated post war designed fawn here on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this prewar mohair and velvet deer has made a material difference in your day today!

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