Monday, November 30, 2020

The Boys Are Back In Town!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least around these parts. Lights are going up, store windows tempt with seasonal displays and goodies, and traditional treats like candy canes, gingerbread men, and fruitcake line the shelves of most grocery stores. The only thing missing, so far, is a little snow to make the experience complete. But that can be remedied right here! To help nature along, here's a quick look at Steiff's history of snowman production.

Despite producing many snow-related dolls, animals, and accessories in the prewar period, it was not until 1955 that Steiff produced its first actual snowman.
This fellow was 25 cm, very plump, and made from white wool plush. His flat feet, designed for standing, had felt pads. He wore a red felt hat and an orange felt scarf, had white woolie buttons down his front, and carried a tiny Christmas tree in his hands. His face came to life with black glass eyes and a dimensional nose and mouth. His article number 7525, corresponded to 7 = in caricature, 5 = wool plush, and 25 = 25 cm tall. He was made as an exclusive for the US market, is insanely rare, and tops the wish lists of many collectors today. The most recent publicly documented sale Steiffgal could find was in January, 2020 when a nice example sold for $1,143 on eBay. The picture on the left is from Worthpoint.

Steiff's next snowman was also a hands down rarity.
In 1964, Steiff introduced its Sneba Snowman puppet. He was 17 cm, unjointed, and made from white dralon. His fingertips and head were stuffed with excelsior. His face was detailed with black eyes, an orange felt nose, a red stitched mouth, and a touch of pink blush on his cheeks. He had two black "coal" woolen pompoms on his chest, and his proper topper was a black felt hat. Sneba was made for only one year and is one of the most sought after postwar puppets as well as items. Like his wool plush cousin from the 1950s, he is as rare as hen's teeth. 
The picture on the left is from Steiffgal's collection.  

It would not be until the 1990s that snowmen would appear again in the Steiff line, but this time with more regularity.
The largest standard line one to date was the company's 32 cm Teddy Bear Snowman from 1996. He was made from white mohair, head and arm jointed, and wore a black felt top hat. His face was detailed with an orange mohair nose and black button eyes. His accessories included matching black buttons down the front of his body and a broom made from wood and mohair. A few years later, In 2001, the company produced a series of 21 cm snowmen, including one wearing a blue and white cap and scarf for the German market, and one wearing a green and red cap and scarf for the American market. And perhaps the most appealing example from that era was the company's 18 cm Snowman and Raven duo, which was produced in an edition size of 3,000 pieces in 2002-2003. T
hese happy friends from Steiffgal's collection are pictured here on the left. 

Given their universal charm, it was no surprise that Steiff produced smaller scaled mohair snowmen as holiday ornaments.
An early, if not the earliest one, was a 12 cm, arm and head jointed version wearing a red top hat and carrying a straw and wooden broom made as an exclusive for Disney in 1998. A somewhat similarly designed version in 13 cm but wearing a black top hat was made as a limited edition for the USA in 5,000 pieces that same year. In 1999, a 12 cm version wearing a blue enameled hat and carrying a tiny Christmas tree topped many Steiff collector's holiday wish lists. And more recently, the company's "Mr. Winter" white mohair snowman ornament from 2016 held two ski poles; this frosty friend on the go is pictured here on the left. The image is from

Snowmen were also produced by Steiff as novelties and licensed articles, including Olaf from Disney's Frozen.
 It's kind of interesting to note that Steiff never made a woolen miniature snowman, even though the pom-pom format would have worked well with their traditionally ball-like forms. A fun novelty example - based on a legacy toy pattern from the turn of last century - was the company's limited edition Roly Poly snowman from 2005. He was 18 cm tall, made from white mohair, and was head and arm jointed. He wore a black felt hat and carried a broom. His face came to life with black button eyes, a red button nose, a red embroidered mouth, and a pipe. Within the last few years, Steiff created a series of mohair and plush snowmen based on the Snowman made famous by English illustrator and author Raymond Briggs. A particularly charming one from this collection was a 13 cm tall, white mohair ornament. Like his namesake, he wore a matching woolen scarf and hat. He was detailed with black button eyes, an orange embroidered mouth, and a black embroidered mouth. He had three black embroidered buttons on his chest, and a white ribbon sewn into his back for hanging. This ornament was made in an edition size of in 2015 as a special for the UK and Ireland. The picture on the left is from Steiffgal's collection.  

Steiffgal hopes this snowman seminar has melted your heart, just a bit, in the most delightful way possible. 

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


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Giving Thanks For Steiff's Century-Plus Long Tradition of Turkey Production

It's feast or famine when it comes to Steiff's terrific turkeys! Steiffgal happens to love turkeys, and not just because they are one of the state birds of Massachusetts (where she lives) or that a flock of wild ones live in the park across the street from her home. Given Thanksgiving is right on the horizon, and these big birds play a starring role in this beloved holiday, it's the perfect time to take a look at the history of turkeys in the Steiff line. 

Steiff's debut turkey was hot stuff indeed. He was a 43 cm turkey coffee cozy, which was manufactured from 1912 through 1920. He is standing and made from various shades of brown and tan felt, with glorious hand painted detailing on his body, wings, and tail feathers. The catalogs describe him as having "very magnificent colors." You can see this early bird here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. At the turn of last century, Steiff produced a significant number of  functional and decorative household items. These included egg and tea cozies and potholders for the kitchen. Most were made from colorful felt - Steiff earliest, and legacy material. It is not surprising that Steiff would use felt for as many products as possible... and, when you think about it, felt is a perfect fabric for rendering a turkey's details like their feathers and their snood, the red dangling portion of their face. 

It's easy to feel lucky about Steiff's next turkey named Tucky.
This fine feathered friend was introduced in 1952 and is pictured here on the left. He is standing and made from long brown tipped mohair that is highlighted with a touch of green airbrushing. He has a very large felt tail and wings; both are detailed with brown and tan stenciling resembling feathers. His eyes are black buttons and he has brown painted metal oversized bird feet. His head, neck, and snood are made from velvet airbrushed with red, blue, black, and green. It is fair to say he has a face that only a mother - or a Steiff collector - could love. Tucky was produced in 10 and 14 cm through 1961. For a relatively small, sort of strange animal, he has amazing detail and the work on him is quite remarkable. 

Following in Tucky's funny metal footsteps is Putty, a 14 cm bird manufactured from 1979 through 1983
. He is pictured here on the left. Putty is made from various brightly colored plush materials, has nicely stenciled thick brown felt tail and wings, and big yellow plastic bird feet. His head and neck are made from trivera velvet, complemented with a red felt waddle and a tan felt beak. Like Tucky, Putty's manufacturing was quite extraordinary given his size and relative importance in the Steiff line. Putty's design evolution from Tucky is quite typical for the company, and also reflects the style preferences of the time. Given its interest in controlling costs and adding efficiencies in material selection, the company chose a simpler pattern for Putty than Tucky, as well as less expensive materials overall. For example, Putty is plush while Tucky is mohair; Putty has plastic molded feet while Tucky has painted hand formed metal feet; and Putty's head and neck are made from trivera velvet, while Tucky's are made from old fashioned velvet. 

A really unusual and amazingly rare Steiff turkey is the company's studio, or life-sized turkey. These are so rare that Steiffgal has only seen or handled one - an example that sold in 2016 at auction for over $5,000! This model is 80 cm, standing, unjointed, and made from tan and black mohair, longer decorative hair, and felt. His legs and feet are made from metal and covered in grey felt. His authentic wings, tail feathers, and body are made from mohair that has been airbrushed in shades of brown, green, and pink - giving the appearance of feathers and feathering. His head and tail feathers are detachable for storage and shipping. His head and neck are made from a solid piece of molded rubber with large shiny black eyes. This whole area is quite authentic looking, and is finished in shades of pink, grey, and tan. You can see this rarity here on the left, the photo is from Morphy Auctions.

And finally, Steiff's most recent turkey - as far as Steiffgal can tell - is a turkey named Tommy who appeared as a North American limited edition in 2005 in an edition size of 1,500. 
Tommy is 18 cm tall, standing, and made from brown mohair and felt. He has a very large felt tail and wings; both are detailed with painting resembling feathers. His eyes are black buttons backed in orange. His oversized feet and legs are made from felt and are posable. His head and neck are made from carefully painted felt. This guy would be an AWESOME holiday centerpiece or table focal point - he's such a hoot. A little known fact about Tommy is that he was named after a beloved and longtime Steiff salesman from the Midwest in the United States. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's terrific turkeys has put you in a thankful frame of mind.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Steiff and Teddy Temptations Galore At Special Auction Services' November 2020 Doll and Teddy Bear Event!

In the mood for something fun? Our friends at Special Auction Services near London are hosting their signature late fall Dolls and Teddy Bears Auction on Tuesday, November 24th and Wednesday, November 25th. Mark your calendars for two days of century spanning toy temptations! As always, Steiffgal dove right into the sale catalog, looking for eye-catching treasures that might have a backstory to them. Here are three that called to her... plus some BONUS insights on each from SAS' own toy man, Daniel Agnew. 

This first auction highlight really takes the pole position. It is lot #83, a Steiff woolen miniature rabbit on skis. It is cataloged as, "A rare Steiff pom-pom woolen skiing rabbit (Skihas 17) 1936-40, with brown and black glass eyes, pom-pom yellow and white rabbit, pom-pom green trousers, whiskers, mohair ears, orange wool scarf, wired body, wooden skis and poles and FF underscored button with crisp yellow cloth tag in ear --8in. (20.5cm.) long." It is estimated at £800 - £1,200.

Steiffgal: Daniel, could you please share with us why Steiff's pre-war woolen miniatures are so appealing to collectors. Could you also tell us anything else about this lot - for example, in the broadest sense its history, or how it was discovered in such fine condition nearly a century after its production?

I was delighted to see this ski rabbit. He belongs to a good client who is slowly selling his collection with me. I have known him from antique fair for years since I was around 10 years old. He has a huge collection of toys and hasn't brought in his best items yet. He didn't really know what he had. I let out a little gasp when I saw this toy and its exceptional condition. When you see the flag or tag behind the button in such crisp clean condition, it's such a thrill. These woolens, often called pom-poms in the UK, have their own charm. There are some collectors who specialize in them. Who can remember winding wool around two donut shaped pieces and then tying and cutting them to make a pom-pom ball? We did as children. These are like them, but 100 times more skillful than a childish attempt! Steiff made an amazing range.

This second auction highlight is really elephant-tactic. It is lot #94, an early Steiff fully jointed elephant. It is cataloged as, "A rare and fine Steiff jointed elephant circa 1908, with grey mohair, black boot button eyes, white felt tusks, swivel head, jointed limbs with black stitched toes, tail and squeaker --10 ¼in. (26cm.) height seated (slight tear to one tusk and slight matting)." It is estimated at £800 - £1,200.

Steiffgal: Daniel, can you give the readers a little history on this design, and why elephants are so important in Steiff's legacy?

Daniel: This Steiff elephant is in exceptional condition; this type of fully jointed elephant was one of the first animated or jointed toy animals. Before 1902, all Steiff animals were static models. It was Richard Steiff who experimented with various ways to make Steiff products move. This resulted in a handful of jointed animals, like the now famous rod jointed bear and an elephant. The whole Teddy Bear market is based around this one concept, taking a bear or elephant and making their limbs moveable, so they end up standing on their hind legs, with front legs like arms. As such, a new toy was created, a humanized animal. Anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics to an animal; this was a hugely popular concept in the late 19th to early 20th centuries and led to the birth of the world's most popular toy. This example, missing the famous button in ear, so making hard to date precisely, probably dates to around 1908 and is a prized example.

And bear with Steiffgal as she chooses a non-Steiff selection as her third pick.
She not-so-secretly has eyes for 20th century-era Cramer bears, given their appeal and precious detailing. As such, lot #109, a sweet Cramer cub takes the bronze here. He is cataloged as, "An Eduard Crämer teddy bear 1930s with light brown mohair, brown and black glass eyes, inset short blonde mohair face mask, brown stitched nose, mouth and remains of claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs with felt pads, hump and growler --15in. (38cm.) high (bald spots, holes in lower head around neck from moth attack, general wear, thinning and fading)." It is estimated at £250 - £350.

Steiffgal: Daniel, can you give the readers a brief history on Cramer bears and what makes them so appealing... as well a reason or two why Cramer items should be of interest to Steiff Teddy bear collectors, too?

Cramer is an interesting firm. 20to 30 years ago, we would not have known a great deal about this company. Thanks to research by the Ciesliks, we now know how to identify their bears. Eduard Cramer took over his father-in-law's Schalkau (Germany) toy factory in 1885. It is thought that he made his first Teddy bear in 1905/06, but little is known about his early bears. By the 1920s, Cramer Teds are known as very good quality bears, made from the finest mohair and felt. Their most distinct bear, like lot #109, has a very characteristic inset heart-shaped face mask. I think it's all about the nose stitching; once you get used to the way Cramer made their bears, they become fairly easy to identify. There is a delicate way they are stitched with finer than typical thread. Another non-Steiff bear that would be of interest to Steiff collectors is lot #100, an incredibly rare Strunz jester teddy bear. He's pictured here on the left. He is rod-jointed and dates from c. 1904. Strunz and Steiff had huge rivalry and there were many lawsuits between the two companies. This clown costume is identical to Steiff's jester clown doll from the same era.

For more information on this great sale, and to see the catalog in its entirety, please click here!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on SAS' upcoming Steiff and toy auction highlights has added a playful touch to your day.

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

Friday, November 6, 2020

These Silly Steiff Crabs Are Certain To Put You In A Good Mood!

Looking for a little something to pinch your interest? Then check out these wacky, and wonderfully silly sea creatures. Steiff has made just about every land and water animal you can think of. Some are incredibly realistic, while others - like these - look like they are straight from the imagination of a toddler with a big box of Crayola crayons. 

It's hard to be in a bad mood when it comes to this cute collection of Steiff's Cosy Clippy crabs.
These beach buddies are each 10 cm and unjointed. They are made of woven fur, with the tops being one color and the bottoms being another complementary hue. Their front arms are made from tan felt, are dimensional, and have a little "pincher" on the tips. The rear legs are made from matching tan single thick felt, are flat, and are detailed with a spot of brown airbrushing on each "claw."  The faces on these crabs come to life with tiny black button eyes and a very simple black "v" shaped painted mouth.

Clippy was produced from 1995 through 1996 in six - yes six - colors: violet, yellow, red, olive green, eggplant, and raspberry.
Steiffgal has four of the six, with the remaining two topping her bucket list. In hand, she has the violet and tan version, the olive green and light green version, the aubergine and light purple version, and the raspberry and pink version. For some reason, these are extremely rare on the secondary market, and very hard to find. This design is a good example of an item being "relatively" new, still yet quite desirable and collectible from the enthusiast's prospective.

As far as Steiffgal can tell, this is the only crab that Steiff has designed or produced.
Given their size and structure, these cranky cuties would have made great woolen miniatures! However, Steiff did make a number of smaller, happily hued animals - mostly as playthings for children - in the 1990s. This series of crabs seems to fit into this product development initiative, given their size and materials. These other species included a series of 16 cm cozy snails in colors like purple, pink, and blue from 1994-1996, a series of 20 cm cozy caterpillars in colors like red, blue, and purple from 1995-1997, a series of 18 cm cozy mice in colors like raspberry, violet and blue from 1995-1997, and a series of 20 cozy crabby beetles in colors like red, purple, rose, and blue from 1992-1994, among others.

Steiffgal hopes today's blog on these funny little ocean creatures has added a spot of unexpected color to your day.

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

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