Saturday, December 25, 2021

Care To Feather Your Steiff Nest With This Grand Goose On Wheels?

This fine feathered Steiff friend is certain to give you goosebumps! Bird's the word when it comes to this adorable goose on wheels. She's flown a little under the radar relative to other birds in the Steiff line, but has a most impressive history worth a honk - or two! Check out her story below. 

This gorgeous goose is 17 cm tall and 23 cm wide. She is lying on her belly and is made from white mohair. Her neck and head are airbrushed with a touch of grey. Her wings are splayed outward, in a most realistic and playful way. Her feet and legs are made from single thick orange felt. Her face comes to life with black button eyes backed in red felt and a proportionally large and dimensional orange felt beak. She rests on a metal carriage and glides along on four green wooden eccentric wheels. When she moves, her back axle activates a squeaker in her belly.  Goose on the go was made postwar in 17 cm from 1949-1964.

This timeless pattern must also have been an unassuming best seller for Steiff.
That is because it appeared both in the prewar and postwar period. Interestingly, it does not seem that this goose model was ever made without wheels. Prewar, it was made in 14 and 17 cm from 1914-1943. It is really likely that the pattern was updated just a bit in the 1914-1943 time frame - given how aesthetics, economics, and manufacturing realities evolved so quickly during that nearly three decade long period of production. Nonetheless, technically this goose on wheels was noted in every Steiff catalog published for a stretch of 50 years! This longevity is right up there with the company's legacy Molly the puppy (1925 - 1969, about 44 years overall), Waldi the Doxi (1933 - 1980, about 47 years overall) and Susi the cat (1936 - 1978, about 42 years overall.) You can see goose on wheels as she was presented in Steiff's 1929 catalog; the image is from C. Esser's Steiff Kataloge 1920-1929. You can click on the photo to make it larger.

Goose's yellow tag is unusually descriptive in this case and helps to nail down her birthyear.
The words on it include "Steiff Original geschuzt (protected)"; this copy was only used in the late 1940s and very early 1950s. And the numbering is quite telling as well. It reads, 6317,2 ex. This means, 6 = young, 3 = mohair, 17 = 17 cm, ,2 = double press voice, growler, or pull cord voice, and ex = on eccentric wheels. She also has her raised script button but no evidence of a US Zone tag. All of this information suggests that this particular goose on wheels was produced probably around 1952 or 1953.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this timeless toy has made you feel young at heart today.

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

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Moving And Grooving With This Darling, Debut Steiff Doggie!

This next fantastic find is bad to the bone, but in the very best way possible! Check out this sweet baby pup that really knows how to move and groove. This recent addition to Steiffgal's collection arrived via an auction box lot win just a few weeks ago. Steiffgal couldn't be more pleased with him... but just who is this somewhat mysterious canine?

This precious pup is none other than Steiff's first and earliest Spaniel. Many thanks to Steiff super fan, and super friend, Karin Houben for her help in identifying him! He is fully jointed and measures 15 cm tall and 23 cm wide (nose to fanny) - not including his tail. His body, limbs, and muzzle are made from tan mohair, while the sides of his face and floppy ears are made from vibrant cinnamon mohair. He has tan hand embroidered claws. His face comes to life with a trimmed muzzle, proportional black and brown glass pupil eyes, and a hand embroidered brown nose and mouth. His IDs include a tiny long trailing f button and traces of a white ear tag. 

Spaniel appeared in the Steiff line for nearly two decades - a pretty significant time frame in dog years - or even people years. He was produced in 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1908 through 1927 overall. Given this example's IDs, somewhat simple body form, and early facial detailing, Steiffgal suspects he was produced towards the very beginning of this time frame. 

It is interesting to note that this Spaniel design is utterly charming, but somewhat "invisible" in the Steiff line. 
Unlike some other popular and prolific Steiff dogs of his era, this pattern was not repurposed into a novelty like a puppet, roly poly, or pull toy. He does shares a number of design similarities with Steiff's fully jointed black and tan King Charles Spaniel and tan and cinnamon mohair St. Bernhard dogs of the same era. And, like many dog breeds in the line, this Spaniel pattern was dramatically updated and reintroduced in the mid-1920s to reflect a far softer, youthful, and playful aesthetic. You can see Steiff's earliest, fully jointed, brown and white Spaniel pattern as he appeared in the 1924 catalog; he is the dog on the far left pictured right below. Click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's darling, debut Spaniel has been a first of its kind for you!

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

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Jumping For Joy Over This Sample Steiff Frog Find!

Steiffgal's simply jumping for joy with her latest auction find.
A few weeks ago, she spotted this funky frog as part of a lot on an online auction. Something about him really called to her, and she knew she had to have him. Thankfully, the auction gods aligned, and she was able to place the winning bid. After an anxious week of waiting for his international delivery, he finally arrived at her doorstep. Check out this unusual amphibian and what makes him so wonderful from the collector's perspective.

It's easy being green when it comes to this sample frog.
He measures about 8 cm tall and about 10 cm long. His body and thighs are made from green mohair. His mohair is airbrushed with black stripes to add texture and dimension to these areas. His arms, hands, lower legs, and feet are made from double thick, die cut tan felt. They are airbrushed green, and then detailed with black airbrushed stripes and fingernails to bring them to life. His distinctly pouty face features an airbrushed mouth and oversized green and black google style cartoon eyes.

When Steiffgal saw him online, she truly did not recognize his hybrid felt and mohair design.
That is because he was - and is - a sample design. His pattern never went on to be produced on a commercial scale. His most unusual IDs include a brass Steiff button and his sample yellow tag located on his leg. The front of this tag looks just like a regular red and yellow single-thick ribbon style tag with the words "made in Germany by Steiff knopf im ohr" and the Steiff logo. However, on the back, the tag notes in German and English, "not for sale, Handmuster (hand sample) property of Margarete Steiff GmbH." Given his button and tag, he probably was produced within the last two decades.

It's difficult - if not impossible - to figure out why he was designed, whether he was envisioned as a stand-alone or accessory item, and why he never was manufactured on a commercial scale.
He is so appealing that Steiffgal is sorry that the rest of the world cannot enjoy his quirky yet irresistible charms. Perhaps - given his hybrid materials - he was a concept for a lower cost frog design, given that felt is less expensive and easier to transform into a product than mohair? It is possible he might have been designed as a keyring or purse dangler, given his petite proportions. Or maybe as a companion for a lucky princess doll or bear? But only he knows for sure - and his lips are sealed.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this sample frog has been a one of a kind experience for you!

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

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Going Green With This Seasonally Hued Steiff Sweetie

"Tis the season for all things green and red!
As such, the timing is perfect to share a recent addition to Steiffgal's hug with you. 
This seasonally hued sweetie is a bit of a mystery but so charming nonetheless. He was on Steiffgal's wish list for awhile given his rarity and somewhat ephemeral construction. Check out this darling doll and see what makes him the perfect 1970s-era ambassador.  

Here we have Steiff's little known "Buzzel Sepp." 
In Germany, "Sepp" is a nickname for someone with the formal name of Joseph. And "Buzzel" refers to his shape and construction. But more about that in just a bit. In all honesty, Steiffgal is not exactly certain who this guy is or who he may represent. He is not obviously a chimney sweep, farmer, or gnome - Steiff's usual cast of male doll suspects. Perhaps he is a shepherd, as he is pictured with a red plastic staff in some reference books. Unfortunately, Steiffgal's Sepp has lost this accessory. 

Buzzel Sepp is upright and unjointed.
It is not clear if he is standing or sitting as he has no legs. His simple body is made from bright green and white mohair. He rests on a flat bottom. His head is made from a synthetic - probably polyester - fabric. His face comes to life with blue semi-circle felt eyes, a tan circular felt nose, and a long, brown fiber mustache. He is accessorized with a red felt scarf and a green felt hat. His hat has a little daisy on it for decoration. Buzzel Sepp has a working squeaker in his base. This silly guy appeared in the line in this size only from 1972-1974.

It is interesting to note that he is noted in the 1947-2003 Steiff Sortiment as made from dralon but he is clearly made from mohair - at least in this case.

Buzzel Sepp has some distinctive IDs.
His chest tag is Steiff's red and yellow split style version. This chest tag debuted in 1972, aligning perfectly with Sepp's production date. On the back of this tag, it is noted that Sepp cost 19.90 marks. Given that $1 = DM 3.48 in 1972, this would have been about $5.72 in 1972 dollars; $5.72 in 1972 is worth approximately $37.85 in 2021. This doll also has a silver hangtag with the word "formgeschaumt" or "foam molded" on it. That refers to his pre-formed foam stuffing. And because he does not have any ears, his ear tag is located on the seam of his bottom with his lentil style Steiff button embedded into it. You can see this somewhat unusual configuration here on the left.

Steiff's Buzzel items appeared in the line in 1970s.
They were all 20 cm, sat upon a flat bottom, had a squeaker, were stuffed with pre-formed foam, and washable. Other Buzzel models created included a rooster, a rabbit, a cat, and a Santa Claus, among others. These items - except for Sepp and Santa - were simplified versions of popular Steiff designs. Steiffgal suspects the Buzzels were created specifically as less expensive and/or lower end toy line for children given how the word "washable" featured so prominently in their marketing. And, in Steiff's 1972 product catalog, their Buzzel line is noted as, "foam-molded, therefore super soft, really to love for the very little ones." You can see Sepp and his other Buzzel friends as they appeared in this vintage catalog here on the left. Just click on the image to make it bigger. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's quirky Sepp doll has added a joyful buzz to your day.

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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Good Things Come In Threes At Teddy Dorado's December 4th, 2021 Sales Event!

Care to go for the gold? Then check out the upcoming Steiff auction presented by our friends at Teddy Dorado auction house! Their signature winter sale, to be held on December 4th, 2021, features more than 400 new, vintage, and antique button-in-ear temptations - with new goodies being listed regularly. Here are three outstanding lots that caught Steiffgal's eye - and why. 

The first lot is a sweet-tweet-treat indeed.
Steiff's earliest prewar woolen miniatures are loved and collected universally - with the rarest ones frequently realizing four figures at auction. Its hard to resist lot #28-4023, which is cataloged as, "Songbird made of white & pink Nomotta wool; black glass eyes; Beak made of skin-colored felt; white felt tail with pink stripes on both sides; Metal legs painted yellow & in perfect condition; Head rotatable & body tillable; approx. 4 mm large FF button slightly rusted, but not visible to the naked eye; red Steiff flag preserved in the best possible way; very clean, absolutely lightfast, odorless & completely unplayed; Premium top condition. approx. 4 cm high." 

This pretty-in-pink treasure has an opening bid of 1,000 Euro.

Bird's the word with this lovely treasure which is fantastic on so many levels. It is amongst the absolute earliest woolen miniatures ever made. This sweet bird design debuted in 1931, the first year Steiff's woolen miniatures were produced on a commercial scale. It was manufactured in six color combinations in 4 or 8 cm. Don't you think his color - pink - is WAH-HOO good? This example is the only Steiff woolen miniature prewar bird that Steiffgal knowns of featuring this great and novel hue. And the condition looks to be as close to like-new as humanly possible. 

You'll be all ears over this next auction highlight.
His expression, era, and materials are all so ele-phantastic. He is lot #28-4021, and is cataloged as, "Play elephant, made of light gray rayon plush; black glass eyes underlaid with pink felt; open mouth made of skin-colored felt; Tail tip made of mohair; tightly stuffed with wood wool; large double pressure voice defective; Saddle pad made of red, yellow & dark green felt; approx. 6 mm large, bright silver, shiny & shiny button in the ear; white paper ear tag missing; Artificial silk plush & felt without annoying flaws; very clean, absolutely lightfast, odorless & unplayed; Top condition approx. 21 cm high & without tail approx. 27 cm long." 

This playful pachyderm has an opening bid of 200 Euro. 

It's interesting to note that this distinctive elephant's "birthdate" is not specified. This great design bridged the pre- and postwar periods. It was produced in artificial silk plush in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1938 through 1943 overall, and postwar in 22 cm only in 1948 though 1949. Given this big baby has a blank button and traces of his yellow ear tag, it is a safe bet that he is a postwar version. He's unforgettable for sure, don't you agree?

And good things come in threes with this final auction highlight.
Steiff ephemera - catalogs, photographs, sales sheets, postcards, and other paper items associated with the company - is a fun, educational, and visually exciting complement to a button-in-ear collection of any era. If you are interested in the company's 1920s era production and aesthetic, be sure to check out lot #28-4003, which is cataloged as, "Customer brochure "The good toy" A6 +, 36 pp. 1925–1926 without Steiff printed matter no. German Premium Steiff customer brochure "The good toy" for Germany in the format approx. A6 plus landscape with 36 pages; inside black and white with a light green border; Text in German & without prices; Title shows Schlopsnies doll Theo with two yellow mohair (pulling) ducks, each lying on eccentric wheels; without printer's note or Steiff printed matter no .; original Steiff brochure & no reprint; very clean, absolutely lightfast, odorless & completely unread; Premium top condition." 

This time capsule quality brochure has an opening bid of 100 Euro. 

It's hard to picture a more interesting collection of images than those that appear in this great catalog. It features illustrations of the company's very rare mid-1920s white chimp with a tail, little known wooden toys on wheels, and charming, lifelike, and toddler-esque Schlopsnies dolls, among many other outstanding characters. And what makes these visuals so heartwarming is that they show our favorite button-in-ear favorites in playful and interactive vignettes... as if they were truly alive! Flipping through this period catalog is like taking a trip back in time, in the best possible way.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on some of Teddy Dorado's upcoming sale highlights has been almost exciting as a live auction event!  Check out the entire catalog for this December 4th sale by clicking here. 

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

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Hans Down, This Prewar Steiff Teddy Bear Has Amazing ID!

This Steiff blog entry is designed to test your "metal" in the most interesting way possible. Check out this delightful and purely period prewar Steiff Ted that Steiffgal has named Hans. He recently joined Steiffgal's hug and previously belonged to a Canadian collector. Can you believe he's close to 90 years old? Indeed, he does check out in every way as a late prewar cub... with a very special and little known detail that helps to narrow down his dating. But more about that in just a bit.

This little love of a cub is a wonderful time capsule of Steiff's mid-1930s to mid-1940s Teddy bear design directives. In terms of his physical properties, Hans stands at 10 inches/25 cm tall and is made from yellow-blonde mohair. He has a back hump, but it is less pronounced than the company's earlier bear editions. He is fully jointed and has both felt hand and foot pads. Each pad is detailed with four black claws. His feet are long and narrow, and his wrists turn slightly upward. Hans' face comes alive with proportional black and brown glass pupil eyes, an unshaven muzzle, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. Hans' side-squeeze squeaker works, once in a while.

Hans also has a few "intangible" properties that tie him to the late prewar period. 
He has a very distinctive long, lean, and somewhat "pensive" appearance. He's a "no nonsense" Ted indeed. This "look and feel" is often seen on Steiff's prewar bear production from the early 1930s onward. It is possible that bears created at this time reflected the feelings of the seamstresses making them, as the 1930s and 1940s were very stressful decades in Germany due to challenging and ongoing social, political, and economic realities. In contrast, consider Steiff's early postwar bear production - from the early 1950s onward. Newly introduced midcentury patterns like Zotty and Jackie and the company's re-engineered "Original Teddy Bears" are noted for their jolly faces, rotund bodies, and playful personalities.

Perhaps the most concrete metric in terms of dating Hans is his unexpected branding. He sports an unusual BRASS colored Steiff button. It is the short trailing "f" style and 6 mm in diameter. This button appeared on a few items from 1933/34 through 1943. He also has traces of his yellow linen ear tag, but the information on it is not legible. The yellow tag was introduced around 1934, which suggests Hans' birth year falls roughly between 1934 and 1943. This is one of a handful of times Steiffgal has ever seen this brass button, and Hans is only the second item in her collection of antique Steiff treasures bearing this distinctive trademark. Most of the time, for items produced in the mid 1930's through early 1940's time frame, Steiff used a silver colored short trailing "f" button. It is possible that Steiff substituted brass buttons for silver colored ones during this time for economic or supply chain reasons, but Steiffgal does not know for certain. Whatever the reason, finding items like Hans with this late prewar branding is a rare and wonderful experience for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's rarer prewar brass buttons has brought the topic full circle for you.

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

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bow-Wow Beauties Coming Up For Auction Soon!

Dog-gonnit! The blue ribbon temptations are endless at the Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH Special Steiff Auction on November 6th! This can't miss event features over 350 simply awesome button-in-ear goodies. The catalog reads like a "who's who" in the vintage Steiff world. Steiffgal recently offered her top Teddy Baby and "one-derfuls" top picks from this sale; now here are her canine cutie favorites.
This first pick is the wheel deal indeed.
This is lot #4179, a standing Bully the Bulldog on wheels. The cataloging reads, "Bully, on excenter-wheels, black/beige mohair, velvet insert in very good condition, very nice colouring at the snout, with button, long stretched F, minimally rests of the white color, with paper breast sign with metal edge, produced around 1930, length: 23 cm, height: 22 cm, very expressive, except of minimally places mohair in very good condition, original ruff." He carries a presale estimate of €220 to €440.

Steiffgal can't imagine that there is a collector out there who doesn't just love Steiff's legacy Bully pattern. This particular item was produced in 10, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1927-1935 overall. This guy is the best of all worlds. His condition looks lovely. He is standing - not sitting - and the standing ones are generally seen far less often on the secondary market. He has his original horsehair ruff, and these tend to fall apart or get lost to time. He has his button AND metal rimmed tag. And, like you needed any more reason to love him - he's on wiggly eccentric wheels. This guy is the package indeed. Hubba hubba hubba. 

Steiffgal's next pick is a bit of a "sett-up", but more about that in just a bit.
 This fave is lot #4036 and is cataloged as "
dachshund, with button, rests of the yellow cloth tag label, pull voice, faulty, full mohair, slightly faded, lenght: 53 cm, glass eyes." His presale estimate is €160 to €320. 

What's not to love about this pretty pooch? But here's a little secret. It is Steiffgal's best guess, given his color, mohair detailing, presentation, and long legs, that he is actually the company's much rarer pre-war Setter. Setter was made in 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1933-1940 overall; he was also made on wheels in 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1933-1941 overall. You can see the wheeled version pictured here on the left; the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. See the resemblance? Given the one in the sale noted at 53 cm and has a pull voice, it is very possible that he started out life as a riding animal on wooden wheels. A quick check on the condition of his paw pads would solve that mystery, but that is not possible right now. Steiffgal has never personally handled a prewar Steiff Setter; they so seldom appear on the secondary market.

And now let's raise a glass to today's final prize pup pick.
Here we have lot #4024, a standing Cheerio. He is cataloged as, "Cheerio, date of production 1928-1932, mohair-plush, standing, idealized model of a laughing dog, svivel head , inset eyes, opened snout with tongue, standing height 16 cm, mohair good, minimally faded, rare, minimally mohair loss around the eyes, 1 claw is loose, without button, chest label and cloth tag label." He has a presale estimate of €160 to €320.

Blink and you would have missed Cheerio's time in the Steiff product line.
This happy go lucky pooch was inspired by the likeness of Bonzo, who was a popular cartoon character at the time. Steiff was not able to win the license to produce Bonzo, so they designed "Cheerio, the Laughing Puppy" instead. Cheerio's mouth design - open, smiling, and with a prominent tongue - is most unusual in the prewar era. Cheerio was made in a variety of sitting, standing and novelty editions from 1928-1931. You can see the sitting and begging versions as they appeared in a late 1920s catalog here on the left. Cheerio dogs are so rare on the secondary market, probably because folks who have one just love them and don't want to part with them! This example is not pristine, but its rarity, legacy, and presentation still make it incredibly desirable from the collector's perspective. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on top dog auction picks has been tail-wagging good for you!

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

Friday, October 22, 2021

One-derful Highlights From Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion November 6th Auction!

The countdown continues towards November 6, 2021 for Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH's Special Steiff Auction! This amazing sale, offers 367 OFF THE CHARTS vintage button-in-ear temptations. It's so hard to pick highlights here as practically every lot qualifies as a headliner. Steiffgal offered her top Teddy Baby selections a few days ago; now here are her WAH-HOO good favorites. To qualify for today's elite list, these items (as far as Steiffgal can tell) were not produced on a commercial scale and/or have not appeared in any standard Steiff reference book, such as the Sortiment tomes. So here we go!

There's no monkeying around when it comes to lot #3967, a Steiff monkey made from paper plush.
The cataloging for this item is: "paper monkey, probably produced from 1919-1920, exceptional monkey, in paper plush substitute, wood pulp plush, jointed, with small button, block letters, long stretched F, glass eyes, seat height 18 cm, used condition, exceptional, extremely rare." The presale estimate for this little guy is €220-€440.

There are many things that make this five ways jointed chimp such a champ. His design, scale, and presentation are really appealing. But of course, you can't help but notice his "unconventional" construction of paper plush and linen. Steiffgal has seen, or has known about, a few paper plush Teddy bears. But nothing like this monkey, ever!

During and immediately following the First World War, Steiff was unable to procure adequate supplies of high end fabrics.
Mohair and felt manufacturing had decreased, and the materials produced were allocated towards military purposes. In order to continue some production, Steiff was forced to come up with some alternative products, as well as materials. 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. This "paper plush" was made from nettles and called "Brennessel." 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... and apparently this monkey, too!

Next, size defies with this teeny tiny Lulac rabbit, lot #3993.
This is kind of an oxymoron here, as Lulacs are famous for their size and cartoonishly long limbs. He is cataloged as: "Lulac, '60s, with button, chest label and cloth tag label, number on cloth tag label 1322,00, without damage, this size couldn't be found in the STEIFF-catalog, it is probably a sample item." His presale estimate is €250-€500.

It's difficult to tell just from the photo here, but this guy is like an extra from the movie "Honey I Shrunk The Kids!" This bitty bunny really is only a petite 22 cm tall, measured vertically from the top of his head to his toes. As noted, he probably was a small scaled sample of a popular pattern of the time - created as a possible product line extension. And there is precedent for this; Steifgall has a 15 cm version of Steiff's sitting Jumbo elephant which appeared in the line from 1952-1975. Jumbo was produced commercially at 22 and 35 cm. You can see this little guy along with his 35 cm mama below.

Steiff's wonderful five ways jointed Lulac rabbits debuted in 1952.
It is Steiffgal's best thinking that their name derives from the German verb “to laugh” which is lachen, and the word "smile" which is l├Ącheln. Lulacs are famous for their comically long arms, legs and torsos, goofy eyes, and playful personalities. Standard line Lulac rabbits were produced in produced in 43 cm from 1952-74 and 60 cm from 1964-66. So this 22 cm version is one rare rabbit indeed.

And finally, this last auction rarity is certainly a shoe-in for WAH-HOO good status. Check out lot #4318, a pair of fancy mohair kicks for kids. They are noted as, "exceptional children's hares shoes, probably '50s, very nice, strong colors, sole is 16.5 cm long, unused condition, rare, collection Koskinen." They carry a presale estimate of €120-€240. 

These shoes are worthy of walking the red carpet. And Steiffgal so wishes they were made in her size! They feature a rabbit design which is somewhat like Steiff's lying rabbit pattern. This little cutie is known for her stretched out body position and black and white google eyes. These often have the appearance of giving a side glancing "stink eye." Lying Rabbit was made in 6, 9, and 12 cm from 1953 through 1970.

Steiff's tradition of creating innovative product line extension items goes back to the turn of last century. The company has a long history of creating unusual novelties based on their most popular designs of the time. These things include purses, puppets, tea cosies, roly polys, tail moves head items, music boxes, and other functional and/or fun treasures.

It is entirely possible that someone at Steiff made these shoes as an experiment, for fun, or as simply an end of day or whimsy item - perhaps as a birthday or even Easter gift for a child or grandchild. It is also possible, given that the rabbit pattern's detailing is not exactly identical to Steiff, that they don't seem to have any IDs, and the painting and detailing of them is so unusual to Steiff, that they were made by another very high quality manufacturer also producing really appealing midcentury novelties. For example, the company Felpa Zurich MUTZLI created a series of children's hangers; they were covered in mohair and featured the face of a soft mohair Teddy bear or other animal. Only the shoes know for sure - and it is clear they are keeping their origins deep within their sole!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these WAH-HOO good auction picks has totally energized your day!

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

Sunday, October 17, 2021

It's Easy To Outfox This Early Postwar Steiff Mystery!

Tag - you're it - when it comes to this week's Steiff inquiry. Check out this note from a new friend who has found a mystery fox. He seems Steiff-y... but was he indeed made by the Steiff factory in Germany? And when? She shares:

Hi - came across this little guy and thought he was cute - intrigued by the made in US Zone Germany tag located on the back of his right leg seam so I started researching and now I am wondering if he is vintage Steiff? He does not have a button or flag or anything identifying him as Steiff. He is approximately 6 inches from tail to end with another 3 inches for his tail. His head is articulated. He appears to be made of mohair and I am not sure what the filling is but it is very firm and stiff. Here are some pictures. Thank you!"

This sweet field and forest friend was indeed made by Steiff, and is one of the most beloved early post war designs amongst collectors today. This fox pattern is known for its great coloring, big fuzzy tail, and really appealing presentation. These foxes come to life with realistic airbrushed highlights on their feet, ears, and faces. Each is detailed with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a bit of pink airbrushing to on their lips. This legacy pattern was produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1950-1957.  The smallest size is unjointed while the medium and larger sized ones are head jointed. The example under discussion today is most likely the medium or 14 cm version. 

Now let's get into the zone and talk about this fox's tag.
The US Zone tag on this fox is sort of a Steiff ID, but more a general indication of the time frame in which it was made. This is so because many German companies were required to note this production detail following the end of World War II. For example, 
Steiffgal has also noted similar text on items produced by Schuco - including white cloth tags on their soft plush toys as well as imprints on the chassis of their metal vehicles. White linen or ribbon tags were attached to all Steiff soft toy items from 1947 through 1953 (although Steiffgal has only personally seen them on items from 1951 onward.) These all read: Made in US - Zone Germany. Given this fox was in production from 1950-1957 and Steiff used these tags consistently from 1951-1953, it is safe to say that he was manufactured in the very early 1950s. 

The "US Zone Tag" has an interesting story behind it.  At the end of WWll, the Allied powers divided Germany west of the Oder-Neisse line into four areas: American, British, French, and Soviet occupational zones.The Americans were responsible for the southern part of Germany, which is where Steiff is located. The forces were tasked at "demilitarizing" Germany, which included shutting down many factories that did, or had the potential to produce items that could be used for combat or aggressive purposes. 

When Steiff's very limited postwar production slowly started up again in 1945 - 1946, items could only be sold to the American troops. These restrictions were gradually eased and by 1947 Steiff could sell domestically; by 1949 the company's products were once again available internationally. The "US Zone Tag" insured to the outside world that items produced in Germany were done so in a "civilian" factory and met business and distribution standards set up by the American military government overseeing the occupational zone. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this mystery fox has been an engaging tail for you!

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

Monday, October 11, 2021

A Fine Selection Of Century-Spanning Steiff Teddy Baby Bears Headlines Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's November 6th Sale!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Big news on the Steiff front... Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH is holding a simply awesome premier Steiff sales event on November 6th. The catalog has just been published online and features 368 button-in-ear temptations. In all honesty, there are so many breathtaking options it's a bit overwhelming to pick overall highlights. That being the case, let's take a look at the "cream of the crop" per category or character over the next few weeks. There's not a better place to start this series than with a peek at Ladenburger's offering of century spanning Teddy Baby bears.

All Steiffgal can say is "Ohhhh baby..." when it comes to this first pick.
Here we have lot #3977, a most appealing Teddy Baby made from golden artificial silk plush. His starting bid is a very conservative 750 euro. It is cataloged simply as, "teddy-baby, synthetic silk plush, complete with button, sign and cloth tag label, red writing on sign, very nice original-condition, with original-collar and bell, 30 cm, rare." This sweet cub appears to have all of his IDs, including his button, yellow ear tag, and red bear faced chest tag. Given his IDs, materials, and appearance, Steiffgal suspects this irresistible imp may have been made in the late 1940s.

What is not to love about this fine fellow?
The catalog pictures suggest his condition is quite wonderful, and his happy-go-lucky expression lights up any room. Artificial silk plush is a delicate fabric which loses its shine and soft texture easily, so to find a vintage example which still has its "sheen" is unusual. Although his paw pads are not specifically called out, Steiffgal has a much loved, artificial silk plush Steiff Teddy baby from this similar time period in her collection. She has linen paw pads. That might just be the case for lot #3977 as well.

Steiffgal's second pick is also quite the head turner.
This is lot #4234, an early postwar brown mohair Teddy Baby with all IDs and a million watt smile. His starting bid is 220 euro and he is cataloged as, "teddy-baby, produced 1949-53, with button, chest label and cloth tag label, No. 7322, original condition without damage , additional with US-zone cloth tag label, paws in very good condition, 22 cm, nice full mohair, condition without damage."

The auction catalog photos suggest that this sweet guy is in practically like new condition. Steiffgal is always a little sad when it is clear that a precious toy was not loved by a child as it was intended. On the other side of the coin, this example would make for a crown jewel in any collection, so there is some justice there. Over time, Teddy Baby bears have been produced in sizes ranging from a few inches to over five feet! In Steiffgal's opinion, the smaller sized ones - like this guy - are particularly appealing in their scale, presentation, and proportions. He would be easy to display, doesn't take up too much shelf or cabinet space, and would look charming as a companion for a larger scaled doll or Ted from any era.

And last but not least, check out lot #4314, a super sweet - and super rare - prewar white Teddy Baby.
His starting bid is 520 euro. He is cataloged as, "teddy-baby, white, with button, long stretched F, breast sign, inscription Teddy Baby, inset velvet in face and velvet feet, with painted claws, 13 cm, produced from 1930 to 1933, white mohair, except of minimally place with mohair loss in very nice condition, very expressive, unusual, collection Koskinen."

There's something really magical about white mohair Teddy Baby bears.
Unlike their blonde and brown mohair peers, the white versions were made for only a handful of years - from 1930 to 1933 overall. Blonde and brown mohair versions appeared from 1930 to 1943. As such, far fewer white mohair versions were produced over time, and most collectors would love to add one to their hugs. Like most coveted collectibles, it’s a supply and demand thing, and Steiffgal suspects this petite treat will be on many auction watchers' wish lists. It is also interesting to note that this example comes from the Koskinen collection. Edith and Johan Koskinen authored several well respected Steiff reference books and price guides over the years. You can see a few of them here on the left, the photo is from Bloss Auktionen. His top shelf provenance certainly adds to his appeal - if that's even possible!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Teddy Baby auction highlights has brought out a bit of your inner child today!

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

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Eyes Have It With This Adorable Prewar Steiff Kitten

Looking for a little something to tickle your whiskers this fine fall day? Then check out this short but sweet note from a new friend. Jenny needs help identifying a precious pet. Could it be made by Steiff? She shares,

"I was wondering if you could help me identify an old possibly Steiff cat... It feels like wool and stuffed with wood. Thanks!"

What a pretty kitty! From the looks of him, Jenny's kitten looks to be sitting, probably head jointed, and made from wool plush, not mohair. Wool plush has a more fluid, continuous look and feel to it, while mohair tends to have more of a prickly "hooked rug" appearance where the fabric backing meets up with the surface fibers. The fact that he is "stuffed with wood" is consistent with his stuffing being made from excelsior. Other distinctive features of this example include traces of airbrushed highlighting on its body, tiny pink claws, clear monofilament whiskers on his nose and forehead, a tail that wraps gently around his backside, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and piercing teal and black slit style pupil eyes. His size is noted at 6.5 inches tall, or nearly 17 cm tall. 

All of those factors help to cat-alyze his likely identification.
It is possible that Jenny's kitty is a rare and well loved example of the company's seldom seen prewar sitting wool plush cat. This appealing pattern was made in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1929 through 1933 overall. All of these fancy felines left the factory wearing a large silken ribbon. You can see this wool plush rarity pictured here on the left, the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment. You can't help but notice the basic resemblance of this wool plush cat pattern to the company's most beloved sitting Susi cat design. She was produced prewar in 14, 17, 22 and 28 cm from 1936 through 1943, and then again postwar from 1948 through 1978 in 10, 12, 14, 17 and 22 cm
The timing of all of this is quite interesting.
The cat under review today was made at a critical time point in the company's history. Germany entered a period of economic depression and widespread unemployment in 1929 while growing anti-German sentiment crippled Steiff's export markets. These realities triggered a number of fundamental product design, production, and distribution changes at Steiff. One very noteworthy revision was the increased use of substitute fabrics in manufacturing. As traditional toy making materials became more expensive and more challenging to source, the company started to look at alternative fabrics to use in place of mohair. This may explain why this cat debuted in wool plush - a less expensive and readily available fabric - exactly at this time. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of this prewar cat has added a purr-fectly pleasant paws to your day.

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

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Connecting Then And Now With This Adorable Steiff Play Doll

What's old is new again, especially when it comes to this relatively modern Steiff doll under discussion here. Our friends in Giengen started producing fine cloth dolls on a commercial scale at the beginning of the 20th century. These gorgeously rendered playthings appeared through the early 1950s. After that, dolls with rubber faces (and sometimes rubber bodies) represented a significant portion of the Steiff doll line through the 1970s. Moving forward, the company's doll offerings included mostly well-dressed children and characters in synthetic materials as well as artist collaborations.

This Andrea doll is a sweet nod - with a modern twist - to Steiff's legacy doll production. She is 32 cm tall, unjointed, and made from soft woven fur. She is stuffed with a mix of polyfill as well as weighted beans. She comes to life with a shock of longer brown hair decorated with red ribbons, oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a button nose, a pink painted mouth, and airbrushed facial highlights. She wears a white cotton "onesie" that is both underwear and a white t-shirt, a red calico dress decorated with yellow ladybugs, and red shoes which are integral to her body. This sassy lassie appeared in this size only in 1999. At the same time, Steiff produced two other similarly constructed dolls; a girl dressed in blue named Babinchen and a red-headed boy in overalls named Andreas. Both were also 32 cm.

Andrea has three features that connect her with the past.

The first is that she is clearly designed as an appealing child. Starting around 1908, Steiff began producing their most adorable and humanly proportioned child dolls. Before then, Steiff's dolls were more caricatured (for example, had exaggeratedly long legs, arms, or torsos) and often represented adults or professions. Steiff's kids were usually dressed as students or in traditional outfits, and sometimes even in regional attire. They were playful, distinctly youthful, and looked precious in school room vignettes and in the company's print and postcard advertising. Today, these child-inspired antique felt dolls are coveted by Steiff and doll collectors worldwide.

The second is that she is (relatively) finely attired. Steiff has always paid special attention to their doll's clothing and their detailing. For example, Steiff's early 20th century dolls were "dolled" up head to toe, with well-made and finely accessorized outfits. Most girls had shoes and hats, while adults could have layers and layers of clothing to match their real life counterparts and inspirations. Police, soldiers, and firemen had perfectly to scale boots, tools, and helmets. Of course, Andrea - as a play doll - is not on that level. But she does have shoes, underwear, hair accessories, and a dress that is perfectly appropriate to her. Her outfit is well planned and coordinated for what she is. It is also sweet (and probably not a coincidence) that her dress perfectly aligns color-wise with her prominent chest tag. 

And last but not least, she features Steiff's signature center seam facial construction. This is hard to miss if you don't look closely. This means she has a vertical seam going right down the middle of her face. This helps to add to her symmetry, as well as youthful appearance. Steiff introduced this legacy design feature with their debut doll line in 1903. By the late 1930s, this construction was replaced with a seamless, pressed felt faced design. Given today's manufacturing options, Andrea could have been designed and produced without this seam. But in Steiffgal's heart of hearts, she believes she was made with it to remind collectors of her turn of last century relatives - and the beauty and joy they generated... both then and now. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this modern play doll has added a touch of childhood wonder to your day.

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Good Things Come In Threes With This Precious Prewar Steiff Pup!

They say good things come in threes, and that perfectly describes this week's blog treasure. Check out this amazing, and amazingly interesting, "pup from Pittsburgh." The more you learn about him, the more intriguing he becomes!

This heavenly creature is Steiff's early Saint Bernard dog. He is standing, unjointed, stuffed with excelsior, and made from tan and cinnamon colored mohair. He measures 15 cm tall and 20 cm wide. His proportional tail is positioned downward. He has three brown claws on each of his paws. He comes to life with floppy mohair ears which are tacked to his head, felt backed brown and black glass pupil eyes, a lightly shaved muzzle, and a  brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. He was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1914-1927. He is described in Pfeiffer's Sortiment as, "mohair plush, white, brown spotted, standing, young, soft stuffed."

So just what makes this guy such a top dog? First, let's start with the obvious. Steiff's prewar pups are always in demand, and those designed and produced in the 'teens and before are highly desirable. That is because they have - for the most part - a distinctively earnest, "literal", and basic look to them. They are also so well constructed and seldom come up for sale on the secondary market. Starting in the mid-1920s, Steiff's canine designs changed significantly and became more "childlike" - often with oversized features and detailing, imaginative coloration, and truly playful personalities. So not only is this example from a key time frame in Steiff's production history, it is also small scaled - another super interesting factor that always calls to collectors.

Now let's move to his second outstanding detail. It is impossible to tell at first glance, but this petite treat also has an amazing secret. He has TWO small silver long trailing "f" buttons in his ear! You can see this illustrated here on the left, One of the buttons has traces of a white paper tag, but the other does not. So why is this? Although the double buttoning in his ear could be an accident, his ear is so small, and the button is so well placed, that the second button truly looks intentional. In the past, Steiff used multiple buttons to keep track of which items were samples, prototypes, and versions of items under development. In the 1920's, this usually took the form of a regular button in one ear, and a "muster button" in the other. It is entirely possible that this dog's multiple button system is an early form of this tracking system - given he was introduced in the 19-teens. Unfortunately, only he knows for sure!

And if you think things couldn't get better than that - guess again! The third amazing thing about this fine example is that it comes with full provenance - that is, documentation regarding his life story. In this case, his provenance includes a letter and several photos - one which is shown below. According to the letter, in part:

"I wanted to share a little bit of history about this Steiff St. Bernard toy dog. It belonged to my father, Robert, who was born in Pittsburgh, PA in June, 1924. My grandmother was sentimental and a "saver," so many things from my father's childhood through his Army service in WWII were passed down and cherished, including his stuffed dog named "Sheppy."

My father always enjoyed reminiscing about his childhood, and he thought his dog was a gift received either for Christmas in 1925 or his second birthday in 1926. Looking at many photos, there was certainly a time period that my father went nowhere without his beloved "Sheppy" in hand."

You can enlarge the provenance letter as well as the photograph here on the left by clicking on them.  

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on this fantastic Steiff Sheppy has left you quite Peppy!

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

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