Sunday, July 11, 2021

Well Hello, Handsome... Before And After!

You clean up pretty nice! That's usually a compliment given to a person who presents themselves in an usually attractive way. But it can also apply to Steiff animals as well - especially those who have been cleaned with TLC. Check out this note from Hannah from Manchester, England who shares....

"I have just watched your excellent YouTube video on how to clean mohair Steiff. We have inherited my mother-in-law's mid-century Steiff Leo lion and I would like to give him a little clean... do you have any advice about how to tackle the longer hair of his mane?"

How exciting! This question is the mane focus of today's blog post. If you are interested in watching the Steiffgal cleaning video, you can catch it on Youtube here. You can also read about cleaning by clicking here.

Now let's focus on Hannah's inquiry.
Here's Steiffgal's best take on cleaning Leo's longer mohair. Leo's mane is also mohair, so the cleaning technique is pretty much the same as cleaning shorter mohair. But, because it is longer, it can trap a whole lot more dust and dirt that the shorter mohair. So you may have to go over it a few times. And make sure to get all of the long mohair clean, not just the tips and edges. You might lose a little bit of color when you scrub the mane. That is ok, it will show up on the white wash clothes you are using, but the color won't really fade or bleed on the mane mohair. So don't be upset if the color seems to be coming off, it is not really.

Post cleaning treatment is also important here. Once you are done cleaning the mane, let it dry, and then gently fluff it up with a wire or rubber toothed brush with bristles that bend and are flexible. Don't pull and yank the mane with the brush as this might break some of the fibers. Just do it lightly, and over time, and it will really become quite fuzzy again. Many lions have mane thinning on the very top of their heads (like middle aged men!!!) but that normal and you can't do anything about that.

So now the grand reveal. How did Hannah do? Check out Leo here - post cleaning. There's no question this is one handsome beast... and his cleaning will help insure his longevity and structural integrity for years to come. According to Hannah, "Leo is now feeling all clean and fluffy! We think he had about 60 years of coal dust and general muck on him so he's feeling much better! The mane took ages but he thinks all the brushing was probably worth it (there were a lot of snags)!"

Steiffgal hopes this information about cleaning longer mohair has given you the warm fuzzies.

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

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Boy Oh Boy, What A Wonderful Family Treasure!

Here's one inquiry that is definitely dressed for success! It's so nice to hear from new friends from overseas and today's technologies make it as easy as pressing a button! This question really caught Steiffgal's eye - and heart - given her love for Steiff's early through midcentury attired animal dolls. Check out this note from Denny from Germany who asks about a vintage family treasure. He shares,

"Hello I was recommended your site and I need advice on determining a Steiff-Haasen. It is an heirloom and cannot find this Steiff-Haasen anywhere. I'm interested in everything you can say about it. Thank you in advance and wish you a nice evening."

There's not a hare out of place when it comes to this sweet happy hopper. In terms of his basics, this boy bun is standing on flat feet, head jointed, and measures about 21 or 22 cm (as Steiff does not include the length of rabbit ears in its measurements.) His body is simply shaped with dangling arms and stiff, unjointed legs; it is made from a soft, pink colored fabric. His head, and the tops of his hands and feet, are made from mohair or another type of woolen fabric; it is hard to specifically tell from the photos. Steiff's items manufactured during periods of conflict or hardship - like when this guy was made - were often produced from a number of different types of fabric at any given time, given supply chain limitations.

Now let's check out his darling detailing.
 Rabbit's ears are lined in felt and are highlighted with a touch of pink airbrushing. His adorable face comes to life with proportional black and brown glass pupil eyes and a simple, pink hand embroidered nose and mouth. His clear monofilament whiskers have been loved off. He dons black felt trousers, a white textured shirt, and red felt suspenders; these clothes are original to him. These models traditionally also left the factory in Giengen wearing a little tie or bow at the neck. Because it was not sewn on, it must have been removed at some point and simply got lost to time. Rabbit doll retains his short "trailing f" button as his Steiff ID. His model was produced in 22 and 28 cm from 1937 through 1943.

Steiff produced this sweet guy as part of a delightful hare pair.
His girl companion rabbit doll was dressed in a red shirt with a white collar and cuffs, a blue and white checkered skirt, and an orange apron. These two were called Hasbu and Hasmaid, and were the last new rabbit doll patterns launched prewar. Unlike many other animal dolls, these were only produced in one outfit style, perhaps because these were the only fabrics available at this very challenging socio-economic and political period in history. That is why is it is possible to identify Denny's rabbit with great certainty. You can see Hasbu and Hasmaid here on the left, the photo is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

Steiffgal hopes this information about Denny's treasure has you jumping for joy!

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

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Back In The Steiff Saddle, Sort Of!

Hurray! For the first time in nearly eighteen months, Steiffgal finally attended a real live, in person collector's event. This was the Spring Doll, Bear & Miniature Show held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. It was so exciting to walk into a large room chock full of Steiff, toy, and doll temptations, as well as meet and greet friends only seen on Zoom since last March! Attendees seemed genuinely thrilled with the opportunity to again celebrate their shared passions with the toy collecting community.

It wouldn't be a show without a little souvenir, and Steiffgal couldn't help fawning over a little midcentury Steiff treasure she spotted right in one of the first booths she visited.
Check out this 17 cm wool plush Jungreh or fawn. Isn't she lovely! Fawn is standing, unjointed, and made from lumpy-bumpy tan wool plush. Her pert ears are lined in white wool plush. She has delightful, authentic brown airbrushed contrasting on her neck and back, and little black airbrushed feet. Her face is detailed with very large black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, pink highlighting, and a white stitch across her nose. She has a wonderful, quality, old fashioned look to her. Her IDs include a short trailing "f" button and midcentury style yellow ear tag. You can see her button and ear tag in the photo near the end of this post. 

This fawn was one of the earlier items produced after the factory reopened after WW2 for toymaking business.
She was first produced postwar in artificial silk plush in 17 and 22 cm in 1948 through 1949. She was then made in wool plush in 17 and 22 cm from 1949 through 1953. Then, in 1954, her pattern was modernized just a bit and she was made in mohair in 14, 17, and 22 cm through 1978 overall. 

Postwar, you often see this progression from artificial silk plush to wool plush to mohair fabric construction on many of Steiff's legacy and timeless favorites, including rabbits, horses, and bears, among others. Steiffgal even has an early postwar Jocko in artificial silk plush, wool plush, and of course, mohair. They are a darling trio indeed!

Wool plush is a distinctive fabric which holds a key place in the company's product development timeline history.
Steiff used wool plush, a relatively inexpensive and more readily available toymaking fabric, in times of conflict or other hardships when mohair was not being produced, or allocated for military purposes. You generally see wool plush items made in the c. 1930 through mid 1950 time frame, but a few models - like the company's Wotan ram - incorporated it through the 1970s. Wool plush is pretty hearty and ages well. Its structure and texture make it far less likely to fade, thin, or bald like mohair fabrics. Unlike artificial silk plush, wool plush can also can be cleaned gently like other fine woolen fabrics.

Steiffgal deerly hopes you too will be enjoying the fun of live, in person events soon... and finding vintage button-in-ear treasures that make you smile. 

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

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Power Of Provenance!

What makes a fantastic Steiff find simply extraordinary? When it comes with full provenance. Provenance, which can include documents and/or photos, is "the place of origin or earliest known history of something," "the beginning of something's existence; something's origin," and/or a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality," according to Merriam-Webster. In this case, all three truly apply! Come learn more about this amazing Steiff Ted from 1905 through words and images from his original family.

This marvelous and very early Steiff cub stands 16 inches tall, is five ways disk jointed, and made from mohair that has faded from an apricot color to a light blond color. 
You can see hints of his original hue in his cracks and crevices, and places the "sun don't shine." Ted has black wooden shoe button eyes, traces of his black stitched nose, and five black claws on each of his hands and feet. His stitched mouth has been lost to time. His original owners invented in essential, finely rendered professional restorations on him to improve his stability and aesthetics; these included a light restuffing, redoing his felt pads, and restitching his claws.

This turn of last century treasure also has a distinctive physical form to him.
He has a very early shaped face and head, somewhat reflective of the Baerle style. His muzzle is long and pronounced, and a bit less sophisticated (don't take that in the wrong way!) than bears produced just a year or two later. Ted's body is very similar in looks and scale to Steiff's c. 1904 rod bears, with a rounded, almost American football shaped torso. He has very long arms with curved wrists, skinny, narrow feet, a back hump, and spoon shaped pads. He has a really teeny tiny blank button in his ear... it probably measures about 2-3 millimeters in diameter. Given all of these metrics and factors, it is Steiffgal's best guess this bear was produced at the factory in Giengen in c. 1905.

But wait... there's even MORE to love about this ancient cub.
He has a handwritten, full letter of provenance summarizing his history, as well as a photo of him with his original owner. This bear was from the family of Alice Bogart Vail Tufts who was born in NYC in 1900. This bear was given to her as a gift when she was a child, and was purchased at FAO Schwarz. Given Schwarz and Steiff have been doing business together since 1906, this makes this bear one of the earliest Steiff bears extant purchased in America! You can see this photo of Alice and her friend for life from c. 1908-1910 here on the left and the letter below; click on each to enlarge them. In the photo, which appears to have been taken in a studio, Alice is "feeding" this bear with a teaspoon. Don't you just love her HUGE hair bow? 

Steiffgal hopes this fabulous bear and his lifelong documentation has helped to demonstrate the Power of Provenance! For more about this delightful cub, check out this YouTube video on his physical and historical highlights!

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

Saturday, June 12, 2021

What's The Tattle On This Unexpected Steiff Rattle?

Don't you just love a good surprise? Like when you buy something online, and when it arrives, it's even BETTER than your wildest hopes? That just happened to Steiffgal today, and she can't wait to share this auspicious treat with you. So 'ears what's happening....

Steiffgal took a leap of faith with this purchase. The electronic pictures weren't so great, and the description wasn't glowing. Yet, it called to her!

What we have here is Steiff's late 1920s sitting rabbit. He is head jointed, about 13 cm sans ears and 19 cm with them, and made from faded purple and cream colored velvet. His pert ears are lined in wires and are posable. His darling face comes to life with oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a wide forehead, and Steiff's legacy 1920s era rabbit nose and mouth embroidery. This consists of a horizontally stitched, triangular shaped nose, outlined in a slightly different color floss, and a simple "v" shaped mouth. He retains his long trailing "f" button and bits of his red ear tag. These hoppy handfuls were produced sitting in 11, 15, and 18 cm (measured without ears) in blue, purple, maize, orange, and white velvet from 1927-1933 overall.

So just what makes this purple bunny such a royal find? Two things come to mind. 

The first is his monarchal color - lilac - which is so lovely and typical to Steiff's 1920s era production. In the late 1920s through early 1930s, Steiff made a series of "jellybean" colored velvet and mohair rabbits. In addition to this sitting, velvet version, the company also produced sitting mohair and begging velvet or mohair rabbits in playful colors including orange, pink, yellow, and light blue, among others. These were made to match the aesthetics of the "Roaring 20s." 
You can see a Steiff catalog image from 1929 featuring a number of these "jellybean jumpers" at the bottom of this blog post. Today, many of these items have faced a bit, much like this rabbit. You can usually tell their original color by looking in their cracks and crevices. In this case, the folds in his ears retained their vivid violet color.

And now let's make some noise over his second highlight. Believe it or not, this beautiful bun is also a RATTLE! Yes, when you shake him, he makes a happy plink-plinka noise! This feature was not noted in his listing, which makes it even more thrilling to discover.

To keep things moving and shaking, Steiff sometimes tucked a rattle into some of the smallest or almost smallest versions of its most popular prewar models. As far as Steiffgal can tell, there is/was no formal numbering or ID system to identify those items specifically produced with a rattle feature. In her personal collection, Steiffgal has a velvet sitting Pip dog rattle, a lying wool plush rabbit rattle, a white mohair Teddy rattle, and a velvet and mohair begging squirrel rattle. All were discovered to be rattles by accident... in the best possible way. Next time you handle a small, prewar item, shake it gently.... and you may happily surprised as well!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this princely purple rabbit reigned supremely well with you.

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

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Check Out This Purr-fectly Lovely, Time Traveling Steiff Cat!

There's no need for a fluff factor to describe how lovely this sweet kitten really is!
Cats have been a key part of Steiff's offering since the very beginning, and have evolved in their presentation and construction over time. Just a handful of cat designs bridge the company's pre- and postwar production. This excellent example just squeezes into that elite category.

Here's a tip: this darling cat is going to steal your heart! What we have here is a 14 cm version of Steiff's Fluffy cat. Fluffy is sitting, head jointed, and made in part from 
blueish/lilac tipped mohair - which is just spectacular. Her little tail wraps sweetly around her body. Fluffy's face is detailed with large deep turquoise green and black pupil eyes, a simple hand embroidered pink nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. Her claws are indicted by pink paint, and she retains her original pink silken ribbon.

And just what makes her such a time traveler? For the most part, Fluffy is usually considered to be a legacy prewar production item. Her childlike proportions and colorful presentation (and personality!) all reflect the aesthetics of the time she was born, the "roaring '20s". Fluffy appeared in 7, 10, 14, 17, 22, 25, 30, 35, and 43 from 1926-1943 overall. However, this particular model IDs include traces of a white ear tag, a raised script button, a named, red imprinted chest tag, and a US Zone tag, suggesting that she left the factory in Giengen in the very early 1950s.

Well, it turns out this pattern also tiptoed its way into Steiff's postwar production on little cat's feet. Sitting, head jointed Fluffy in the prewar tipped bluish lilac mohair pattern was produced in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1949 through 1950! The branding on this sweet girl really does align perfectly to this manufacturing timeframe.

Given her popularity, it is curious to think about why her production ended midcentury. This might have to do with her distinctive, signature material - a blueish/lilac tipped mohair. This distinctively old fashioned looking fabric may not have been produced in sufficient quantities or just "timed out" in popularity in the early 1950s. For the most part, Steiff rolled out a huge number of brand new, or updated dog, cat, bear, and animal patterns starting in the 1950s, perhaps to re-launch and re-invigorate its brand post war. Perhaps Steiff felt Fluffy's presentation was "too dated" for the midcentury marketplace which was focused on the space race, technology, television, and rock and roll music. In terms of sitting cats, Fluffy's design was slowly replaced by Susi, another favorite design that spanned the pre- and postwar periods. Susi was a line standard through 1978. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this midcentury cat has been as close to purr-fect as possible.

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Playing The Dating Game With Steiff's Precious Pre- And Post War Chimp Puppets

How do you tell how old a vintage Steiff collectible is, if it doesn't have tell-tale IDs? For Steiff items produced over a very limited time, this is easy, and can be solved through reference book or online research. However, for some legacy items that appeared in the line for decades, this can be tricky. Dating is an art, and not a science, especially when it comes to timeless items like the company's Jocko chimpanzee puppets. 

Steiff's chimp puppets have been produced almost continuously in mohair from 1911 through 1978 (with a pause in the 1940s for World War II) and are beloved universally.
Steiff's monkey puppet design was produced prewar from 1911-1943. He was called Punch Chimpanzee through 1928 and Jocko from 1929 onward. Greater variants of this puppet were produced prewar than postwar. Prewar, they were made in 17 cm in brown, blonde, and white mohair. Brown was the most popular and prolific color and appeared from 1911-1943. A larger, 28 cm brown mohair version was produced from 1912-1916. The blonde version is super rare and was produced only from 1913-1916. And the white version appeared in the line from 1925-1928 - probably coinciding with the popularity of John Galsworthy’s 1925 best-selling book, “The White Monkey." A sweet 17 cm prewar brown mohair chimp puppet is pictured here on the left. 
Steiffgal has also seen prewar Jocko puppets with the traditional mohair head and felt hands, but with a red felt or purple felt body. These were probably made to match the "colorful" aesthetic of their production time - 1921 through 1942. These are relatively rare and seldom seen on the secondary market. You check out these fun novelties here on the left, the photo is LiveAuctioneers. Steiffgal also knows of a few other examples of these felt and mohair puppets, including one that has a blue felt body.

The Jocko puppet was also a mainstay in the postwar Steiff product line through 1978.
He was produced in brown artificial silk plush in early 1949, and then again in brown mohair starting later in 1949 onward. Like the popular, standard line prewar version, he measured 17 cm and basically shared the same general detailing as his earlier ancestors. A sweet 17 cm postwar brown mohair chimp puppet is pictured here on the left. 

So how do you date a Steiff chimp puppet sans IDs? There is no one simple answer here, and every expert probably has their own set of criteria and ways of thinking about this. Steiffgal personally can think of four subtle differences that are distinctive between older versions and more recent ones. They are:

1. Finger tube. As far as Steiffgal can tell, prewar chimp puppets have a cardboard finger tube, while postwar ones have a plastic one.

2. Eyes. For the most part, Steiff used glass pupil eyes on these puppets through the early 1960s; by the end of the 1960s these were almost entirely replaced by plastic ones for health and safety reasons.

3. Fabrics. Steiff produced these monkey puppets in a number of mohair and felt colors prewar, but only in brown postwar. Steiffgal has noticed that occasionally the brown mohair on the prewar versions feels or looks a little different than "traditional" mohair. By that she means it is a bit lighter or darker in color, or has a slightly different touch or feel to it. This may be because of wartime-related production limitations or supply chain issues.

4. Appearance.
Steiffgal has noticed that the prewar versions in her collection have a more "delicate" presence to them than do the post war versions. The prewar ones tend to have longer, leaner heads with more angular felt masks; the postwar ones are a bit more rounded and childlike, with curvy felt masks. The prewar ones have gentle, nuanced painting and shading on the face and ears, while the postwar ones have darker, more prominent shading. The prewar ones have larger, almond shaped eye pockets while the postwar ones have smaller, more circular ones. And for the most part, the prewar versions have their button on the outside of their ears, and the postwar ones have their button on the inside of their ears. Here on the left you can see a closeup on the faces of a prewar Jocko puppet (on the left) and a postwar Jocko puppet (on the right) for comparison. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on pre- vs. postwar Jocko hand puppets has been more fun than a barrel full of monkeys. 

Many thanks to Marcus Sampaio of Once Upon A Puppet for his contributions to this article!

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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

This Charming Steiff Panda Bear Is Simply Mid-Century Marvelous!

It was pure panda-monium this week at Steiffgal's home when this latest addition joined her hug! Pandas top many Steiff collector's "love lists" and this sweet girl deserves a crown and throne for many reasons. Check out this black and white beauty and see why she really is mid-century marvelous!

This smiling sweetheart - newly named Princess - is 28 cm, five ways jointed, and made from black and white mohair. Her face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, and an open, triangular shaped peach felt lined open mouth. The black circles around her eyes are created by hand airbrushing; she also has black airbrushing on her back. Princess' pads are made from grey felt. She proudly dons her original pink silken ribbon. Princess retains her yellow eartag, US Zone tag, and raised script button as her Steiff IDs. 

Now let's take a closer look at Princess' place in the product development timeline.
According to the Sortiment, this pattern was produced in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1951-1961. Her eartag reads 5328,2. This translates to... 5 = jointed, 3 = mohair, 28 = 28 cm tall, and ,2 = with a voice. This pattern, introduced in 1951, was a modification of Steiff's first panda design which debuted in 1938. Steiff's prewar pandas were produced commercially in 15 and 30 cm, and would go on to appear postwar from 1949-1950 in 30 cm only. Given how Princess has elements of both the debut and updated panda patterns in her presentation, as well as her US Zone tag, it is clear that she was produced as the company was transitioning from one pattern to the other - probably in 1951. 

Despite her 1950s birthdate, Princess has many elements of Steiff's earliest panda cubs - especially from the midsection up.
Princess has a broad and triangular mouth; the updated mid-century version has a much smaller, half-oval shaped mouth. Princess has a very round face and muzzle; the updated mid-century one has a more finely contoured head and muzzle. And Princess has her black midsection almost to her mid-torso; the updated mid-century version generally has a much shorter black midsection. Also intriguing is the fact that Princess is technically cataloged at 28 cm, but actually measures 30 cm. And her pre- and very early postwar cousins - who are technically cataloged at 30 cm, actually measure about 26 cm. You can see Princess and her 22 cm updated 1951 postwar panda cousin pictured here on the left for comparison.

Steiff introduced pandas to the world just as they started appearing at zoos across the world in the late 1930s.
These jolly bears immediately rocketed to superstar status. Piggybacking on the success of their real-life cousins, pandas made their debut in the Steiff line in 1938. Because of wartime material shortages, some pandas were produced with linen or other alternative fabrics in the place of felt on their hand and foot paw pads. The success of its first early panda inspired Steiff to produce more pandas in the line as soon as the factory reopened for business in the late 1940s. These early postwar production pandas often had inferior quality felt on their pads as high quality felt materials were still only available in very limited quantities at that time. 

To bring history to life here, check out the two Steiff wartime era pictures above on the left. The one on the left has linen pads and the one on the right has with lesser quality greyish-black felt pads. The one with linen pads has a short trailing "f" button as her ID; the one with greyish-black pads has a raised script button and traces of her US Zone tag as her IDs. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Princess panda has added a touch of royalty to your day.

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

Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Penny For Your Thoughts About This Antique Steiff And Kufeke Promotional Postcard

It's always fun to spot vintage Steiff featured in antique advertising, photographs, or other ephemera. While recently browsing eBay listings, Steiffgal found a most adorable prewar mailer featuring one of our all-time favorite Steiff prewar superstars - Bully the Bulldog! Take a look at this period piece - does it motivate you to buy the product on offer?

There's no need to mail it in when it comes to this precious postcard. What we have here is a direct mailer piece for Kufeke, a German company that produced special dietary drinks and supplements for babies and adults with delicate digestive issues. Steiffgal suspects it is from the late 1920s or early 1930s, given the image, its subject matter, and the history of the Kufeke company. There is no date or postage cancellation anywhere on the piece that Steiffgal can positively identify. 

The front of the card features a black and white image of a sitting, glowing, chubby toddler and a Steiff Bully dog. The way the child is leaning towards the dog, along with his body language, makes you feel that he is actually chatting with Bully. The pup is sitting, head tilted, and listening intently. You can make out his dark horsehair collar and bell detailing. The Bully pictured is probably the black and white version, and most likely measures 35 or 43 cm, given the scale of everything in the photo. The postcard's caption translates to, "Do you drink Kufeke, too?"... suggesting that this baby beverage gives both the Bully and the Baby their robust and healthy appearances and charming good looks! Other prewar advertising pieces from Kufeke also feature beaming, healthy children but this is the only one that Steiffgal was able to find that also included a button-in-ear friend. 

Bully the Bulldog is a legacy design for Steiff.
He was introduced in 1927 and was an instant sensation with both children (as a plaything) and adults (as a collectible and an accessory). He was modeled on the French Bulldog—the “it” companion of those in the know all across Europe at the time. Bullies were head jointed, had large brown and black glass pupil eyes, a hand-embroidered black nose, and a simple snout and jaw constructed to give him his requisite jowls. Most were black and white or orange and white, but a rare blue-and-white version was also produced. Bully was made in velvet and mohair, as well as sitting and standing, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 cm. Most Bullies came detailed with a horsehair ruff or leather collar. The original Bully appeared in the Steiff catalog through 1939; today, this precious pooch is one of the most universally desirable and sought-after pre-war Steiff designs among collectors. The picture on the left is a Bully from Steiffgal's personal collection. 

On the flip side, the back of this postcard mailer also is interesting for what it highlights.
Boldly noted on the reverse are the words, "das Beste fur ihr kind." This translates to “the best for your child,” meaning that the Kufeke company believed that its product was the premier dietary supplement for children. This, of course, is remarkably similar to the Steiff tagline of “only the best for children.” Steiffgal wonders if Kufeke was trying to piggyback on Steiff's outstanding, world class reputation in words (with this marketing claim) and in images (by featuring Bully in this photo) in this business development effort. It would be interesting to know if folks at Steiff were aware of this postcard and promotional outreach at the time, and if the company received any compensation for this "association." If we could only turn back time to answer such questions!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff prewar product placement has been picture perfect for you.

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

Monday, May 3, 2021

Pipe Up If You Know The Maker Of This Turn Of Last Century Cloth Doll!

Close, but no cigar. Or pipe in this case! Is this distinguished gentleman doll made by Steiff? Apparently someone thought so, a very long time ago. Come take a look at this handsome, turn of last century cloth doll and see what makes him so interesting - and cryptic - from the design and historical perspectives.

Well hello, handsome! This doll stands about 37 cm tall, is excelsior stuffed, and is fully jointed. His head is disk jointed with cardboard and metal joints, his arms are loosely rod jointed, and his legs are string jointed. His head, hands, and feet/shoes are made from felt. His torso and limbs are made from linen. He is dressed to the nines in a felt buttoned jacket; a brown, tan, and purple fabric vest with purple gemstone buttons; tan, brown, and grey calico pants; a brown silk bowtie; and black felt shoes. His face comes to life with a prominent horizontal facial seam; a fringe of brown hair and facial hair; dimensional black button eyes underlaid with felt circles; a simple seamed mouth; pink highlighting; and of course, his great wood and composition pipe.

Upon closer look, it turns out this fine fellow comes with a little information written upon one of his legs.
It reads, "Der Dutchman by Margaret Steiff #630 circa 1900." Although this doll is clearly misidentified as Steiff, it is understandable that someone may have assumed he was, given his prominent facial seam, general appearance, and turn of last century origins. He also has some Steiff "Karikaturpuppen" (i.e., early, cartoon-like) elements to him, including an oversized head with exaggerated features and simple hands and feet. However, Steiff's earliest dolls debuted in 1903, were string jointed, were made of felt and/or velvet, and had clothing integral to their bodies. Steiff usually used linen or other less expensive fabric like muslin on their dolls during times of economic and supply chain hardships, like just before, during, and after World War I. And their Dutch dolls almost always wore removable clogs rendered from felt or wood. 

Now let's light a fire under one of this doll's most intriguing features - his pipe.
It is removable and fits perfectly into a little hole in his face. This construction is also not typical to Steiff. And Steiffgal suspects that if Steiff made a doll pipe, it would have been hand carved entirely from wood. The only "smoking" doll Steiffgal can think of is the company's incredibly rare "Adamson" Swedish cartoon character doll produced between 1925 and 1929. In this case, the doll's felt cigar was sewn directly onto his face. You can see Adamson here on the left, the photo is from

So just who is this silly smoker?
Steiffgal has combed the literature and cannot identify him. She's also asked others who are equally stumped. So his origins remain a mystery for now. What Steiffgal does know about him is that he previously belonged to her dear friend who recently gained her wings. This doll now sits on Steiffgal's desk, right near her computer, and "supervises" her daily... or in this case, reminds her of a beloved soul who passed way too soon, and unexpectedly.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early cloth doll has suited you well. 

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

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Getting Down To Monkey Business With This Lovely And Very Early Steiff Chimp

Do you like Steiff's cheeky monkeys? Of course you do! This very early and very sassy girl named Clara recently joined Steiffgal's hug and she's understandably just bananas over her. Come take a look and see what makes Clara so interesting from the design and product development perspectives. 

There's no monkeying around when it comes to this precious primate!
Clara measures 24 cm sitting and 40 cm standing. She is fully jointed and made from white mohair which has mellowed to a vanilla color over time. She has a long, thin mohair tail that is lined in wire and is posable. Her hands, feet, facial mask, and ears are made from white felt. Clara has a non-working squeaker in her torso. Her face comes to life with simple black button eyes, a seamed mouth, and a few stitches around her nose. Clara's pattern was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm (measured sitting) from 1908 through 1915 overall. She is probably a petite version of the standard line 28 cm version. 

This charming chimp was introduced at a very interesting time in the company's product development timeline.
Clara is based on an almost identical brown, fully jointed mohair monkey with a tail design that was introduced in 1904. The brown version was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 120 cm from 1904 through 1919 overall. Mohair became available on a commercial scale in Germany around 1903, and this added whole new dimensions and possibilities to the company's product design options. This fully jointed, playful chimp design translated beautifully in this appealing and soft-to-the-touch fabric. 

You can't also help but notice Clara's facial construction.
This monkey pattern has a very endearing, human-like expression.  And, like the company's earliest cloth dolls introduced in 1903, has a prominent vertical seam that goes the entire length of her face. This feature emphasizes how symmetrical her face is, as well as enables a pleasing roundness to her construction. Steiff's doll line featured this similar detailing through the late 1920s. However, when it came to Steiff's monkeys, it is interesting to note that this center seamed pattern was quickly eclipsed by the company's mostly smooth felt faced mohair Jocko monkey pattern, introduced in 1909.

It's always fun to take a look at original advertising for early pieces such as this. 
Here on the left you can see the listing for this fully jointed, white mohair monkey from the company's 1912 United States catalog. It was published in conjunction with George Borgfeldt & Company, Steiff's American distributor at the time. This pattern is noted as joined and made from fine plush in brown and white. In 1912, the white version was available in 28, 35, and 43 cm. At the time, the 28 cm version cost $1.10, the 35 cm version cost $1.70, and the 43 cm cost $2.20. In 2021 dollars, that is the equivalent of about $30.04, $46.42, and $60.08, respectively.

Steiffgal hopes you've found this discussion as entertaining as a barrel full of monkeys!

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

Monday, April 19, 2021

Walking the Runway With Steiff's Early And All Original Minnie Mouse Disney Doll

Girl power!
No mouse rocks a short skirt and great shoes better than Disney's Minnie Mouse! This great prewar design, seen far less often than her better half Mickey, continues set the hearts of Steiff and Disney collectors aflutter. Check out this great example and see why she truly owns the runway.

Here's one mouse you definitely want in your house.
 Pretty Minnie is 17 cm tall, standing, and unjointed. She is primarily made from black and white velvet. Her black pie-style eyes are glued on, and she retains her original black string style whiskers. Her face comes to life with delicate hand painting and an open, velvet lined, smiling mouth. She wears white cotton bloomers, an orange felt hat, and her original red, white, and blue calico skirt. Her oversized yellow gloves are made from velvet. Her fabulous orange felt heels are detailed with black bows. Minnie retains her long trailing "f" button in ear and co-branded Steiff and Disney chest tag as her IDs.

Like most all original Minnie Mouse examples, this sweet gal is missing her tail and the flower that decorated her hat. These details were both quite ephemeral in their materials, as well as how they were attached to her body. As such, finding a Minnie with these parts and pieces is like hitting the Disney lottery.

Marvelous Minnie was produced from 1932 - 1936 in 12, 17, 24, 31, 37, and 49 cm from 1932 through 1936.
 Before launching Minnie, Steiff was producing Mickey Mouse under the Disney license; he appeared from 1931 - 1936 in 11, 16, 23, 30, 36, and 48 cm. A tail moves head Mickey, a Record Mickey, and a 24 cm Mickey puppet were also produced in the early 1930s. O
ver the five year time frame from 1931 through 1936, Steiff made about 53,000 Mickey Mouse dolls but only 13,000 Minnie Mouse dolls, which explains why Minnie is so much rarer than Mickey. After 1936, the worldwide geopolitical situation made it too difficult to conduct business between the US and Germany, and the collaboration ceased. 

One thing that is very interesting about Minnie is the length of her skirt.
It could best be described as "Mini!" Given the length of this garment, it is clear that her white bloomers were meant to be seen. Although Minnie is clearly wearing a mini skirt, it was not until nearly 30 years later that short skirts came into mainstream fashion. London designer Mary Quant is primarily credited for championing knee-skimming skirts and dresses in the 1960s. It is suspected that Quant named the skirt after her favorite make of car, the Cooper Mini.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed skirting all the issues that makes this Minnie so charming!

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

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Chilling Out With This Life-sized Steiff Polar Bear

It's white-out conditions - in a very big way - when it comes to this next SteiffLife blog inquiry. Who knew Polar bears roamed Salt Lake? But apparently they do, at least in this lucky collector's home. Greg from Utah writes:

"Dear Steiffgal, 
Greetings from Salt Lake. Please find attached photos of a Polar bear we acquired recently. It is almost 6 feet long and 3 feet tall. We found it in Utah. Do you have any ideas on when it was made, where it came from or if he has a name? Thank you in advance for your help here."


Size certainly defies when it comes to this big boy. Given Greg's note, and the bear’s IDs, materials, and presentation, Steiffgal can confirm that this is a Steiff Studio Polar bear, and that it probably dates from the mid 1970s through the early 1980s. The size certainly confirms its Studio status - meaning that the item is life-sized, or created in pre-historic proportions. As far as Steiffgal can tell, he does not have a "name" other than something descriptive like Studio Standing Polar Bear, so Greg has the opportunity to name him anything he'd like! And, for his origins... it is possible that he made his way from Giengen to an area museum, toy store, or zoo awhile back as a display or window feature. But only the Polar bear knows for sure!


The devil is in the details - and their interpretation - when it comes to dating this polar pal, as Steiffgal was not able to find any specific reference to this design in her reference materials at hand. This bear's materials and detailing are consistent with display sized items of the mid 1970s through the early 1980s, with three factors rising to the tip of the iceberg. 


1. Material. The "heyday" of premier Steiff Studio animal production was in the 1960s, when the company produced many extraordinary, lifesized species in mohair. As this fabric became more expensive in the 1970s onward, the company started transitioning production towards synthetic materials, including long woven fur like this.


2. Facial detailing. Mid-century Studio items also usually had finely executed facial detailing, including elegant and lifeline hand embroidered noses and mouths. This example has a solid black nose which has been inserted into his facial muzzle. This sort of nose treatment - using cloth, faux leather material, or a 3D plastic or rubber version - is seen frequently on items from the third quarter of the 20th century onward. 


3. IDs. The appearance of the item's yellow cloth ear tag and Steiff button is consistent with the time frame under discussion. Throughout the 20th century, it was not unusual for Steiff animals that were not standard line, or that were produced in very small numbers, to have hand-written numbers on their oversized eartags. Steiffgal has several "larger than life" 1950s through 1980s era items with yellow ear tags and hand-written numbers. And for the larger metal script style button - this exact detailing appears on her standing Studio Panda, which was produced most likely in the 1972 through 1980 timeframe.


Steiffgal hopes you found this discussion on this Studio Polar bear a great opportunity to chill out - in the best possible way. 


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

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Rolling Out The Red Carpet For This Precious Prewar Doxie On Wheels!

What goes around, comes around... especially if it's on wheels. This darling Doxie on-the-go recently popped by to say hi and Steiffgal couldn't help but roll out the red carpet for her! Come take a look at this great example of Steiff's prewar novelty production and see what makes her so noteworthy from the historical and product development perspectives. 

Doxie on wheels is standing, unjointed, and constructed from mohair.
The dog itself measures 11 cm vertically and 20 cm horizontally. Her top, forehead, ears, and tail are made from black mohair and her muzzle, limbs, and underbelly are made from brownish tipped mohair. Her face comes to life with proportional brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. She is mounted on two metal axles. She glides along on four wooden eccentric wheels which are painted blue. She is attached to the axles through metal loops that are inserted into her limbs. Doxie on eccentric wheels was produced in 17, 20, and 22 cm from 1930 through 1933 overall. She was also made on traditional round wheels in 28 and 35 cm from 1929 through 1935 overall.

Doxie on wheels is one of many wonderful prewar Dachshunds produced by Steiff.
 Like Fox Terriers and Pointers, Dachshunds are a legacy breed for Steiff, and perhaps one of the company's most famous and prolific dog lines as well. Steiffgal suspects this is because Dachshunds traditionally have been a very popular pet choice across Germany, and even were the animal companions of choice of the Steiff family at the turn of last century! Although this exact pattern under discussion here today was not produced postwar, if you look closely at her face, you can see it is somewhat similar in size and expression to Bazi, who was introduced in 1950. 

Moving along, this particular example three design characteristics that firmly root its production in the late 1920s to early 1930s. These include:

1. Patched mohair construction. Many items that debuted in the 1920s feature different color mohair that is patched and seamed together to create the visual effect of a multi-hued animal. From the mid-1930s onward, the company was much more likely to create an animal from one shade of fabric and then apply color via paint for a similar effect. This was probably done to create labor and material efficiencies.

2. Mohair coloring. This Doxie's brown mohair is actually more like a deep orange or copper color, and is tipped. This creates a wonderful aesthetic effect of depth and richness. Tipped mohair (think of Petsy the Baby Bear, for example) was a very popular fabric choice and treatment during the "Roaring 20s" era. 

3. Novelty detailing.
This Doxie is a novelty, meaning she has a fun feature not seen on standard line playthings. In this case, she's on eccentric wheels. You can see a closeup of this configuration here on the left. A very similar pattern to this Doxie was produced as another novelty - a tail moves head version. This mover and shaker appeared in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1931 though 1934 overall. Steiff's novelty production exploded in the mid to late 1920s with the introduction of Molly the Puppy and Bully the Bulldog. These popular designs translated well into charming product line extension items like music boxes, purses, animal dolls, various pull toys, Charleston animals, puppets, and tail-move-head characters. Today, late 1920s-early 1930s dogs, cats, and rabbits with a novelty twist universally top collector's wish lists. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Dachshund novelty has been tremendously entertaining for you. 

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