Sunday, February 21, 2021

Hands In The Air Over This Marvelous Prewar Steiff Charly Puppet!

The eyes have it with this marvelous Steiff creation. Steiffgal recently welcomed a rare Steiff prewar novelty into her collection... this marvelous Charly the King Charles Spaniel puppet! This darling dog has truly captured Steiffgal's heart via her irresistible expression as well as her place in the Steiff product development timeline. Admit it, you can't look away either! Come take a look at what makes this puppet such a top dog!

This happy handful is 17 cm tall, unjointed, and made from mohair.
Her body, ears, arms, and face are made from longer mohair, while her muzzle is made from slightly shorter mohair. Her head is stuffed with excelsior and is lined with a cardboard finger tube. Her ears are long, floppy, and stitched lightly to the sides of her head. Her mohair has faded overall and evenly to a mellow vanilla color. When she was new, her ears and parts of her face were light brown, and the rest of her was white. Charly has three hand embroidered black claws on each of her paws; these each have a little bit of excelsior in the ends to give them some dimension. Her pouty face comes to life with oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. She retains her long trailing "f" button as her Steiff ID. Her article number is 317, which translates to 3=mohair and 17=17 cm. This lovely puppet appeared in the line from 1928 through 1939 in this size only. 

This Charly puppet, of course, is a novelty based on the company's beloved and best selling prewar Charly the King Charles Spaniel.
Steiff introduced Charly in the late 1920s, a time of great creativity at Steiff. The original Steiff Charly was produced both sitting and standing; the two versions were head-jointed only. Charly dogs were made from light brown or orange-tipped mohair and white mohair; had extremely long fuzzy ears; large, childlike brown and black-pupil eyes; a very detailed facial seam structure; and a prominent tail. Their filling included soft kapok, meaning that they were lighter in weight and more cuddly than other animals stuffed exclusively with excelsior. Here on the left, you can see a picture of this Charly puppet, along with a number of other charming Steiff puppets in this vignette from the company's 1929 catalog. The image is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Kataloge 1920-1929.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, the designers at Steiff recognized that Charly would be a great source for “theme and variation” product introductions, due to her popularity with collectors. As a result, she appeared as various novelties throughout the line through 1940 or so. In addition to the puppet discussed here today, other highlights included pincushions, music boxes; tiny Nomotta woolen miniatures, a purse, and a pajama bag. Perhaps the rarest Charly of all was a Pupp Animal Doll. This version was 28 cm and dressed in a playful purple outfit. She appeared in the line only from 1929 through 1930. In 2010, a Pupp Charly realized over $8,300 at auction at Christie's in London. She is pictured here on the left; the image is from Christies. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar Charly puppet has been a very paw-sitive experience for you. 

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

Monday, February 15, 2021

This Delightful Midcentury Steiff Treasure Is Dressed For Success!

There's no need to skirt the issue when it comes to this week's Steiff story! Check out this inquiry from Elizabeth, who asks about the history and timeline associated with an adorably dressed girl doll she recently added to her hug. She shares,

"I purchased and recently received off of eBay this cute little Teddy Baby doll, I think. I'm guessing that she is from the late 40’s because it appears she had the US Zone tag removed/worn off from her leg at some point. Her head and the tops of her paws and feet are mohair and her body is cloth and excelsior stuffed. Her arms are a little floppy. It seems like she did a lot of hand holding in her time. What do you think, am I even close to right?"

This ever-cheerful design always makes Steiffgal's heart happy. Elizabeth's doll was made in 25 cm and appeared in the line from 1950 - 1957. This head jointed model appeared as a boy, dressed in a red jacket, white shirt, and black shorts, or a girl, in a red jacket, white shirt, and green skirt. All the clothes were removable, so it finding an example today in all original clothing is quite rare. They were simply called "Boy Doll Bear" and "Girl Doll Bear" until 1954 when they were more lovingly named "Teddyli." The boy and girl dolls together are pictured here on the left; the image is from Pfeiffer's 1947-2003 Sortiment. A similar pair of boy and girl dressed Teddy baby bears, produced in a blondish-yellow wool plush, appeared in the line from 1951 - 1954.

Teddyli, of course, is based on the company's legacy Teddy Baby bear design that was introduced in the 1920s. This pattern proved so delightful, and so popular, that it because the inspiration for many novelties over the years. Post World War II Teddy baby novelties included a display sized Teddy baby (produced in 150 cm in brown mohair in 1960 and 1967); a press-and-release musical Teddy baby (produced in 25 cm from 1950 - 1951); and a tiny Teddy baby doll on a rubber body named Teddyli (produced in 12 cm in brown mohair from 1955 - 1957.) Tiny rubber and mohair Teddyli is pictured here on the left. Steiff also produced Teddy baby as a 17 cm hand puppet; he appeared in brown and maize mohair from 1929 - 1943 overall; and then again in brown artificial silk plush and then mohair from 1949 - 1978 overall.

Now let's take a closer look at this item's IDs.
When she left the factory in Giengen, she almost certainly had her Steiff button and a yellow ear tag with the article number "325 M" on it. These digits correspond to 3=mohair, 25=25 cm tall, and M=maedel (or "girl" in German.) Steiffgal has never seen one of these midcentury cubs with a chest tag. Elizabeth notes the remains of a US Zone tag in her leg seam. These tags were technically required in all German export products from the end of WWII through the early to mid-1950s to communicate that the item was produced in a "civilian" factory and met business and distribution standards set up by the American military government overseeing the United States' occupational zone in Germany. These usually actually appear on items produced in the c. 1951-1955 time frame. Given that observation, it Steiffgal's best guess that Elizabeth's Teddy Baby doll girl was made in the c. 1951-1955 time frame.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Elizabeth's mid-century find has tagged your interest in this collection era!

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

Sunday, February 7, 2021

No Need To Lock Horns Over This Mysterious Steiff Ram!

Listen up... and check out this interesting question about this big horned sheep! A reader from Germany asks about a mysterious button-in-ear ram from his personal collection. Patrick shares,

"In my Steiff collection I have a ram (bought at an auction 3 or 4 years ago), which looks like the ram Wotan. But it is made of 80% Dralon & 20% cotton and NOT like Wotan of Wool plush. Also the size is 19 cm, (Wotan 12 or 22 cm) and length 24 cm. The number on the eartag is 3452/19 and the name on the chesttag: Original. So it is definitely not Wotan. But I cannot find details in the Pfeiffer-Book, nor in other literature about Steiff. Therefore I would be glad, if you could help me, with further details: When was the animal produced, is it a unique piece, a prototype a promotional animal or what's with this mysterious ram?"

Let's take a look at Steiff's postwar ram design in order to better understand where this example may fit from the product development perspective.
 Patrick mentions Wotan, Steiff's beloved midcentury ram. Wotan is pictured here on the left. Wotan is standing, unjointed, and made from brown tipped, cream colored wool plush. His face, arms, and legs are made from cream colored wool plush. His face is detailed with black and green slit pupil eyes, light brown airbrushing highlights, and a simple hand embroidered nose. Clearly his most impressive features are his huge, oversized antlers, which are curled and made from double thick felt. They are brought to life with brown paint to give them texture. Wotan appeared in the line from 1966 through 1973 in 12 and 22 cm. It is possible that he was produced as part of Steiff's little known Zodiac series of the mid-1960s, as the ram represents the sign "Aries." 

Dating is key here, and Patrick's ram has distinctive IDs that help make this possible. His lentil button was used on items from c. 1969-1977. His split style chest tag was introduced in c. 1972. And his yellow tag appeared from c. 1969/70 through 1980. Given all these dates, the EARLIEST this item could have been produced was 1972.  

Now let's check out this ram's other details. Patrick's ram is made from dralon and cotton. These materials were very popular in the mid-1970s at Steiff for a few reasons. Dralon was a tough, durable fabric that cleaned up nicely and was great for soft toy production. It was also MUCH less expensive than mohair and felt, Steiff's traditional woolen fabrics. In the 1970s, Steiff was under a lot of pressure to reduce costs and become more competitive as toymakers from all over the world were creating innovative, inexpensive, and appealing products that competed with Steiff's core lines.

So what does all of this mean? Given its timing, materials, and manufacturing details, Steiffgal suspects that Patrick's dralon ram was designed and produced to take the place of the wool plush Wootan ram. This design is somewhat simplified, is made from cheaper fabric, and is more of a toy than a collectible. As Wootan ceased production in 1973, it would make sense that this model replaced him in the mid-1970s. Maybe a few were made, or maybe only samples were produced. In the big picture, rams are not all that popular as playthings, which may explain why this particular design was not produced on a commercial scale for the general line.  Click here for an analogous product development situation with the company's beloved Xorry fox.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Patrick's mysterious ram has unlocked many horns with you!

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