Sunday, March 28, 2021

Isn't This Amazingly Rare Steiff Bear Pretty In Pink?

This next Steiff inquiry has Steiffgal tickled pink. And chances are, you will be too, after learning about this fantastic Steiff find. Fabienne from Europe shares the following...

"Hello, I have bought an antique Steiff and can't find anything about it in the Pfeiffer catalogue. He is about 38 cm standing, many bald spots but the remaining hair is fair blonde and long mohair. He is excelsior stuffed, some is showing through small holes near the nose etc. He still has his button. His covering is light pink, the mohair looks a very light blonde, but it could be faded. His glass eyes are a bit different than the others I have from that same period, they are a bit oversized. The nose stitching is light brown and still in good condition.

I live in Belgium and bought this bear on a local online marketplace, not only for bears, but everything someone wishes to sell, sort of an online fleamarket ;) I immediately noticed him and saw he was a bit different than my other Steiffs. He lives now happily ever after in my private museum (I have more than 500 bears) not all of them are Steiff. Yours sincerely, Fabienne"

A rose by any other name... just might be this terrific Ted!
Based on the photos provided, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this beautiful bear is a rare example of Steiff's Teddy Rose. As her name suggests, she was made from long, luxurious light pink colored mohair, but also appeared in bright gold mohair. She was manufactured in five sizes, ranging from 23 to 36 cm, measured sitting. These sizes were different than Steiff's standard line bears, possibly as a way to show that her pattern was a new direction for the company. Teddy Rose was stuffed with excelsior and kapok or just excelsior; had a hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws; and oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes. She had a chunky build and a less prominent back hump. All of these design elements gave her a distinctly youthful appearance. Given her era of production, all Teddy Rose bears would have left the factory with a long trailing "f" Steiff button, just like this one has. According to company records, 5,271 yellow and 4,794 pink versions of Teddy Rose were manufactured in the c. 1925-1930 timeline. 

Today, examples of Teddy Rose are extremely rare on the secondary market. A fine example traded hands at about 19,000 euro (including buyer's premium) at the June 30, 2018 Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH Steiff Special Auction. The bear had a presale estimate of 2,200-4,400 euros and received an astounding 92 bids. Her cataloging read as follows, "teddy Rose, 44 cm, mohair, pink dyed, caused of old age faded, c. 1928, felt was at 1 paw retouched, mohair is except of minimally places in good condition, rare." She is pictured here on the left; the photo is from

The Teddy Rose pattern plays a significant role in Steiff's 1920s-era product development and business expansion strategies.
It evolved in part from a directive from Richard Steiff, who was in America from the early 1920s onward growing his family’s business in North America. He noted that by the early 1920’s, the company’s legacy designs - which were almost two decades old by this point - had run their course and did not match the aesthetic or culture of the roaring 1920s. On February 6, 1925, he wrote to his family in Germany, “I am asked almost daily for new products; and I always have to answer that we do not really want to develop new products, since we can hardly cope with the delivery orders we receive for our old toys. However, the stiff competition here means we must be on our toes.”

Also in 1925, he notes, “…Our teddies, in the show room here in New York, appear colorless, sober, and insipid. I feel inclined to decorate all the teddies we have left with huge, colorful silk ribbons; only then can we ask a slightly higher price.”

The folks in Germany took Richard’s directives seriously, and the company's design team started working on entirely new Teddy Bear patterns.
For the most part, these patterns were softer and rounder than the company’s legacy patterns; incorporated longer, often playfully colored mohair into their designs; had larger eyes and childlike personalities and presentations;  and had distinctive facial or paw detailing. Some were distributed with collars, ribbons, or other accessories. And, for the first time ever, these new Teddy Bear designs were given appealing “real” names. They included Happy, Teddy Clown, Petsy, Teddy Baby, Dicky, and the cub under review here today - Teddy Rose. Several of these beloved friends are pictured here on the left; the advertising image is from Carsten Esser's 1920-1929 Steiff Kataloge.

Steiffgal hopes you've found this discussion on the company's Teddy Rose as joyful as a colorful bouquet of spring flowers!

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Bringing History To Life With These Amazing Gifts From Richard Steiff Himself!

Are you ready for something SUPER STEIFF exciting? Of course you are! Check out this email from Merleen, who writes from Michigan about two precious family treasures with amazing ties to one of Steiffgal's heroes, Richard Steiff. She shares...

"Greetings! My mother Elizabeth Newhouse Jones, who is 92 years old, received 2 Steiff animals when she was a child from one of the Steiff brothers. My mother said the name of the gentleman who gave the toys to her was Richard Steiff and he was the nephew of the woman who founded the company. My mom's father was a pharmacist and Mr. Steiff came into his drug store in Jackson, Michigan back in the 1930s and gave my mother a cow and a fox hand puppet. The name of the pharmacy was the Flat Iron Drug Store." 

Here on the left you can see a photo of Liz holding these incredible treasures today.

Talk about bringing history to life! Richard Steiff lived in Jackson, Michigan at 610 Harwood Avenue from at least the mid-1920s until he passed away in 1939. Awhile back, Steiffgal visited this home. According to Merleen, her grandfather's drug store was a short walking distance from Harwood Avenue. So it makes perfect sense that Richard may have frequented the pharmacy for medication and other home health needs during this timeframe. 

Now let's take a look at the two items that Richard gifted Merleen's mom.
The first is actually an ox, not a cow, at least according to Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment reference book. The ox is standing, unjointed, and made from lovely white and copper colored mohair with patched construction. His head and face are detailed with black button eyes and velvet horns. This design was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1929-1943 overall. From the photos, it appears that Merleen's ox has a red ear tag, suggesting it was produced in the c. 1929-1934 time frame - aligning perfectly time wise with her mom's recollections. 

The second item is a field and forest favorite.
It is Steiff's beloved "Punch Fox" or fox hand puppet. He is 17 cm tall and made from copper and white mohair. He is unjointed and his head, and the tips of his paws, are solidly stuffed with excelsior. When he was new, he would have had a cardboard finger tube in his head. His ears are lined in black mohair, and his face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He would have had black hand embroidered claws, but it's hard to tell from the photos if those have been lost to time or not. This mohair puppet was produced from 1913-1927 overall. He is based on the company's legacy full bodied, fully jointed fox who appeared in the line from 1909-1933 overall in 14, 17, 22, 35, and 43 cm.

It is so exciting to learn of these treasures and their direct connection to Richard Steiff.
What is also quite interesting is the nature of these items, particularly the puppet. Richard was a real advocate of hands on, kinetic, interactive play - which is one of the reasons he invented the jointed Teddy bear as we know him today. He also really loved puppets and the role they could play in creativity and storytelling - given how they could be used so interactively and with movement. It is possible he wanted to personally and directly share that belief with Merleen's mom with this puppet gift. In a hand written letter dated December 22, 1926, Richard writes from Jackson to a toy industry colleague here in America about the company's chimp puppet, or Hand Monkey:

“I demonstrated the Hand Monkey for a few days in Jury Rowe’s store. It was very interesting and convinced me that we have a good business to come.... Only one out of a couple hundred persons has ever seen a Hand Monkey! I would not believe this to anyone but I experienced it. Already in Atlantic City I gave Mr. Schaufelberger the idea how to build a simple demonstrating machine for Hand Monkeys.” 

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed learning about this Steiff ox and fox puppet duo with profound and perfect provenance!

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

Saturday, March 13, 2021

This Old School Steiff Mule Is Nothing But Cool!

Feeling a little stubborn today? Well, that just may come in handy in this particular situation! Take a look at this mysterious Steiff mule. Have you ever seen anything like him before? His rarity alone is worthy of military honors.

What we have here is Steiff's seldom seen, largest sized US Army Mule mascot.
He is standing, unjointed, and excelsior stuffed. He measures 34 cm long and 22 cm high. Mule is made from grey mohair that has been highlighted with darker grey airbrushing on his back and neck. His tail and the lining of his ears are made from dark grey felt. His mane and the tip of his tail are made from long black mohair. Mule's facial mask is made from slightly shorter mohair. He has an open, smiling peach colored felt lined mouth. And of course, you cannot help but notice his amazing eyes! They are made from turquoise and black glass and can be tilted to the left and right to create funny and varying facial expressions. Army mule is detailed with a red cord harness and two long, thin orange wool pom-poms - one on either side of his face. He has a squeaker in his belly. 

As far as Steiffgal can tell, this large mohair Army Mule does not appear in any standard Steiff reference books.
He retains his raised script button, traces of his yellow ear tag, and a frayed US Zone tag as his IDs. Given this configuration of IDs, and the dating available on other similar Steiff mascots, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he was made around 1952.

One place this fine fellow has made an appearance is in the F.A.O Schwarz catalog of 1952, along with a number of other Steiff mascots. You can see this catalog page here below; you can click on it to make it bigger. The Steiff Army Mule, on the far left, is listed at $7.50. Adjusted for inflation, $7.50 in 1952 is equal to $73.72 in 2021. The copy for this catalog page reads:

"COLLEGE MASCOTS (Exclusive Import) Mascots bring good luck, hence owning one of these can help only the college it represents. Each measures about 10" high, made by an outstanding manufacturer for us exclusively from our own designs. They are soft-bodied covered with the finest mohair plush and have excellent markings with very expressive, moveable eyes. The removable felt blankets are in the correct colors. Ship. wt. 3 lbs. each."

One thing that really stands out in this design is the Mule's eyes, which are even called out in the F.A.O. Schwarz catalog copy. This eye style appears infrequently on Steiff items, but when it does, it is Steiffgal's opinion that it is the company's way of saying, "don't take this piece too seriously - or literally!" This playful, cartoonish eye style debuted in the 1920's on some of Steiff's Cheerio dogs and Petsy the Baby Bears. Postwar, they appeared on Steiff's 1950's era Lulac rabbit models, as well as these larger mohair 1952 mascots. 

The 1950's and very early 1960's were Steiff's heyday years of producing mascots for the US market.
During this timeframe, Steiff made mascots for institutions including the US Army (mules) and Navy (goats), Columbia University of NY (lions), Princeton University of Princeton, NJ (tigers), Yale University of New Haven, CT (bulldogs), and Duke University of Durham, NC (doll devils), among others. Most of these mascots were based on existing designs in the Steiff portfolio that were modified via different eyes, proportional changes, and/or were accessorized with a lettered felt blanket. The Duke Devil was a completely new design. He was jointed, with a felt body and a rubber head with horns. He was detailed with a blue felt suit, long blue felt tail, and white felt shoes, and carried a pronged spear. You can see this handsome - ah, devil - here on the left; the photo is from Worthpoint. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's largest mohair military mule ranks highly with you. 

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

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Your First Rabbit Sighting Of The Spring Season!

In the mood for a 14 carrot worthy discovery? Then check out this little known Steiff bunny that is certain to satisfy your rabbit-habit! This hoppy handful is certain to put a much welcomed spring in your step.

Here we have Steiff's sitting Sunny the Bunny.
He is also known as Ruebenhase, or Carrot Rabbit. He is 17 cm tall, made from tan mohair, and is head jointed. His arms are lined in wire and are posable. He has chunky thighs and long, narrow feet. His charming, center seamed face comes to life with round, dimensional black, brown, and white glass eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose, a black hand embroidered mouth, clear monofilament whiskers, and long-ish mohair sideburns. His pert ears are lined in felt. Rabbit holds an oversized, dimensional orange felt carrot in his hands, and has another smaller, removable orange felt carrot tucked into a mohair pocket on his back side.

This rare hare was made in 9, 12, 17, and 30 cm from 1954-1956 overall as an exclusive for the US department store R.H. Macy & Co., better known today simply as Macy's.
The 30 cm size also came with a music box. This particular model under discussion today has a raised script button, a yellow ear tag numbered 7317, and a US Zone tag in the seam of his arm as his IDs. These align really well with his early postwar era of production. In this case, 7=in caricature, 3=mohair, and 17=17 cm tall. Pfeiffer's Sortiment shows that sizes from 12 cm onward included the letter "R" in their article number. Steiffgal suspects that the R indicates the presence of a felt carrot (or two) in the design; perhaps the 9 cm version was too small to incorporate this detail.

This sweet design, like many exclusives produced for the US market in the second half of the 20th century, seems to be a modification of one of the company's popular standard line editions of the time.
 This 17 cm Sunny has the general look and feel of Steiff's beloved and popular 17 cm Niki Rabbit, who appeared in the line in 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1951-1964 overall. You can see Niki below, posing with a few springtime friends. Sonny's pert tail, head shape, closed mouth, facial embroidery, whiskers, and long mohair sideburns are quite similar to Niki's. However, the 17 cm Sonny has a few design features that make him more "economical" from a production standpoint than the 17 cm Niki. For example, Sunny is head jointed only, while Niki is fully jointed. Sunny has ears lined in felt, while Niki's are lined in mohair. Niki has felt pads; Sonny does not.

So what does all this mean, maybe?
It is entirely possible that Macy's was looking at ways to produce a fun, playful rabbit exclusive based on Steiff's Niki that didn't break the bank. Sunny's simpler, less expensive, and appealing construction certainly checked all of those boxes. And Sunny's cartoon eyes and fun felt carrot details - neither being expensive or terribly complicated to implement - really brought the design to the next level. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's rare Sunny the Bunny has added a little crunch to you day.

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