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.
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