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!
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