Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Good Things Come In Threes With This Precious Prewar Steiff Pup!

They say good things come in threes, and that perfectly describes this week's blog treasure. Check out this amazing, and amazingly interesting, "pup from Pittsburgh." The more you learn about him, the more intriguing he becomes!

This heavenly creature is Steiff's early Saint Bernard dog. He is standing, unjointed, stuffed with excelsior, and made from tan and cinnamon colored mohair. He measures 15 cm tall and 20 cm wide. His proportional tail is positioned downward. He has three brown claws on each of his paws. He comes to life with floppy mohair ears which are tacked to his head, felt backed brown and black glass pupil eyes, a lightly shaved muzzle, and a  brown hand embroidered nose and mouth. He was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1914-1927. He is described in Pfeiffer's Sortiment as, "mohair plush, white, brown spotted, standing, young, soft stuffed."

So just what makes this guy such a top dog? First, let's start with the obvious. Steiff's prewar pups are always in demand, and those designed and produced in the 'teens and before are highly desirable. That is because they have - for the most part - a distinctively earnest, "literal", and basic look to them. They are also so well constructed and seldom come up for sale on the secondary market. Starting in the mid-1920s, Steiff's canine designs changed significantly and became more "childlike" - often with oversized features and detailing, imaginative coloration, and truly playful personalities. So not only is this example from a key time frame in Steiff's production history, it is also small scaled - another super interesting factor that always calls to collectors.

Now let's move to his second outstanding detail. It is impossible to tell at first glance, but this petite treat also has an amazing secret. He has TWO small silver long trailing "f" buttons in his ear! You can see this illustrated here on the left, One of the buttons has traces of a white paper tag, but the other does not. So why is this? Although the double buttoning in his ear could be an accident, his ear is so small, and the button is so well placed, that the second button truly looks intentional. In the past, Steiff used multiple buttons to keep track of which items were samples, prototypes, and versions of items under development. In the 1920's, this usually took the form of a regular button in one ear, and a "muster button" in the other. It is entirely possible that this dog's multiple button system is an early form of this tracking system - given he was introduced in the 19-teens. Unfortunately, only he knows for sure!

And if you think things couldn't get better than that - guess again! The third amazing thing about this fine example is that it comes with full provenance - that is, documentation regarding his life story. In this case, his provenance includes a letter and several photos - one which is shown below. According to the letter, in part:

"I wanted to share a little bit of history about this Steiff St. Bernard toy dog. It belonged to my father, Robert, who was born in Pittsburgh, PA in June, 1924. My grandmother was sentimental and a "saver," so many things from my father's childhood through his Army service in WWII were passed down and cherished, including his stuffed dog named "Sheppy."

My father always enjoyed reminiscing about his childhood, and he thought his dog was a gift received either for Christmas in 1925 or his second birthday in 1926. Looking at many photos, there was certainly a time period that my father went nowhere without his beloved "Sheppy" in hand."

You can enlarge the provenance letter as well as the photograph here on the left by clicking on them.  

Steiffgal hopes that this discussion on this fantastic Steiff Sheppy has left you quite Peppy!

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

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