Sunday, April 24, 2022

This Charming Steiff Prewar Find Is Certain To Put A Tiger In Your Tank

Take a seat and check out this darling and little known Steiff tiger!
Tigers are a popular, legacy item in the Steiff catalog, with the first big beasts of their type debuting in the company's line in 1915. They translate well from real life to plush, and their handsome looks and wild origins bring out the animal instincts in most collectors! Steiffgal stumbled across this unusual prewar example on an online auction. The fates smiled upon her, and now he's part of her permanent hug.

This striped sweetie is quite the looker.
 His official name is "Tiger Cub." He is 22 cm tall (measures vertically from head to toe), sitting, and head jointed. He is made primarily from tawny colored wool plush. His long sideburns are made from longer white mohair. Tiger is stenciled and airbrushed in typical tiger style; he is highlighted in orange with prominent black stripes on his limbs, back, tail, and head. In true cat fashion, his little tail curls up around his backside. He has black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws. His distinctly youthful face is detailed with teal green and black glass eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of pink paint on his lips. His ID is a short trailing "F" Steiff button. Overall, this big cat appeared in the line in 17 and 22 cm from 1939-1943.

It's always fun to discover new Steiff surprises, and this tiger cub definitely qualifies as that for Steiffgal.
This is the first of his kind she's ever handled, or really knew about. According to Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment, this model is cataloged as, "woolen mohair, tawny-colored, tiger striped, sitting, soft, young, funny." It is unusual for Steiff or Pfeffer to use endearing adjectives in their descriptions - usually they are quite literal and objective. So the word "funny" really pops here, and in a way it is accurate. This guy does have a playful and mischievous look to him.

Tiger cub's shape and presentation also may ring a bell with collectors interested in Steiff's sitting big cat production over time.
His sitting, head jointed form is also noted on the company's pre- and postwar Young Lion design. This mane event was made in 17 and 22 cm in wool plush from 1938-1943, in artificial silk plush in 17 cm from 1948-1949, in 10 and 17 cm in wool plush from 1949-1954, and finally in mohair in 10 and 17 cm from 1955-1961. You can see the 17 cm, early postwar artificial silk plush version of young lion here on the left. Clearly the sitting young lion design was more popular than the sitting young tiger design, which only appeared in 10 cm from 1951-1961.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this prewar, wool plush cub has put a tiger in your tank!

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

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Tune In For More Information About This Fabulous Steiff Novelty!

Today's blog post is going to be music to your ears - really! In the prewar era, Steiff produced a number of really marvelous novelties based on their most popular characters of the time. Check out this remarkable find from a new friend across the pond who asks about an antique dog that can carry a tune probably better than most of us. Zoe shares:

"I'm really interested to find out if my lovely dog is a genuine Steiff, I have done a little research but can't seem to find a dog the same as him which contains musical bellows, when his tummy is squeezed he makes a lovely twinkling noise! He has the Steiff button in his ear with the underling f which I've found out that he was made between 1908 and 1920, he also has his original pink ribbon! I have enclosed some pics I'd love to know if he is real? He also has most of his fur but has faded as under his ears is darker. Best wishes, Zoe" 

Let's put the spotlight on this wonderfully talented Steiff dog. What we have here is Steiff's Musical Molly. She is standing, 28 cm tall, and made from long white mohair. When she left the factory over a century ago, her mohair was brown-tipped on her ears, around her eyes, and on her rear back. Sometimes this fades over time. She comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and folded over ears. She has black embroidered claws on each of her paws. When you squeeze her midsection, she plays a merry tune. Her notes are produced by a "press and release" style music box. 

Zoe's blue ribbon buddy was produced in this size only from 1928-1931. Molly was also produced as a sitting "press and release" musical animal in 25 cm during the same time frame. This production timeline corresponds perfectly to the IDs on this musical dog under review today. Standing musical Molly sports a long trailing "f" button and remains of her red ear tag, both which appeared in tandem on items in the late 1920s-early 1930s. 

Musical animals have been featured sporadically in the Steiff line since the mid-1920s. Given that the company's items were mostly designed as "friends for life" for children, it would make sense that some higher end models would also feature the ability to lull a child to sleep with imbedded musical features. 

High quality, European made music boxes became available on a large, commercial scale in the mid 1920's. Seeing this as a product development opportunity, Steiff created a series of "Music-Animals" in 1928. This chorus included Molly dogs, a Teddy bear, Petsy the baby bear, Bully the bulldog, Cheerio the laughing puppy, Fellow the puppy, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, Treff the bloodhound, Fluffy the cat, a clown, and a standing lamb. Most had a "press and release" style music box; standing Charly's music box was activated by pulling on his tail. These items appeared overall in sizes ranging from 17 through 43 cm. However, despite their charming appearance and musical features, these collectibles were quite expensive and few were made. Unfortunately at the time, sales were minimal - probably because of cost - and they were last featured in the catalog in 1930/1931.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Zoe's Musical Molly dog has added a chorus of delight to your day.

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

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Monkey See Monkey Do With This Delightful Steiff Prewar Rarity

It's no secret that Steiffgal is simply bananas over Steiff's legacy Jocko the chimp pattern. This happy go lucky primate has been a collector's favorite since its introduction in 1909 - and for good reason! Steiffgal saw today's featured guest listed on an online auction platform in Europe and knew she had to have him. After a few ups and downs, he finally arrived in the USA and was even better than photographed and described. Take a look at this ray of sunshine - literally!

Here's a tip - this Jocko is off the charts great! He measure 30 cm sitting and is fully jointed. He has the design's traditional very long arms and bended at the knee legs. His hands, feet, face, and ears are made from felt. He comes to life with oversized brown and black glass pupil eyes set in eye pocket, a large, open, felt lined mouth, painted features and nostrils, and a white mohair chin. And you can't help but notice his outstanding fabric. He is made from bright orange tipped mohair. This coloration is very prominent on his body and joints and less so on his head and arms. His fading probably happened because of exposure to sunlight, as well as natural fading that occurs with dyes and natural fibers. It is also possible that his torso is less faded because he was wearing clothing that protected these areas from the elements. Only he knows for sure!

Jolly Jocko retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his yellow ear tag as his Steiff IDs. This is helpful, somewhat, in dating him. The long trailing "f" button appeared from around 1906-1935, and the prewar yellow ear tag appeared around 1934. If you overlay those two data points, they suggest that orange tipped Jocko was most likely "born" in 1934 or 1935.

Colorfully tipped mohair was a prominent design feature starting in the mid-1920s through the early to mid 1930s. Some models of Happy, Teddy Clown, and Petsy featured eye-catching brown tipped mohair. Fluffy the cat is famous for her teal eyes and blue-purple tipped coat, while Bully the bulldog made a name for himself with his orange tipped detailing. Molly the puppy was produced with brown, red, green, or blue tipped mohair, and examples of Charly the King Charles Spaniel with bright orange tipped mohair appear occasionally on the secondary market. Some 1920s rabbits were produced in surreal, tipped hues. and even some field and forest animals sported this distinctive fabric as well.

As far as Steiffgal can see, there is no specific mention of an orange tipped Jocko in any of the standard Steiff reference books. All of his IDs and detailing put him in at the tail end of "the golden age of tipping" at Steiff. However, Jocko monkeys are among the most popular and prolific designs in the Steiff line. Given they've been in production since practically the turn of last century, it would be nearly impossible to capture all of his different versions and variations - especially all the different fabrics he's sported over the years. For example, in her own personal collection, Steiffgal has otherwise undocumented versions of this chimp in artificial silk plush, wool plush, cotton plush, and other woolen combinations - among others! It would be possible to have a collection of just Steiff Jocko monkeys given the enormous range of their appeal, individual personalities, and of course, material presentation.

Orange you glad you checked out this Steiff blog today?

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

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Sitting On Top Of The World With This Great Prewar Steiff Find

Steiffgal's fostering a sweet Steiff pup - at least for a few days! A local friend came across this great button in ear pooch amongst a bunch of other items in a boxed lot from an auction. When Steiffgal checked out the dog in person, he was even better than her friend described. But he needed just a little work to bring out his best self. Check out this cute canine  - he's certain to warm your heart, in the best possible way. 

Here we have Steiff's Chinook Byrds Arctic Expedition Dog. He is sitting, head jointed, and 28 cm tall. He is made from blonde wool plush. He is very authentically rendered with great curves and proportions. His sweet long tail curves upward and hugs his body. He has black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, and a happy, smiling open felt lined mouth. His airbrushing includes overall shading, pads on the bottom of his feet, back striping, and facial highlighting. He wears a red leather collar that closes with two Steiff buttons. He has a large bell which may or may not be original to him. He retains his button in ear. This dog was made in 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1930-1931 only. He was also made in a lying configuration in 22, 32, 35, and 50 cm from 1930-1931 and as a tail moves head version in 23, 29, and 35 cm from 1931-1932.

Although he's simply gorgeous now, that's not how he arrived at Steiffgal's home. His original eyes were replaced with glass eyes that were clearly way too small, broken, and not original to him. He had a few open seams, and his tail was not attached to his body. And he was FILTHLY! Like stored in an attic and wrapped in old newspaper for 50 years dirty. But these things can easily be addressed. First, Steiffgal gave him a soft, gentle cleaning. She followed this process and it worked really well. After a few go rounds, he went from dark grey to light blonde. Wool plush cleans up well, and is sturdy, so much of his natural beauty came to life again. This cleaning also revealed traces of his once prominent contour and highlight airbrushing which were hidden under his dust. 

Next, she replaced his eyes with ones that were more proportional to his face. He presented with broken glass eyes that measured about 3 mm. After studying his face, and consulting with similar sized dogs from his era, Steiffgal determined that the right size eyes for him would be 9 cm. So she ordered them from; this website has tons of options for restoration projects like this. She inserted them into his head in the "traditional" Steiff way, using a long needle to secure the eyes to the head via a knot at the back of the head. 

And finally, she simply added a few stitches to bring him back to good form. She gently tacked his tail into place, matching the curve noted in photos of this item when it was new. And she closed a small loose seam on one of his slightly folded over ears. 

Now let's take a quick look at the history of the Chinook breed, and its relationship to Byrd's Antarctic Expedition. A Chinook is a relatively recent breed of dog that was created by Arthur Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire in 1917 as a working dog. This breed was "formulated" from crossbreeding dogs from the Peary North Pole Expedition with other breeds with great stamina, strength, and cold weather tolerance. You can see a photo of a real life Chinook here on the left.

Mr. Walden was an experienced dog driver with years of experience in the Yukon.  For that reason was selected as the lead driver and trainer on the 1929 Byrd expedition, even though he was close to 60 at the time! Walden brought along his original Chinook, now 12 years old, and fifteen of his dog sons to provide surface transportation on the Antarctic ice for this critical exploratory mission.  

And what does this mean in terms of Steiff? It is not uncommon since the turn of last century for Steiff to use "celebrities" as inspiration for new products. The world was in love with Chinooks and the role they played in Byrd's operations; why not make him as a plaything?  The precedent had already been set with a series of delightful and popular dolls and toys honoring Peary's North Pole Expedition in the 1908 - 1919 time frame.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's polar pups has you sitting on top of the world!

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