Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of - Four Top Steiff Teds Sold At Auction This Week!

It was a very good week to be a vintage Steiff Teddy bear enthusiast! Two fine European auction houses known for presenting amazing button-in-ear temptations of all sorts held their signature early summer sales. And did they deliver! Let's take a look at four top lot results from these events and see what made these picks the stuff that dreams are made of.

On June 21st, 2022 Special Auction Services from the UK offered lot #40, "a very rare Steiff black mohair teddy bear circa 1912" as part of their Dolls & Teddy Bears early summer sale.
It was cataloged in part as:

"A very rare Steiff black mohair teddy bear circa 1912, with black boot button eyes, red felt discs behind, pronounced clipped muzzle, black stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs, originally with cream felt pads, hump and inoperative growler -16½in. (42cm.) high (balding and thinning to top of head, bald spot at each ankle, piece missing from right heel, bald spot on side of left arm with a slight hole, small hole to top of muzzle, pads recovered, general wear and thinning, fading to front and a some strands missing from nose stitching) - this actual bear was sold at Christie's first Teddy Bear auction in December 1993 as lot 205 and comes with a copy of the catalogue."

The bear was estimated £5,000 - £8,000, generated 22 bids, and hammered at £18,000. Complete with provenance, personality, and presentation, this sweet old man was truly the whole package. Despite his condition issues, his absolute rarity and ties to one of the 20th century's most famous/infamous tragedies still clearly resonated with collectors worldwide. 

Later the same week, Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH from Germany presented their Special Steiff Auction as part of the annual Steiff Sommer Festival in Giengen on June 25th, 2022. The event generated a number of noteworthy Teddy bear sales - with three head spinning lots taking the gold, silver, and bronze medals here. 

1.  Of great interest - at least to two passionate bidders - was lot #6118, a handsome 1920s-era Steiff cub.
It was cataloged in part as:

"Very nice, dark brown bear, around 1926, with button, long trailing F, with very beautiful preserved red flag, No. 5328,6, glass eyes, very beautiful preserved, dark-brown mohair, long snaped off arms, clearly hump, felt paws in very good condition, 42 cm, very nice, exceptional original condition."

The bear had an estimate of €850-€1,700, generated 83 bids, and hammered at €22,000. Every auction has its up and down surprises, and this sleeper lot caught everyone off guard in the best possible way. Yes, he was beautiful, a great color and size, and had fine IDs. A wonderful example all around. Perhaps he reminded the winning bidder of a long lost childhood friend, or maybe was the last bear needed to complete a series of cubs in a personal collection? Or perhaps he simply called to them in a heart to heart sort of way? Whatever the reason, it is certain that his new owner really, really wanted him! 

2.  Also catching the world's attention was lot #6107, a super-sized Petsy bear with an irresistible and classic presentation. 
It was cataloged in part as:

"One of the highlights of the auction, Petsy-bear, produced 1928-1930, 74 cm, long-haired mohair plush, brown tipped, jointed, big flexible ears, with button, long stretched F, big blue glass eyes, salmon-pink embroidering at snout, seam at the middle of head, nice, full mohair, single places of the mohair are caused by the sitting position flatted, felt paws were partially professional refurbished, 74 cm, with this size is only this bear known to us, extremely rare, very nice."

The bear had an estimate of €6,500-€13,000, generated 78 bids, and hammered at €42,000. Petsy bears continue to capture the imagination and pocketbooks of enthusiasts universally. Their rarity and distinctive childlike looks qualify them as crown jewels in practically every Steiff collection. This beautiful boy - in a remarkable size, lovely condition, and with ID - was outstanding in so many ways. As far as Steiffgal can tell, it is very likely that this exact bear now holds the world's record for the highest price paid for a Steiff Petsy bear sold at public auction!

3. And finally, it's hard to believe that any button-in-ear beauty could top the number two bear at this sale, but the stars really aligned here.
The star of this auction was lot #6104, a remarkable and all but perfect white mohair rod bear with ID. 
It was cataloged in part as:

"Baer(le) PB, produced 1904-1905, an absolute highlight of the auction, a rarity, white mohair, sealing wax nose, below it you can recognize a bright embroidering at snout , shoe button eyes, with elephant button, 5 claws at paws and feet, head, arms and legs with rod jointed, movable connected, except of small places nice full white mohair, standing height: 40 cm, seat height: 29 cm, long snaped off arms, hump, pointed nose, mohair at the snout was shaved, exceptional."

The bear had an estimate of €2,500-€5,000, generated 63 bids, and hammered at €43,000! It was clear that this remarkable example would be a superstar in this sale - but these results are clearly off the charts! Before the sale, Steiffgal personally thought that he may trade hands as high as €25,000... but sometimes its ok to be wrong! And, like his cousin Petsy mentioned above, it is possible that this exact bear now holds the world's record for the highest price paid for a Steiff rod jointed bear sold at public auction! This example really was museum quality in condition, color, presentation, and originality. It was like he was made yesterday - but he was nearly 120 years old. How can that be? And can we all share his secret to the fountain of youth? Congrats to the buyer - this guy's a keeper for sure. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of these auction superstars has hammered your interest in these once in a lifetime cubs. 

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

Sunday, June 19, 2022

This Steiff Special Edition Chin Chin Is A Win-Win!

The Steiff Sommer Festival will be here before you know it!
This annual celebration, held this year from June 24th-26th, 2022, will be the first live gathering of its type on the Steiff factory campus in Giengen since 2019! One of the exciting components of this happening - or at least it was in the past - was an extremely limited edition produced in honor of the event. These editions have taken a number of forms over the years, including a series of colorful Teddy baby bears. After several years of searching, Steiffgal finally got her hands on one of the lesser known event editions - a dog modeled on a prewar era button-in-ear-buddy. This pretty pooch was made during the manufacturing demonstration held at the Steiff Festival of 1998. Come take a look at this bow-wow beauty!

This Chin Chin is a win-win!
She is standing on all fours, head jointed, and measures 17 cm tall and 22 cm wide. Her tail, sideburns, and bib are made out of outrageously long, soft blonde mohair. Her body, forehead, ears, and legs are made from shorter blonde mohair, and her feet are made from very short mohair. Her delightfully detailed face comes to life with oversized brown and black eyes; a dimensional, grey and tan mohair inset muzzle; a black and embroidered nose and mouth; and a spot of airbrushed highlights. She has three hand embroidered claws on each foot. Her special event chest tag reads, "Pekinese Chin Chin 1931 Replica." She also has her special ear tag, indicating she is #149 of 300 produced, and the date of the Steiff event. Her hang tag doubles as her certificate. 

Tag- you're it - when it comes to deciphering this dog's somewhat cryptic design inspiration.
She is documented as a "Pekinese Chin Chin" on her chest tag. Let's dig a little deeper into this name game - as these really are two very different dog breeds! Steiff did produced a Pekingese, as well as a Chin Chin, in their prewar line. The company's Pekingese was made in 10, 14, 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1938 - 1943. You can see an example of this dog here on the left. Their Chin Chin was produced in 10, 14, 17, 20, 22, 25, 28, and 35 cm from 1931 - 1939. The designs in many ways were similar - both dog patterns were standing on all fours, head jointed, and featured dramatic tails that curved over their rumps and were stitched in place. However, Peky the Pekingese had short, cropped ears while Chin Chin had long, floppy, triangular shaped ears. So it's not entirely clear why this Festival edition was called both a "Pekinese" and a "Chin Chin"... maybe to appeal to owners of either dog breed?

It is also interesting to note what happened to Steiff's similar Pekingese and Chin Chin patterns over time.
Despite her delightful appeal and personality, a Chin Chin did not appear in the line postwar. Her cousin Peky did, though. The company's Pekingese had a major makeover post war and was reintroduced to the collector's world in 1953. This updated Peky was produced in 8, 10, 14, and 22 cm though 1977. The post-war Peky was standing, made from light brown mohair, had a detailed black muzzle (mostly velvet in the smaller sizes; mohair in the larger ones), and a darling, pouty mouth. This pattern was also produced as an 18 cm hand puppet from 1963 through 1964.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this special event dog has put you in a festive mood indeed.

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

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Things Are Heating Up For Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's Steiff Summer Auction On June 25th!

After a two year pause due to COVID-19 public health concerns, Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's Special Steiff Auction will again take place in Giegnen as part of Margarete Steiff GmbH's annual three day Sommer event. This signature festival happens on June 24th-26th 2022, and Ladenburger's auction takes place the evening of June 25th in the town's historic Schranne hall. This sale always features the best of the best - and this year is no different. Here are three rare and interesting temptations from the auction that really caught Steiffgal's eye. 

This first pick is fit for a king - of the jungle, that is. It is lot #6018, a turn of last century lion pincushion. It has an opening bid of €550 and is cataloged as....

"Pin-cushion, lion, around 1905, velvet lion with mohair mane, very nice clearly visible colors, great condition, small STEIFF button with block letters, long trailing F, on a green mohair pin-cushion, minimally faults at the mohair of the pin-cushion, otherwise very nice condition, length of the cushion: 16 x 11 cm, height with lion: 14 cm, exceptional, very nice condition."

Steiff has a long tradition of creating novelties like pincushions from some of their most popular designs of the time. This particular lion pattern appeared in the catalog in 10 and 14 cm from 1904-1919 overall. The lion itself - sans cushion - was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1903-1912 overall. Other prewar pincushion designs included animals wearing backpack style pincushions made from baskets and velvet, pets perched on fluffy mohair pillows, and woolen miniatures posed on thick felt leaves. This particular example is in wonderful condition with ID. The lion's royal personality just radiates from within, don't you think? 

The next pick is truly a looker.
It is lot #6071, a mid-century manufacturing display. It has an opening bid of €130 and is cataloged simply as...

"Show piece, board made of cardboard, development of a Steiff-lion 5312, 43 cm and 30 cm, around 1954."

This dashing display shows the steps needed to create the company's "Mama Lioness." This early prewar design was produced in 12 and 21 cm from 1949 through 1957 and is considered relatively rare and desirable on the secondary market. So the date on the display of 1954 makes perfect sense. 

The words on the sign basically summarize how the lioness comes together. They roughly translate to: "History of a Steiff Lion 5312. Work steps: cut, sew, turn around, sew limbs on, ears, garnish the nose, shape, paint, check, protect." The poster also includes examples of the raw materials used at each step of the process, and a finished Lioness. It is interesting to imagine what this display was created for.... training, public relations, part of a museum or traveling exhibit? Today, it is just a fabulous time capsule and a great piece of visual as well as teaching art. 

The final auction pick today is certain to get your goat, in the best possible way. It is lot #6124, a midcentury era goat advertising specialty. It has an opening bid of €220 and is cataloged as:

"Billy-Goat (billy goat), advertising item by the company Scabal, 1959, wool plush, with monocle and caricature eyes, standing height with hat 40 cm, complete, No. 6535,90, very good condition, hat is a bit creased."

What a fun item! Goat's playful, blue and black glass eyes are meant to be silly and cartoon-like, and are almost identical to those seen on the Steiff's beloved Lulac rabbits of the same period. His "proper topper" and black vest add a touch of formality to him. And his numbering describes him accurately, with 6 = young, 5 = wool plush, 35 = his height, almost; 9 = display animal or special edition, and 0 = natural coloring. 

But what's the tie between goats and the company Scabal? According to Wikipedia, Scabal is... "a Belgian textile company founded in 1938 by Otto Hertz as a cloth merchant and supplier of fabrics. "Scabal" is an acronym for Société Commerciale Anglo Belgo Allemande Luxembourgeoise." Goats are famous for producing mohair and cashmere, and Scabal may use these fine fibers in their cloth production. It is also possible that this goat design somehow was part of the company's branding or identity in the late 1950s. So the dandy goat design really does tie back to the business of Scabal. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these fabulous Steiff auction treasures has further buttoned up your love of the brand. 

For more information about Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH's upcoming Special Steiff Auction event on June 25th, please click here!

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

Saturday, June 4, 2022

This Earliest Steiff Cub On Wheels Is A Little Rough Around The Edges

Which comes first.... age or beauty? In this case, it's a tie for sure. Check out this very vintage, legacy Steiff bear on wheels. This old man has circled the sun in three separate centuries, and is hardly any worse for the wear. Come see what makes him so interesting from the materials and product development timeline perspectives.

This cheerful cub is standing, head jointed, and is 17 cm tall (measured vertically). He is made from brown short pile plush. His paw pads are made from tan felt. His face comes to life with black button eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He also has black hand embroidered claws. He is mounted on two metal axles and rides upon four metal wheels - each is about 1 inch in diameter. You can see a close up of his "ride" at the end of this post. When he left the factory in Giengen, he would have been wearing a leather collar. This accessory has been lost to time. He was made in this brown short pile plush fabric in 10 sizes ranging from 10 to 100 cm from 1894-1926 overall. There is no indication on his ear that he ever had a button; as such, it is entirely possible that he was made in the prebutton era - c. 1894 through 1903/04. 

This bear's fabric represents a materially important time period in Steiff's history.
He is made from a somewhat rough to the touch cloth consisting of thicker brown woolen threads woven with thinner tan cotton threads. The way they come together gives the bear a bit of texture and visual interest. Steiff used this material on some of their earliest bears as it was available, affordable, and was probably the best alternative at the time. Because parts of this fabric are woolen and other parts are not, it ages and manifests losses in an interesting way. When the brown woolen threads are lost to time or insect damage, only the tan thinner cotton threads remain. Unlike mohair, there is no backing to this short pile plush - so you can see the excelsior stuffing between the threaded areas of loss. 

Mohair was really a game changer for Steiff when it became available on a commercial scale in 1903.
This "newfangled" fabric caught the eye of Richard Steiff, who brilliantly realized how well it would translate to the toy making world. And, just a few months later, he would unveil his 55PB bear at the 1904 Leipzig Spring Fair! This cub, which measured 55 cm tall, was made from long, reddish brown mohair, five ways string jointed, and detailed with black boot button eyes and a gutta percha nose. He was very heavy and solidly stuffed with excelsior and made to look like a real bear, not a playful toy. Although 55PB was not a commercial success - his mohair "grandson"... a cardboard disk jointed cub debuting around 1905... would go on to make Steiff one of the most recognized and beloved toy companies on the planet. 

It is interesting to note that the short pile plush bear under discussion today remained in production for more than two decades after the introduction of softer, more playful mohair items in the Steiff line.  This suggests that he sold well and was profitable enough to hold his place in the company's catalog. There's certainly no denying his charm and appeal - almost 130 years onward. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this legacy bear on wheels has come full circle for you.

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