Saturday, July 30, 2022

The More The Merrier With Steiff's Charming Fox Terriers

Fox Terriers are - and for the most part have always been - one of the most sought after, and prolific breeds in Steiff's kennel club. These energetic and fearless pups have appeared in Steiff's product line since the late 1800s. Here's an overview of their history to explain why they are considered top dogs by so many button-in-ear collectors. (A "real life" one is pictured here on the left for reference; the photo is from Purina.)

Steiff has traditionally taken inspiration for new product introductions from popular cultural trends. Fox Terriers started to gain prominence in the last quarter of the 19th century. In 1876, the Fox Terrier Club of England was established, and in 1885 the American Fox Terrier Club followed suit. Fox Terriers took top honors at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1907, 1908, and 1909. It was clear that this breed captured the hearts and minds of dog fans.

As such, Steiff wasted no time in providing enthusiasts with their versions of these popular pups. Fox Terriers made their first appearance in the Steiff line in 1899, just a handful of years after the company's commercial catalog launch in 1892. The earliest ones were made from felt or velvet. Typical to the period, Steiff's debut Fox Terrier came on metal wheels and was made from felt. Mohair became available on a commercial scale in 1903 and shortly after, mohair Fox Terriers graced the pages of the Steiff catalog. Through the mid-1940s, close to 40 different models were produced in practically all forms, including sitting, standing, and lying toys; woolen miniatures; hand puppets; pincushions; pull toys on wheels; ride-on toys; and waterproof bath toys, among others. The Fox Terrier pictured here on the left is fully jointed and dates from around 1909.

Naming products took on new meaning and importance in the mid-1920s at Steiff. Around 1924, the company started to adapt their product development and marketing strategies to match the carefree, upbeat culture of the "roaring 20s." They updated or launched many new dogs and cats that featured distinctly youthful, playful, and innocent personalities. And they began giving them gentle, childlike names. Prior to that, most dogs and cats were noted generically or as their biological breed. Given their popularity, Fox Terriers were a big part of this strategy. As such, new Fox Terriers introduced in the 1920s and 1930s were named "Ajax," "Spotty," "Foxy, and "Strupp" (pictured here on the left), among others.

Midcentury, Fox Terriers continued to be a blue ribbon breed for Steiff.
They were among the first items produced once the factory was up and running for toy making business in the late 1940s. A Fox Terrier made from artificial silk plush in four sizes ranging from 10 to 29 cm in 1949 lead the pack. The little mohair Fox pictured here on the left measures only 7 cm and was produced around 1949. Starting in the early 1950s, when mohair became available again on a commercial scale, playful Steiff Fox Terriers in a full range of sizes would be produced as stand-alone toys, puppets, and on wheels. Steiff would go on to design and produce over 20 Fox Terrier designs from the late 1940’s onward, and a Fox Terrier of one sort or another has appeared in the line almost continuously to this day.

Perhaps the most popular vintage Steiff Fox Terrier among collectors today is the company's version produced from 1949 - 1975.
He is beloved for his gentle yet authentic appearance as well as his natural charm posing with dolls. This design was called Fox up to 1953 and Foxy from 1954 onwards. He was made in 11 sizes ranging from 7 to 36 cm over time. F
ox/Foxy dogs were standing on all fours and made from white mohair detailed with black and tan airbrushed spots. The smallest versions had felt ears while the larger ones had mohair ears. All had brown and black pupil eyes and a simple hand embroidered nose and mouth. This model was also produced as a pull toy on wooden wheels in 17 and 22 cm from 1949 - 1961, as a ride-on model from 1949 - 1966, and sitting in three sizes ranging from 10 to 17 cm in 1953 - 1955. Collectors may recognize the 8 cm version as the one sold with the Vogue Doll Company's "Ginny" doll as Ginny's pup "Sparky" in 1956. You can see Sparky here on the left; he is wearing his all original plaid jacket and wearing his black leash.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the history of Steiff's popular Fox Terrier breed has been a real crowd pleaser for you.

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

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Ralph, Unboxed

Well, hello handsome! It's been a long time in the making... but a studio sized Steiff Teddy Baby bear named Ralph has finally made it into Steiffgal's hug! Check out this huge and heavy heartthrob and see what makes him fabulous in so many ways.

Remarkable Ralph truly is in a class by himself. He is standing, made from lovely long chocolate brown mohair, 160 cm tall, and arm and head jointed. He is SOLIDLY stuffed with excelsior from head to toe. His hand paw pads are made from a suede-like material. His larger than life face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes; a black hand embroidered nose and mouth; an open, smiling, felt lined mouth; and a light tan mohair inset muzzle. His feet are covered in black felt and Steiffgal suspects that these mommy-made "slippers" cover up some damage on his mohair feet.

Like his namesake, Ralph has all the typical Steiff Teddy Baby design features - on steroids! These include flat feet made for standing, downturned wrists, a chubby belly, and a distinctly toddler-esque personality and presentation. This prehistorically proportioned cub left the factory in Giengen, Germany more than a half century ago wearing a red leather collar with an oversized bell, but those accessories have been lost to time. His silver raised script button is about the size of a US dime and remains in his left ear. It is Steiffgal's best guess that Ralph was probably born in the c. 1960-1967 time frame.

The heyday for Steiff's studio animal production was in the 1960s. In the company's "Display Animals" catalog from the late 1960s, over 70 different models are represented - including this Teddy baby. On his page, which is pictured here on the left, his article number is 0339/15 and he is noted at standing 160 cm or 60 inches tall. It is interesting to note, that although the Teddy baby design has been produced in brown, blonde, and a number of rare mohair color variations since his introduction in the late 1920s, Steiff only rendered their largest display size in brown mohair. 

Now, what's the deal with the name Ralph? And why was Ralph's arrival so anticipated? For over 50 years, Ralph lived with a family on the west coast of the USA. Ralph's original owner won him in a contest as a young girl and immediately adopted him as one of the family! She named him Ralph. When asked why, the family said... just because! Perhaps Ralph was the name of a friend, family member, or even childhood crush at the time. Only Ralph knows for sure. And Steiffgal is keeping his name as Ralph to honor his legacy. 

Time marched on, and it was time for Ralph to find his next forever home. The family contacted Steiffgal to learn more about their family treasure, and to see if she had a place in her hug for him! Of course she did! But the challenge was moving him from the west to the east coast in a safe and cost effective manner. After almost a year of research and planning, Ralph was packed for a trip to Mars in multiple layers of boxes and made his cross country journey on a large moving van. When he arrived at Steiffgal's doorstep, she could hardly believe her eyes concerning the size and weight of his packaging!

After a long afternoon of careful unpacking, Ralph finally made his proper introduction. You can watch this unboxing on the YouTube video included just above this paragraph. Although loved and cherished as a friend, toy, and confidante, he clearly has many more years of love and joy to give! Steiffgal will give him a good cleaning, fix up a few bumps and bruises on him, and then display him as a crown jewel in her collection.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's studio sized Teddy Baby bear has you living large today. 

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

Sunday, July 3, 2022

This 1970s-era Steiff Novelty Is One Merry Mashup!

Steiffgal is certain you'll have no trouble warming up to this week's blog special guest. Here we have a Steiff postwar egg cozy that could only be described as a merry mashup. Check out this happy hopper and her unusual design elements to see what makes her such a rare hare in so many ways.

It's easy to understand why this quirky novelty holds so much appeal. This rabbit egg cozy is 10 cm tall and head jointed. Bunny's head is a large pom-mom that has been airbrushed with tan and pink highlights. She comes to life with brown and black pupil eyes, clear monofilament whiskers, and a tiny pink painted mouth. Her ears are made from a piece of single thick white felt and a piece of single thick tan felt that have been sandwiched together. Her tail is a small white pom-pom, and her body/dress is made from a textured, linen-like material. This pattern was produced in blue, orange, red, or yellow in this size only from 1973-1974. According to Pfeiffer's Sortiment, these warmers were sold in pairs and packaged with a matching placemat.

This egg cozy novelty is interesting from three distinct collecting angles.

1.  Functionally, it is the first egg warmer to appear in the line post-war. Steiff's early egg warmers were primarily made from felt or velvet, with their heyday in the c. 1900-1925 timeframe. Many of the early 20th century egg warmers were also made as rabbits, so her form is entirely consistent with past production. 

2.  Her materials and construction are also unusual. Although pom-pom or woolen miniature animals have been used for pincushions, pen wipes, and displays over time, this is the only egg warmer Steiffgal knows of that incorporates woolen miniature elements. Her ear construction - that of two layers of felt glued together - is also noteworthy. Steiffgal also does not recall ever seeing another button-in-ear item featuring her body/dress fabric. 

3.  And her packaging is also curious. She appeared in pairs, and packaged with a placemat. Although Steiffgal does not have the original packaging, she found an image of it on eBay, and it appears here on the left for your study. The copy on the back reads, "Egg warmer with place mat. Place mat of laminated foam and synthetic material, therefore it doesn't slip and can be washed in lukewarm water." 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this 1970s-era egg cozy has added a little novelty to your day.

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

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