Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, Steiff Style!

It's the most wonderful time of the year... and Steiffgal is hoping you are celebrating with beloved family and friends, tasty treats, and treasured memories in the making.
For many folks, the dark days associated with the end of the calendar year are practically synonymous with brightly lit Christmas trees. And believe it or not, Steiff has made their own button-in-ear version of this legacy Christmas symbol. Take a look at this most unusual Steiff novelty, one of Steiffgal's most favorite modern editions of all time... so much so, that she leaves it on full display all year long!

This fabulous Steiff collectible gets the green light for its rarity, beauty, and clever design.
Here we have Steiff's Weihnachtsbaumor Christmas tree. It is 25 cm tall and made from soft green velour like material. The branches and limbs are all dimensional but not stuffed. This greenery is arranged around a wooden dowel mounted on a circular wooden stand. The tree is decorated with flat yellow felt stars, round red fabric balls, and a garland of tiny, opal-esque stars. It is topped with a larger yellow felt star. Of course a tree does not have ears, so its "button-in-ear" branding of a tag and button are located on one of its lower green fabric limbs.

This holiday themed rarity was made in 2004.
It was not a limited edition, but manufactured in very small quantities. Steiffgal suspects that it was somewhat challenging to produce on a commercial scale, given its construction and form, as well as the number of seams it requires. As a result, they appear few and far between on the secondary market.

It is pretty unusual for Steiff to create items that are not primarily based on living human or animal forms. The company has made other novelties, like rattles, pram toys, and music boxes resembling flowers (and even fruit!) in the distant past. More recently, the Christmas line has featured Teds in felt Christmas tree suits, and holding trees. But as far as Steiffgal can tell, this is Steiff's only free standing Christmas tree design produced on a somewhat commercial scale to date. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's soft plush Christmas tree has added a holly-jolly touch to your day!

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

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Flying High With This Amazing Steiff Marketing Postcard From 1928

Can you hold history in your hand? This blog has recently discussed a number of examples of antique Steiff ephemera, including photos and calling cards. Now let's take a look at an extraordinary postcard that sold recently on eBay. Its image, subject matter, transport logistics, destination, and detailing were simply off the chart interesting. Check out this tiny time capsule from 1928 and see what makes it so fascinating from the design and historical perspectives.


The front of this standard size postcard should be captioned "The Best of 1928!"
Pictured is a charming vignette of Steiff toys enjoying a fun outing together. Steiff has a rich history of creating marketing materials that bring their items to life through clever placement, body positions, and facial expressions. This is a perfect example of that. As for the featured items, the wooden cart and pony on wheels is the company's "Sandkar" or horse drawn wagon which was produced in four sizes from 1921-1936. The puppy is Steiff's sitting Molly, who was produced in 12 sizes ranging from 7 to 80 cm from 1925-1943 overall. The blonde Ted was made in 14 sizes ranging from 10 to 115 cm from 1905-1933 overall. And the bird is Steiff's duck; he was produced in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1925-1932. One of each, please! You can see the front of the card pictured above, the image is from eBay. You can click on it to make it bigger. 

The back of the card is an astonishing collection of historical facts, highlights, and period information
. Many of the card's details have to do with the card's delivery source, the Graf Zeppelin. This airship, the pride and joy of the German aviation community, debuted in 1928 - the year of this postcard! The Graf Zeppelin, also known as LZ 127, was in service for nine years. During that period, it made 590 flights, including 144 ocean crossings. You can see the Graf Zeppelin here on the left, the image is from

Here are a few highlight and hidden "gems" tucked within the back copy of this card. The back is pictured below, the image is from eBay. You can click on it to make it bigger. 

First, starting on the upper left corner, you can see two dates in pencil.
They correspond to the date that the card was mailed in Germany and the date that it arrived in the USA. It left Germany on October 10th, 1928 and arrived in the USA on October 16th, 1928 - for a travel time of 6 days. Pretty amazing - even for today, given today international mail often takes weeks to go "across the pond." 

Next, check out the copy on the left hand side of the card. "Place your orders with Fred Wander early to insure Zeppelin deliveries next years. Many novelties will be on display at our old stand. Margarete Steiff & Co. Inc. Borgfeldt Building, 115-119 East 16th Street, New York." Among other things, this tells us the name of Steiff's rep in the USA through the Borgfeldt company nearly a century ago, and the address of that distributor. Even more interesting here is that the card hints that all Steiff deliveries to the USA will be shipped via Zeppelin aircraft!

Now move to the middle of the card. The information that appears there tells us a lot about how the card was transported, and the obvious and international pride the German postal service and aviation authorities had in their Zeppelin program. The orange stamp in the middle of the card translates to: Mit Luftpost (airmail in German) and Par Avion (by plane in French). Right under that, there is a block of copy which translates roughly to: "To the post office in Friedrichshafen (a German town) to be sent via the airship Graf Zeppelin LZ 127 from Friendrichshafen (where there was an airport to handle Zeppelin aircraft.)" And right under that is a blue oval stamp with the translated words "Transported with airship LZ 127". So we can be 99.99% certain that this exact card traveled on the world famous LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin.

The blue and white postage stamp on the upper right hand corner of the card is also revealing. This idealized image pictures the Zeppelin gliding effortlessly and peacefully over the Earth - high enough to see the curve of the planet. The words on the stamp read "America, German Airmail, Europe, and 2 Reichmark". According the Historical Dollar-to-Marks Currency Conversion Page, in 1928, 1 RM was equal to about $4.19, so this stamp cost about $8.38 at the time. This little stamp gives off big vibes that this early airmail program was big, bold, ambitious... and expensive!


And lastly, the recipients! This card was sent to the toy buyers at Gimbel Brother department store in Milwaukee, WI. This legacy store brand and chain would go on to become one of largest and most beloved retailers in the United States, eventually operating over 50 storefronts. Gimbel's started the original Thanksgiving Day parade tradition in 1920. Its chief rival was Macy's - who would debut their version of a turkey day celebration parade in 1924. It is no surprise that Steiff would be doing business with Gimbels (or trying to!). This city block long institution with a river front facade certainly had a toy department and attracted high end customers that would be interested in the Steiff brand. You can see Gimbel's in Milwaukee here on the left in the late 1920's. The photo is from 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fascinating Steiff postcard has been the trip of a lifetime!

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

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Playing Doggy Detective Over This Unusual Steiff Wartime Era Canine

Paws and take a look at this interesting dog made during a really challenging time in world history. He has a familiar ring to him, don't you think... but his fabric is quite different than his standard line relatives. Just who is he, and when was his birthday - in dog years or otherwise? 

His lucky owner - Patricia from Europe - shares:

"I would be very grateful for your expertise concerning this Spitz dog. He is not catalogued in any of the Steiff Sortiment books. 

I have absolutely no idea if he is prewar? 

My concerns are his alternative coat. This is definitely not mohair plush. This is very lightly woven and the pile is flat, not fluffy.The airbrushing is bright and vibrant and his coat has full coverage. 

He is completely perfect with no damages at all. Unfortunately, he doesn't have his Steiff ID. He has beautiful glass eyes and is quite lovely. He is 22 x 22 cm in size. Any information on this little treasure will be greatly appreciated."

What an interesting find!
Some of Steiff's items made just before, and just after, WWII are not captured in the Sortiment books. This could be because very few were actually made and sold, they are extremely rare today, they might have been produced only as samples or test items, or they simply fell through the documentation cracks during a complicated geopolitical period and its aftermath. The Sortiment books are great references, but they are not a complete and comprehensive accounting of Steiff's production. And, they were not validated or published by Steiff - but by a third party. 

That being said, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this dog is a version of the company's standard line Wolfspitz dog series that was officially in production from 1934-1943 overall.
These canines were made standing on all fours in 22 and 35 cm; on eccentric wheels in 22 cm; and sitting in 17, 21, 22, and 25 cm. They were all unjointed and stuffed with excelsior. Their face, ears, and legs were made from shorter mohair while their backs, tails, and torsos were made from very long matching mohair. Each was detailed with lifelike brown and black shading on their backs and tails and had three embroidered black claws on each paw. Their faces came to life with felt lined ears, brown and black glass pupil eyes, a black embroidered nose and mouth, and brown airbrushed highlights on their foreheads. For reference, you can see the 22 cm mohair sitting Wolfspitz here on the left; the photo is from Steiffgal's collection. 

Patricia's dog appears to check many of the boxes to the company's basic prewar Wolfspitz pattern.
These details include things like the use of long and short materials to replicate the dog's coat; three painted folds on the dog's forehead; airbrushed shading on his back and tail; and a very similar facial expression and rendering, among others.

From c. 1934 - the early 1940s, and then again from c. 1946 - 1949, things were really tough from the materials, supply chain, and operations perspectives at Steiff. Premier, traditional toy making materials including mohair and felt were in short supply and were often allocated to military purposes. As such, Steiff did everything it could to keep its toy making production lines supplied and active during these times. One way to do this was to use fabrics and materials that were available in the place of felt and mohair. These often were in the forms of artificial silk plush, wool plush, cotton plush, and other hybrid fabrics that blended wool, mohair, and other fibers. 

Given its presentation, materials, size, and detailing, it is Steiffgal's best thinking that this Spitz dog dates from the late prewar period and is made in part from some type of substitute plush that has wool as an element of its weave.
 He might have been a sample or prototype to test how his design would turn out in the plush available at the time. There is no indication (as far as Steiffgal knows of) that this pattern was produced in any form in the early postwar era.  The fabric on Patricia's pooch appears somewhat similar in texture and density to the unusual "lumpy-bumpy" plush on an otherwise standard line standing play duck from Steiffgal's collection. This fine feathered friend - like the Wolfspitz - was in the line from the early 1930s through the early 1940s. You can see this duck here on image on the left. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this interesting Spitz dog has you barking up the right tree!

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

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Can Steiff's Jocko Chimps of Yesteryear Speak French?

Given how adorable and appealing Steiff's dolls, bears, and animals are, it is no surprise that antique advertising featuring these photogenic superstars can be as collectible as the items themselves. Early Steiff catalogs, mailers, and advertisements give unique insights into the design and marketing priorities of the company over time. They can also provide interesting metrics like prices, weights, and minimum orders, and even company or distributors' names, addresses, and contact information.

Check out this amazing piece of ephemera featuring Steiff's legacy Jocko chimpanzees.
There is much to learn from this simple 3" x 5" card. This all original example was produced around 1912 for Steiff's business partner in Paris. The front of this double sided, cardboard card shows a full color image of six Jockos playing in a miniature bedroom. The space is furnished with three wooden chairs and a bed. There is also a framed and matted picture on the wall. Three Jockos don turn of last century style dresses detailed with pleated fronts and decorative embroidery. Two others wear blue playsuits with white trim. And one is just simply in his birthday suit. The Jocko on the far right seems upset, and her friend just to her left appears worried about that. Steiff always had a great way of capturing these emotional subtleties in their early images. You can also see Steiff branding on the top left side of the image. The vignette is simply irresistible.

The back of this time capsule is equally as interesting, but for different reasons. It has a simply rendered map of turn of last century Paris, with a red square indicating the location of the Steiff distributorship at 23 Rue des Petites-Hotels. The words on the card summarize as: "Fabric Toy Factory, Margarete Steiff, located at 23 Rue des Petits Hotels in Paris with the head office in Giengen on the Brenz River in Germany. Offering toys and animals, dolls, kites, and pincushions made from felt, plush, velvet, etc. Winner of the grand prize at the World's fairs in Saint Louis in 1904 and Brussels in 1910."

The actual intended purpose of this card is not clear. It doesn't have a space for an address or stamp, so it could not be mailed like a postcard as we know them today. And it is a little large for a standard business card. It might have been put in an envelope as a mailer, or it could have been handed out at a trade show or exhibition as a mini brochure. The map on the back suggests that the location may have been hard to find, and/or that the location encouraged visitors.

A simple google search finds that today, 23 Rue des Petites-Hotels in Paris is occupied in part by the Al Dente Agency. According to their website, Al Dente describes itself as: “We are an integrated creative agency based in Paris and Rome, believing in the cultural aura of luxury brands.” Perhaps its principals could feel the Steiff love - and aura - when they considered this location for their business in the City of Lights? Above you can see what the street looks like today from the on-the-ground perspective; the image is from

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Jocko card has given you a little insight into the company's turn of last century monkey business.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

This Antique Image Featuring Steiff's Record Peter Is Pretty As A Picture

This reader's question is the real-wheel-deal indeed! And just goes to show you how far back, and how deeply, some of Steiff's legacy patterns resonate with people all around the world. Zuzana from Slovakia writes,

"Good evening,

I have a very special question for you and would be really grateful if you can help me. I am a restoration and conservation student from Academy of Fine Art and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. I am working on this gelatine photograph of two girls with a goat in the middle. One of the girls has a pull toy monkey and I am guessing it's a Steiff toy. I was just curious, if you maybe will have any kind of information about this specific toy. This photo is the only I have and no more information was attached. Maybe you as a professional will see something I cannot.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you and thank you so so much.

Have a nice day and Greetings from Slovakia, Zuzana."

This delightful inquiry falls beautifully at the intersection of antique ephemera and Steiff history.
It is always fascinating to see Steiff items appearing in photographs of yesterday - or even last century. What you see here in the photo from Zuzana is definitely one of Steiff's most beloved and signature items - a chimpanzee on a four wheeled cart, or what is traditionally called a "Record Peter." Here on the left you can see a very early Steiff print advertisement for this very product, the image is from D. Ayers and D. Harrison's, Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

Let's focus on the history and details of this marvelous monkey.
Steiff's Record Peter is unquestionably the most well-known novelty based on the company's legacy Jocko the Chimp pattern. This plaything consists of a Jocko riding upon a metal chassis hand cart which glides along on four wooden wheels - usually painted red. When Record Peter is pulled, his arms and legs swing back and forth in synchrony, giving the appearance that he’s working hard to keep his vehicle in motion. Record Peter made his debut in 1912 in 25 cm. As such, this photo was taken in 1912 at the earliest. Here on the left you can see a lovely legacy and most likely mid-century Steiff Record Peter with his original box, the image is from

The Record Peter design was an immediate sensation upon its introduction. Steiff's 1912 catalog described him as: “Record Peter, in silky brown mohair plush, seated on a self-drive chassis with sturdy wooden wheels and automatic sound box. Virtually unbreakable mechanism. Simply has to be pulled along by attached cord.” This novelty also came in a number of cataloged and colorful forms and size variations through the early 1940s. These included examples ranging from 10 to 30 cm, as well as rarities made in red, blue, yellow, white, green, red, and black mohair. Each of these colorful characters was decorated with a festive neck ruff. Given his longevity in the line, he also appeared once in a blue moon in some unconventional and/or not cataloged fabrics, including artificial silk plush and cotton plush. These "non-mohair" fabrics usually suggest that the item was made just before, during, or after one of the world wars. You can see two prewar variations on Steiff's Record Peter design below; the one on the left is made from all felt and wears a matching fez and the one of the right is made from cinnamon colored mohair. The image is from the author's collection. 

Due to his popularity, it is no surprise that Record Peter was one of the first items Steiff manufactured when the factory reopened for toy making business post WWII.
A 25 cm version was produced in brown silk plush in 1949, then in brown mohair through 1970. Even though he has not "officially" appeared full time in the line for nearly half a century, he remains one of the most cherished and timeless Steiff designs amongst collectors today.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fabulous photo (and its contents) has been a picture perfect experience for you.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Barking Up The Right Tree With This Petite And Princely Steiff Pinscher

And they call it puppy love! And for good reason. This sweet sitting pup recently joined Steiffgal's hug. He came in a giant box lot. But as all collectors know... sometimes these types of purchases contain unexpected treasures like this.

Sit and stay and check out this sweet pup.
He is a sweet example of Steiff's Pinscher dog. He is 17 cm tall, sitting, and unjointed. He is made from long tan mohair that was tipped in brown when he was new. You can see this tipping in his armpits, folds, and other places where the sun does not shine! Pinscher
 has black hand embroidered claws on his front and back paws. His face is detailed with charming proportional brown and black glass pupil eyes, a black hand stitched nose and mouth, a spot of red on his lips, and a center-seamed muzzle. His pert triangular mohair ears are lined in tan felt, and as is customary to the breed, he has a proportionally very small tail. He has a nonworking squeaker in his belly. 

Like most of Steiff's creations, this Pinscher is lovingly and authentically rendered.
He in a very appealing and authentic sitting position; his back legs are angled and bent in the way a real puppy sits - especially when they are trying coax you into giving them a snack! This guy retains his long trailing "f" Steiff button and bits of his red tag as his Steiff IDs. This tipped mohair Steiff Pinscher pattern was produced in 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1914 though 1931 overall.

Pinschers are few and far between in the Steiff line. Over time, three versions were produced prewar. As far as Steiffgal can tell, there has not been one in the line after the early 1940s. It is interesting to note that Steiff's debut Pinscher was produced at the same time as the company's rod jointed bears. Like the rod jointed bears, this guy was also fully rod jointed, had black wooden shoebutton eyes, and a handmade black gutta percha nose. He appeared in 35 cm from 1903 through 1906. He had a distinctly Teddy bear look to him but his limbs were more slender and he did not have felt paw pads. You can see a picture of him here on the left; the image is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

After an eight year hiatus, Pinschers again graced the Steiff catalog. The Pinscher under discussion here today followed the rod jointed version. Steiff's final Pinscher was similar to the tipped version, but made in long grey brown mohair in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1935-1942. 

Pinschers are a distinctly German breed, so it should be no surprise that Steiff chose to produce a few for their line.
These dogs originated in southern Germany (also where the Steiff company is located.) They were first officially recognized in 1885 and accepted into the American Kennel Club in 2003. German Pinschers were one of the foundation breeds in the origins of the Doberman Pinscher and the Miniature Pinscher as we know them today. German Pinschers were almost lost to time both post WWI and WWII. According to the AKC, there were no litters registered in West Germany from 1949 to 1958. Due to the heroic efforts of one man, the breed was rescued via intensive breeding and conservation efforts.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this petite Pinscher has brought a little more happiness to your day.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Thinking Outside The Box With This Delightful Steiff Moving Display

Would you climb every mountain for a wonderful Steiff rarity? How about an actual Steiff hillside scene with moving parts? Check out this note from a new friend in Europe who has inherited such a crated treasure in working order. Just what do we have here? Jeanette shares:

Hello! I have inherited this Steiff display, but do not know anything about it, except for what Google tells me, and that is how I found your website. The display has been standing in a shop window for many years and works fine mechanically. All the figures have a Steiff mark on the chest. The hedgehogs all stand up and are about 27cm tall, have mohair, velvet, soft arms that can move and a plastic face. Dark blue eyes. There are hedgehogs, dogs, cows, monkeys, mice, mountain goats and a mountain ram. It is a mechanical setup and everything mechanical moves fine. Without music. A serial number is noted on a hedgehog: 7627/28. 
Do you know if it could be worth anything?

Kind regards, 
Jeanette from Denmark

There's so much to unpack here, so let's get started.
Jeanette has an example of one of Steiff's legacy mechanized displays. It features a pastoral scene consisting of a simple wooden building with a mountain scape in the background. It is populated by a family of Micki and Mecki hedgehog dolls, as well as farm, forest, and mountain animals. The animals on display all appeared in the line from the late 1960s onward; the Mecki noted, with article number 7627/28 was produced from 1968-1990. Steiffgal suspects that this display was assembled in 1969 (give or take a year or two) given the "date" on the sign on the shelter. This sign also notes "Mecki Alm." The word "alm" is very interesting and does not really have an equivalent in English. It refers to a simple hut as well as the broad swath of meadows, forests, and hills surrounding it. That perfectly describes what's going on here. 

Steiff has a rich history of creating these can't-look-away moving displays. They debuted around 1910 as a natural extension of the company's advertising and promotional efforts. Over time, they have been produced in sizes ranging from less than a meter to almost the length of a city block. These vignettes were often reflective of life in a small town, farming, nature, a circus, or sports. Today, Steiff's moving displays are created, serviced, and maintained in what the company calls its Exhibition Department. Because they are made in Giengen and installed all over the world, how they are designed, assembled, and disassembled for transport are almost as critical as their presentations and themes.

Given some online research, it appears that Steiff produced a number of examples of Jeanette's alm display. These have appeared at public auction over the years. On December 11, 2016, Morphy Auctions of Denver, PA sold an almost identical version of this display. It was estimated at $500-1,000 and traded hands at $3,125, including the buyer's premium. It was cataloged as: 

"This automaton measures approximately 41” x 28” x 48” overall and features 15 Steiff animals at a mountainside farm. The automaton base is made from wood and includes faux cliffs, rocks, plants, and a farmhouse. The animals include monkeys, rams, marmots, goats, woolen miniature birds, cows, and a three member dressed hedgehog family. This display was purchased directly from Margarete Steiff GmbH at New York’s annual ToyFair trade show in the 1980’s. It was on display once or twice a year at Steiff collector events, usually for 3 days at a time, over a 25-year period. When not on display, it was stored in its individual wood shipping crate (included) in a controlled warehouse. This display is in working order with Steiff factory installed 110v US plugs. Condition: As noted. In clean, very good condition overall. Provenance: From a fine Ohio collection."

Now let's get to 
Jeanette's question about value.
As always, something is worth what someone will pay for it, and Steiffgal has not seen this item firsthand to account for condition. Other more recent sales of this item include a similar version sold in December, 2022 by Hindman of Chicago. Estimated at $1,000-1,500, it realized $2,064, including the buyer's premium. So the selling price has gone down a little in the past few years, at least based on information available. Given these metrics, it is not out of the question that this item under review her might realize in the c. $2,000-2,500 at auction today. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Jeanette's alm display has been a breath of fresh air for you today.

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

Friday, October 6, 2023

This Rare Steiff Cartoon Doll Is No Laughing Matter!

Steiff certainly has international appeal - and so do many of the company's rarer prewar novelties! Check out this note from a lucky collector who hit it really big with a fantastic doll purchase. Stefan shares:

"I hope this email finds you well and you're doing well. Recently I purchased a figure, which I'm 99% sure it's Steiff. It's a comical character, known as Silent Sam in America, but in Europe known as Adamson. I was just wondering, do you know what year it was manufactured? Thank you so much.  
Kind regards, Stefan"

This delightful cartoon doll is no laughing matter! Here we have Steiff's Adamson doll. This fine fellow is 29 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from felt. His face comes to life with dramatic seaming, blue and black glass pupil eyes backed in large white felt circles, a dimensional nose, and a bald head highlighted with a few remaining black hairs. He smokes a brown and white cigar, which is integral to his mouth. He wears a red and white shirt with cuffs; a white vest detailed with buttons, a collar, and a blue tie; blue pants, and white shoes. These dolls were made from 1925-1929 in this size only. According to the Cieslik's Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends reference book, 997 examples of this doll were sold. The Ciesliks also note, "In 1925 Steiff adopted Adamson into their program after several trial attempts. For Adamson was not easy to portray; he had a cigar in his mouth which he rarely removed." 

So just who is this cute character?
Adamson, also known as Silent Sam, was the star of a cartoon strip drawn by Oscar Jacobsson (Swedish, 1889–1945). It debuted on October 17, 1920 in the Swedish humor publication Söndags-Nisse. What was so interesting - and universal - about Adamson is that he almost never spoke or used words. Instead, he went about his business and communicated with gestures and movements. As such, Jacobsson's character would go on to be appreciated and enjoyed internationally across all of Europe, the USA, and Asian countries including Japan and China. Silent Sam was a big hit in America starting in 1922. Over time, a series of artists brought the strip to life until it was last published in 1964. 

To honor Jacobsson and his contribution to the art of illustration, the Swedish Academy of Comics founded the Adamson Award in 1965. It is given to one Swedish and one international comic creator every year.  You can see a sample of the Adamson cartoon above on the left. 

Adamson dolls are certainly few and far between, and Stefan is super lucky to have one in his collection.
As far as Steiffgal can tell, only three examples of Steiff's Adamson dolls have come up for public auction from 2017 onward. All were sold by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH of Ladenburg, Germany. They ranged in hammer price from 2600 to 4500 euro. The doll pictured here on the left hammered for 4200 euro in 2021; the image is from 
Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

Steiffgal hopes this blog post about this cigar smoking doll has really lit up your day. 

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

Friday, September 29, 2023

Moving And Grooving With This Extraordinary Steiff Auction Rarity

No need to brush off this week's special blog guest! Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH recently held its annual early fall auction on September 22nd and 23rd, 2023. The sale included a number of interesting vintage toys, dolls, and bears... but one incredibly rare and often misunderstood Steiff rarity really rose to the top. It also caught Steiffgal's eye in a major way. Check out this very early turn of last century novelty. It's guaranteed to have you moving and grooving!

This special lot was number 3158, a Steiff "Bristles Bear." It was cataloged as: "Bristles bear, produced between 1902 and 1904, 20 cm, short plush, brown, attending, dancing on a circular wooden board, with feet made of bristles, with elephant button, shoe button eyes, and tip of the nose made of a shoe button, with original label, D.H. Wagner & Sohn, Spielwarenhandlung, Leipzig Grfmmaische Str. 6., Naschmarkt-Gegenüber, unused original condition, very rare, unusual." It had a starting bid of 850 euro and hammered at an amazing 7,700 euro.

So just what makes this guy so important?
Besides its breathtaking condition and extraordinary elephant button, this very early style of bear was one of the inspirations behind Richard Steiff's invention of the fully jointed Teddy bear as we know and love him today. Really! At the turn of last century, Richard was thinking of ways to make his family's toys more fun, interactive, and kinetic. This bear, in the form of a circus bear with a nose ring and chain, stands on a wooden platform which is mounted on little brushes like toothbrush brushes. When the toy is place on a table or flat surface, and the surface is tapped, the vibrations cause the bear to shake and shimmy on the platform. So the bear moves, sort of, but Richard knew there was a better design out there. You can see some of Steiff's earliest turn of last century "moving" bears on the picture above on the left; they include (from left to right) two Bristles bears, a bear on a four wheeled cart, and three tumblers on weighted wooden half spheres. 

Richard also spent a lot of time at the local zoo, watching how animals interact and get around, and making sketches of them in the flesh.
He was very interested in trying to figure out how to reproduce these lifelike movements in his toy designs. Also around this time, in 1903, mohair became available on a commercial level and in supplies adequate enough for the toymaking business. It wasn't long before it became crystal clear that this soft, durable, and furry fabric would be perfect for making world class soft bears and animals. 

So how does this all come together? After a lot of thinking, planning, and creative energy, Richard took the best of his current "moving" product line, his observations of bears ambling about in real life, and the opportunities presented by mohair fabric and came up with the company's first fully jointed string bear in 1902 - PB55. Although this pattern proved not to be commercially viable, it was quickly updated to rod and then cardboard disk style jointing, and the rest - as they say - is history!

Steiffgal hopes this little history lesson, based on Steiff's early Bristles bear, has been a hair raising experience!

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

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Racing To The Finish Line With This Amazing Steiff Gallop Novelty

There's no horsing around when it comes to this week's blog featured guest. Or guests, in this case! This amazing Steiff rarity came to Steiffgal somewhat out of the blue, and belonged to a collector on the West Coast who really, really loved precious Steiff items. Check out this prancing pair on wheels and see what makes them so delightful from the design and product development timeline perspectives.

It's off to the races with this Steiff Gallop novelty.
It consists of two standing, unjointed 8 cm mohair pets on a metal cart with red wooden wheels. The first animal is little Molly dog. She is made from tan and brown tipped mohair and is solidly stuffed with excelsior. Her face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. Her ears are seamed on their outside edges, and are folded over in typical Molly style. Her IDs have been lost to time. Her companion is a distinctive cat made from silver tipped mohair. She has a trimmed muzzle, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, green and black slit style glass pupil eyes, and a few remaining clear monofilament whiskers. She retains her long trailing "f" button. This Molly and cat Gallop novelty appeared in the line in this size and configuration from 1926-1929.

Now let's check out the lucky passengers on this very special ride!
Standing Molly appeared in the line in 8, 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm from 1925-1936 overall. She was not produced standing postwar. This Gallop Molly is most likely an example of the 8 cm standard line Molly. The cat, on the other hand, did not appear in Steiff's catalog, as far as Steiffgal can tell, except on this exact novelty. This prewar black mohair cat design is just one of a tiny handful of kittens - other than the company's famous arched back Tom Cat - produced in this color and fabric before WWII.

This Gallop toy was one of three novelty pull toy designs Steiff produced from the mid-1920s through the mid-1930s. These included Roly-Drolys, Wiwags, and Gallop toys. Each of these three patterns used pairs of small, standard line items on wooden carts. All were created in response to product development need identified by Richard Steiff. He was living in America at the time and insisted that these sorts of "mobile" items were necessary in the line to keep up with the demands of the marketplace, consumer preferences, and growing worldwide competition.

And just how did these pull toys rock and roll?
Roly-Droys appeared in the line from 1924–1934. The animals rotated in circles as their cart was pulled along. "Roly-Droly" comes from the German words "rollen" (to roll) and "drollig" (funny or droll). Wiwags appeared in the line from 1924–1927; its passengers see-sawed up and down as their cart was propelled forward. And Gallop toys, like the one under review here, were made from 1926–1929. The riders glided back and forth as their cart's wheels turned round and round. Each of these metal and wooden toys came with a pull string that was tipped with a wooden knob decorated with a Steiff button. You can see Steiff's range of Gallop toys as pictured in the company's 1929 catalog. The image is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Katalog 1920-1929. 

According to Steiff's advertising, Gallop toys consisted of
..."Two different animals of fine plush on car of special construction. When pulled along, the galloping moment is produced." Gallop toys were produced in a number of configurations. These included one with a brown and white standing bear; one with a standing lion and elephant; one with a standing fox and hare; one with a Barney Google doll and a standing bear; one with a Barney Google doll and a standing Spark Plug horse; one with a Spark Plug horse and an ostrich; one with two standing goats; and one with a Molly and black cat. The advertisement on the left is from the mid-1920s and features the Molly and black cat version under discussion here today. 
The image is from Carsten Esser's Steiff Katalog 1920-1929. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Gallop novelties has put a fun spring in your step today. 

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

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Does This Lifesize Steiff Sheep Call To Ewe?

Sometimes it's ok to be a little sheepish.
Especially when it comes to delightful Steiff button-in-ear mysteries like this one! Check out this fabulous and fuzzy farm friend who just might be larger than life. What do you think? Danna shares, 

"Could you offer any assistance in figuring out the mystery of the sheep? His coat is darker and the feet are different than the two I found on the web, his eyes also have different centers and there is no yellow tag in the front. I think it's older. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!"

This member of the flock truly rocks!
What we have here is a great example of one of Steiff's rarer studio, or life-sized sheep. He is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from now faded brown tipped wool plush. His legs and ears are made from white wool plush. His inset muzzle is detailed with oversized green and black slit pupil eyes, a simple mouth and nose, and airbrushed highlights. He is solidly stuffed with excelsior and most likely has a metal skeleton inside to support his size and weight. He left the factory wearing a Steiff chest tag, but this has been lost to time. These brown tipped sheep were made in 80 and 90 cm from 1966-1967 only. The 80 cm version is also standing but his head his bowed to the ground as if he is nibbling on the grass. 

It is interesting to note that Steiff also created a 95 cm standing display ram produced in the same brown tipped wool plush as Danna's life-sized sheep. 

Now let's shepherd this sheep discussion to his IDs.
Danna's sheep has a product number of 1590,90 which is the 90 cm version made in 1966. Those made in 1967 have a product number of 3459/09. His numbers correspond as... 1= standing, 5= wool plush, 90= 90 cm, 9= display animal or special edition, and 0= normal (in reference to coloring.) Here on the left you can see these tipped sheep as they appeared in Steiff's 1967 studio line catalog.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Danna's sheep has put ewe in a great mood today. 

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

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Going Out On A Limb Over This Unusual Steiff Prewar Novelty

Look what I found! That's exactly what a new friend from Florida said when she came across an interesting button-in-ear treasure at an estate sale local to her. But what exactly is this creature? Is it a merry mashup, or a loved to (almost) death standard line novelty? Valerie shares in part,

"This odd little fellow has a bear head; a caramel colored velvet body; a maybe muslin head, ears, hands, and feet; but also a 2" long tail! His skinny arms and legs are sewn/unjointed. His hands and feet have red embroidery threads roughly delineating his fingers and toes. All of his "fur" has been lost over time, except for very scant tufts of grey mohair inside his right ear. There's a dark metal button in his left ear, with Steiff in all capital letters with the tail of the second F extending to the "e." His nose and mouth are embroidered with faded pink thread. His eyes are sew-on green glass with black centers, and stick away from his face. I think the head is stuffed with excelsior, but the body, hands and feel softer.

Ancient bears had long tails, but I'm wondering if somebody sewed a Steiff bear head onto another beloved animal's body? The only thing that throws me off is that the material of the head, hands, feet and tail are the same. What do you think?"

Fingers crossed that Valerie can bear the news that her fabulous find is not a bear, but actually a cat!
This cute cat is named Fluffiette, and she was one of a series of long limbed lovelies featured in the Steiff catalog from 1927-1932. These "play and car dolls" included Bulliette the bulldog, Molliette the puppy, Rabbiette the rabbit, Cherrioette the open mouthed puppy, and this cat - named Fluffiette (after the company's popular and beloved 1920s era cat named Fluffy.) Each animal doll had the mohair or velvet head of the character, mohair or velvet paws and feet, and dangling velvet limbs. Most were available in several colors and in 20, 30, and 43 cm, with the larger sizes having a squeaker. Each left the factory suspended from an elastic cord and was detailed with an ivory ring for hanging and a decorative pom-pom. Fluffiette was produced in pink or orange velvet, which is completely consistent with Valerie's example. Here on the left you can see what Fluffiette looked like when new, the image is from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment.

It has been suggested that the design of this series was based on a similar line from the Chad Valley Toy Company of England called "Tango Toys." Steiff modified the design to fit their characters and manufacturing processes, and named the line "Charleston Animals," based on the Charleston dance crazy of the 1920’s, with its fast moving arm and leg movements. You can see Steiff's full line of Charleston Animals here on the left; this image appeared in the company's 1929 product catalog. Fluffiette is third in from the right, sandwiched between a standing Molliette and a standing Rabbiette. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Fluffiette Charleston Animal has put a little spring in your step today.

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

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Getting Carried Away With A Most Unexpected Antique Steiff Find!

Steiff treasures sometimes appear when you least expect to find them.
Steiffgal recently participated in an online auction. One of the lots listed was a simple and somewhat common midcentury button-in-ear bear. He was super sweet, but nothing really out of the ordinary. Except he was wearing a backpack. This accessory was pictured in one photo of his listing, but not really called out in the description. At the last moment, as he was being sold, Steiffgal took a closer look at his backpack... and realized that it was an absolute Steiff rarity hiding in plain sight. Come take a look at this amazing accessory and see what makes it so appealing from the collector's perspectives.

First, let's get carried away and check out the detailing of this tiny treasure.
The rectangular shaped backpack itself measures 8 cm x 6 cm x 2 cm overall. The front flap is made from brown mohair. The edges are trimmed in red, and it is monogrammed "DL" also in red. The rest of the case is made from brown canvas. The bottom inside is lined with a small piece of cardboard to hold the backpack's shape and angles. The backpack's straps are made from soft brown leather. They close with metal buckles and loops attached to the bottom of the backpack, and to leather straps that are attached to the front flap. The backpack itself has no specific Steiff branding to it. It does has the look, feel, and quality of the company's first quarter of the 20th century accessories - mostly seen on Steiff's military dolls in the form of soldier's kits, canteens, bread bags, etc.

But hold everything - that's not all!
This little time capsule also held a delightful secret. When Steiffgal CAREFULLY opened it up, she discovered two dolly-scaled, double sided chalkboards packed perfectly within the backpack's internal storage space. These lesson boards measured 8 cm x 5 cm and were made from thick brown cardboard with a black painted center. The outer corners of each blackboard were painted silver, and each also had a little hole and a hanging string. Traces of a math lesson could be found on one of them. They also had the look, quality, and detailing of premier Steiff accessories from the first quarter of the 20th century.

So what does all this mean?
This backpack was produced around 1909 or 1910 and was designed - at least in part - to go with the company's line of school children dolls. So the chalkboards make perfect sense here! Steiff designed and produced a number of classroom-style display vignettes featuring their school pupils and their perfectly to scale scholarly accessories through the early 19-teens. According to the Cieslik's Button in Ear book from 1989, "Steiff designed a few versions of this vignette, a smaller one with nine dolls as pupils and their teacher, and a larger one with 13 pupils and a teacher. All school furniture and accessories could be ordered from Steiff. In 1910 Steiff sold 45 complete school displays.” You can see a photo of one of these partial vignettes here on the left; the image is from Theriault's and they sold this set for $50,000 in 2012. Check out those backpacks and chalkboards, too!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this tiny, turn of last century Steiff bookbag (also pictured here on the left on a wonderful Steiff student sold on eBay a few years ago) has put you in a back-to-school sort of way. 

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

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