Saturday, June 24, 2023

Keeping It In The Family With This Nearly Century-Old Steiff Bear

Old friends make for the best of friends. And so it is with this heirloom who calls the Western part of the USA home. He has lived his nearly century long life with the same family, which is wonderful for both the bear and his people! His owners simply write...

"We are interested in getting more info on a red tag bear who measures approximately 28” standing and 20" sitting. He's been in the family since the 1930s. Thank you."

This delightful and most appealing five ways jointed cub is Steiff's legacy, standard line blonde mohair Teddy bear. This pattern in this color was made in 10, 15, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 35, 40, 46, 50, 60, 70, and 115 cm from 1906-1933. Like most prewar blonde Steiff bears, he has black hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claw stitching. He has longish arms with spoon shaped paws and a moderately sized back hump. His paw pads are made from felt and appear to be original to him. His eyes are brown and black glass pupil style, perhaps slightly oversized in proportion.

Bear's red ear tag, long trailing "f" button, and proportions date his production to the c. 1926-1933 time frame.
This aligns really well with the history his family shared. Steiffgal suspects that he was born probably towards the beginning of that time frame as he has more of a 1920s era look to him. Bears from the 1920s tend to be more fuzzy, full figured, and youthful looking. Those from the 1930s often are less fuzzy, more serious looking, and leaner all around. You can check out an image of Steiff's bears from the company's 1929 catalog here on the left for reference. As you can see, they really have a fun and upbeat look to them. 

Given Ted's dimensions - 20 inches/50 cm sitting and 28 inches/70 cm standing - this bear is technically the company's 70 cm version.
This suggests his article number would be 5350,2. This translates to 5=jointed, 3=mohair, 50=size sitting, and ,2=has a growler (noisemaker) in the belly. Sometimes these growlers work but often they break over time. It is not clear if this Ted still talks. However, 5350,2 is the number that would be most likely on his red tag if it were still legible.

As for value, something is worth what someone will pay for it. Steiffgal has not seen or handled this bear firsthand, and does not know if he has any significant losses or condition issues, including those that don't show up in pictures. These include things like dry mohair, smoke damage, or insect damage. However, given he is as nice - and as "healthy" - as he appears in his photos, Steiffgal suspects he may trade hands in the c. $2,500-4,500 range.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this heirloom prewar Ted has timeless appeal to you.

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Breathtaking Bear Beauties on Offer at Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's 2023 Special Steiff Auction in Giengen

Can you bear it? Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's July 1st, 2023 Special Steiff Auction in Giengen is presenting one of the finest lineups of vintage to antique button-in-ear collectibles in memory. Many of those wah-hoo good treasures are from the collection of Susan Kilgore Wiley. Ladenburger sold the first half of her over-the-moon great hug in January, 2023. This second sale presents even more Wiley temptations, including some of the world's most fantastic and aspirational Steiff bears Steiffgal has ever seen! Here are three extraordinary ones that really caught her eye, and why. 

The first can-you-bear it bear is lot #64, a most unusual Teddy Clown bear.
It has a starting bid of 1,300 euro and is cataloged by the auction house as:

"Clown-bear, exceptional, with button, block letters, long trailing f, minimally rests of the red cloth tag label, big blue glass eyes, bright embroidering at snout, and claw embroidering, strong fiery mohair, long snaped off arms, hump, 33 cm, except of small faults felt paws in very nice condition, with ruff, without hat, very expressive."

It's really the best of two legacy Steiff worlds with this terrific temptation. At first glance, he sort of looks like a Petsy the Baby Bear with his tipped mohair, pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and blue eyes. But, he does not have the signature center facial seam construction or wire lined ears as seen on Steiff's Petsy cubs. But, he has his factory original neck ruff, and these were not put on any models other than Steiff's Teddy Clown bears - at least as far as Steiffgal knows! It is also important to note that this bear's detailing and configuration is not noted in Pfeiffer's Sortiment books. This suggests that very few were produced. Steiffgal suspects that his "birthday" was probably in the mid to late 1920s time frame, when both Petsy and Teddy Clown made their appearances in the catalog. This is only the second of his type Steiffgal knows of.

And speaking of Petsy - this second can-you-bear it bear is lot #15, an insanely rare and equally adorable Petsy bear.
It has a starting bid of 1,600 euro and is cataloged by the auction house as:

"One of the of the highlights of the this year's STEIFF-GIENGEN-auction, Petsy, produced around 1930, with seam at the middle of head, nice, full, pointed mohair, rare cross-eyed, with button, block letters, long trailing f, bright embroidering at snout, long snaped off arms, hump, big ears, original felt paws with flaws here and there, and scattered spotty mohair loss at neck, hump, ears, and shoulder, otherwise very nice condition, nice strong color of the mohair, standing height 50 cm, extremely rare, extremely expressive, an unusual rarity."

Steiffgal is pretty certain that this eye-catching (pun intended) rarity is on every single Steiff collector's dream wish list! It goes without saying that Petsy bears do incredibly well at auction, with one selling for a mind boggling 66,000 euro at a Ladenburger sale in January, 2023. However, this particular one, with black and blue cartoon eyes, is simply off the charts when it comes to his rarity, expression, and presentation. Steiffgal would not be surprised if this example trades hands near or even above this previous record! And what makes this bear so extraordinary?  His "half and half" glass eyes are sewn in his head in such a way that they can be tilted and rotated, giving him countless silly to serious facial expressions. Petsy bears usually have stationary, glass pupil eyes. This is one of the few Petsy bears of this size with cartoon style eye extant. 

And now for the wow OMG wow third can-you-bear it bear of this sale, let's take look at lot #82.
This is a Steiff black Titanic bear. It has a starting bid of 4,500 euro and is cataloged by the auction house as:

"Titanic bear, one of the highlights of the this year's STEIFF GIENGEN auction 2023. A rare item from 1912, was produced in remembrance of the victims of the sinking of the Titanic on April 14th 1912. It were 82 pieces of this grief bear/ black bear produced. This Titanic bear has a seam at the middle of head, red shoe button eyes that are underlaid with felt, black embroidered nose and claws, small STEIFF button, block letters, long trailing f, long snaped off arms, hump, voice, intact, small faults at the feet, produced between 1912 and 1917, 50 cm, nice full black mohair, with provenience, enclosed invoice by the original purchase at Sotheby's 1990, and newspaper article by an American antique magazine, "Antique Review" from February 1991, one of the rarest bears that were ever auctioneered by the Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion."

This bear is so amazing that he leaves Steiffgal pretty much speechless in terms of analysis. So she will share a little story about him instead. When she first heard about this bear, she was certain it was a replica, based on how he was described to her. But his owners insisted he was the real deal from 1912. Fast forward, Steiffgal met this bear in person. His owners handed him to her, and he really was as close to tissue new as possible. So new that Steiffgal again thought he was a replica at first. But after a few moments, it became clear that he was well over 100 years and just in clean, breathtaking condition. His owners did not mention his center seam - which just puts this bear over the top in terms of appeal, desirability, and rarity. It's anyone's guess how the bidding will roll out with this bear... but watching it unfold should be more thrilling than any major Hollywood production!

For more information on this amazing sale to be held on July 1, 2023 and to see all of the great lots on offer, please see the auction house's website at

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on auction bear highlights has left you star-struck!

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