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!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

What a Devilishly Interesting Steiff Mystery!

The devil made me do it! But in this case, it's all in good fun! Check out this note from a new friend who asks about an unusual item she found among her Mother's things. What do we have here? And could this man in red be made by Steiff? Darcie shares:

"I have a red devil doll with a Steiff tag but it is not attached. So I am not sure if it was made by Steiff. I thought Steiff’s have the metal button/tag on them. Can you help?"

Well hell-o handsome! What a great find! Although not specified, it would be Steiffgal's best bet that this devil doll is nearly identical to the blue felt version Steiff made of the Duke University Blue Devil mascot. The Duke Devil was jointed, with a felt body and a rubber head with horns. He was detailed with a blue felt suit, long blue felt tail, and white felt shoes, and carried a three pointed spear. He appeared in the Steiff line from 1954-1958, and then again from 1959-1963 as part of Steiff's early post war series of university and institutional mascots. These charming mascots were featured in F.A.O. Schwarz's catalogs in the early 1950s. 

So what might be the story behind this uncatalogued red version?
Steiffgal suspects it might be a sample or very low edition as she has never seen or heard of a red version previous to this one. The handwritten number "7128" on the early postwar ear tag provided by Darcie refers to 7= in caricature, 1= felt, and 28= 28 cm tall. This makes sense in terms of this guy for sure. 7128 is also the number of the earliest blue Duke Blue Devil mascot edition. Perhaps this red felt version with the US Zone tag and raised script button was made in the c. 1951-1953 time frame (before the launch of the Duke version) when you see items with the US Zone tag, for the most part. It is entirely possible that Steiff saw greater market potential and interest in making this rubber devil doll in blue as the Duke mascot than simply in generic red.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this rare devil doll has fired up your interest in the company's unusual mid-century production.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Rolling Along With This Early 1930s Steiff Scotty On Wheels

Great Scot! Check out this utterly charming prewar pup on wheels. Despite his small size, he's got a few interesting "time capsule" details that help to date him to a "T". Read on to learn more.

This bearded beauty is the wheel-deal indeed!
Scotty is 17 cm tall, standing, and head jointed. His body and head are made from grey and light black mohair plush fabric. His ears are made from pitch black mohair. Scotty is detailed with proportional black and brown round glass pupil eyes, a black embroidered nose and mouth, and dark pink embroidered claws on each of his four paws. His ears are lined in black mohair. The dog is mounted on a metal carriage and glides along on four blue wooden eccentric wheels. He retains his original collar and brass bell. His collar is white and dark blue or black leather, and closes with a ring and two (now very rusty) Steiff buttons. He retains his long trailing "f" button in ear and traces of his chest tag as his Steiff IDs. 

This model was made in 14, 17, and 22 cm (measured vertically, without wheels) from 1932-1943. He was produced in grey and black mohair plush from 1932 through 1934; after 1934 he appeared in all black mohair. Given those dates, it is safe to say that this guy was "born" in the 1932-1934 time frame. 

Scotty dogs debuted in the Steiff line in 1930 and were an immediate success with customers.
Their size, personality, and proportions translated well into soft toys designs, and Steiff created a number of sitting, standing, wheeled, and novelty versions over the next decade. Some had round glass pupil eyes like this example, while others had brown, white, and black almond shaped glass eyes. Steiffgal has never been able to figure out why that was the case, but both style of eyes are original to Steiff. 

The Scotty under discussion here has two distinctive early 1930s-era details that Steiffgal has not seen on items produced during any other time. The first is his body fabric, which is a mostly black mohair plush with grey fiber details. It is not "spiky" like traditional mohair, but smoother and more elegant, with the longer fibers really resembling a dog's coat. This lovely material was used for awhile on the company's Scotties, but then disappeared in 1934 - about the time that things really started getting difficult at Steiff - and throughout Germany due to geopolitical realities. It is possible that the grey and black fabric was expensive, and the company was trying to save money on materials, and/or that it was no longer being produced, and/or it was entirely allocated by the government for wartime material production. Through the early 1940s, Scotty dogs would go on to be produced in mohair, wool plush, cotton plush, and silk plush - apparently coming to life in the fabrics available at the time. 

Also of note is this Scotty's prominent leather collar.
Steiffgal has only noted this woven style, light and dark belled collar on dogs from the early 1930s. It is possible that this accessory was designed and produced to give the dogs wearing it a more "upscale" look and feel. The collar, which is not removable, needed to be manually attached to the dog and finished with two inserted buttons. This of course required many more assembly steps than the signature, simple red buckled collar which would be used on the model just a few years later. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this early 1930s Scotty on wheels was a joy ride for you!

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