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.
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