Sunday, March 24, 2024

Would You Take A Tumble For This Early And Fantastic Feline Steiff Novelty?

This next Steiff inquiry comes in on little cat's feet. A new friend has reached out about a special family heirloom with provenance. Just what is this very early turn of last century treasure? And what makes it so fantastic from the collector's perspectives? Tom shares in part,

"I've attached photos of my Rolly Polly cat. I've had this since I was a child (50+ years ago)... It originally came from a relative who inherited it from their partner who came from a wealthy family from New England."

This guy is simply the cat's meow. But, given his form, he is "technically" a tumbler and not a roly-poly. Steiff's early 20th century roly-polys are all fabric and shaped sort of like an inverted balloon. Most are head and arm jointed, without legs. Examples include mohair cats (made in 16 and 23 cm from 1909 through 1919 overall); mohair Teddy bears (made in 16, 19, 23, and 29 cm from 1909 through 1916 overall)mohair rabbits (made in 23 cm from 1909 through 1918); and a series of mohair and felt dolls from the same basic time frame.

On the other hand, tumblers are full bodied and mounted to a very heavy, weighted wooden half circle base. As such, they wobble about like a weeble but always return to an upright position. Their bases are simply stained and are a natural wood color. Most tumblers measure 12 to 17 cm tall and are standing, sitting, or begging. Steiff did make a few oversized circus bear style tumblers in 35 and 43 cm through 1918 overall.

Tumblers debuted as early as 1894 and appeared in the general line with frequency through the late 19-teens. In the late 1930s, Steiff produced a series of three begging style tumblers on green or red painted wooden bases from 1936 through 1943 overall. Models included a velvet and mohair squirrel, a mohair Waldi Dachshund, and a mohair kitten holding a pom pom ball.

So back to Tom's cat.
 The photos suggest that he is made entirely from felt. Steiffgal suspects he is the company's Tumbling Cat, which appeared in the line in 17 cm (not including his base) from 1894 through 1919. The cat is solidly stuffed with excelsior and features black shoe button eyes and simple facial embroidery. It is hard to tell if he ever had a button, based on the photo of his face. It is entirely possible that he was manufactured pre-1904. Other early Steiff cat tumblers include a spotted velvet version made in 12 cm from 1904 through 1917 and a velvet striped version made in 17 cm from 1901 through 1919.

What makes this tumbler even more remarkable is its condition. He is made from felt, which tends to get grubby over time and attract insects. He was also designed as a toy, but it is clear he received little hands on play. Also of note is his tail. These are actually super thin, not terribly sturdy, and are attached to the animal's rear with just a few stitches. Often, these go missing or break off given their construction and natural aging. However, in this case, Tom's tumbler appears clean and damage free against all odds! Super score all around!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early tumblers has got you rocking and rolling!

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

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Bleating With Happiness Over This Marvelous Moving Steiff Goat!

Could this next Steiff discovery be the GOAT (greatest of all time)?
Well, it depends who you ask, but he certainly qualifies by genetics! Check out this absolute rarity from the early 1930s and see what makes him so delightful in multiple ways!

What we have here is Steiff's tail-moves-head goat. He is standing, head and tail jointed, firmly stuffed with excelsior, and made from tan mohair. The backs of his ears and the underside of his tail are made from black mohair. He has gorgeous teal and black slit glass pupil eyes and a simple black hand embroidered nose and mouth. When he left the factory nearly a century ago, he had lovely and realistic hand airbrushing over his body to give him texture and dimension. His bow and bell are not original to him, but he also sported these accessories when he was new. 

This adorable barnyard buddy was produced in 18, 23, and 29 cm from 1931-1934.
This guy is the baby of the bunch at 18 cm. His precious presentation plus his 
tail-moves-head feature really put him in a class all by himself. 

So what are the deets behind this mechanical marvel? When you very gently twist his mohair covered tail in a circle, his head follows in tandem. He has an internal metal jointing system which enables this. You can often tell tail-moves-head items because they have an especially long and thick and somewhat undefined neck area. That is necessary to hold the jointing apparatus as well as allow for room for the fabric to move a bit. And more times than not, tail-moves-head items are missing the mohair covering on their tails. You usually see just a naked metal loop or tag, but in this case goat has managed to retain his mohair tail over all of these years. Guess he was good at protecting his assets!

It is interesting to note that this guy, and other Steiff tail-moves-head items from his era had an additional ID tag.
 This was a round, Steiff branded cardboard tag that read "turn here and I will move my head" in three languages. It was attached on or near the animals rear end. Unfortunately, goat's extra tag has been lost to time in this case. 

They heyday for Steiff's tail-moves-head production occurred in the years leading up to WWII. The mechanism, which consisted of a metal apparatus, was patented in the early 1930s. Over 25 different animals were produced with this feature. These included cats, dogs, rabbits, penguins, goats, and lambs, and an elephant, among others. They were considered "luxury toys" at their time and even appeared on the cover of one of the company's 1931 catalogs for their debut. They were promoted as, “The year 1931 has presented us with the animals with the new head movement… The simplicity of the mechanism, though which the splendid movement is produced, cannot be beaten, yet it is unbreakable and allows lifelike play, full of variety and mimics… When buying new supply in plush toys please be sure to include the STEIFF animals with the new head movement; all numbers equipped with it are marked ‘H."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this delightful tail-moves-head goat has you jumping for joy.

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

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Hop-ping To Find Answers About This Fantastic Steiff Prewar Rabbit On Wheels

Orange you glad you checked in with this blog today? Well you will be for sure after learning more about this super cool prewar rarity living with a new friend from far away. Alena shares...

"Hello from the Czech Republic,

I have a question about my toy - rabbit on the wooden wheels. I couldn't find any information whether the Rabbit has been produced in Steiff factory in this color. Toy hasn't got any button neither any else marking. 

Thank you very much in advance for the answer and maybe some more information about that."

This happy hopper is the wheel-deal indeed.
It is Steiffgal's best thinking that he is one of Steiff's standard line rabbits on wheels from the late 1920s. Here on the left, you can see the photo from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Sortiment illustrating what Steiffgal believes is this exact item. He is in a "hopping" position, meaning he is on all fours and about ready to take off! The name of this body position was later changed to "running", which also makes alot of sense.

Alena's treasure is one beautiful bunny. Here you can see him relaxing with some WAH-HOO good vintage friends in the photo on the left. Rabbit is unjointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and features large brown and black glass pupil eyes, a hand embroidered pink and black nose and mouth, and clear monofilament whiskers. He has once vivid orange mohair. He rides upon four asymmetrical wooden "eccentric" style wheels. As such, he appears to sway back and forth as he is pulled along. This item was produced in 12, 15, 18, and 23 cm (measured vertically, top of the head to toe, not including ears or wheels) from 1927-1930 overall in this stunning color. He was also produced in an almost identical pattern in brown tipped mohair in 14, 17, and 22 cm in 1928.

Brightly colored animals, including rabbits, dogs, cats, and bears - were a delightful feature of Steiff's late 1920s to very early 1930s product line.
These sweet pets appeared in orange, pink, blue, green, gold, or other "jellybean” colored mohair or velvet fabrics, and usually had playful, youthful personalities to match! Tipped mohair - meaning mohair with just the ends or tips dyed a complementary or eye-catching color - also had its heyday in the product line around the same time. You can see a number of these colorful rabbits in the photo on the left, the image is from the company's 1929 product catalog. 

Steiff also produced a few other fun novelties featuring "larger than life" colors like Alena's wheeled rabbit.
One of particular interest is a delightful orange and white begging style rabbit on eccentric wheels. In July, 2023, the auction house Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH of Ladenburg, Germany sold this 20 cm tall rarity from 1926-1932 for nearly $4,000. He is pictured here on the left, the image is from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion.

Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed learning about this darling, 24 carrot gold prewar novelty!

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