Friday, April 21, 2017

Calculating The Importance Of This Rare Steiff Walther Poodle

Do you know the saying, "April showers bring May flowers?" Well, if that's true, than the month of May is most certainly going to be "coming up roses," at least around these parts. It's been raining cats and dogs for the last few days, so Steiffgal has spent some time indoors checking out interesting Steiff eBay auction listings. You never know what you'll find listed on this worldwide marketplace! One Steiff rarity caught her eye and inspired her to learn more about it. Check out this prized poodle and see what makes it so outstanding from the design and manufacturing perspectives. 

This eye catching and unusual dog is a special promotional item made for Carl Walther GmbH. The poodle is head jointed and made from grey mohair and wool plush. His face is made from rubber, which was a popular Steiff manufacturing material starting in the early to mid 1950's  When the Walther poodle left the Steiff factory, he wore a blue "Walther" logo tag hanging off of its blue leather collar.  This customer special poodle design was produced in 17 cm and 40 cm in 1955 only.  This is the larger version; the smaller version used grey velvet in the place of grey mohair in its design.  

The Walther brand has deep and broad roots across Germany and the world.  The company, still in business today, is most associated with firearms production. Walther started out making guns at the end of the 19th century. It expanded its production to office machines, like calculators, starting in the 1920's. They continued their calculator line of business through the 1970's.  The poodle was the company's logo for the office division of the company, although its probably no coincidence that poodles are good hunting dogs, too! Walther's poodle came to life with a few black lines, and showed the dog running on his hind legs and effortlessly juggling numbers. The logo tried to demonstrate how easy dealing with numbers could be when you have a Walther machine on your desk. You can see this poodle logo here on the left.

Despite its obvious condition issues, this poodle listed on eBay is still a prince among Steiff's rare promotional items, and is only the second one Steiffgal has ever seen. It aligns to its period of manufacture in three interesting ways.  

First, poodles were a very big deal in Steiff's line in the early 1950's. In addition to the company's standard line selections, including Tosi and several iterations of Snobby, Steiff also created a number of exclusive poodle designs for FAO Schwarz here in the USA. These included fully jointed wool plush poodles and an 80 cm Snobbylac poodle. The Walther poodle has a French trim and most resembles the body shape of Steiff's 1952 wool plush Snobby. You can see the Steiff Walther poodle featured on the cover of one of their business machines catalogs here on the left. 

Second, Steiff started producing items with rubber heads, instead of traditional felt, velvet, or mohair heads, in the early 1950's.  This was done in part to decrease costs and labor, as well as to add flexibility to production and design options. Mostly dolls were produced with rubber heads; favorites from this period are HorZu's Micki and Mecki; the gnomes Pucki, Lucki, and Gucki; the Maggi chef, and LariFari, among others. Steiff's animals with rubber heads include Koko the Cat for the magazine TV Hoeren & Sehen.  

And third, the Walther poodle was manufactured at a critical juncture in the company's history. After many years of hardship and war-induced shortages, Steiff again had the infrastructure to partner with other world-class companies and to produce absolutely custom, top tier items without constraints. This all ushered in a very auspicious period in the company's history.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Walther poodle has inspired a little puppy love with you!

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sending Hoppy Easter Greetings From Our Home To Yours!

Well, the big day is almost here - Easter! And Steiffgal is sending you her "official" greetings via a friend who is more than qualified to handle that public service responsibility. Please say hello to "The Mayor," a perfect ambassador to Spring's most anticipated holiday!

So just who is this impressive Easter-beaster?  The Mayor, a 60 cm boy rabbit doll, gets his name from his impressive size, serious expression, and business attire. His "birth" name, given by Steiff, is Hansili. He is standing on flat cardboard lined feet, head jointed, and primarily made from wool plush fabric. His core body and paw pads are made from a flesh-colored, lightly flocked fabric. The Mayor's face comes to life with oversized black and brown pupil eyes, a red hand embroidered nose and mouth, clear monofilament whiskers, and skillfully placed brown and tan airbrushed highlights. His ears are entirely wool plush, lined in wires, and are posable. His all-original outfit consists of blue felt shorts with red felt suspenders, a white polyester, collared, buttoned shirt, a red and white neckerchief, and a floral corsage. This big bunny retains his named chest tag as his Steiff ID. The Mayor was made in this size from 1951 through 1966; a matching 60 cm girl rabbit doll version was also produced at the same time. 

It's easy to see how The Mayor won his leadership role by a landslide vote. He has several noteworthy features that make him quite the man about town.

First is his size.  The Mayor, as far as Steiffgal can tell, is the largest standard line, dressed animal doll Steiff ever produced on a commercial scale.  A Steiff animal doll is different than a dressed Steiff animal; an animal doll has a special, distinctly humanly styled and proportioned body and a traditional Steiff animal head.  A dressed Steiff animal may be any animal in the Steiff line dressed by the company or dressed by a collector.  Steiff produced a fantastic series of animal dolls starting in the late 1920's.  Early versions are highly coveted among collectors. 

Second is his material. The Mayor is made from wool plush.  That in itself is not remarkable, but the timing is. This fabric is usually associated with Steiff's production before, and then for several years after, World War II.  It is often considered a substitute fabric for mohair, and is beloved for its distinctly old fashioned look. The Mayor could have been produced as late as 1966, especially given his shirt is made out of a relatively modern polyester material. It is possible that The Mayor is one of the last, if not the last, mid 20th century item to reflect design elements and materials associated with war-era production.  

The third is his condition.  Despite possibly being over a half century old, The Mayor has managed to keep himself in fine and youthful shape overall.  He hardly has a hare out of place!  His coloring, especially on his head and ears is vibrant, and his materials show a little playwear, but no losses or damages.  It is pretty amazing that he retains his original floral corsage and named chest tag.  These are two very ephemeral items that are lost to time more often than not.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on "The Mayor" helps to govern you towards a delightful Easter weekend!

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Getting Ready For Easter With Some Remarkable Steiff Rabbit Auction Highlights!

Hoppy almost Easter to you! Let's celebrate this much-loved holiday with a look at several really interesting and seldom seen rabbits that recently sold at auction in Germany. This sale, held by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion on March 31, 2017, featured about 125 lots of vintage Steiff. Here are four "bunny-honeys" to get you in the mood for next week's celebration of renewal, peace, and all things spring.

This first auction highlight is certainly the wheel-deal. Here we have a delightful rabbit on eccentric wooden wheels. He is cataloged as, "hare on wooden excenter-wheels, with button, long stretched F, white/brown mohair, felt paws and shoe button eyes underlaid with red felt, length: 14 cm height: 11 cm, unusual." According to the website Liveauctioneers.com, who hosted the auction online, this rabbit was estimated at 150 to 300 euro and hammered at 800 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 968 euro or about $1,025.

This happy hopper is so appealing in many ways. This wheeled design was made in 6, 8, 10, and 12 cm from 1924-1928 overall. Its hard not to fall for his petite proportions, life-life eye treatment, and patched-in coloration, which is quite typical to his period of production. This model incorporates a standard line Steiff rabbit on all fours which was produced in white and brown mohair or black and brown mohair in 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 cm from 1923-1928 overall. 

Our second rabbit highlight deserves a standing ovation. Here we have a wooden begging rabbit on wheels. He is cataloged as, "wood hare, on wheels, produced between 1922 - 1934, button, with long stretched F, 15 cm, slightly used, unusual." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 120 to 240 euro and hammered at 1,100 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 1,331 euro or about $1,410.

What's not to love about this egg-cellent Steiff rabbit? This ideal Steiff Easter rabbit toy was made in 15 and 20 cm from 1922 through 1934. His colors are bright, fresh, and happy, and his design can't help but make you smile. Although not as well known as their soft plush and mohair dolls, bears, and animals - at least here in the USA - Steiff's wooden toys, scooters, blocks, games, and other playthings were prominent production categories from the late 19-teens through the early 1940's.

Wooden it be nice to add this next rabbit rarity to your Steiff bunny hug? Here we have a delightful and really unusual rabbit cart. He is cataloged as, "Haswag animal car, c. produced between 1927 - 1936, button, with long stretched F, wood paws and tail mechanism are intact, lenght: c. 25 cm, height: 17 cm, depth: 10 cm, unusual, rare." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 150 to 300 euro and hammered at 2,800 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 3,388 euro or about $3,588.

This particular rabbit has Steiffgal moving and grooving for sure. This finely constructed and painted cart was produced in this size only from 1927 through 1936, as noted in his cataloging. What's so cool about this piece is that when he is pulled along, the rabbit's paws and tail move in response to his wheels spinning about. Steiffgal suspects that this movement is triggered by some simple gear connection, located on the underside of the cart. Steiff has a long and interesting history of creating movement associated with wheeled items. These including its beloved arm pumping "Record" animals on Irish mail carts and its head bobbing/nodding examples on wooden wheels, among others. 

If candy is dandy, than this last Steiff rabbit auction highlight is simply sugar heaven. Here we have a very large begging Steiff rabbit that truly looks as if he may be made from chocolate! He is cataloged as "hare, produced c. 1927 - 1937, with button, long stretched F, 44 cm, squirted mohair, in very good condition, nice strong colors, swivel head." According to Liveauctioneers, this rabbit was estimated at 300 to 600 euro and hammered at 2,000 euro. Adding in the sale's 21% buyer's premium, his final price was 2,420 euro or about $2,563.

There's not a hare out of place in this delightful Steiff bunny! This begging pattern was produced in light brown, white, gold, purple, pink, and light blue in 11, 15, 18, 23, 29, 36, 44, 50, and 70 cm from 1926 through 1941 overall. The white versions were produced with outstanding pink and red albino eyes; all left the factory with a big bow and a brass bell. This rabbit's coloration is interesting for two reasons. First, it is the only "non-jellybean" color in the series. All the others produced were lighter, more celebratory, and childlike in hue. Second, his fabric is specifically noted as "squirted mohair."  Steiffgal is guessing that this may mean "tipped." It is hard to tell from his photo if the brown fabric on this example is all brown or brown tipped. If it is indeed tipped, than this detailing aligns quite closely with the production time of other beloved Steiff designs of the 1920's that also feature tipped fabric. These include Happy, Petsy, and Teddy Clown - all who are known for their delightful and interesting brown and white mohair.

Steiffgal hopes you have enjoyed this overview of some of Steiff's more unusual Easter-Beasters.

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tag, You're It With These Frozen-In-Time Steiff Treasures


For many collectors, Steiff remains timeless in a fast changing world. Some of us have family heirloom treasures that have been passed down from generation to generation. Others collect vintage pieces that may represent a little piece of childhood, happy memories, or a favorite decade. Given the company's extensive ID system and records, it is pretty easy to date a piece of vintage Steiff. But sometimes, a great vintage item in "tissue new" condition also comes along with a big bonus - its retail price tag from the store that originally sold it. These tags help shed more information on the origins of the piece - and often generate a little nostalgia, too. Here are a few items from Steiffgal's collection with these great original sales tags.

All panda-monium broke out when this sweet cub joined Steiffgal's hug. This of course is Steiff's smallest fully jointed, post war panda. He is 15 cm, made from black and white mohair, and has an open, peach colored velvet lined mouth lined in black. His absolutely irresistible face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose; the black circles around his eyes are airbrushed. He retains his original pink silk ribbon. This particular model was made in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1951 through 1961. This panda was produced with grey felt paw pads from 1951 through 1956 and suede-like grey rubber material paw pads from 1956 onward. This panda has felt pads, dating it from the early 1950's. 


Panda retains his original white string tag from the high end, national department store Lord and Taylor. This store is still in business, and still sells Steiff items in their larger stores with toy and baby departments. The tag itself has four rows of numbers and codes. The only ones that Steiffgal can decipher is a code the second row - "5315" which matches his ear tag number, "6" on the third row which probably corresponds to 6 inches tall (his height), and 1.95 on the last row, which is most likely his price in dollars. Assuming that he sold in 1951, $1.95 in 1951 had the same buying power as $18.83 in 2017.

Now let's add this fantastic Tabby cat into this meow mix. Here we have Steiff's largest "Tabby" cat. She is 17 cm from head to toe, standing, unjointed, and made from off white mohair. Her back, arms, legs, tail, and the sides of her head are beautifully airbrushed with grey shading and black stripes, making her truly the cats meow! She has black and green plastic slit pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear whiskers. She retains her original red ribbon and bell and purple hang tag indicating that her exterior is washable. Tabby was produced from 1949 through 1977 in 7, 10, 14 and 17 cm. This particular example, with her lentil style button and article number 2700/17, was made in the 1969-1977 time frame.

Tabby has her pricetag from Marshall Field and Company, a department store that began in the Chicago, IL area but expanded rapidly to other states in the mid to late 20th century. Steiffgal grew up in the Chicago area, and spent many happy hours in these stores, often nibbling on their legendary "Frango Mint" candies. Sadly, Marshall Field does not exist anymore, having been bought by the Macy's chain in the early 2000's. This tag has three rows of numbers. The only one that Steiffgal can decipher is the last row, being "18.00," most likely her price at the time. Assuming that she sold in 1969, $18.00 in 1969 had the same buying power as $122.42 in 2017.

Given Easter is on the horizon, let's take a look at a fine bunny as our last example of "tag, you're it!" Here we have the smallest example of Steiff's sitting rabbit. She is 8 cm, not jointed, and made from tan mohair that is airbrushed with tan, brown, pink, and black details all over her back, sides, and ears. She has beautiful black and brown pupil eyes, a red hand embroidered nose and mouth, and clear, playful whiskers. She retains her original blue silk ribbon and bell. This particular pattern was produced 8, 9, 15, and 18 cm from 1950 through 1974; she was called Rabbit from 1950 to 1966 and Sonny from 1967 onward. This particular example is numbered 3308,03, dating her in the 1965 to 1967 time frame.

This petite treat has her pricetag from Hahne and Company. Hahne's was a chain of department stores that was based in Newark, NJ and had branches throughout the central and northern parts of the state. The company was purchased by Lord and Taylor in the late 1980's. Rabbit's tag has three lines of numbers and codes. The last one, "3.00," is most likely her price at the time. Assuming she sold in 1965, $3.00 in 1965 had the same buying power as $23.21 in 2017.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on retail tags on vintage Steiff treasures didn't leave you hanging!

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