Sunday, May 21, 2017

This Exceptional and Early Steiff Bear Is Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice!

Well, hello handsome! Yes, it's OK to stare... he's used to it! This week's blog special guest is not a Hollywood hunk, although with some Steiff collectors, his good looks are on par with many of the leading men of the big and little silver screens! Steiffgal recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a magnificent and early Steiff bear, and wanted to share his perfect and period (and irresistible) detailing with you. 

This sweet and all original cub is sugar and spice and everything nice! He is fully jointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and measures 16 inches tall standing and 11 inches tall sitting. His felt pads are tan and he has four hand-embroidered claws on each paw. You can't help but notice his unusual color, which is a magnificent cinnamon hue. Although it is challenging to absolutely capture almost any color on film and on screen, his eye-catching color really does match the deep orange-brown glow of a cinnamon stick!

Ted's proportions make him one sexy senior citizen. Steiff's early bears have a relatively consistent scale. As such, its no numbers game to determine if a vintage Teddy bear may have been manufactured by Steiff many years ago. For the most part, Steiff’s early 1900’s bears have torsos (measured from neck to crotch) that are twice as long as their heads (measured from crown of head to neck.) This bear's torso and head measure 8" and 4", respectively. Steiff's bears from this era have relatively large feet, in a ratio of 1:5 to the bear’s height, measured standing. This bear stands 16 inches tall, and his feet, measured heel to toe, are c. 3-1/4" long. And these bears have extra long limbs, with their arms extending to their "knees” when standing. And why is this? Because they were originally designed to stand on all fours, as illustrated in the photo to the left. This Cinny seems to fits the mold to a "T" here!

Let's face it, you can't help but fall in love with this bear's handsome expression. His face comes to life with several features that have captured collector's hearts for over a century. His black wooden shoe button eyes, faded black nose and mouth stitching, and trimmed muzzle area are delightful and so typical to Steiff. And heading off any doubt about his authenticity, this bear also retains his still shiny "trailing F" style button and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. It is interesting to note that his mohair coloring inside his ears, as well around other areas "where the sun don't shine" is an even more vibrant cinnamon color. This is likely because these places were protected from any light or other environmental conditions that trigger fading.

Although it is impolite to ask about age, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this terrific Ted was born in the 1908-1910 time frame. Here's why. From his provenance, it is known that he was given to a little girl who was born in 1903. Ted's classic detailing, including his curved wrists, pronounced back hump, and long thin feet with narrow ankles are clearly early 20th century. His black shoe button eyes, for the most part, date him no later than 1910 or so. His button and ear tag are also completely consistent with this dating. Ted's prominent, hand-sewn chest seam also hides a clue to his date of manufacture. He has a non-working growler in his torso; these were invented by Margarete Steiff's nephew Paul Steiff and debuted in the company's bears starting in 1908.

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to this delightful and rare cinnamon Steiff bear has spiced up your day just a pinch!

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This Tiny Steiff Bully Dog Has Enormous Wheel-Appeal!


Don't you just love it when you come across a Steiff treasure that you didn't realize even existed? That's the case with this week's fine find, a tiny and early post war Bully Bulldog on wheels. Steiffgal found him hiding amongst a delightful collection of vintage playthings at a booth at a regional doll and antique toy show in the New England area. Come take a look at this petite treat and see what makes him so dog-gone charming from the collector's perspective. 

This diminutive doggie has enormous wheel-appeal. Bully on wheels is based upon Steiff's smallest standard line postwar Bulldog pattern. He is 10 cm, standing, made from tan mohair, and is head jointed. His head, body, and tail are gloriously hand-painted with delightful brown and black spots and striping. He has brown and black pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, felt ears, and an elaborately and realistically constructed velvet muzzle. His airbrushed claws are black. Bully retains his original red collar and raised script style Steiff button as his ID. Steiff's overall Bully Bulldog pattern was produced in 10, 17, and 22 cm from 1951 through 1974; Bully on wheels was produced in 10 cm only from 1954 through 1957 and then again in 1960.

Rolling along, now let's take a look at Bully's dynamic details. Bully glides along on four red off-center wooden eccentric wheels.  The wheels are connected with two silver metal rods - one in the front and one in the back. This wheel configuration gives Bully the appearance of bobbing up and down as he is pulled along. Each of his four feet is connected to the rods with tan thread stitching. There are little grooves in the rods that secure the stitching in place. Bully had a matching pull string attached to his front rod when he left the factory in Giengen, Germany; this unfortunately has been lost to time.  

Steiff has a long and lovely history of putting their most popular animal patterns on wheels. The earliest rolling Steiff treasures were on metal wheels; by the nineteen-teens to early 1920's most if not all examples had wooden wheels. Wooden wheels were sometimes left natural in color, other times they were brightly painted in bright, primary hues including red, green, and blue. 


Strangely, Steiff's "eccentric wheel" detailing debuted in 1912. Steiff even holds a patent for this unusual wheel and axle configuration! Eccentric wheels were "invented" accidentally, but Steiff quickly realized the opportunity created by their roller drilling mistakes. Steiff's dogs, cats, birds, and farm animals look particularly charming on eccentric wheels, given the way they waddle and jiggle in real life! The photo on the left shows two of Bully's eccentric wheeled 10 cm "canine colleagues" from his same general timeframe. Bazi the Dachshund (on red wheels) was made in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 to 1961 overall and Cockie the Cocker Spaniel (on blue wheels) was made in 10 cm from 1954 through 1957 and then again in 1960.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unusual Steiff Bully on wheels has been enjoyable to you, even in a roundabout sort of way.  

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steiff in Bloom at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts


Spring has hit with full force here in New England, with new flower surprises appearing daily on front yards, in parks, and around other outdoor spaces. In the Boston area, The Museum of Fine Arts celebrates this time of year with its annual "Art in Bloom" event, which pairs collection highlights with floral arrangements designed to coordinate with the theme of the pieces. Steiffgal took Bitty Bub, a Steiff inspired tiny Teddy baby doll made by the talented artist Elizabeth Leggat, along with her to see "Art in Bloom" and to tour the museum. Of course Bub, known for his mischief, thought the show was called "Art With Bub." As such, he decided to "participate" in the exhibits, as only he can. Here are some of his favorite works - flower related and other - from his visit to the museum today. Can you find him in each of the photos that follow? You can click on them to make them bigger!


Being cut from the finest cloth himself, Bub found this floral arrangement inspired by an original Frank Lloyd Wright textile particularly appealing. 


Bub sez, "I'm tickled pink to be part of this fine gallery room display!"


Bub's just one of the guys when it comes to this perfect pairing of Max Beckmann's painting of Perry T. Rathbone with a tall, dark, and handsome floral arrangement.


Bub sez, "The flower artists really put the pedal to the metal in this colorful arrangement celebrating this great painting by Frida Kahlo." 


Size defies when it comes to these monumental blue and white Japanese vases that are featured in John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit," also shown in the photo. 


Bub is certain that this fine arts patron from Mary Cassatt's "In the Loge" only has eyes for him. 



Bub basks in the glow of this sterling portrait of silversmith and patriot Paul Revere, painted by John Singleton Copley in the 1768-70 timeframe. 


Bub sez, "There's plenty of extra room in that painting for me!" in regards to this 1796 portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.


Bub sez, "It's five o'clock somewhere!" to toast this elegant and period sterling silver cocktail tray, martini shaker, and goblets interpreted in flowers. 


Honestly, did you know that Bub has White House connections? This small bronze statue was made from Daniel Chester French's original plaster cast of the seated Abraham Lincoln, which served as the scale model for the larger than life marble version at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.



Drama... this marble statue called "Meg Merrilies" by Edward Thaxter tried to kidnap Bub!  Mischief attracts mischief for sure!


And finally, if this tour has tuckered you out, that's completely understandable. Here Bub sleepily eyes a c. 1800-30 English Regency bed detailed with two greyhound dogs! Its complementary floral arrangement does a great job in capturing its form in exotic greenery. 

Steiffgal - and Bitty Bub - hope this tour of Boston's MFA has helped to make your day even more beautiful!

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

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!
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