Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Best of The West!

Talk about a California gold rush, Steiff style! Steiffgal recently traveled out west to attend Steiff celebrations on behalf of the company. Attendees were invited to share their personal treasures at these events at fun "show and tell" sessions.  And boy, did they ever! Steiffgal had the pleasure of seeing a number of family heirlooms, some childhood favorites, delightful woolen miniatures, and even one of the company's extremely rare "125 carat" bears, made with real gold mohair. Here are a few of the 14k vintage treasures collectors brought along that really caught Steiffgal's eye!

Sit and stay and take a look at this great King Charles Charly dog. This precious pooch is 14 cm high, sitting, head jointed, and made from white and brownish/orange tipped mohair. His adorable face comes to life with oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a hand embroidered black and white nose and mouth, and an irresistible, "pouty" expression. He was produced in 7 sizes ranging from 10 to 35 cm from 1928 through 1936. Sitting Charly was also produced as a music box in 17 and 22 cm from 1928 through 1931 and on a pincushion in 17 cm from 1929 through 1932.

And what makes this Charly a champion? Steiffgal loves his mile-long ears and huge personality. His size makes him easy to display, and a perfect companion for a larger vintage doll or bear. Plus, a dear friend of hers has a real-life Charly, so this breed and pattern really pulls on her heartstrings.

Rolling right along, this early postwar elephant on wheels also made a huge impression on Steiffgal! This big boy is Steiff's Zieh Elefant or Pull Toy Elephant. He is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from lovely grey mohair. His face is detailed with black eyes that are backed in pink felt, a smiling mouth, and white felt tusks. The bell on his trunk helps announce his arrival.  Elephant's feet pads are grey felt. He is dressed to the nines in a red and yellow trimmed blanket; this is original to him. His red leather headwear has been lost to time. He glides along on four blue wooden wheels. This elephant on wheels was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1950 through 1961 overall.

Why is this piece so ele-fantasic? This timeless pattern includes design elements from as early as the 19-teens. His condition is the perfect balance between showing some love and play wear, yet still fine enough to have tremendous collector's interest and appeal. And who can resist his open, smiling mouth and delightful felt tusks?  Certainly not Steiffgal!

And finally, size defies with this beautiful baby bunny. This happy hopper is begging, unjoined, and made from white velvet. He is unjointed and decorated with a few brown spots here and there. His face just shines with black shoe button eyes, a simple brown hand embroidered nose and mouth, red airbrushed highlights, and clear monofilament whiskers. His red ribbon is original to him; one way to "test" for this is to see if the ribbon is stitched in place, or if there is evidence if that was once the case. This version of Steiff's velvet begging rabbit was produced in 4 sizes ranging from 10 to 28 cm from 1899 through 1927 overall.

Begging to know what's so cool about this sweet treat? First, his condition is really amazing, showing only minimal darkening over time. He was originally very white, but white velvet tends to become tan or even brown over time, even with careful handling. Kudos to his current owners for keeping him so well protected! Second, his pattern is among the most desirable, early designs produced by Steiff. Collectors can't seem to get enough of the company's small, early, velvet patterns. A similar sized velvet begging rabbit in far less pristine condition recently sold for about $1,000 on eBay. And finally, you can't help but notice his wonderful IDs - his full white ear tag and long trailing "F" style button. The numbers on his ear tag correspond to: 4=begging or standing on back legs; 4=velvet; and 14=14 cm tall. These "small" tag details make all the difference in determining if an item is good or great.  And this begging rabbit is blue ribbon calibre indeed!

Steiffgal hopes this quick peek at event "show and tell" highlights has put you in a festive mood indeed.

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

This Lovely Steiff Silk Plush Elephant Is Simply Unforgettable

Talk about big love! Steiff has a long and deep history with elephants, with a felt elephant being the animal pattern that catalyzed the company into the toymaking business before the turn of last century. And it is interesting to note that the company chose an elephant with a raised trunk (in the shape of an "S") as its earliest logo, and also put an elephant on its first "button-in-ear" branding. 

There's just something unforgettable about the company's elephants from every era, and its always interesting to find Steiff treasures that span pre- and post- war production. So today's elephant under review is jumbo news indeed!

It's game on with this fantastic Steiff "play elephant." This gentle giant is 22 cm tall, standing, and unjointed. He is stuffed with excelsior and has a working squeaker in his belly. He is made from grey artificial silk material; the tip of his tail is decorated with longer mohair. His face comes to life with soft, floppy ears; black button eyes backed in felt, and a youthful, open, and smiling felt lined mouth. His red felt blanket, which is original to him, is decorated with yellow edging and a stylized yellow and green flower on either side. His Steiff ID is a tiny, 4 mm trailing "F" button.

Is it polite to ask his age? Play elephant was produced in 17, 22, and 28 cm from 1938 through 1942, and postwar in 22 cm only in 1948 though 1949. Given he is 22 cm and has a button that was used both before and after the war, it is impossible to tell his exact date of manufacture. And for better or worse, elephants are very good at keeping secrets! Either way, he does have a delightful, innocent, and old fashioned look to him.

Let's change things up a bit and look at the economics behind this excellent elephant. The photo on the left shows a Steiff advertisement from around 1940. (If you click on it, it should be large and legible on your screen.) On the bottom you can see the pre-war version of this silk plush elephant; at the time, the 17 cm version cost 4.30 DM; the 22 cm version cost 6.50 DM; and the 28 cm version cost 9.50 DM. Given that in 1940 there were approximately 2.5 DM to the dollar, these prices roughly translate to $1.72, $2.60, and $3.80 in 1940 US dollars. Using an online inflation calculator which adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index, this roughly translates to $29.38, $44.40, and $64.90 in US dollars in 2015.  Steiff has always been a premium product at a premium price!

Artificial silk plush was used as a less expensive and more readily available alternative fabric by Steiff during periods of manufacturing hardship. So it is not a surprise that this popular elephant design was produced in this fabric both as the country was entering into World War II, and then once the war was over but supply chains of conventional materials had yet to be re-established. References show that this exact play elephant pattern in 22 cm was made in mohair in 1950 through 1951. As such, it does appear that by the early 1950's traditional toy making materials and fabrics were again being manufactured for commercial use, and supply chains were functioning and dependable again.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic pre- and post- war elephant has been a memorable one for you.  

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This Distinctive Steiff Teddy Baby Is One International Sensation!

Teddy hugs from London! Literally! Steiffgal has just returned from a very quick hop "across the pond," where she attended the delightful and inaugural London International Antique Doll, Teddy Bear and Toy Fair. Many thanks to friends Hilary Pauley and Daniel Agnew for their great job in bringing this brilliant event to life. Held on November 19th and 20th, 2016, this weekend happening featured a full day of seminars, speakers, and learning on Saturday, followed by a collector's fair in Olympia Hall on Sunday - showcasing a dizzying array of the finest antique dolls, plush, trains, and toys.  And, of course, Steiff!  

Steiffgal was walking the fair when - oh baby! - did this distinctive Teddy catch her eye! So much so, that this cheeky cub is now happily residing in the United States as part of her collection. And, as a nod to her adoption location, she's been named "Olympia!" 

Olympia is an example of the iconic Teddy Baby pattern, which was produced as a standard line design in the Steiff catalog from 1929 through 1957. This particular Ted is 28 cm standing and fully jointed. Her body is made from brown cotton plush, her muzzle and the tops of her feet are made from very short tan mohair, and her paw pads are made from tan linen. Her always happy and smiling mouth is lined in peach colored felt. She has four black hand embroidered claws on each paw. Her precious face comes to life with black and brown glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose. Her squeaker works loudly and clearly! Olympia was produced around 1950, give or take a year or two, and just a handful of years after the Giengen factory reopened for toymaking business after the conclusion of WWII.

Olympia has several design and physical features that truly are worthy of a gold medal, as well as reflective of the period in which she was made. 

First, its easy to have a plush crush on her very unusual material. Her body, head, and limbs are made out of brown cotton plush. This fabric has both a cotton backing and a cotton pile. The best way to describe it is that it feels like a cotton bathroom towel that has been through a number of wash and dry cycles; a little bumpy in texture but with an overall and somewhat smooth feel. It is not like mohair, which can be distinctive and prickly; or silk plush, which is shiny and smooth feeling; or wool plush, which is continuous in texture and more "dense." It is Steiffgal's guess that this material was used instead of the company's more traditional fabrics on her body as these were in very short supply or extremely expensive at the time.  

For the most part, cotton plush does not appear all that durable, at least on this Teddy Baby example. Although Olympia has a little playwear to her, her plush has a few losses, and seems more matted and worn than it should be, especially given how sound and hearty her body is otherwise. Usually paw pads and feet seams show wear and tear, but Olympia's are all original, and in excellent, even like new, condition.  

Second, her pad pads are hands-down interesting. They are made from tan linen. This material was used as a substitute for wool felt when it was in short supply. Steiffgal has a number of c. 1950 Steiff bears with the same linen material on their pads, including one made from artificial silk plush. It is interesting to note that a similar linen fabric was used in the place of felt on the bodies of Steiff's 19-teen doll line around the time of WWI for probably the same logistical and supply reasons.  

And finally, her ID really buttons her up as a rarity. Olympia proudly bears an "all capital" Steiff button, which was used for just a handful of years in the very late 1940's and early 1950's. Steiffgal has just a few other Steiff treasures in her collection with this style button; some sport a US Zone tag, other do not. Clearly, the early postwar years were a period of great transition and evolution for Steiff in terms of design and IDs. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Olympia, the cotton plush Teddy Baby bear from London, will be met with international appeal!

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This Steiff Silk Plush Foal Is This Week's Mane Attraction!

Pony up and check out this fantastic find from a new friend on the West Coast. Apparently she purchased him as part of group of other vintage and antique toys, including a few dolls and other stuffed animals. But in addition to his pretty presentation, this farm friend also has tremendous horsepower from the historical and product development perspectives. Here's why!

It's off to the (horse) races with this sweet example of Steiff's young "Foal." He is 28 cm tall, standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from white and tan artificial silk fabric. His body is lightly airbrushed with brown on his back, legs, and head. His diamond shaped forehead blaze is white. Foal's ears are lined in a felt-like material and highlighted with pink airbrushing on their insides. His hooves are made from brown felt. His mane and tail are made from slightly longer artificial silk plush. Foal's dear face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, painted nostrils, and a touch of airbrushing around his eyes for dimension. He proudly wears his short trailing "f" button in his ear as his Steiff ID. Foal was made in this size only in this material in 1948.  

This artificial silk plush foal occupies a most distinctive stall in the barnyard lineup, spanning both pre- and postwar production. Here's where he fits into the timeline of his great pattern.

  • 1932-1943:  The first version of this foal appeared in the Steiff line in 22, 28, and 35 cm and was made in wool plush.
  • 1948:  Here is where today's silk plush foal fits in; he was made in 28 cm only.
  • 1949-1951:  Foal again was made in wool plush, but only in 28 cm.
  • 1952-1961:  Foal is now produced in 14 cm and 28 cm; the 14 cm version is made from velvet with felt ears and a mohair tail and mane while and the 28 cm version is made from mohair. The velvet version is pictured below.

It is interesting to note that wool plush was a fabric of choice for this pattern both before and after the war.  Wool plush, which has a "durable" construction and a denser texture than mohair or artificial silk plush, was a popular fabric used on Steiff items in the 1930's and early 1940's, and then again postwar through the 1960's on handful of legacy items.  It has a distinctly old fashioned look to it and takes airbrushing well.  For the most part, Steiff used wool plush as an alternative fabric choice during challenging economic and manufacturing periods.  As such, wool plush fabric is often associated with Steiff products manufactured +/- ten years around the WWII period. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this proud pony has put a little gallop 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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