Sunday, September 14, 2014

This Vintage Standing Steiff Molly Is Absolutely Picture Perfect!

Good golly, who doesn't love Steiff's adorable Mollies?  These precious pups have been delighting Steiff collectors since their introduction in 1925.  Most enthusiasts are familiar with the company's sweet sitting style Molly dogs.  However, the company also made lesser known standing versions of this legacy design.  Steiffgal had the great pleasure of adopting one of these standing sweeties over the summer, and this one came with a neat surprise - but more about that later.  Here's a bit more about this fantastic find.

Clearly, there's no need to sit and stay with this marvelous Molly! She is 17 cm tall and 25 cm long, head jointed, and made from long off white mohair. When she was new, her back, sides, face, and bottom and were beautifully airbrushed with brown patches, but those highlights have faded over time. Her ears are made from mohair and are "folded over" as typical to her design. She has very large brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws. When she was new, her mouth had a slight touch of red, accenting her lips. She has a nonworking squeaker in her belly. Her collar is not original to her, although it was made by Steiff.

Molly was introduced in the Steiff line in 1925 in both sitting and standing versions.  This standing Molly was produced in 8, 12, 14, 17, 22, 28, and 35 cm through 1936.  Other standing models included Molly dogs on regular and eccentric wooden wheels, hanging pram toys, musical versions, and barking pull toys; a few of these novelties were manufactured until the early 1940's. No version of standing Molly was reintroduced after the factory reopened for business post war in the late 1940's.

This standing Molly has spent her life as a "friend for life," and Steiffgal has the proof!  When she purchased this blue ribbon buddy, she came with a very special treat - provenance, in the form of four vintage, black and white photo postcards of her with her original owner! Each is 13-1/2" cm by 8-1/2 cm and has the words, "Frankfurt a. M. - T. H. Voight. - Bad Homburg v. d. H." printed on the back.  Here are these four charming pictures.

This first photo shows the beautiful little girl resting on a cushion.  She is holding a large doll, and Molly peeks out behind her legs.  This photo is not dated.

This second photo is quite similar to the first one, and you can also make out more details about her doll.  Molly stands right in front and you can see her coloring and perhaps a bit of her original ribbon or chest tag.  This photo is also not dated.

This third photo features the little girl standing up and holding Molly.  Her dress is the same in all three of these photos.  This is probably the best view of the Molly, and you can clearly make out Molly's round, metal rimmed chest tag. This photo is dated February 15, 1928.

This final photo shows the little girl posing with an older woman, perhaps her mom, an aunt, cousin, or even an older sister.  It is hard to tell, and there aren't alot of clues in the photo.  Here she clutches Molly like a toy, and you can make out what is probably the ribbon around Molly's neck.  This photo is dated 1927.    

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this standing Molly with provenance has been picture perfect for you.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This Steiff Goat Is The Wheel-Deal Indeed!

Do Steiff goats float your boat? Well, they certainly do for Steiffgal! It is easy to fall for these charming farm friends who just seem to have a great sense of fun, energy, and humor. Check out this great goat on wheels and see what truly makes him the life of the barnyard!

There's no 'kid'ding around when it comes to this beautiful billy! Here we have Steiff's Nachzieh Ziege or pull toy goat. Goat is 12 cm high (head to toe) and 16 cm long, unjointed, and made from off white mohair. His back, tail, legs, and face are lightly airbrushed with brown detailing, making him truly an authentic farm friend. The lining of his ears and the underside of his pert tail are made from peach colored felt. He has black and green slit pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. His tiny horns are made from wooden beads, and his snout is highlighted with a tiny bit of red accent. He rides upon a black metal framed carriage which is mounted on four red wooden eccentric wheels. He was produced in this size only (officially documented at 14 cm) from 1953 through 1957.

Collector's may recognize this baaaa-d boy as Steiff's "Zicky" the goat pattern. And, he does indeed have a small, colorful, named bear faced chest tag with the name "Zicky" imprinted in blue. Overall, standing Zicky was made from 1952 through 1972 in 10, 14, 22, 28, and 35 cm. A family of standing Zicky goats is pictured here on the left. Zicky was also produced in a somewhat rarer "lying" pattern in 10 and 14 cm from 1954 through 1956. The smaller lying version of Zicky is pictured below on the left.

It probably won't get your goat to learn that goats are a legacy design for Steiff. The first ones appeared as early as the late 1800's in felt. In addition to just regular standing models, early and prewar goats were produced as hanging toys, as woolen miniatures, as wooden pull toys, on wheels, as nodding animals, with tail moves head mechanisms, and with special voice boxes that were designed to sound like a real goat. 

And yes, he is the wheel deal! Steiff has traditionally produced pull toy versions of many of its most popular items.  In the 1950's and 1960's, these were usually made from the smallest or next to smallest versions of the standard line items and on red, blue, or green wooden eccentric or regular style wheels. These petite treats included cats, farm animals like donkeys and ponies, rabbits, and ducks, and dogs. Steiff's tiny 10 cm Cockie Cocker Spaniel on eccentric wheels is pictured here on the left. Larger wooden wheeled treasures from this period included Fox Terriers and elephants.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's rolling Zicky helps to move along your day in a most positive way!

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Size Defies When It Comes To Steiff's Adorable Woolen Miniature Mice!

With  just a handful of summer left, Steiffgal thought it might be fun to take little look at one of Steiff's legacy products that truly would fit in the palm of your hand!  It seems that everyone just loves Steiff's woolen miniatures, and for good reason!  They are completely adorable, gorgeously designed, and of course, don't take up too much room (which tends to be an issue the larger one's collection becomes!)  Perhaps the cutest - in Steiffgal's humble opinion - woolies are Steiff's tiny mice.  Check out this tiny two-some and perhaps you'll agree as well!

Size defies when it comes to these lifelike, miniature master pieces!  Here we have an albino white mouse and a grey mouse.  Both are cataloged as 4 cm, made from wool yarn, are standing on all fours, have long tails, and are head jointed.  Their petite feet, which each have four toes, are made of peach colored felt.  Their tiny faces come to life with airbrushed-highlighted felt ears, playful whiskers, bead eyes, and pink painted noses and mouths.  The grey mouse on the left was produced from 1931 through 1943 overall; he also came in white and brown.  The white mouse on the right was made from 1949 though 1984 overall and also came in grey.

Both mice sport IDs which are appropriate for their era of production.  The white mouse has a tiny raised script button and article number 7354/04 (suggesting a specific 1968 through 1984 manufacture date) while the grey mouse has a tiny trailing F button and article number 2504,1 (suggesting a specific 1937 through 1943 manufacturing date.)  These items never had chest tags, and as far as Steiffgal can see, no woolen miniatures ever did.  However, a handful of woolen miniatures are perhaps the only items in the entire Steiff history of production that did not leave the factory with a “button in ear.” Even birds, which clearly lack ears, had a button securing their label around their leg. Woolie ladybugs and hedgehogs do not, and never had, Steiff buttons. There was simply no place to attach them. But their look, feel, and manufacturing make them undoubtedly Steiff.

It is always fun with Steiff to track how designs change - or don't - over time.  This is especially true with beloved and popular items that are produced over a long period, even decades... as is in the case of these mice!  In general, with these two babies, it is clear that their core, basic pattern did not change over time.  And, given that both mice weigh 5 g, that the critical mass of the pattern remained constant over time.  However, there are a few very subtle differences between them.  These include:

  • Their length from nose to fanny.  The white mouse measures 5 cm while the grey mouse measures 4 cm. 
  • Their tails.  The white mouse has an 8 cm tail made from solid peach colored rubber.  The grey mouse has an 8.5 cm tail made from grayish-black stretchy elastic, like an elastic band.  You can see a close up of their tails in the photo above on the left.
  •  Their whiskers.  The white mouse has numerous long, flexible, clear whiskers, while the grey mouse has just a handful of very short, stiff, brownish whiskers.
Let's talk about the size difference first.  Because each Steiff item is made by hand, it is entirely possible that size differences are a result of the touch of individual craftspeople.  It is also conceivable - because each mouse weighs the same (and clearly their bodies make up most of their mass) - that the composition of the woolen fibers used on these items changed over time, and/or aged differently.  

Now their tails and whiskers.  These differences are most likely attributable to materials available on hand at the time of their production, as well as manufacturing improvements to those materials over the decades. It is most interesting that the older grey mouse's tail, which is made from a stretchy material, has not dried out, cracked, or fallen off - which happens alot with older rubber items.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's tiny woolen mice has made a huge and happy difference in your day!

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Good Things Come In Threes With Steiff's Tiny Tabby Kittens

Less is more when it comes to Steiff's amazing palm-sized pets!  And who wouldn't want to add a few petite treats to their Steiff hug? Although by nature more of a "dog person," Steiffgal recently had the the opportunity to adopt three utterly marvelous palm sized Steiff kittens into her collection.  Check out this terrific trio and see what makes them the cat's meow in so many ways!

Steiffgal is totally smitten with these tiny kittens! Here we have three of Steiff's Tabby cats.  They are standing, unjointed, and made from white mohair which has been highlighted with grey and detailed with black stripes. Their faces are brought to life with green and black slit pupil eyes, pink hand embroidered noses and mouths, and clear monofilament whiskers.  Each wears a pink or red bow and a tiny brass colored jingle bell.  Overall, postwar Tabby was made in 7, 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1949 through 1977.

Size also defies with these charming baby cats! Although they are "technically" labeled and cataloged as the 7 cm version (measured vertically from top of head to toe,) these Tabby cats actually vary from a little over 7 cm down to 6 cm.  A centimeter plus or minus doesn't sound like a big difference here, but when things are actually this small, it has a huge effect on an item's scale and appearance. 

It's never polite to ask someone's age, but in this case, it's makes for an interesting mystery!  These "triplet" cats all have their raised script buttons, yellow ear tags, and red imprinted chest tags.  This combination of IDs dates them all around 1952.  However, when it comes to Steiff, things are never quite that simple... especially when it comes to identification and detailing on items from the late 1940's and early 1950's.  There are a few very subtle differences between them that suggest that they may not all share the identical birth date!

  • One Tabby has a tiny white linen "US Zone" tag sewn into his front leg seam; the others do not.  This tag measures less than 1 square cm overall and is pictured above on the left. The US Zone tag was technically used on all items produced by Steiff in the 1947 through 1953 time frame.
  • One Tabby has early style, "teal green" and black slit pupil eyes, while the others have more "soda bottle green" and black slit pupil eyes; this is pictured below.
  • One Tabby's ear tag reads, "Steiff (in bold script) Original 1307,0 Made in Germany" while the others both read, "Steiff (in regular print) Orig. gesch. 1307,0 Made in Germany."  Both of these styles of ear tags were used in the approximately 1952 time frame, and are pictured below.
  • Each kitten has a silk ribbon; however they are not matching in color.  One ribbon is not original, but in the correct "color palate" to the others.  

So what does all this mean?  Here are two things to keep in mind...

First and foremost, it is important to remember that these sorts of vintage Steiff items were all made by hand, so slight differences in size and general appearance are to be expected.  And this truly does magnify with smaller items, where there is less "wiggle room" for differences.  Most collectors would agree that these variations only add to the appeal and charm of Steiff treasures.

Secondly, these items were made during a less than optimal production period at Steiff (circa WWII) where the company was dealing with limited supplies and resources.  During this time, it would not be unusual to use pre-war materials on post war produced items, as the company has traditionally used "what's on hand" for manufacturing and ID purposes.  For example, in this case, the blue-green eyes on one of the Tabby cats could have easily come from pre-war stock, while the Tabby herself may have been made post war.  And, to complicate things even more - given Steiff did indeed make a 7 cm grey and white striped Tabby cat from 1936 through 1943 - this Tabby could have even been made pre-war, tucked away during the war, and then buttoned, labeled, and sold postwar!   Only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on these baby kittens reminds you that good things indeed come in threes!

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