Sunday, April 12, 2015

Horsing Around With This Fantastic Steiff Wooden Stick Pony

Hold your horses!  Check out this great inquiry from a reader from the heartland of America.  Looks like she's had this treasure for awhile... but Steiffgal thinks he may go back at least half a century!  Kim writes:


I am writing to you to ask if this could be a Steiff stick pony. I purchased this at a garage sale 15-20 yrs ago. I cannot read the button clearly. It is located on the left side. The toy is made of wood and has a leather harness. The mane is hair... not sure what kind. The features are painted and it is 41 inches long. I would appreciate any information you can give me.

Thank you!"

Well, this pony is no phony!  He is indeed Steiff's Hobby Horse.  Some people refer to these toys as "stick ponies." He is constructed from solid wood.  His head is made from a thick piece of wood which has been finished with a smooth varnish.  His face comes to life with red, black and white paint.  His harness is both painted on, as well as a strip of red leather, held in place with metal hardware.  His black mane is probably actual horsehair or long mohair.  His "body" is a long wooden dowel, and he rides upon two red painted wheels.   This pony on the go was made in 100 cm from 1924 through 1941, and then again from 1949 through 1973.  He was also made in a smaller size - 80 cm - from 1937 through 1941. 

The Hobby Horse appears to have the raised script version of the Steiff button; this would put his manufacture date roughly in the 1950 through 1969 time frame.  However, given he appeared in the line right before, and right after World War II, it is possible that he was produced pre-war, stored away, and buttoned and distributed a handful of years after factory opened for toymaking business after the war.  This sometimes happens with items from this period, making actual dating challenging.  Only he knows his actual birthday for sure.   In addition, his detailing and mane are also slightly different than those pictured in standard Steiff reference books.  Again, this happens sometimes when an item has been in the line for a long, long time - in this case, almost 50 years. Product details are often incrementally updated on standard line, legacy items to keep up with design trends, consumer preferences, and material supply and availability.

Steiff's Hobby Horse examples are as rare as Triple Crown victories!  The earliest examples appeared in the line from 1898 through 1905 in 120 and 140 cm.  They were made from brown felt and unlike future examples, included the horse's head, front legs, and torso as part of the design.  These were followed by a more conventional pattern - just the head - which were manufactured in 112 cm from 1914 through 1943.  Depending on their production time, these head-only Hobby Horses were made from felt, paper plush, or cotton fabric, and had two or three wheels.  However, all examples were finished with a leather halter and fine hand painting.  From 1927 through 1935, Steiff produced a 112 cm Hobby Horse made from mohair.  This upscale design had a more elaborate halter and a lovely long mane.  A close variation on this design was produced in brown felt in 100 cm post war, from 1949 through 1970.  He is pictured here on the left. The last Steiff Hobby Horse to appear in the catalog was made in 100 cm from 1975 through 1977; it was quite basic in design and had two handles instead of reins and was painted a flat yellow color.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Hobby Horses has been a galloping success for you.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Setting Records With This Wonderful Steiff Vintage Rabbit on Wheels!

Hoppy Easter, dear Steiff friends and collectors!  Just in the nick of time, look who just cruised into town - a marvelous vintage Steiff bunny on wheels.  No wonder he's on a cart and taking things easy today... he had a very long night of delivering candy worldwide last night!  Let's take a look at this rolling rabbit and see what makes him our much deserved "Celebrity of the Week!".

This cheerful-earful has enormous appeal!  He is 25 cm tall overall, five ways jointed, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and made from blond mohair.  Rabbit has very straight arms, thick and chunky thighs, and long narrow feet.  He does not have any paw pads.  His distinctly old fashioned face is detailed with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a pink nose, and a black mouth.  There is a tiny spot of red on the tip of his mouth, perhaps to suggest his tongue.  He retains a few of his clear monofilament whiskers.  He rides upon a metal carriage with four large wooden wheels.  When the cart is pulled along, it appears that the rabbit is bobbing up and down, pumping the carriage forward with his arms and body.

Steiff produced these pull toy rabbits in 25 cm from 1926 through 1943, and then again from 1949 through 1964.  They were called "Record Rabbits" from 1926 through 1950, and then "Record Hansi" from 1951 through 1964.  A post war Steiff "Record Hansi" is pictured here on the left for reference.

It's never polite to ask someone's age (or weight) for sure.  And we can't check out his driver's license to get this information, unfortunately.  But it would be very interesting to know about how old he is, given he does not have any IDs, and appeared in the Steiff line for almost four decades!  Dating Steiff "legacy" items without IDs, like Jockos, Mollies, and Waldis - to name a few - can be very challenging.  It is also an art more than science, where tiny details and differences can help at least narrow down a production time frame. 

Based on a few hours of research and comparing photos of Steiff's wheeled and period rabbits from the late 1920's through the mid 1960's, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this particular example is from the pre-war production timeframe.  Here's why:

1.  The rabbit under discussion here has a hand embroidered, closed mouth.  Steiff's "record" style rabbits produced post WWII seem to have open, smiling, mouths.  You can clearly see this difference in the two photos above.

2.  The rabbit under discussion here has really large glass pupil eyes, giving him that distinct "youthful" look of items designed and produced in the late 1920's.  They have a distinct arch of blush/tan colored highlighting around them, which is typical to other Steiff rabbits from the late 1920's period.  You can see these facial details here on the photo here on the left. These eyes also exactly match those of other late 1920's era Steiff items in Steiffgal's collection.  Steiff's "record" style rabbits produced post WWII seem to feature smaller, more proportional eyes. 

3.  The rabbit under discussion here has extremely narrow feet and no felt paw pads.  Steiff's "record" style rabbits produced post WWII seem to have wider feet and felt paw pads. You can see these paws on the photo of the Record Hansi above.

4.  The rabbit under discussion here has a tiny drop of red on his lips; this is pictured close up on the photo to the left. The only other rabbit that comes to Steiffgal's mind that has this red dot lip feature and nose stitching pattern is a late 1920's rabbit that was auctioned off at the James D. Julia 2014 early summer toy auction.  You can check out that 1920's rabbit by clicking here; you can also see how it shares many of the same facial characteristics, general proportions, and scale of the "mystery" record rabbit.

So, what do you think about this rabbit on the go? Is he the "wheel deal" in terms of his senior citizen status? If Steiffgal had to put her money on this record style bunny, she'd date him to about 1930, give or take a handful of years. But, only he knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Steiff rabbit on wheels is truly one for the record!

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Catching Spring Fever With Steiff's Wonderful Early Post War Bazi Dachshunds

At last, the snow in the park across the street from Steiffgal's house has started to melt enough that there are more patches of green than white. And no one could be happier about that than Steiffgal, with the pugs a very close second! It is great to see the neighborhood dogs again, who all seem so happy to end their winter-induced home hibernation! To celebrate the onset of spring and its associated "pup parade," let's take a look at one of Steiff's earliest post war dogs - Bazi the Dachshund - and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Doxies are a legacy design pattern for Steiff. They have been in the line almost continuously since the late 1890's, with the first version debuting in felt in 1897. This is easy to understand - this breed is especially beloved in Germany, and it seems as if the Steiff family themselves had a particular affinity for them as well! Steiff's first named long haired mohair Doxie, Waldi, debuted in 1933 and was an immediate sensation. Prewar, he was produced standing, sitting, as a hunter dog-doll, and on wheels. It is interesting to note that from what Steiffgal can calculate, Waldi has the honor of being the dog pattern with the longest history of production in the Steiff line. He appeared pretty much continuously in the line from 1933 through 1980 - for a total of 47 years. (Molly the puppy is a close second, with a total of 44 years.) An early standing Waldi is pictured here on the left.  

Most likely due to the success and popularity of Waldi, Steiff introduced a new Doxie named Bazi design right after the factory reopened for toy making business in the late 1940's. Two versions were produced - a sitting Bazi and a standing Bazi on wheels. Both were head jointed and made from artificial silk plush which was highlighted with brown and coppery highlights. Sitting Bazi was made in 14 and 17 cm from 1948 through 1949, while Bazi on wheels was produced in 14 cm in 1949 only. And, because of their era of production, these silk plush versions may have a number of Steiff's buttons, including a short or long trailing F button or a blank button. Sitting silk plush Bazi is pictured here on the left; this particular example has a blank button. 
Bazi took the collector's world by storm in 1950, and remained a constant in the production line through the mid 1970's.  The early 1950's could be called "the dogs days of Steiff" as this was the time when many new named dog patterns - like Snobby the Poodle, Dally the Dalmatian, and Sarras the Boxer -  were introduced as mohair became more readily available on a commercial scale again.  Starting in 1950, Bazi was made sitting, standing, on wheels, as as a press and release music box, and as a dog-doll.  You can see these blue-ribbon buddies pictured below.  

Sitting mohair Bazi was was produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1950 through 1969. These are very early examples with their red imprinted chest tags and earliest article numbers. The small one also has his US Zone tag.

Standing mohair Bazi was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 through 1975. Like his brothers pictured above, this is a very early example. 

Standing mohair Bazi on wooden eccentric wheels was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 through 1961. This model rides upon four off-center wooden wheels and has the appearance of bobbing up and down as it is pulled along. 

Musical mohair Bazi was produced in 25 cm in 1950 and 1951 only. Please click here to learn more about this really interesting item and her full provenance.
Standing mohair Bazi dog-dolls were produced in 25 cm from 1950 through 1954. Please click here to learn more about the story behind this very sweet Bazi couple.

Steiffgal hopes this review of Steiff's beloved Bazi pattern has been as refreshing as a breath of spring air for you!

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bowled Over By This Fantastic and Early Velvet Steiff Dachshund Skittle

Are you in the mood for a little Steiff game today?  Steiffgal nearly toppled to the ground when she received this email inquiry from a professional colleague from the New England area who asks about a vintage Steiff find.  See if it bowls you over as well!  

Blain writes...

"Steiffgal,  I have a friend who has a Steiff dog, which looks like he is sitting up on his rear legs, perched on a wooden base, who has his original elephant button... this is in VERY good condition...  Dog is two toned, no issues I can see.  Can you tell me a little about him... and what you think he is worth? Thank you!  Blain"

Steiffgal's not playing with you when she says this is one very special treasure!  What we have here is a very early Steiff skittle.  Skittles are analogous to today's modern sporting bowling pins.  The skittle itself is made of a dachshund which is perched on a wooden plinth.  The dog is begging, unjointed, and made from brown and white velvet with airbrushing.  He is rather basic in form and design.  His face is detailed with a simple hand embroidered nose and mouth and black shoe button eyes.  He wears a little leather collar.  Steiffgal has seen these finished with a small medallion or bell; this model has lost his ornamentation to time.  This begging velvet  dachshund mounted on a skittle is identical to Steiff's standard line velvet dachshund; this precious pooch was produced in 10, 14, and 22 cm from 1901 through 1927 overall.  His absolutely remarkable elephant button helps to date this item to 1904!  Although Blain did not mention the size of the dog, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he is the 14 cm version based on other Steiff skittles of the same era.

Wooden it be nice to know more about the dog's plinth?  Well, this base was designed to be knocked over when hit directly with a fast rolling felt ball.  The plinth is solid wood  and finished simply with a little varnish and a black ring around the top circumference.  European skittle sets had 9 skittles while those made for the USA had ten.  In most cases, each set came with a "kingpin" who was slightly taller and dressed in a beaded crown and felt jacket; his wooden plinth was also slightly taller than those of the other pins.  An example of a typical Steiff kingpin is pictured here on the left; this fabulous pre-1904 velvet elephant realized close to $1,500 at the June, 2014 James D. Julia Antique Doll, Toy, and Advertising Auction.

Steiff produced Skittle sets from about 1892 through 1919. Over that period of time, Steiff made the sets with hens, monkeys, elephants, pigs, rabbits, poodles, pointers, chicks, cats, and bears, among others.  The skittle pin under discussion today most likely was made as part of a Dachshund-Kegelspiel or Dachshund Skittle set.  This dog-themed game was manufactured as part of the general product line from 1901 through 1912. 

Now the question that has everyone on pins and needles.  Just what is this little guy worth?  Well, Steiffgal has not seen him firsthand, and cannot account for structural and/or aesthetic issues that do not appear in photos, like odors, weak spots, repairs, insect damage, etc.  However, given that he is as nice in real life as described and presented, his value may just bowl you over!  Here's why.  Skittles like this one are beloved by vintage collectors as they represent a wonderful long gone era of Steiff design and production.  They really don't take up too much room to display, which is an issue for many collectors.  Few survive today because in reality they were produced to be used - and used hard - as playthings.  And remember, this begging beauty retains his crowning glory, his most desirable ELEPHANT button - which is pictured above on the left!  Given all that, and based on relatively recent sales of Steiff skittles, it is Steiffgal's best guesstimate that he may realize in the range of $2,000 to $3,000 at auction today.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this velvet begging dachshund skittle has been a real game changer for you!

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