Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true! Every time Steiffmom (Steiffgal’s mother) would come by her home, she would say, “Gosh, your house looks just like FAO Schwarz…” which Steiffgal would take as the highest compliment. So imagine Steiffgal’s utter delight when the granddaughter of FAO Schwarz, the namesake of the world famous toy company, came to her house to talk all about Steiff and the legacy behind her family’s store!
Ms. Schwarz brought along many treats to share, including several delightful Steiff treasures from her own collection. A lifelong Steiff enthusiast and collector, Ms. Schwarz had the incredible and unique experience of working in the New York City FAO Schwarz store in the Steiff department for several summers in the 1950’s! But much more about that in an upcoming feature article in the worldwide Steiff Club Magazine! For now, let’s take a look at the three collectibles she brought along; each one represents a wonderful era in Steiff’s history of design!
Steiffgal feels a little sly kicking off the discussion with this wonderful treasure, but you gotta start somewhere! Here we have Steiff’s very early fuchs or fox. (This picture is from Christie’s… Steiffgal’s camera seemed to eat the picture of Ms. Schwarz’s fox, which was IDENTICAL in design to this one, ugh, sorry!) Ms. Schwarz’s fox first belonged to her father, who was FAO Schwarz’s son. Fox has many properties of the highly coveted early Steiff designs. He is 35 cm, made from reddish brown and white mohair, is five ways jointed, and has a squeaker. Fox is detailed with large brown and black pupil eyes and has a hand embroidered nose, mouth, and paws made from black floss. The tips of his ears are lined in very long, very straight black mohair, tracing their edges perfectly. Fox’s face has a distinctly “Teddy bear” look to it, giving him a very sweet look indeed. This item appeared in the Steiff line from 1909 through 1933 in 14, 17, 22, 35, and 43 cm. Because fox has the tiny 4 mm “trailing f” button, it is safe to assume that he was manufactured in the 1909 through 1925 time frame.
Now it’s time to get a little more academic and take a look at this distinctive ivy-leaguer. This is Steiff’s bulldogge or Bulldog, designed as the mascot for Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. This version of “Handsome Dan” (the mascot’s “official name”) is 28 cm, sitting, head jointed, and has a squeaker. He is made from white mohair which has been selectively airbrushed with spots and shading. He has one black ear and one white one! When he was new, he had a blue felt blanket with a white “Y” on it for Yale. This dog has a very distinctive velvet lined muzzle and jowls and a flat black round glass button nose. You cannot help but notice his blue and black “squinting” eyes which are adjustable. (These cartoon-like eyes have also appeared over time on Steiff’s Cheerio dogs, Petsy baby bears, and Lulac rabbits.) This bulldog was produced in 1952 only, the start of the “dog days of Steiff” period when many new dog designs were launched post WWll. Bulldog is part of Ms. Schwarz’s own personal collection; apparently her mother gave it to her as her family lived in close proximity to the University at the time.
And finally, you might just get “dizzy” over this Steiff Lizzy! Here we have a simply beautiful (if that word can be applied to a lizard!) Steiff Lizzy lizard. Lizzy was produced around the same time as Steiff’s “Eric” bats, “Spidy” spiders, and “Nelly” snails – clearly the “creepy crawly” era at Steiff! She is made from yellow plush velvet which is carefully and intricately hand airbrushed with green, back, brown, and white details. She has little black eyes and thick felt feet. Her fingers and toes have remained a vibrant green color while her velvet has faded just a tiny bit. Lizzy measures about 12″ from head to tail; this is the larger of the two sizes of this model, which was produced only in 1959 through 1961. Ms. Schwarz’s Lizzy has her bear faced chest tag but seems to have lost her raised script button over time; this would have been located on the very tip of her tail. Ms. Schwarz tells Steiffgal that this lovely lizard has been one of her all time favorites for about 50 years now! Now if that’s not “friends for life”, Steiffgal isn’t quite sure just what would be!
Steiffgal hopes this touch of vintage “retail therapy” has got you all excited for the upcoming (Steiff) holiday shopping season!
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let’s talk! Click here to learn more.