All Buttoned Up at Potter & Potter Auctions’ September Steiff, Toys, & Pop Culture Event

Rebekah Kaufman
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Potter & Potter Auctions’ Steiff, Toys, & Pop Culture sale – to be held on September 25th, 2021 –  includes a mashup of toy temptations from the most popular collecting categories. As a lifelong Steiff enthusiast, the 145 button-in-ear lots on offer caught my attention!  Here are three particularly interesting Steiff lots from a historical perspective – and why.

Lot #70: Steiff's Town Mouse & Country Mouse pair prototype. Image from Potter & Potter.
Lot #70: Steiff’s Town Mouse & Country Mouse pair prototype. Image from Potter & Potter.

Lot #70, Steiff’s Town Mouse & Country Mouse pair prototype, is estimated at USD 100-150. This lot is intriguing for two reasons. First, it is a prototype, meaning that the mice were made and dressed as a design sample in the product development process. The handwritten number “4” on the back of the tag suggests that this pair is the fourth set among a particular group of samples produced. Once given the green light for production, the pair would be branded with chest tags, buttons, and white ear tags printed with the item’s identifying information and edition numbers.

This pair is also interesting from a nostalgia perspective. The mice are a nod to legacy toy store F.A.O. Schwarz’s beloved “City Mouse House” and “Country Mouse House” exclusive editions. In the 1965-73 time frame, Schwarz produced a series of dressed mice. They created the mice’s unique outfits by hand with lace, ribbons, and silky materials. Around the same time, Schwarz created two portable dollhouses made from recycled plywood crates. They were decorated as an urban townhouse or a country cabin. Each came with furnishings, and one Steiff mouse dressed similarly to the prototypes under discussion here.

Lot #66: Margarete Steiff Club “Haute Couture” Teddy bear. Image from Potter & Potter.
Lot #66: Margarete Steiff Club “Haute Couture” Teddy bear. Image from Potter & Potter.

Lot #66, a Margarete Steiff Club “Haute Couture” Teddy bear, is estimated at $250-350. This item is part of an important Steiff series of upscale editions that launched in 2004 with the debut of the company’s “Flowers” Teddy bear. Titled “Margarete Steiff Editions,” these selections were only available for purchase through the luck of the draw. Each bear in the “Margarete Steiff Editions” series featured innovative, unexpected, or extraordinary fabrics, designs, and details. Even their packaging, brochures, and paperwork were tantalizing. The initial worldwide response to this series was overwhelming, with far more collectors interested in purchasing these bears than examples available.

“Haute Couture” is off the charts good. Distinctly feminine, this bear features a fabric that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. It is lumpy, bumpy, and more like a work of art than anything. Covering her are countless tiny, mirrored, holographic-like sequins, which catch the light from every angle. If you are looking for the most unusual and well-made Steiff edition from the last few years, this very well could be it.

Lot #54: Collection of seven Steiff holiday ornaments. Image from Potter & Potter.
Lot #54: Collection of seven Steiff holiday ornaments. Image from Potter & Potter.

And finally, some lucky collector will land lot #54, a collection of Steiff holiday ornaments. The group of seven is estimated at $150-250. Steiff and Christmas go hand in hand, but it was not always that way. Steiff’s first reference to the holiday season was a St. Nicholas coffee cozy, which appeared in the line from 1908-13. Steiff also used holiday-themed advertising as early as 1911; these images featured standard line items displayed in Christmas vignettes. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Steiff produced a Santa Claus doll. Fast forward to the 1980s, when the company started making a series of seasonal Christmas bears, toys, and ornaments. Today, Christmas items are a significant part of the Steiff annual line and business – and collectors can’t get enough of them. 

All of the holiday ornaments in this “instant collection” are charming and easy to display – both on a tree and year-round. They also look adorable posed in the arms of dolls or as part of a seasonal tabletop or fireplace mantel vignette. My personal favorite here is the Gingerbread Man ornament, which is a tiny mohair Ted wearing a brown felt Gingerbread Man suit detailed with red and white stitching. 

Potter & Potter Auctions’ Steiff, Toys, & Pop Culture event begins on September 25th, 2021, at 10:00 AM CT. Visit the auction house’s website to learn more. 

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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