It’s a Collector’s Dream Come True at Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion’s November Steiff Special

Rebekah Kaufman
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In the mood for some spectacular vintage Steiff temptations? Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH will be offering some of the most desirable button-in-ear brand bears, animals, and novelties as part of its November 6th, 2021 sale. Many of these items are from the coveted prewar period. They include one-off rarities, treasures from the archives, and antique treats in practically like-new condition. As a Steiff enthusiast and educator for over four decades, I’ve never seen a more incredible grouping.

Although it’s impossible to choose favorites, here are five picks from this sale that will unquestionably catch the attention of antique doll, toy, and Steiff enthusiasts. They certainly caught mine!

Lot #3968, Steiff Bonzo. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.
Lot #3968, Steiff Bonzo. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

The first is lot #3968, an astonishingly rare, fully jointed velvet Bonzo. He measures 8.5 inches tall and dates from around 1927. His IDs include his button and red ear tag which is numbered 5417. These digits indicate that Bonzo is jointed, velvet, and measures 17 centimeters sitting. He is painted by hand, making him a one-of-a-kind work of art. His proportions and detailing are breathtaking.

Bonzo was a popular cartoon character created by British artist George Studdy in the early 1920s. Studdy tightly controlled Bonzo’s marketing and licensing. Steiff wanted to produce Bonzo and sent samples to Studdy for his approval. Studdy preferred a version produced by Chad Valley. He felt that Steiff’s Bonzo was a poor interpretation. However, before getting Studdy’s feedback, Steiff jumped the gun and started making Bonzos. The company produced 115 examples before terminating the work. Today, these cherished canines very seldomly appear on the secondary market. They have consistently realized over USD 25,000 in the past.

Lot #3969, Steiff “Pupp-Bully” dog doll. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.
Lot #3969, Steiff “Pupp-Bully” dog doll. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

The second highlight can only be described as “wah-hoo good!” It is lot #3969, a Steiff “Pupp-Bully” dog doll from around 1929 or 1930. He stands 10 inches tall and has the head of Steiff’s Bully the Bulldog. This doll has a soft, humanized body. He wears a cream shirt with a salmon tie, blue shorts and shoes, a belt, and felt gloves. He retains his original Steiff archive tag.  

In 1929, Steiff created a series of high-end dressed animal dolls based on Bully the Bulldog, Charly the King Charles Spaniel, and Treff the Bloodhound. These were the company’s most popular dog patterns of the time. These animal dolls appeared in the line through 1930, probably for economic reasons. Steiff’s animal doll pattern was updated in 1930 with a simpler, generic design that could be produced more efficiently and in greater varieties. These 1929 dressed animals are rarer than hen’s teeth. From what I could unearth online, it appears that the only other 1929 animal doll design that appeared at public auction was a Pupp-Charly. It sold in 2010 for nearly $7,300. This particular Pupp-Bully sold previously at Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion for nearly $21,000 in 2007.

Lot #4000, Steiff Treff the Bloodhound. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.
Lot #4000, Steiff Treff the Bloodhound. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

Also of blue ribbon caliber is lot #4000, a practically time capsule new Treff the Bloodhound. She sits at 6 inches tall with blonde mohair and a jointed head. Treff was made between 1928 and 1936 and retains all of her IDs, including her button, chest tag, and red ear tag (numbered 3317). It is unusual to find prewar items like this with such complete branding. She would be an ideal pet for a medium to larger-scaled doll from any era.

Treff did not begin life as a bloodhound. Steiff’s Treff design was inspired by “Dismal Desmond,” a Dalmatian toy manufactured by Deans Rag Book Co. of London. Steiff modified the design to match their style, manufacturing, and marketing needs. Overall, Treff would go on to be produced in velvet or mohair and sitting or standing through 1938. Steiff also patented Treff’s eye design. Her glass peepers are embedded in her eye socket and surrounded by fabric eyelids, not just sewn on, giving the dog her distinctive expression.

Lot #3995, Steiff Dicky bear. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.
Lot #3995, Steiff Dicky bear. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

Another fantastic find from this sale is lot #3995— a most impressive Dicky bear. He is five ways jointed, made from white mohair, and stands 15 inches tall. He was made between 1930 and 1937 and retains his button, bits of his red ear tag, and named chest tag. Most Dicky bears— like this example— have stenciled velvet pads. Others have traditional felt pads. I’ve always suspected that this design may have been named as a nod to founder Margarete Steiff’s nephew Richard, who invented Steiff’s fully jointed Teddy bear in the early 1900s.

Steiff made Dicky bears with blonde or white mohair, or brown wool plush, from 1930 to 1941. This created a “less expensive” model based on its construction, materials, and detailing. At the time, Steiff needed to create production efficiencies due to the harsh political, social, and economic realities of the era. Dicky’s pensive expression seems to reflect these challenges. This example has provenance to Christie’s, where it sold in October of 2010 for about $15,000.

Lot #3991, Teddy Baby bear. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.
Lot #3991, Teddy Baby bear. Image from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

And last but not least, a perfect companion for a lucky doll from any era is lot #3991,  a precious, petite, and prewar Teddy Baby bear. This happy handful stands 4.5 inches tall and is fully jointed. He has a brown mohair body, tan velvet muzzle, and fat toddler feet. His face comes to life with a prominent muzzle, black nose stitching, and black and brown glass pupil eyes. This mohair bear retains his named chest tag, button, and red ear tag with number 7310, meaning he is caricatured and sits 10 centimeters tall. Given these tiny friends were made as playthings for children, and often accompanied them to school in their backpacks for years, the condition of this example is simply amazing.

Steiff updated its numbering system in the early 1930s when the numbers on the ear tag began to reflect the height of the item standing. Before that, they reflected the item’s height sitting. In this case, Teddy Baby’s ear tag number “7310” narrows his production period to 1930 through 1933. This example has provenance to GAF Pfeiffer GmbH, where it sold in 2007 for about $10,000.

For more information on this comprehensive vintage Steiff sale, visit Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion.

Looking for additional Steiff events? Check out our coverage of Potter & Potter Auctions’ Steiff, Toys, & Pop Culture sale in September.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
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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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