Live From Giengen, Germany With Pia Fast Seidel: Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion’s Special Steiff Auction
After a multi-year break due to COVID-19, the annual Steiff Sommer Festival— a family-centric celebration of all things Steiff— is being held once again on the Margarete Steiff GmbH factory campus in Giengen, Germany. One of the highlights of this three day event, to be held on June 24 through June 26, 2022, is a world-class auction hosted by Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH of Ladenburg, Germany. This June 25 sale presents about 120 lots of breathtaking button-in-ear treasures. Auction Daily spoke with Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion’s Pia Fast Seidel to learn more about this can’t-miss event.
Auction Daily: Tell us about Steiff’s summer event and your history of hosting auctions there.
Pia Fast Seidel: The first Steiff Sommer event was held in 1997. Although we’ve been selling toys since 1989, our first auction at this festival was in 2007. It is such an honor to participate in this important collector’s gathering held right on the Steiff factory campus. We work all year to collect only the finest Steiff rarities for this sale. Our company is very proud of our reputation in the toy world as a premier auction house for vintage Steiff items, so actually selling Steiff items in the town in which they were “born” is a great fit for us. There is a wonderful sense of time and nostalgia in bringing many of these antiques back to the place where they were originally manufactured— sometimes a century or more before.
The Sommer Festival has always attracted a great number of visitors from all over the world. It offers the perfect location for dealers and collectors to meet and do business. The Steiff company presents tours, archive displays, and events that bring the history of the factory, Teddy bears, and even founder Margarete Steiff to life. And everyone always enjoys viewing the latest exhibits at the Steiff Museum, listening to live music, and sampling the delicious and authentic Swabian food available throughout the event.
Auction Daily: Tell us about an extraordinary item you have sold in the past at the Steiff Sommer Auction.
Pia Fast Seidel: Giengen is located in a rural part of Southern Germany. There isn’t much other local business there except for the Steiff factory. In the past, for the most part, people in the Giengen area worked for Steiff in some capacity, or were part of the Steiff family. As such, it is not that unusual to find very rare Steiff items or even prototypes that were never produced in the attics and basements of people who live in or near Giengen.
At the Steiff Sommer Auction in 2016, our company sold a pair of bears from about 1930 dressed as a bride and groom. They were in Steiff’s “Dicky” pattern, a very popular Teddy bear design of the period. Each measured about five inches tall. The boy was made from blonde mohair and wore black overalls. The girl was made from white mohair and wore a pink dress. She held a straw basket and a bouquet of flowers. The bear pair was made as a wedding gift for a young couple from their colleagues who worked at the Steiff factory. The couple cherished this handmade gift for many decades. When they downsized and moved to a senior living complex, they brought this treasure to us to sell. After several rounds of fast and furious bidding, with nearly 100 bids registered, the Dicky bears hammered for nearly $27,000. As far as we can tell, this is a world record price for a Dicky bear lot sold at public auction. It was amazing to see the look of surprise and delight on the faces of the old couple who sold the Dicky bride and groom pair.
Auction Daily: What would you say is the highlight lot from your upcoming 2022 Giengen sale, and what makes this item so remarkable?
Pia Fast Seidel: An item certain to make headlines is lot #6104, an all original white mohair rod jointed bear from 1904 to 1905. This absolute rarity is in marvelous condition and features all of the characteristics typical of Steiff’s almost earliest bear production: a chunky body, gutta percha nose, trimmed muzzle, long and narrow feet, five embroidered claws per paw, and exceptionally long arms. He even has his original Steiff elephant button as his ID. It really doesn’t get any better than this guy. I’ve never seen or handled a finer example.
Auction Daily: How is it different holding an auction in Giengen than holding one in Ladenburg, where your offices are located?
Pia Fast Seidel: The whole town of Giengen has a very special spirit and attracts dedicated, lifelong collectors. That energy is really great for an auction. When we host our auctions in Giengen, they are held in a beautiful old space called the “Schranne.” It is located about a five minute walk from the Steiff main campus. This granary-styled building was built in 1869 but has been renovated over time to become a venue for entertainment, receptions, events, and exhibits.
Perhaps the most challenging aspects of holding our sales in the Schranne is that we must bring every bit of technology with us. Even though this auction is held live, it is still broadcasted globally on several internet platforms, and buyers participate via online bids from all over the world. We carry all of the machinery and devices with us from Ladenburg to make this happen! This is very complicated and time consuming. However, seeing the excited attendees in the audience makes it entirely worth it, and I know that all of the work is for something very special.
Auction Daily: And finally, this is the first Steiff Sommer auction held live in several years because of COVID-19 concerns. Do you think this will impact the number of bidders, the interest in the sale, or the prices of the items?
Pia Fast Seidel: Over the course of the pandemic, our usual in-person bidders and clients transitioned to telephone or online bidding without any issues. That is why prices for fine Steiff items have remained strong and stable over the last two years. We don’t see anything out there that suggests that this could change with this upcoming sale.
We are excited and looking forward to our upcoming June auction in Giengen. We hope that collectors will make their way back to Giengen— and the Schranne— this year. Many friends and collectors have expressed great interest in attending live Steiff events again. They have missed the excitement of meeting other like-minded, passionate collectors and bidding in person at premier sales. We will do everything we can to make sure our auction attendees feel safe and confident at our event on June 25.
For more information on Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion and the June 25 Steiff Sommer Festival auction, please see the company’s website.
Looking for more behind-the-scenes interviews? We recently spoke with Special Auction Services’ Daniel Agnew about an upcoming dolls and Teddy bears event.