A Cub of Titanic Proportions: Steiff’s Original 1912 Black Mohair Titanic Mourning Bears
originally published in the October, 2023 edition of Antique Doll Collector
Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's June 25th, 2022 Special Steiff Auction Sales Report
July 5, 2022
Auction Daily had its eyes on Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's June 25th, 2022 Special Steiff Auction - and the sale did not disappoint, hammering at €268,000 / $279,367! (perhaps link this sentence to the pre-sale report) This signature event, held annually in Giengen, Germany, always presents the finest button-in-ear rarities of the year, as well as breathtaking results. Here are a few highlights from the 122 lot sale and why they might have caught the eye of bidders worldwide.
Steiff is best known for its Teddy bear production, and the company's premier, early turn of last century cubs traditionally generate top dollar at auction. Lot #6104, a c. 1904-1905 40 cm white mohair rod jointed bear, had an opening bid of €2,500 / $2,606 and hammered at €43,000 / $44,823. This remarkable rarity, in practically like new condition, was the ultimate package in terms of age, condition, earliest elephant style button ID, and classic presentation. Lot #6107, a c. 1928-1930 74 cm brown tipped mohair Petsy the Baby Bear, had an opening bid of €6,500 / $6,775 and hammered at €42,000 / $43,781. His impressive size, fabulous coloring, big blue eyes, and irresistible personality clearly called to multiple collectors. And lot #6118, a c. 1926 deep chocolate brown mohair bear with lovely and distinctive IDs, had an opening bid of €850 / $866 and hammered at €22,000 / $22,933. Perhaps the greatest "price mystery" of the sale - this sweet treat obviously resonated with two passionate bidders who were almost equally determined to bring him home.
Extraordinary farm and wild animals were also well represented in this auction's winner's circle. Lot #6019, a collection of six tiny, turn of last century velvet critters, had an opening bid of bid of €1,200 / $1,250 and hammered at €4,900 / $5,107. The set included an elephant, cat, pig, rabbit, and two dogs, each with their original and early ID. Each pet measured from seven to 11cm; it is most unusual to find this specific grouping and even more so in outstanding condition. Lot #6007, a 26 cm Jocko the Chimp made from artificial silk plush, had an opening bid of bid of €180 / $187 and hammered at €3,200 / $3,335. This example from 1945, based on the company's legacy monkey design, was rendered in a very rare material, was in excellent condition with great coloring, and had highly desirable IDs. And lot #6008, pint-sized orang-utang from the early 1930s, had an opening bid of bid of €330 / $344 and hammered at €3,100 / $3,231. This finely constructed monkey pattern, with distinctive seaming, delicate facial painting, and fabulously colored mohair, is seldom if ever seen on the secondary market.
Collectors also took note of this sales offering of antique felt character dolls. Lot #6096, a 21 cm doll representing a young man in a fitted green suit, had an opening bid of bid of €330 / $344 and hammered at €4,200 / $4,378. He was made in the desirable c. 1916-1919 time frame, in very nice original condition, and donned a seldom-seen outfit. And lot #6020, an exceptional 30 cm doll in the form of Moritz (from Wilhelm Busch's classic children's book Max and Moritz) on a four wheeled cart, had an opening bid of bid of €850 / $886 and hammered at €4,100 / $4,273. This pull toy, produced in the c. 1916-1926 time frame, featured Moritz as a driver; the doll oscillated back and forth as his vehicle was pulled along. Steiff's Max and Moritz dolls remain very popular with collectors - especially in Germany where these characters are practically imbedded in the country's culture and literary tradition.
Seldom seen pre- and postwar button-in-ear novelties rounded out this signature sale. Lot #6124, a 40 cm standing Billy Goat from c. 1959, had an opening bid of bid of €220 / $229 and hammered at €3,800 / $3,961. This uncatalogued rarity was made from wool plush, decorated with a top hat, monocle, and caricature eyes, and produced for Scabal - a tailoring company known for its fine fabrics. And lot #6066, a tail-moves- head mechanical tabby Bulldog from the early 1930s, had an opening bid of bid of €600 / $625 and hammered at €3,500 / $3,648. This exceedingly rare blue ribbon example was in lovely condition with strong colors and desirable IDs.
Auction Daily circled back to Ladenburger's Pia Fast Seidel post sale, to ask her what it was like to auction some of the world's finest Steiff under the international spotlight. She shares, "It was thrilling to be at the podium as many of these extraordinary Steiff pieces came up for sale. I got a little nervous when bidding for the rod jointed bear crossed the 30,000 euro mark. My hands started shaking in excitement as I pointed between the competing phone, computer, and in-person bids, so I made fists to hide this. It was wonderful to hear the attendees clapping when it finally sold for 43,000 euro! This bear was the most expensive item I have ever professionally auctioned at a sale, so the entire experience was very meaningful to me."
Live From Giengen, Germany: Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion's Special Steiff Auction
Rebekah Kaufman for Auction Daily
(written for and printed first in Auction Daily)
June 11, 2022
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 5 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 and held a straw basket and a bouquet of flowers. The bear pair was made as a wedding gift for a young couple who worked at the Steiff factory from their colleagues. 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 after the sale.
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 1904-1905. 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 at the sale, 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 25th.