Archive for April, 2010

This boot was made for talkin…

April 11th, 2010 by
I can’t be the only person who feels you can never have enough shoes OR enough bling! After all, the well-heeled Marilyn Monroe convinced the world that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” with just a few simple lyrics! So imagine my delight upon learning about this magnificent almost pure gold boot charm through Lucyanne Robinson, one of the dealers who will be exhibiting her exceptional wares at the upcoming Spring Fever Antiques and Design Show and Sale, produced by New England Antique Shows.

This tiny treasure truly is the best of both worlds, and its size defies the great history and legacy behind the piece. The charm is 2″ high, 2″ long, and 3/4″ wide at the heel.  It is made from 22 carat yellow gold (92% gold and 8% silver-copper) and weighs 67.3 grams, or about 2 1/3 ounces!  The detail work on the piece is truly exceptional.  Check out the perfectly proportioned eyelets and heels; the nails on the soles; and the way the gold has been wrinkled to look like leather.  Now that’s fancy footwork!
So besides its design and quality, what makes this boot charm so, well… charming? This one a kind piece was hand forged in France in 1974 by Jean-Marie Mazard and his daughter-in-law Jacline, who together were the design team behind the world famous Jean Mahie design studio. The company’s name is taken from a child’s attempt to pronounce “Jean-Marie.” This highly realistic boot charm is distinct and exceptional among Jean Mahie pieces, departing from the artists’ usual more freeform, fluid approach.  For comparison, the pendant pictured to the left is truly representative of the “typical” Jean Mahie style.  From the collector’s perspective, some of the things that make the boot charm so interesting are its design, period of production, and clear identification on the sole. This rarity is pictured and referenced in the book Jean Mahie the Artists and Their Work 25 Years of Sculpture, published by the Meriden-Stinehour Press in 1987.

Jean Mahie has been a global influence in the jewelry and design industries since the late 1960′s. The principals got their big break when their creations were exhibited at both Van Cleef and Arpels and Cartier in Paris. The work was extremely well received; so much so that it influenced the artistic direction at both major jewelers.  A great example of this is the hand hammered cuffs that Van Cleef and Arpels still shows on its web site and which First Lady Jackie Kennedy owned. A photo of Jackie and her Jean Mahie inspired VCA bracelet is featured above on the left.

Fast forward a few years, Jean-Marie and Jacline’s designs were noticed by retail luxury tycoon Stanley Marcus and his director of fine jewelry, Dudley Ramsden. Eventually the line was brought to the United States under an exclusive contract to the upscale Neiman-Marcus store chain. In reference to Jean Mahie designs, Stanley Marcus once wrote: “This jewelry is not for the timid.” By the late 1970s, the artists immigrated to the US and their jewelry was, and continues to be, produced piece by piece here in the US.


Today, Jean Mahie is still designing and producing unique, one of a kind jewelry creations which are coveted by collectors globally. The torch has been passed to the next generations; the company’s current collaborators are Jacline and her son. Together they continue to make hand forged pieces and describe themselves with the old gold smithing term “forgerons d’or”; clearly a “charming” name for their “gold standard” talent in jewelry design and craftsmanship.
I would like to thank Lucyanne Robinson for walking me through the details of this amazing Jean Mahie boot charm. Lucyanne specializes in exceptional and inspired jewelry. Her offerings span the 19th and 20th centuries, across the main categories of antique, vintage couture, and artisans’ one-of-a-kind works. The collection is available through select antiques shows around the U.S. For more information about this piece, please contact Lucyanne at lucyrob@swbell.net.
What is your very favorite antiquing, vintage, or design find? Let’s talk! Click here to learn more.
Learn more about New England Antique Shows and their upcoming events by clicking here!

What’s black and white and read all over?

April 9th, 2010 by

This Steifflife column, hopefully! Pandas have always been a beloved and in-demand species, despite their relatively late introduction and infrequent appearances in the line over the years. Let’s make up for lost time and review the history of Steiff panda bears, then highlight a few popular mohair models produced from the 1950′s onward.

The first Panda Baer or Panda Bear made his Steiff debut in 1938. He was made from shaggy black and white mohair, five ways jointed and had felt paws. His feet were flat, made from a shorter nap mohair, and really resembled the “toddler feet” of Teddy Baby, another very popular Steiff design of the time. His face was detailed with glass pupil eyes that were highlighted with black airbrushing and a sweet open mouth lined in light pink felt. He was produced in 15 and 30 cm from 1938 through 1942. The picture on the left is this delightful, highly collectible Panda, taken at the Spielzeugmuseum Museum in Munich, Germany.

The success of this first early panda inspired Steiff to produce more pandas in the line as soon as the factory reopened for business after World War II. Steiff started making the pre-war Panda design again, but only in 30 cm through 1950. Then, in 1951, Steiff updated their original panda design slightly and started producing this bi-colored bear in 15, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm. The company used a suede-like grey rubber material in the place of felt on this panda’s paws and soles from 1956 onward. This newer panda pattern, also a collector’s favorite, was in the line until 1961. Moving forward, pandas made on and off again appearances in the Steiff catalog through the 1950′s, 1960′s, and 1970′s. From the early 1980′s onward, Steiff has almost continuously had a soft plush panda in the line.

So now it’s time to stir up a little panda-monium and look at some of the more interesting Steiff pandas from the early 1950′s onward.

No need to sleep on this one. Here we have Steiff’s Floppy Panda, one of Steiff’s delightful, classic “sleeping” style animals from the 1950′s and 60′s. This particularly soft panda is unjointed, made from black and white mohair and is in a prone, sleeping position. He has an open felt lined mouth and stitched black “sleeping” style eyes. Floppy Panda was produced in 17 and 28 cm and appeared in the line from 1954 to 1961.

What’s old is new again with this charming Steiff panda. This dapper 29 cm fellow is Steiff’s replica of its original debut panda bear from 1938. Like the pre-war original, he is five ways jointed and made from white and black mohair. He has an open felt lined mouth, pupil eyes, and flat felt lined feet. His nose is hand embroidered with black floss. Even his chest tag is a replica of the one that would have been worn by the original – a classic tag with an angular Teddy bear face on the bottom. This particular edition, which was produced in 29 and 35 cm in 1984 through 1985, is a United States exclusive.

Finallly, take a look at this Steiff panda and friend who just happen to have personal significance to Steiffgal. This dynamic duo none other than Foo, the Happy Panda, and Little Foo. Both are North American limited editions from 2004; Big Foo was produced in an edition of 1,500 pieces while Little Foo was produced in an edition size of 3,500. Big Foo is 25 cm, made from long wavy black and white mohair, five ways jointed, and very chubby. He has brown pupil eyes, a black mohair insert nose, and tan felt paw pads. Little Foo, the first ever Steiff panda key chain, is 10 cm and is modeled after Foo. He is five ways jointed and made from short black and white mohair. Little Foo has tiny black bead eyes, a hand-stitched nose and mouth, and a sturdy key loop on the top of his head.

So what’s so special about this perfect panda pair? Pandas are native to China, and one of the Chinese word for “luck” is “fu”. About the time that the Steiff team was naming these items and getting ready to introduce them to the world, one of Steiffgal’s good friends was in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. Steiffgal – who worked at Steiff at the time – gave these pandas the name “Foo”, a version of the word “Fu”, to honor this blessed Chinese arrival!

Steiffgal hopes this overview of Steiff pandas over the years has given you a new respect for this Steiff – and real life – “endangered species.”

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, rare or otherwise? Let’s talk! Click here to learn more.

REYNE GAUGE: My Favorite Things: Vintage

April 8th, 2010 by

In the words of Julie Andrews…”These are a few of my favorite things…”

I’m always looking at the latest and greatest. What new gadget is there to replace the one I bought 3 months ago; what colors and styles are in this season, what the hottest new accessories are on the market, etc. My eyes are often bigger than my pocketbook, so while I see plenty of things to fall in love with, my budget only allows me to acquire them one thing at a time (instead of everything at once!)

Not everyone can afford (or justify) a new $2500 purse each season, or a colorful Picasso for the new home. Does that mean we shouldn’t have said items?

Of course not!

In my search for the next best thing, each week I’ll talk about what all the fashion and style magazines are reporting as “must haves” and show YOU how to find something similar, for less.

This weeks “Favorite Things” finds…

FASHION:

Oversize bags are still in. What girl can travel without one?

Hilary Duff was seen carrying her Hermes Birkin Bag recently:

If you don’t have multiple thousands to shell out, have you considered buying a pre-owned Birkin?

There are numerous legitimate dealers of vintage and gentle used accessories that can have you hooked up and looking like a celeb overnight.

Visit our friends at “Strictly Pursonal” to see their great selection of pre-owned AUTHENTIC designer bags: http://www.strictlypursonal.com/

JEWELRY:

A common question asked on the red carpet is not only who are you wearing, but what jewelry designer are you wearing as well. Many names come to mind such as Yurman, Van Cleefs, Tiffany, Cartier, etc.

Have you considered rockin some vintage Chanel to make a bold, yet affordable statement?

Try visiting Very Vintage: http://www.veryvintage.com for an assortment of yummy things.

Finally, I’ve seen numerous fashion magazines lately with photos and advertisements of necklaces sporting vintage looking key’s hanging from them like the one seen on the neck of Kate Moss here:

Naomi Watts was seen wearing one in 18kt gold valued at $800 in the latest issue of InStyle.

Certainly you can hit your local antique shop and find numerous authentic Victorian keys for a few dollars and hit your local jewelry store for a great necklace to hang it on. If that’s too much trouble, why not visit Etsy.com – they offer numerous artists selling them for under $100.

I’d love to hear how you take the “old” and make it new again. Write me here!

Happy Hunting!

Reyne

“Reyne Gauge” is a monthly syndicated column written by Reyne Haines.  Purchase Reyne’s new book “Vintage Watches” by clicking Here

Book Review: Vintage Watches, By Reyne Haines

April 6th, 2010 by

Twentieth Century Decorative Arts expert, Reyne Haines, has penned another great book, Vintage Watches.  This book was designed with something for everyone.  Not merely a catalog of various styles and makers of fine watches, this work contains over a thousand high quality photographs that will appeal to the new collector, seasoned expert and everyone in between.

Beautifully designed, this hard cover, coffee table styled work contains information on how to collect, the  backstory of American and Swiss watchmakers, a dictionary of wristwatch lingo and more.  It gives you a real look into the design and artistry that went into creating these fine timepieces.

Additionally, the collectable watches in this book are quite varied in price scale.  Whether you collect watches, appreciate the history or simply enjoy the beauty, artistry and craftsmanship behind them, you will find Vintage Watches a very enjoyable book.

Michael Sausley

Purchase Reynes new book “Vintage Watches” by clicking Here

Spring Cleaning

April 1st, 2010 by

Spring just seems to be the time to freshen up a bit after a long, dark stretch of weather. Ever notice how the number of garage sales, the urge to clean your closets, and some people’s desire to tidy up the yard all seem to increase as the temperature does? This all got Steiffgal thinking about “spring cleaning” in relationship to Steiff collectibles. When should an item be professionally cleaned and/or restored? To learn more about these important topics, Steiffgal spoke with a experienced restorer, Martha Anderson, of Mar-Ke Mohair. Martha specializes in the repair and restoration of collectible and antique mohair teddies and toys.

Steiffgal: Martha, first of all, thanks for sharing your expertise with our great readers. Would you be so kind as to tell us a little about yourself, if you are a collector, and your experience with restoration.

Martha: I started collecting bears when I was in college. My collection grew slowly. When I met my husband, he encouraged my hobby and even bought me some Steiff pieces. Fast forward a few years, my mom was helping her friend clean out a family member’s attic in 1982. They found a bear folded into a hat box; he turned out to be a 24″ blank-button Steiff. He needed major restoration, and I wanted to do it myself. It took me two years but I was finally able to get the work done. That bear is Ted; he is still my pride and joy and is pictured on my website. He has the sweetest expression! My collection has grown to include many animals, not just bears.

(The before and after pictures above show how Martha’s restorative talents can bring a family’s Teddy bear literally back to life!)

Steiffgal: So clearly you understand the love and passion that collectors have for their Steiff treasures. Now, can you tell us what exactly is “restoration”?

Martha: Restoration is the process of bringing something back to its original condition. In the world of stuffed animals it is more a process of preservation. If you have a lovely mohair bear, but it is dirty and losing stuffing, it needs to be restored in order that it can continue to be enjoyed for years to come.

Steiffgal: What types of services can you provide to collectors with an item in need of restoration?

Martha: There are many things that I can do to bring a special item back as closely to its original condition as possible. These include cleaning; paw pad repair or recovering (Steiff felt paw pads and hands often need this treatment); restuffing part of, or the entire item; and the repair or replacement of noses, eyes, mouths, ears, joints, and even squeaker and growlers. Sometimes, I need to make entirely new body parts for a beloved collectible, usually due to pet damage.

(The before and after pictures above show how Martha cleaned and repaired a terrible facial gash on a beautiful Steiff Teddy bear.)

Steiffgal: Wow, I didn’t realize the spectrum of repair work that is possible. Given all those options, when would you recommend restoring something?

Martha: If a toy’s condition can be improved to help it last longer, then I feel it should be restored. My biggest recommendation is cleaning. Some collectors feel that if their toy looks dirty, it looks old and that they like that look. However, would you let your friends track sand all over your favorite Oriental rug? Probably not; you would want to get the dirt out of the fibers to help the rug last. Mohair is a natural fiber that is long lasting, as long as it is clean and not exposed to bugs and direct sunlight. It is important to note that true restoration does not do anything that would in any way diminish the special personality of a toy.

(The before [on the left] and after [on the right] pictures above show how Martha pieced back together and restored a Steiff reclining lion that was “attacked” by a family pet.)

Steiffgal: Yes, that is a great point for us all to understand about restoration. So, what cannot be “fixed” via restoration?

Martha: Toys that are dry-rotted cannot be fully restored. Though I have worked on some severely dry toys, it usually by special request by the owner and often costs quite a bit more than the toy is worth.

Once in awhile, I am asked to do work on an item concerning its Steiff “button in ear.” I personally cannot put new – or old – Steiff buttons back into toys where the original is missing. Steiff buttons are a trademark of that company and they do not offer replacements. I have had people contact me to ask me to install old Steiff buttons that they have removed from old worn toys into a different toy. I will not do this, as I feel it is not ethical.

Also, although reweaving is possible, I personally do not do it. This process of putting new fur (mohair) into the fabric backing is a tedious job and my carpal tunnel hand condition will not allow me to do it. There are artists that perform this service, but it is upwards of $325 per square inch.

Steiffgal: Here’s a question I am certain many readers are thinking about now… does restoration change the value or resale value of an item?

Martha: This is a difficult question! There will always be collectors that only want the worn and dirty toys, and those that want their toys clean and repaired. I can only go by what my customers tell me. I have been told that restored toys bring more money than those that are not, as a clean and stabilized toy will last much longer than one that is not.

Steiffgal: I am sure that you have wonderful stories about the power of restoration. Can you share one that is particularly meaningful with us?

Martha: Yes, of course. Here’s one that really touched my heart. A man contacted me about restoring his mother’s beloved toy. The bear was dry, faded, and had been attacked by the family dog. The mother has recently moved to a nursing home and the son felt it would be nice for her to have her bear with her in her new surroundings. I immediately started to work on the bear, but the mom passed away before I could finish the project. The son was quite moved when the bear returned, and was so happy to have this “piece of his mom” to cherish for years to come. Some family members had tried to throw the bear away!

Steiffgal: Wow, and you were able to contribute to her memory with the gift of restoration. What a wonderful deed! Martha, the readers and I thank you for your time!

Steiffgal hopes that this interview with Martha has given you a clean slate on your view on restoration!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, regardless of its condition? Let’s talk! Click here to learn more.

Steiff Monkey Business with SteiffGal

April 1st, 2010 by

Hey Steiff fans, are you ready to circle the track a few times with a great Steiff find? If so, fasten your seat belts as we go into fifth gear over this monkey on the go. A reader from Brussels, Belgium has a question about his unusual vintage Steiff primate on wheels. Julius writes:

“Hi there Steiff Gal:

Attached please find some pictures of my odd Steiff monkey. It’s a Coco but with a fez hat; he is mounted on wheels. The tag and button are there and the reference is 1325ex.

Coco is 9’’ tall on his own and 13″ if you count the wheels; he is 7.5 ” long nose to backside. He is obviously made from mohair, the hat is moth eaten felt, and the wheels are wooden.

I have tried to find comparable Steiff items online or in reference guides but have been singularly unsuccessful. Are you familiar with this item and could you tell me more about it? Is it more common than I think?

Kind regards, Julius”

Well, Steiffgal is certainly “loco” over this Coco! This is a great item, a little more unusual than most, but still noted in the Steiff references. What you have here is what Steiff calls Pavian Coco or Baboon Coco. Overall, your Coco is 25 cm, made from grey and white mohair, is standing, and is wearing a red felt fez. Your version has eccentric, or asymmetric rolling wheels. (The “ex” in a product’s article number is Steiff’s way of saying the item is positioned on these playful rollers.) Coco on wheels was made overall from 1951 – 1961. He was produced in two versions: on regular wheels (1959 through 1961) and on eccentric wheels (1951 through 1957).

As for the fez, that is kind of interesting that Steiff would put it on this Coco. Steiffgal can think of two reasons why that might be the case:

First is the historical one. Steiff has a long-standing tradition of putting hats on monkeys. At the beginning of last century, Steiff introduced its now beloved “Record Peter”, the sweet pull toy of a little seated monkey on four wheels. As early as 1913, Steiff made a felt version of the Record Peter monkey wearing a red felt suit and fez. Then in 1929, Steiff introduced another pull toy monkey on wheels except that he was standing, wearing a red fez, and on eccentric wheels. A picture of this 1929 monkey is here on the left for comparison; the photo is from Gunther Pfeiffer’s 1892 -1943 Steiff Sortiment reference book.

Second is the “themed” one. Steiff also made a Coco baboon as a little bellhop, in a red outfit with a fez. This item was 28 cm and was a standing Coco dressed doll; he was called Pupp-Coco or Cocoli. This item is considered a real prize for collectors. Cocoli was made from 1952 through 1957, the same basic time frame as Julius’ Coco on wheels. Steiffgal thinks that at the time, these baboons all got this little red fez as an accessory to keep their “look and feel” consistent. The hat is actually quite darling, don’t you think? And really highlights his beautiful green and black pupil eyes. Cocoli is pictured here on the left.

As for value and collectivity, Coco on wheels is certainly a top banana. As always, Steiffgal is not a formal appraiser and strongly believes that something is worth what someone else would actually pay for it. Steiffgal has seen this Coco on wheels in a book but never actually in person, for sale, or at auction. That all being said, Steiffgal would guestimate that he would be valued in the $250-400 range, given how little he comes on the market and that the collector’s world seems finally to be coming back to life after a very slow 18 months.

Steiffgal hopes this little outing with this “Coco on the go” has been a pure joy ride for you!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, mobile or otherwise? Let’s talk! Click here

Continue Reading…

This vintage dairy cabinet really rises to the top!

April 1st, 2010 by

You just never know what you will come across during an antiquing adventure, and this find really rises to the top! I must say I felt like a “Dairy Queen” when I spotted this vintage dairy cabinet while walking the busy aisles of the recent Boston Antiques and Design Show and Sale. (If you missed that show, no need to cry over spilled milk… the next big event takes place April 24th and 25th at the Concord Armory in Concord MA. Click here for details!) Without further delay, let’s take a closer look at this cabinet and the delicious history behind it.

What we have here is an original 19th century dairy cabinet from Bridport, a small market town located in the south of England in Dorset County. This remarkable piece is made from solid wood and glass and measures is 42 inches wide by 18 inches deep by 83 inches high. The unit has five drawers and a large front display area protected by window doors. It has wonderful period trim and detailing.  All the hardware and decorations are original. The cabinet was used to hold and store dairy products in a public marketplace; the painting on the windows and drawers advertised all the items for sale.
It is very interesting to see what J&P Whittle, owners of the West End Dairies, had for sale in the late 1800′s. Some items, like milk, butter, margarine, and chicken eggs, are quite familiar to most Americans. Others, like duck eggs, goose eggs, and various types of creams seem truly from a different time and place. The prices are listed in “pence”; there are 100 pence per pound. For reference, most “typical” jobs for men paid roughly between 60 and 100 pounds per year in 1891.
The one item listed on the case that really caught my eye was “Dorset Blue” Stilton cheese. Stilton cheese is a traditional dairy product made from cow’s milk; it tends to be semi-soft, crumbly, and has a strong odor to it. Its distinctive blue veins are created by piercing the outer layer of the cheese with stainless steel needles to add air during the ripening process. Stilton cheese in England was, and remains, a very big deal. This cheese was discovered and became popular in England in the mid 1700′s. Today, it is one of only seventeen British products given the status of “protected designation of origin” by the European Commission.  And what does that mean? Since 1996, only cheeses produced in a specific way in three central English counties may be called “Stilton.” Apparently, over 100 years ago West End Dairies had their very own take on Stilton cheese and thus named their product after their own county. Legally, they would not be able to do so today.
I would like to thank Kim Kassner of The Brewster Shop in Orleans, Massachusetts for whetting all our appetites over this really special vintage dairy case.

What is your very favorite antiquing, vintage, or design find? Let’s talk! Click here to learn more.

Learn more about New England Antique Shows and their upcoming events by clicking here!