Collectibles

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

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A Cure For The Arts and Crafts Blues

March 22nd, 2010 by
I can’t say I was feeling blue on a recent antiquing adventure at the Boston Antiques and Design Show and Sale, but one look at three remarkable blue and white delft tiles quickly changed that!

Before I share the story of these delightful delfts and what makes them so special, let’s take a brief look at the history of ceramic tiles. Functional and decorative tiles have been around since around 4000 BC; the oldest known tiles were discovered in Egypt. Over the centuries, they were used extensively to decorate places of religious worship and later the homes and businesses of affluent individuals. Fast forward to 1584; expert potters from the Dutch city of Delft begin creating the area’s now iconic blue and white ceramics that are now known all over the world. The designs behind these blue and white classics were in part based on imported Chinese porcelain of the 17th century. The city of Delft was a homeport of the Dutch East India Company, so these early potters clearly had a world of inspiration right in their own backyards.  (This picture here on the left shows a delightful variety of colorful American and European tiles from the mid 1600′s through the 1930′s.)
Having a personal passion for all things from the arts and crafts movement (1870 – 1920), I was intrigued to learn that these tiles were not only from that amazing design period, but were actually designed by William Morris himself! William Morris was the founder of the arts and crafts era, a design and philosophical movement which started as a backlash to the industrial mechanized production of goods which separated craftsman from craft.  Morris and his colleagues advocated for a return to all things simple and handmade to make life more authentic. This movement started in England and quickly spread throughout Europe and then to the United States.  (This picture is a close up of the single William Morris blue and white hand painted delft tile I found on my adventure.)
These remarkable tiles, perfect examples of the artisan work of the arts and crafts movement, were created in 1870 in Morris’ own “scroll” pattern. They were manufactured by hand for him by three different Dutch factories.  They are tin glazed, meaning they are finished with a glaze made by adding tin to a lead glaze, which when fired becomes an opaque white.  These tiles were originally designed to decorate Morris’ own “arts and crafts” style home in Bexleyheath, London, known as The Red House.   In addition to tiles, Morris and his group of like minded artistic friends collaboratively produced arts and crafts style wallpaper, fabric, rugs, furniture, and other decorative objects.  (This picture is of two William Morris blue and white hand painted delft tiles in a wooden frame that I found on my adventure.)
Although William Morris died in 1896, his influence on style, design, and architecture remains important more than 100 years after his passing.

I would like to thank Wendy Harvey and Sandy Fowler, owners of Antique Articles of Dunstable, Massachusetts for sharing these breathtaking arts and crafts tiles with me. Antique Articles, in business for over 20 years, specializes in tiles made during the English arts and crafts era through the American arts and crafts era.  In addition to individual tiles they have panels, tables, fireplace surrounds, and art tiles.
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!

SPORTS COLLECTING WITH JEFF FIGLER

March 2nd, 2010 by

In this initial blog, I will first introduce myself, and then discuss a little about the state of the collectibles industry. In addition, I do encourage anyone to keep in contact with me at: colllectingwithjeff@sbcglobal.net.

Whenever I am asked about how and when I got started collecting sports memorabilia, I quickly respond by saying that I have been doing so all my life. True story. The fact is that my Mother never threw away my baseball cards. My Mother, who is ninety years old and still going strong, is quick to say that she knew that they would be valuable one day. I don’t mind giving her the credit. Many, many people wish that their mothers had the same “insight”. My collection, and subsequently my museum, started with those cards, as well as from two other sets of circumstances.

First, having been born and raised in St. Louis, my Father was friends with Bob Pettit, the St. Louis Hawks basketball player, and one of the all-time NBA greats. Pettit gave me some items which are now part of my collection. Second, my museum, which consists of not only sports memorabilia, but presidential/historical, and pop culture memorabilia, was helped by the fact that my cousin Marshall Leib was a founding member of the music group The Teddy Bears (“To Know Him Is To Love Him”), and I have some items from that group. And oh, by the way, another of the founding members was Phil Spector.

My column on sports collecting is carried by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In addition, I write for several publications on sports collecting. I am also a syndicated talk host on the Sports Byline Radio Network, and can be heard every weekday on nearly 700 stations worldwide. In addition, I have the pleasure of giving presentations aboard cruise ships and groups on sports collecting.

Whew! So what is the state of the sports collectibles industry? Strong. Just to give one example, the baseball that Yankee Alex Rodriguez hit for his 500th homerun was recently auctioned for $103,000. Sure, Tiger Woods’ memorabilia has declined in value, but overall the state of the industry is strong.

I welcome any readers to stay in contact with me. I will also be glad to give you my opinion as to the value of an item you may have.

Are Boxes Worth the Space? – by Tammy Kahn Fennell

January 18th, 2010 by

Should I keep my box?

I get asked this question over and over again.

“Tammy, I have a huge collection of figurines and the boxes are taking over my house…. Do I REALLY need them?”

The answer is, it depends.

A deal with a lot of Hummel Figurines and I have to be honest, the box matters little. If it adds 5% to the final sale price I think that’s being generous, and often it’s a recipe for disaster as people keep them in their boxes when transporting them, and inevitably they break. Plus, these figurines are meant to be enjoyed!  You don’t want them to be in your curio cabinet, for all to see and admire! More important than the box is proper care. Make sure you don’t store your figurines in direct sunlight, keep them climate controlled, keep them clean and out of reach of small children. This is what really matters to collectors- How the piece looks.  The box is really more of an afterthought and in the secondary market it’s really expected to not have all the original boxes (especially in older pieces).

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Collecting Vintage Barware – Reyne Haines

December 4th, 2009 by

Dual-Fuel-Cocktail-ShakerTo many, “shaken, not stirred” summons memories of Sean Connery, European models and exotic beaches. To collectors of antique barware, it means a whole lot more.
Vintage barware is a hot collecting field. Collectors comb antique shops and flea markets looking high and low for the next piece to add to their collection. Some enthusiasts covet certain makers, while others search for certain designs. Barware also comes in a variety of mediums such as chrome, silver, glass, plastic—and even wood. With such a broad array of merchandise to collect, it offers price points to fit any budget.

Cocktail hour has been a favorite pastime for many years—long before HBO’s Sex and the City made the Cosmopolitan chic, again. Martinis first came into fashion in the 1920s, and though the shaken martini is the signature of 007, the martini shaker was in fact invented in America (and perhaps the martini, too). Shakers not only came in numerous mediums, but they also began to take fanciful shapes beyond the standard shaker concept. Before long, cocktail shakers appeared in the form of bowling pins, penguins, airplanes, skyscrapers and other icons from the era.

Of course, you can’t have shakers without accoutrements: swizzle sticks, corkscrews, cocktail trays, ice buckets, martini glasses…

There are national collectors clubs for bar ware enthusiasts, online discussion groups and dealers that specialize in nothing else. You can find examples from years-gone-by in private collections, and also in important museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. There are books dedicated to the subject and auction houses offering some of the rarest pieces.

Should you decide this collectible is for you, a few things to consider:

Look for mint condition pieces only. If the chrome has tarnished, leave it behind. Don’t accept chipped plastic handles or knobs… and certainly walk past cracked glassware.

If a piece is missing a lid, a knob, or a partner piece, you should wait for a complete set. Finding the missing part is often hopeless.

These items are usually not dishwasher or microwave safe. Washing by hand and towel drying is the best way to maintain your vintage barware.

There are numerous reference books on collecting barware at our local bookstore. I highly suggest buying one. This will give you an idea of who made it and when—and if there are reproductions that can fool you, and how to spot them. Most books come with price guides to give you an idea of what to pay.

Collectible barware also makes a great gift for that special someone in your life, or a soon-to-be bride and groom. Not only do they make great conversation pieces, but they also offer function.

Cheers!