the smart collector

Details loom large for Steiff bear hunters

2014-07-20T00:00:00Z Details loom large for Steiff bear huntersBy Danielle Arnet The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star
July 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Q: I’ve tried to ID my teddy bear, but no luck. I have been told he’s a Steiff bear, but I have not found a button on him. How can I have my bear appraised and identified?

A: The bear seen in an image sent is light-haired with fluffy fur and pad feet. We can’t see the arm ends, but they may be padded as well. We have no info on size. A bow at the neck is a replacement.

To clue readers, Margarete Steiff was a German dressmaker whose first bear in 1884 stood on all fours. He, along with other Steiff animals, sold at local fairs.

Toy lore has it that in 1903, Steiff exhibited the first jointed bear — her development — at a toy fair. When President “Teddy” Roosevelt could not ID the breed, the bears were dubbed “Teddy’s Bears.” The term became generic: Steiff was and is one maker.

Early Steiff bears are most valuable. Most pre-WW I bears have black button eyes. Glass eyes came later. Up to 1940, early teddy bears, Steiff included, are less cute and more natural looking, with long, curved arms and legs. Front paws are spoonlike.

The button our reader refers to is a Steiff mark, typically punched into an ear. The first Steiff buttons in 1904 had an elephant. Later versions had variants of the company name.

Parents, thinking the buttons were dangerous and a choking hazard, often removed them. The lack of a button doesn’t eliminate the possibility that this is a Steiff bear.

Because the image is not sharp, we can’t make out the fabric on the pad feet. It could be felt. One pad is written on. We also can’t distinguish composition of the eyes and nose. This nose could be plastic or leather.

When evaluating or IDing a bear, a bewildering number of fine points matter. For example, because of the way this bear is placed in the image, we can’t tell if it has an open or closed mouth. We can see that a line from the nose to chin is black, but we can’t make out if it’s stitched or rigid.

To our eye, the bear is post-1950s, and might be from the Steiff line called Zotty bears. Their features include open mouths with felt inside, short arms and a patch of peach-color mohair on the chest. Again, details are hard to make out.

If this bear is Zotty, know that several months ago a 10½-inch version with no tag sold on eBay for $30. In 2011, a 13¾-inch Zotty with button brought $119.

A bear specialist can make a definitive call for the reader. Is it important to do so? If intent is to sell, it pays to take it to a bear hospital or seller for evaluation, or get a formal appraisal from a credentialed appraiser listed below.

If the bear is a loved object and identification is for simple curiosity, personal research, online and at a library, may do the job.

FYI: To find a professional appraiser in your area, key: appraisersassoc.org (Appraisers Association; isa-appraisers.org (International Society of Appraisers); or appraisers.org (American Society of Appraisers).

Q: I have a painting by Lev Felixovich Lagorio dated 1879 that I want to sell. Please advise.

A: First, let’s tell readers that the artist was Russian (1827-1905), produced oil on canvas and watercolor works, and specialized in seascapes.

In 2009, an oil on canvas showing Cossacks crossing a river sold in England at auction for $248,272. It is signed in Cyrillic, as is the one seen in an image. A seascape with a mill by moonlight attributed to the same year failed to sell.

I recommend that this reader shop his art to major auction houses throughout the U.S.

A caveat: The artist has been reproduced. An auction specialist can tell you if it is authentic.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net

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