At sixteen inches (40.5 centimeters) high, this makes him the taller brother of Alfonzo, who is thirteen inches high. It has been suggested by Steiff that Alfonzo, Elliot (the blue Steiff sold by Christie’s in 1993) and presumably this bear, were part of a sample of twenty-four sent to Harrods in London in 1908.
So here we are, one of the missing twenty-two and only the second red Steiff to have ever been found. This makes three surviving examples from the original group. Alfonzo, the only other known red Steiff, who everyone knows; was sold by Christie’s in 1989 for £12,100. He is perhaps the most famous antique Teddy Bear in the world and resides at Teddy Bears of Witney owned by Ian Pout. Elliot, a blue Steiff sold for £49,500 (again by Christie’s in 1993) went to the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, and now lives in Canada amongst one of the finest bear collections in the world.
Where Alfonzo has the most amazing provenance, this red chap is a little more of a mystery. He was given to the owner when she was a little girl of 4 in 1978. There is a hint of a romantic past; her aunt’s friend was called Delphene, who is believed to have had Romany Gypsy roots. She lived in a static caravan behind the current owner’s grandmother’s pub.
As a small girl the owner remember visiting the caravan and it was like an Aladdin’s cave, full of antiques and collectables. The owner recalls, “Delphene had long black hair, and her place used to make me think a fortune tellers tent! In a chest on the floor I found this red Teddy and fell in love with him completely; every time I visited I went straight to the chest. I thought he had this adorable face; he had a smile in his eyes and mouth. He was completely bald, but I didn’t notice this, I thought he was utterly beautiful bald. His belly would rattle (this is his inoperative growler) and I used to think he had sweets inside.”
After a number of visits, the current owner plucked up courage and asked if she could keep him. After a slight hesitance Delphene said yes and he soon became a favourite toy. She took him everywhere and slept with him. “He was definitely the first toy I really loved and who seemed so important to me, like he was a little person and my friend.” I think this sums up the appeal of Steiff bear’s faces; they really draw you to the bear.