Worthologist for Steiff bears
Rebekah is a third generation Steiff collector. Her German-born grandmother had a love for the brand over four decades ago, and Rebekah is the proud steward of many of her Grandmother’s childhood Steiff treasures.
Rebekah’s passion became her vocation for several years when she had the pleasure of working for the US division of Margarete Steiff GmbH. Rebekah has a collection of 600 vintage Steiff treasures in her personal collection.
She is a regular contributor to the publications Teddy Bear and Friends and the global Steiff Club Magazine, where she writes about vintage Steiff. Rebekah is also the administrator on the Steiff Facebook fan page, the National Steiff Examiner at Examiner.com and a regular contributor to Collectors Weekly.
Her blog, My Steiff Life www.mysteifflife.blogspot.com is updated weekly and receives thousands of visits monthly from worldwide enthusiasts.
Q & A with Rebekah Kaufman
How do you get into Steiff?
Well, I’m a third generation collector. My Grandmother was German and she collected her whole life, which was something that she passed on to me. In the late 1930’s she was at a conference in Berlin and won a large Steiff bear in a draw. She carried this with her throughout her life, and it is now the centerpiece of my own collection. Even if she hadn’t introduced me to Steiff I think I would have found it. I have always been drawn to it. I remember being in FAO Schwartz at about 4 or 5 and being pulled towards the Steiff counter.
What is your favorite piece in your collection?
This is a hard question because each piece has its own story. Obviously my Grandmother’s bear is important to me. I also love the pieces I got at an auction in Christie’s in 2010, where I bought a few animal dolls. These represent a lovely memory for me because I was surrounded by Steiff lovers and was surrounded by new Steiff friends when I bought them. The 1905 bear with all the original tags is also special to me. I bought it from a man who found it in a crate he had bought, without knowing what was in it. I love my felt dolls from 1912 because they were so well maintained and loved before I got them. There are just so many.
Do you collect pieces that are not made by Steiff?
There were a few occasions where Steiff made products that were replicated by other companies. I sometimes buy these pieces for research purposes. This is really out of interest and for academic reasons more than anything else.
What advice would you give to a novice collector?
I would tell them to talk to other collectors, and to ask about why they love collecting Steiff. Spotting a Steiff is easy if you know what to look for, as they are very infrequently copied or faked well, especially items from the 1950′s onward. I would advise them to start with bears from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, as they are very distinct. I would also tell them not to collect for re-sale value. They need to focus your time on the area and learn everything about Steiff. Information around auctions, especially auction manuals, websites and books on Steiff are very helpful. It is important to figure out what you love and collect from there.
What is your favorite area of Steiff?
There are different areas that I love for different reasons. Teddys from 1905-10 have a certain history and legacy. Seiff dogs from the 1920’s to the 1950’s were very innovative. The felt dolls are also very distinctive in terms of construction and quality. Dolls clothes used to be so much more important and detailed than they are now. It’s not possible to make things like these anymore because of the cost and time involved. The materials just aren’t there. They really took as many hours to make a costume for one of these dolls as it would have for a human.
My favorite part of collecting is speaking to other collectors. I have about 2-3 collectors a month who come and see my collection. This usually happens after I meet people at a convention or something. Today, people aren’t really collecting like they used to. These days people collect software and music. It’s a generational thing. Although I do meet collectors in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s they are few and far between. However, I really enjoy connecting with them and hearing their stories and sharing my own.
If you would like to reach out to Rebekah please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org