Walt Disney's Magic Touches All of Us

Posts tagged ‘Disney collectibles’

My Connection to Walt Disney Through his Signature

1939 child's easel

1939 Falcon Toy from my collection

As I wrote about in my post Hooked on Collecting, collecting has been part of my life for a long time.  After years of collecting antique magic books and ephemera, I changed gears and began my collection of Disneyana.

Because my blog is about my connection to Walt Disney, I’ve often written about him as a mentor as well as a motivator for my creative work in this blog, my playwriting, and the current novel I’m working on.

I was born in 1960 and by the time I was old enough to understand who Walt Disney, the man, was, he was already gone. Over the years I have come to understand that while Walt quickly gave up drawing, and never directed a single live action film, his creative contributions were no less important to his Company’s success. But more about that later.

The closest I can come now to “meeting” Walt is to have something that he had in his hands. Objects, unless they are one of a kind, like his Oscars and other awards, are nearly impossible to find on the open markets, and, thankfully, are available for everyone to see in the Disney Family Museum and glimpses into the Disney Archives.

 

So, the what’s left are items that he signed.

Anyone who’s done research on Disney signed items has found, sometimes the hard way, that the history of Walt’s signature is very complicated, making authentication difficult — even for experts. Aside from his actual signature, there are at least four different Disney Company sanctioned signatures.

There are ones done by his secretaries. I found this on Big Cartoon News:

walt_secretarial

There are pieces signed by Disney artists Hank Porter and Bob Moore (from the same web site):

 

There are fan cards done by many different Disney artists like this 1930s version from my collection:

Donald Duck Fan card

Finally, there’s the Disney corporate logo of Walt’s signature:

disney corporte logo

I was fortunate to have purchased most of my Disney signatures back in the 70’s and 80’s, when you might find them priced in the hundreds of dollars. If you’re in the market today, you’ll probably find many autographed pieces over $1,000. And, if you come across an autograph that relates to a significant event or time period in Walt’s life, the prices will go up dramatically. I have one of those pieces in my collection from early in Walt’s career. I promise to share it in another post.

I found these two items on Nate D. Sanders auction website and are offered for price representation purposes only. This signed, first edition book sold in 2015 for about $15,000.

disney signed first edition

This signed letter sold for about $1,300

disney signed letter about machine

To insure that the signatures in my collection were authentic, I turned to an expert, Phil Sears. For 25 years Sears has been the world’s only autograph dealer specializing in Walt Disney autographed items.  He has consulted for virtually all of the world’s major auction and authenticating firms including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and many more. I have taken advantage of Mr. Sears’ free, preliminary authentication opinion to at least be somewhat assured of the signature’s authenticity.

This classic posed photo is from the 1940s. Walt may be holding a storyboard from Snow White, which premiered only a few years earlier.

Disney signed portrait

Photo signed circa 1940

This one from the 1940s was probably signed on a page taken from a book.

Disney signed Bambi card

This autograph has been professionally framed with a period picture of Walt. It’s an example of his signature in the 1930s.

Disney picture with signature

This letter, unfortunately in poor condition and, as yet, not authenticated, was signed from Walt and Mickey Mouse.

Disney signed letter

I find this one interesting. First, it is signed Walter E. Disney. Second, since the date is February 2nd 1935 and it’s made out to Bell and Howell, it’s possible that this was related to the filming of Snow White.

Disney check

My love of books makes this one a favorite of mine. It’s a 1953 first edition published by Simon and Schuster.

Lady & the Tramp book

Why have Walt’s signatures and autographs gone up in value? First, because many of his signatures were done by artists or secretaries, there are many inauthentic ones out there. Many have even been sold in error by reputable companies. Second, Walt’s signature changed over time. So, what looks like a scribbled forgery on the book above, is actually real and verifiable based on the date it was signed. But it might have been discarded by someone uninformed.

disney and mickey on disneyland tv

Walt & Mickey on Disneyland TV Show

Finally, I don’t think he become the publicly identifiable figure of “Uncle” Walt, until he was at least a year into the Disneyland TV series which premiered in 1954. Only then did he become really known to the millions who tuned in every week until his death in 1966. So, there was only about a decade where someone as famous as Walt would have been hounded for autographs, other than ones he might have done on a thank you note or a letter, contract, etc. Finally, his life was cut short, so he didn’t enjoy a slowdown typical of the end of famous people’s lives where he might have had down time to meet and sign things for fans.

Because Walt actually handled these items, at least to sign them, they hold special places for me in the collection. As I said earlier, Walt never did all that much drawing for the animated films he produced. In the future, I’d love to add at least one piece that includes a Disney character drawn by Walt.

I alluded to a piece in my collection from early in Walt’s career that I will happily share at a later date. It has a drawing, but not of a character from the well known Disney canon. As they used to say in the newspaper biz, “Watch this space for future developments”.

disney signing at disneyland

Advertisements

Keeping Disney Time

I’ve written in the past about collecting Disneyana (See Hooked on Collecting). One of the items, I have gravitated to are timepieces. In the book “The Mickey Mouse Watch, From the Beginning of Time” by Robert Heide & John Gilmen, they relate that Tim Luke, who was working then as the head of collectibles at Christie’s, called the Mickey Mouse timepieces pivotal and central to the theme of Disneyana collecting.

I don’t wear any jewelry regularly, other than my wedding band. But, wearing a Disney watch seems like a way to make a statement without being flashy and it can be a great conversation starter. I have some very nice non-Disney watches that I wear regularly. But I also have some Disney watches that I find myself wearing often. All the items in the post are from my collection.

IMG_4230

LtoR: SII Marketing; WDW original artwork (they used to sell these at Uptown Jewelers on Main St); Seiko; early D23 gift; Kodak, WDW 25th Anniversary; WDW SE Collector’s Series

I also have collected some very early Disney watches which I don’t wear. Watches were not the first item Disney granted merchandising rights for. That goes to a simple pad of paper in 1929, shortly after the release of Steamboat Willie. Watches didn’t appear until 1933 and were first produced by the Waterbury Clock Company under the Ingersoll label . The first Mickey wristwatches were sold for $3.75.

IMG_4231

Because the watches proved to be so popular, (Macy’s in NYC sold 11,000 of them in one day and they outsold the World’s Fair commemorative 3-1 in 1939). Ingersoll sold more than 2.5 million watches between 1933 and 1935. A Mickey watch was sealed in the NY World’s Fair time capsule in 1939. The watch I own is from 1934, identifiabke by the addition of “Made in the USA”, added to discourage counterfeiters.

Ingersoll also produced a pocket watch version in 1933. The original box was red like the wristwatch. The box I have is from a later model.

IMG_4229

Once the watches popularity was established, Ingersoll added a deluxe version manufactured from 1937-1942. I haven’t been able to determine the exact year my watch is from.

IMG_4232

In 1933 Disney released the Silly Symphony cartoon Three Little Pigs, which became an enormous success. Not only was the short Popular, with audiences coming to the theaters to see the Pigs, not necessarily the main features. The song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” sold records, sheet music and was easily on everyone’s lips. The watches sold by the thousands. The wolf’s eyes shift back and forth on the pocket watch version. A larger table alarm clock was produced in 1934 and sold for $1.39.

My collection moves ahead to the  what I believe is the 1950s with these two very different alarm clock styles from Bradley. One is a simple windup alarm clock. The other is more in the old whimsical Disney style with 2 bells.


This “Official Mouseketeer” watch is probably from the 1970s revival of the “New Mickey Mouse Club”.

IMG_3609

These two mantel clocks from the 1980s. One is a Mickey Mouse 60th Anniversary. The other plays 6 melodies. both are by Seiko.

These are some more recent pieces I bought, because I liked the way they looked and they were limited editions.

Finally, here’s a pendulum style clock that I’ve been unable to track down any information about. Could be someone’s hand made piece. There’s no markings on it and the character image is very well done.

IMG_3331

Starting with the Ingersoll watches, Disney timepieces were part of the overall merchandising genius of Herman “Kay” Kamen, the man Walt hired to manage character licensing. Ever watchful of the Disney brand, every licensed item had to be approved for quality by the Disney Company. By the time Snow White opened a complete merchandising campaign was ready to go on day one. It’s no secret that the licensing fees have always been a significant part of Disney company revenues. Thousands of watches and clocks have been produced over the years. So, a collector should be able to find something of interest with a price tag to match the budget.

Because there were and continue to be many different Disney character timepieces produced, it’s often hard to track down specific information, particularly on some of the older pieces. Part of the fun, is the detective work that’s required to specifically identify dates and manufacturers for any Disneyana item. If anyone has reliable information about the pieces I’ve included here, please let me know through a comment or email. Those of you who are hooked on collecting, like I am, happy hunting!

 

Hooked on Collecting

I’ve always liked to collect things. I’m not talking about hoarding. I’m talking about interest and passion for a subject or type of item. There are many kinds of collectors. Some people collect memories and stories that they use to gather people around them. Some collect people, friends to make their lives socially active. Others are drawn to a subject or person that they want to feel closer to.

Over the years I’ve collected, baseball cards, comic books, books on magic, magic ephemera and oh, yes, trivia. I seem to collect trivia like the underside of a bed collects dust bunnies. It has, however, helped me at the Disney Trivia contests I go to. Many sports collectors stick with a team or players that they admire or root for. As a teen I collected antique magic books. when I was an amateur magician.

houdini

Houdini signed letter and period photo from my collection

I was very drawn to the master showmanship of Harry Houdini and wanted to know more about him. My interest in magic waned after college, as my attention was focused on my career, then my marriage and then my kids. As our kids got a bit older, trips to Disney World increased in frequency and I wanted to know more about the man who had created great movies and could envision and realize a place people could go to escape into a world of fantasy.

Walt’s drive, passion and success was inspiring. I’d always been a fan of Disney movies. The first movie I ever saw was The Sword in the Stone. In my collection I have some small

Jungle Book toys that connect me with my childhood. And since my mother was a Disneyana collector when I was young, I can look at certain things, like a Snow White radio or a Mickey Mouse sled and I am taken back to the house I grew up in. But it it’s Walt who I wanted to know more about. And, since I’m not able to meet him, the closest I am able to get are things with which he was connected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Given the number of projects in which Walt was involved, it always amazes me that he even had time for anything but work and family. But he did. And his “collection”, his passion, was for trains and railroads. It seems he may have developed a connection when he was a boy and his family lived in Marcelinne Misourri, which I have learned was a town created by the Aticheson, Topeka & the Santa Fe R00_steam_up_at_studio_soundstage_eddie_sargeant_rogger_broggie_and_walt_050327_bennettailroad, which went from Chicago to Kansas City. When he was older, he not only visited railyards, but built a small gauge railroad on his property that he called the Carolwood-Pacific. Walt himself, with help from his staff and other rail enthusiasts like animator Ward Kimball, built engines that they would ride on track laid out on a soundstage. Later Walt would lay out a larger small gauge railroad he called the Carolwood-Pacific, and take friends on rides. His

carolwood-pacific

Walt running the Carolwood-Pacific in his “backyard”

passion for railroads can be seen in the railroads that circle every Disney park in the world (except for the new Shanghai park). The Disney railroad was one of the premier attractions when Disneyland opened. Walt’s influence and interest in railroads is can still be felt in the railroads that are part of every Disney theme park.

 

walt-disney-train-engineer

Walt at Disneyland Opening Day

Since I was not alive for, for the premiers of the early Disney animated films, or the opening of Disneyland, I like being able to touch things that, not only, Walt might have had on his desk or passed at the Studio, but also things that the animators, Imagineers and other creative people around Walt would have created or touched. The trouble is, Walt was an early adopter of merchandising for his films. As a result, there are thousands of early Disney related items to collect

Some Disneyana collectors focus on a character, movie or type of collectible, like animation cels. I’m not sure I’ve hit on a single theme, so my collection is eclectic. But, primarily I’m drawn to things that would have been produced during Walt’s lifetime.

Some collectors buy things as an investment. While some of the items in my collection are valuable, their value to me is not in what I could get for it if I sell it. I can’t speak for all collectors, but when I buy, or find, a Disney item, it’s as if I found buried treasure. I remember as a teen, prowling old bookstores for out of print magic books. Finding one on a dusty shelf would make my heart race.

I find auctions are very exciting. I go through the catalog of items to be auctioned like a kid in a candy store. Then there’s the anticipation as the item I am interested in gets closer to being put on the block. Then there’s the competition, bidding against other buyers and the excitement as the bids go up and I make quick “command” decisions about how much more to bid or whether I should let the item go. I still remember the first auction I went to in New York City. I think I was about 13. It was a large catalog of magic items. I got my numbered paddle and sat in the room and watched as the items were auctioned off. I was surprised at how fast things went. It wasn’t as if the auctioneer was giving people a lot of time to think about their bids. Finally, after a couple of hours, the item I wanted to bid on, I think it was a Harry Houdini poster, came up. The auctioneer started the bidding. And then, bing, bang, in about 10 seconds the bids were well beyond what my meager budget could afford. And then it was over. I was disappointed, but the experience was fun.

I have some favorites in my collection, that I can’t help but look at when I go past them. I chuckle to myself when I look at the Dopey ventriloquist dummy. Who thought it was a good idea to make a dummy out of a character who doesn’t speak? If I were a kid in the late 1930s what would I have thought Dopey sounded like? There are some autographed pictures which would have been signed by Walt himself, including a check to Bell and Howell from 1935. Since Bell and Howell manufactured parts for the multi-plane camera that was used to film Snow White, that means that Walt signed that check in the midst of one of his greatest triumphs and most highly creative periods of his life. I can imagine him sitting at his desk with piles of papers, drawings, paintings, model sheets and a pile of checks to sign. Maybe it was late at night, after a grueling day of storyboarding, difficult decisions about plot and character and direction. Perhaps there was a scene or moment that an animator was having difficulty translating Walt’s ideas onto paper.

The Disney’s were always on the brink of financial ruin in those early years. “Walt’s Folly”, as everyone in the industry was calling it, was a hard project for them to get financing. Walt and Roy ended up using even their homes and cars as collateral to keep the project going. Then maybe he’d get up, make himself a drink and walk around the animator’s room. He’d look at the work on the tables. I’ve read that he would go through the garbage cans, sometimes pulling things out and leaving notes for the animators on a drawing that he felt had more promise than they did.And I have some early toys, including a tin, windup Ferdinand the Bull from 1938. The book was one of my favorites when I was a boy.

The collection lets me, just for a moment, live in a world where Walt Disney is still alive and I was around him. I know it’s easy to sugarcoat a time before we lived. Walt was apparently not always they easiest man to work for. And, we do tend to glorify past times, ignoring the hardships that were part of that era. But, what a thrill it must have been to interact with that creative, blazing comet that streaked through the studio and left, in his wake, ideas and inspiration that built an entertainment empire. Thoughts like that have helped me through many of my toughest days. So keep collecting. Don’t let anyone call it junk or laugh at the dozens of Disney snow globes or trading pins that give you so much joy to prowl second hand stores, browse ebay or buy at the parks, then display, look at and enjoy. Buying and keeping things related to Disney helps keep the magic alive even when you’re not at a movie or in one of the theme parks.

walt-with-mickeys

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: