TV Character Collectibles: Howdy Doody & Popeye

Howdy Doody marionette with original box

Howdy Doody marionette with original box

Television character collectibles were produced by a variety of manufacturers to help sell everything from the shows themselves to cereal and vitamins. Here are two popular shows from the 1950s and 60s and their nostalgia driven collectibles.

The Howdy Doody Show

First aired as a radio program in 1947, Howdy Doody with Buffalo Bob Smith ran for an astonishing 13 years. When the red-headed, gap-toothed western lad Howdy Doody ran for “President of all Kids” the network received 60,000 requests for his campaign buttons. This number represented one third of all US homes with television sets!

Due to the overwhelming popularity of the show, an almost unlimited number of items were made in the likenesses of Howdy Doody the puppet, and his costars, Dilly Dally, Buffalo Bob, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, and Clarabelle the clown (played by Bob Keeshan, aka, Captain Kangaroo). Howdy Doody themed toys were produced in mass quantities, and included puppets/marionettes, clothing, plush dolls, records, wind-up toys, beanies, a humming lariat, cookie jars, figurines, ear muffs, an electric doodler, a keychain puzzle, stickers, comic books and child sized chairs. Children loved Howdy and played with his toys, so vintage toys in excellent condition are hard to find and can run into fairly high sums.

Popeye the Sailor

Composition Ideal jointed Popeye figure, marked Popeye 1935 King Features Syndicate

Composition Ideal jointed Popeye figure, marked Popeye 1935 King Features Syndicate

Popeye got his start in the comics, but soon after, made a successful leap to the silver screen. Between 1933 and 1957, Popeye appeared in movie cartoons 243 times, and by 1935, he was more popular than Mickey Mouse. In 1941, Popeye the Sailor was drafted by the U.S. Navy to help the war effort, and appeared in several cartoons to that end. In the 1960s he became a syndicated television show, and from then until 2004 appeared on television somewhere or other around the globe.

Vintage Popeye memorabilia is plentiful, but much of it on the market has been made since 1980, so collectors looking for authentic vintage Popeye should check carefully. Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto, Wimpy, and Sweet Pea appeared in a wide variety of forms, including comic books, story books, candy cigarettes, Colorforms, coloring books, ramp walkers, wind-ups, banks, figurines, mugs, decals, crayon sets, jack-in-the-boxes, lunch boxes, noise makers, gumball machines, dolls, plush toys, puppets, pins, Pez dispensers and more. As with most collectibles, toys in mint condition in their original packaging bring the highest prices. In Popeye’s case, since he went both healthy and PC, and no longer endorses smoking, his pipes and cigarettes have gone up in value.

-Reference note by p4A Contributing Editor Susan Cramer.

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