And the Winner is Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This Felix came up on a Milestone auction and I put a bid on it, and numerous other things, and essentially forgot about it while I got absolutely creamed on a Aesop’s Fable doll that I thought I had in the bag. I am generally pretty philosophical about auctions and you have to be because, much like the rest of life, you are going to win some and lose others. However, as Facebook friends of Kim’s and Pictorama readers may already know, sometimes I howl like a scalded cat about a particularly painful loss. (Or even win – there was the Felix ukulele that I won on eBay and then the seller refused to sell it to me.) Meanwhile, I had completely forgotten that I tossed a bid onto this fellow in the same auction when I received a notice that I won him.

I never buy pieces like this because we have little space for them and they are too fragile to survive easily in the general melee that I think of when I consider our one-room, office to Kim and home to us and the two cats. Stuffed animals survive better than china and while I do make exceptions (such as the plates in my post Living the Felix Life, and the occasionally family heirloom such as featured in Ann’s Glass) even celluloid toys give me the willies, as mentioned in Fear of Celluloid. Still, I like this little fellow and I was pleased to have him show up right before Christmas which made him a gift to myself. He has the early Felix features that are pointy and just a tiny bit crude – toothy and like he might just take a bite out of you. He has found purchase (and hopefully safe haven) on a book shelf near the above mentioned family heirloom.

I show his back below and his markings. Other than Made in England I cannot make out the rest. Please let me know if any of you smart folks out there know more. The listing for him said he may have had restoration, but frankly if he did they did a superb job. I cannot find any. He appears to be seamed along the back which must have something to do with the mold he was cast from.

 

Evidently I come by my ferocious love of auctions genetically. My father’s mother (Grandma Butler to me, Gertie to others) was an auction addict and I often reflect that she would have adored eBay as much as I do if had she lived long enough to see it. Instead, auctions in her day were the kind where you went and sat in dusty rooms and bid in person. In that way, she accumulated large ornate furniture – carved and inlaid cabinets and desks, ornate lamps and side tables, mirrors and outsized Persian carpets (those having once graced hotel lobbies if I understand correctly) all of which I grew up with first in her house and then in our own after her death. This furniture was in stark contrast to my own parent’s taste which ran to the simplicity of early American furniture, but somehow we mashed it all together into coherence.

I could have learned to love visiting auctions and the excitement of bidding in person I am sure. My options of what I collected would have been considerably different however, since virtually all I buy comes from far flung countries, or at least far and wide across this one. Felix items and photos in particular seem to have flourished primarily in Great Britain and Australia as far as I can tell. Additionally I have the convenience of bidding on auctions at all hours of the day and night, often clad in my pj’s. (Full disclosure, I am wearing them now as I write this.) Given my work schedule it does allow me to do more auction perusing than visits to auction houses could possibly allow.

Nonetheless, I am sure that like all things, something was lost – perhaps the other bidders who you get know in a casual way or only by sight, or perhaps the tactile advantage of being able to examine and handle something in person before bidding. Knowing my grandmother she attended those auctions dressed in a brocade suit (she favored pattern and color) make-up done, red lipstick and hair piled high – bright with jewelry both real and costume – she loved both. I will never know the day in and day out of that experience, but I do know that the Butler clan is an auction loving one and this addition to the Pictorama collection is further evidence of it.

 

An Ode to the Toy Catalogue

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Pam’s Pictorama: The seasons of childhood were punctuated by the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. The spring one passed with little notice, the fall one was where we ordered our back-to-school clothes – but oh, that Christmas catalogue! It kicked off weeks of toy daydreams. Who doesn’t treasure their memories of the Christmas catalogue? The smell of fresh ink, the cheap paper (but full color and chock full of photos) which tended to stick together on first viewing. Oh, what would the next page reveal? Stuffed animals, Barbie’s latest home, vehicle and outfits. There would be stoves that cooked (yep, had the Easy Bake, loved it like mad), bikes, cars that could be driven. You name it and it was in that catalogue, or so it seemed. Your parents didn’t necessarily buy from Sears, but it was the child’s encyclopedia to what was new and interesting in toys and we studied it like some people study the Bible.

As an adult I assumed that it was a thrill that I would never really relive. I mean, I like say, the J. Crew catalogue well enough, but to say it is a thrill would be an exaggeration to say the least. Dozens of catalogues go in the recycling weekly, some without any notes.

And then, a number of years ago, several months after bidding on an online auction where I won my Mickey Jazzers (see my post Starting Small with Mice), the first Hake’s catalogue magically appeared. It is about the same heft and dimensions as the old Sears books I worshipped in the 1960’s and the paper even similar, same inky smell. Not since those halcyon days of prepubescence had I experienced the kind of thrill that this catalogue induced.

Unlike Sears and Roebuck whose history stretches back to 1893, Hake’s can only claim fifty or so years of business, evolving out of Ted Hake’s collecting and hawking business in the New York City of the late 1960’s. Here in my mailbox, utterly unsolicited no less, was something I had not even imagined – the grown-up toy collector’s version of the Sears Christmas catalogue! Much like the Christmas books, the Hake’s catalogue is likely to feature some items in the beloved areas I follow avidly – ancient Felix and Mickey toys for example – but just as interesting, one is likely to see things undreamt of – obscure but interesting political pins, every cereal premium from everyone’s childhood ever imagined and then some. Things you have always wondered about and here they are – photographed and explained in great detail. It shows up about twice a year. Amazing!

Since the Mickeys several of my most significant toy purchases have come from Hake’s auctions – my giant Dean’s Rag Mickey Mouse display model, one of my Aesop’s Fable dolls – but the catalogue itself brings great joy to the Butler-Deitch household when it arrives unannounced in our mailbox. I occasionally seem to fall off their list and need to check out the auctions online. There’s nothing more glorious than snuggling under the covers with the new Hake’s and interrupting Kim’s book reading, sharing the highlights with until eventually he gives up and looks at the catalogue with me. Who could ask for anything more?

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