While researching for Zany Characters of the Ad World, I discovered advertising characters have been with us as early as 1904. The Campbell Kids, initially designed by Grace Gebbie Drayton, have advertised Campbells soup in magazines, billboards, and later in TV commercials for almost 100 years. However it was not until 1956 that the Campbells Soup Company offered Campbells Kids dolls as premiums. The Campbells Kids have become icons and the tradition of kid premiums continues with the very latest being the Campbells Kids bean bag dolls.
Mr. Peanut, the trademark for Planters Peanuts, is another advertising icon. The original Peanut Man was designed in 1916 by a teenager, Antonio Gentile. A commercial artist took the winning design and added a monocle, cane, and top hat. Although details keep changing such as the monocle moving from the right eye to the left and back again, Mr. Peanut continues to represent Planters Peanuts.
The history of the Dutch Boy Paints trademark dates back to 1907 and according to archivist Patricia Eldrige, O.C. Harn created the first advertisement illustration. The blond haired, blue eyed boy in wooden shoes has undergone many changes through the years as the Dutch Boy Paints Company changed advertising agencies and owners. However in 1980 Sherwin-Williams bought the Dutch Boy name and began using the original design in advertising. Collectors search for the Dutch Boy puppets and dolls used in promotions.
Many company trademarks have become advertising icons: the Pillsbury Doughboy, Green Giant, Little Sprout, Ronald McDonald, the Energizer Bunny, Charlie Tuna, Old Crow, Tony the Tiger, Mr. Bibendum, the Gerber Baby, and hundreds of others.
When I began writing a weekly column on ad characters in 1991, I thought I would run out of material in a couple of years
the column is still going strong. In 1995 Collector Books published my first book on the subject, Zany Characters of the Ad World. It is not only a collectors price guide, it is a history book with over 500 advertising collectibles pictured in color.
I continue to collect and write about the zany characters and the companies continue to provide banks, dolls, squeak toys, bobbin heads, bean bags, and other collectibles in the image of their famous trademarks.
How does anyone get started collecting in the fun category of ad characters? Its easy. First get a book on what has been offered in the past and start hunting at flea markets and antique stores. Organize a collectors network and trade with other collectors. Check out www.ebay.com for auctions.
Or start with the new collectibles on the market today. Read the products in the food stores and see what is new. For instance one of the latest is on the blue and white Pillsbury Bread wrapper. Start with the Doughboy bean bag
and have loads of fun.
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