Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The 1973 Count Puppet Box

This photo was found at this link:

Not long ago, back in late 2014, a photo of the original 1973 box for the plastic head Count puppet surfaced online for the first time (shown above). The origin of the plastic head Count puppet had long been a mystery for Muppet collectors, and fans had to accept the reality of living with a long list of unanswered questions. At first glance this single photo seems to have shredded that long list for good.

However, as I had always supported the theory that this puppet was made by Topper/Educational Toys, discovery of this photo was a mixed bag. Admittedly, my first reaction was to become a "doubting Thomas". It had seemed so illogical to me that Questor/Child Guidance had produced this puppet. For starters, the style is all wrong. The puppet is made with soft plastic just like the Topper puppets while Questor used hard plastic, it's larger than the Questor puppets and to scale with the Topper assortment, and Questor produced a fabric head Count puppet in 1974 so it seemed to me that it was unlikely they had also produced the plastic head version. Even as I write this I'm still feeling sceptical. The photo just seems too staged for my liking, and the box itself has many oddities about it.

Firstly, it's odd that Questor would reuse the same picture of the boy from their Oscar box. Every other box, including the 1974 fabric head Count box, shows a different child on the box. More importantly, the image on the Count box looks edited rather than natural as the puppet is much smaller than it should be compared with the boy. (The Oscar box shown above is from 1974 but the same image of the boy with Oscar was used for the 1973 Oscar box and again for the 1977 Oscar box.)
 
This image of the 1974 Count box with the fabric head Count puppet is from an e-bay auction that ended April 23, 2015, found at at this link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/371187571226

However, compared with the bizarre looking 1974 box for the fabric head Count puppet the newly discovered 1973 box seems to fit. The girl doesn't look like she's holding the puppet as the bottom of the puppet sleeve is to perfectly even, just like the plastic head count shown on the 1973 box image. In this case however the puppet at least looks to be in scale with the girl, and the photo of the girl is unique to this box.

Detail of the 1973 Count puppet box.
 
Then I noticed the title on the 1973 box. Under the Count's name it says "Hand Puppet/Marionette" which seems to have been an attempt at including French on the packaging. However "puppet" in French is spelled "marionnette", so the box is missing an "n". "Marionette" with one "n" is the English spelling which is used specifically for string puppets not hand puppets. In French however, "marionnette" with two "n"'s means any kind of puppet, not just string puppets which would specifically be called "marionnette a fils" while specifically referring to a hand puppet is "marionnette a gaine". In addition the top of the box only has the English text "Hand Puppet" without the French text, so if this is supposed to be a bilingual box what's up with that? Shouldn't the top of the box be bilingual too? I'd be very interested to see the sides of the box and the back to find out if any bilingual text was included.
 
Hmmm... okay, so there's a typo, I can accept that for now. The difference between "marionette" and "marionnette" is confusing. But why the sudden need for a bilingual title on the box in the first place? This seems to be catering to the belief that the plastic head Count was sold only in Canada, but none of the other boxes for Sesame puppets sold in Canada were bilingual. If Questor was starting to accommodate bilingual text on boxes in 1973, then why wouldn't they have made the 1974 fabric head Count box bilingual as well, or any of the 1977 boxes? Fact is, aside from this mysterious 1973 Count box, not a single box in this series was issued with bilingual text during the entire decade that these puppets were in production. Also, on all the other boxes the text for "Hand Puppet" is curved around the Sesame logo, but here on the 1973 Count box it's in a straight line. Perhaps this is because the bilingual text was too long to curve? Perhaps a bilingual title was used because Questor knew that the puppet was only going to be sold in Canada? Perhaps it was just being test marketed which is why this puppet is so rare?

That's a lot of assumptions! And the bilingual box isn't very bilingual... but okay, for now I'll just go along with the idea that the box was issued as bilingual with a typo despite none of the other boxes being bilingual, recycled the picture of the child from the Oscar box despite the 1974 Count box showing a new picture, and was issued only a year before Questor produced their fabric head Count puppet. Hold on though! I still have another criticism of the photo in question. It shows that the puppet was packaged with an insert, while most of the boxed Questor puppets in my collection don't have an insert. In fact out of the eight Questor boxed puppets that I own only one, a Cookie Monster from 1977, has an insert. Those that originally came with arm rods all still have their rod, so it seems odd that all of the inserts would go missing if all of the previous owners had chosen to keep the puppet in mint condition in the original box complete with the arm rod. To me, it doesn't seem likely that the Count would have been packaged with an insert.

Then I wondered, would the puppet even fit into the Questor box with an insert? So I decided to do an experiment!

First, I attempted to recreate the positioning of the original photo with little success. I used my Ernie box as it's from 1973, the same as the Count box in the photo. It's also the most beat up box I have in my collection so I didn't mind donating it to this little test. The box insert is from the 1977 Cookie Monster puppet, as it's the only insert that I have, and I used Ernie's arm control rod. I left the Count's cape collar on as I didn't want to disturb the way it is tied. His tongue had already fallen off some time ago (I have it safely tucked away) as the glue had dried out, so it makes sense to me that the puppet in the photo is missing the tongue. The photo of the Count puppet on the 1973 box doesn't have a monocle, so that apparently solves a long and great debate - the puppet did not originally come with a monocle! The Count's foam arms are quite thick and don't bend easily on their own, so this photo was the best I could do (shown above). Fair enough, looks like the puppet in the original photo is the same size as mine, so I gave this first test a pass.

Next I tried to fit the puppet in the box with the insert. I was highly sceptical this would work. My first attempt was to put the puppet in as it is seen in the photo, with the puppet sleeve through the hole in the centre of the insert. The result is shown above. Epic failure!

So I tried a new approach and inserted both of the Count's arms through the hole in the insert so that only the Count's head was on the top half. This was closer, but still no luck. The head was too big and the ear stuck out. This position even ripped the box a little at the corner, as you can see above.

All the plastic head puppets that I have in a box don't have the insert, so I tried that too. It seems the most logical solution to me and it did work. The Count's long arms fit inside the box without any trouble and the head fit in too. But the fact remains. I need to do this with the insert, so I tried again....

This time I put the puppet in head first, which is how I found the Grover puppet in his box when it arrived from e-bay. This allowed me to bend the Count's arms, and voila! It worked! It's a tight fit, but there was just enough room for the arm rod and if I had the loose vinyl cape to add it could have fit in as well. I could have also turned the box upside down before putting the puppet inside, as then the puppet would be packaged right-side up. None the less, it still seems rather unnecessary to have the insert at all, and it takes extra effort to fit the puppet in the box with the insert. The arms are quite scrunched up, and I wonder if the foam tube inside the arms wouldn't eventually stay in that position if left like that for several years, not to mention decades? In any case, I did fit the puppet into the box with the insert, therefore regardless of how impractical it may be to package the puppet this way, it does actually fit!
 
Okay, so my "doubting Thomas" test to prove this box could not have held the puppet has instead made me stop being such a sceptic. The box in the photo seems more like the real deal, which is quite remarkable! But there is still one critical and very logical question that the photo of this 1973 plastic head Count puppet doesn't answer:
 
If Questor went through the expense to produce a mold for a plastic head Count puppet, had designed a box for it and was manufacturing the toy, then why would they only produce it for less than one year? Why replace it with the fabric head version in 1974? For me, that question will need to be answered with some reasonable evidence before I accept that this box is legit. (Ernie and Bert were not switched to a fabric head version until the 1977 boxes, two years latter, so it seems unlikely that would have anything to do with the mystery surrounding the Count puppet.) To date the only scrap of information I have that might answer this question came from a High School friend who told me that he had one of the plastic head Count puppets when he was a kid. He recalled only having the head which had a hole at the end of the nose. When playing with the Count puppet in the bathtub, he remembers filling the head up and pouring the water out through the nose.
 
That there was a hole at the end of the puppet's nose might suggest that the mold was difficult to produce. There are several pointed areas on this puppet (tip if the nose, the teeth, the goatee, the ears) and when the head is turned upside down it would be difficult to get the liquid rubber to flow up into them, especially without bubbles forming. This is yet another assumption, but perhaps Questor had trouble manufacturing the plastic head Count mold in 1973 which is why they switched to a fabric head version in 1974?
 
I'm not done being sceptical yet though! Muppet fans David and Jeff have done an excellent job documenting their research about the plastic head Count puppet in their ongoing discussion from 2011 to 2015 on the Muppet Central forum, at this link:
 
During their discussion in 2014 they discover that the 1973 Count puppet box seen in the e-bay photo was the same one used in a second e-bay auction paired up with a fabric head Count. If the box is so rare please explain how it is possible to have sold the same one twice on e-bay? Thank you David and Jeff for your excellent research! Got-cha e-bay scumbag! Of course, as the box is being misrepresented by the owner on e-bay as having been paired up with two completely different puppets in two separate auctions, it goes without saying that the authenticity of the box is also questionable.
 
So it seems that my previous long list of questions about this puppet has simply been replaced with a new one about the 1973 box. And although I'd really like to accept this 1973 box as being genuine, I just have too many questions and concerns about too many pieces of the puzzle that don't fit together. I do find it exceptionally strange that if the owner of the 1973 box was trying to sell it on e-bay, knowing that it was so rare and wanting a good price for it, why wouldn't they have included more than one picture? Why not show the box from different angles so that sceptics like myself would be able to have a better look? Perhaps the owner of that box doesn't want sceptics to have a better look? If I could examine the 1973 box for myself it would certainly go a long way to help resolve my concerns. 
 
So for now I'll hold on to my "doubting Thomas" scepticism and conclude that if in fact this is the real box for the plastic head Count puppet.....
 
That's one! One extremely rare Count puppet box! Ha Ha Ha! ...Ka-Boom!



Text and original photos © Mike Artelle

17 comments:

  1. I have a Count muppet as pictured above and also the own hard plastic ernie and bert which I received for Christmas in 1972/73? I live in Canada where these were available through the Eatons catalogue. They were packaged in a cardboard display box with an open front. The muppets were displayed in upright position on a cardboard cone with their arms to the sides. So in my opinion this is not a legitimate box. By the way I still have these including the Count. I would consider selling the Count to a serious collector who appreciates his value as a very rare muppet.

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    1. Hi D MacDonald Thanks for the post. I'm very interested in discussing this with you. Please e-mail me: info "at" artellepuppets.ca Hope to hear from you, I'm very interested to find out what you have. Many thanks. -Mike

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    2. I have the head and cape.. but when i bought the count puppet it came with a different body and franklin roosefelds hands attached. I hope you can help me get the count complete somehow?

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    3. Hi. Just found this site and saw your post. Was wondering if you still have the Count puppet? Please let me know, I am a serious collector and I am prepared to pay handsomely. Please feel free to email me pattwist@gmail.com

      Thanks!

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    4. June 9th i go to my aunts and have several of the count puppet above and many other older counts in the boxes, tags, etc. I am looking to downsize my collection. She keeps my collection. I may be able to make it up sooner. I collected the count from childhood until my late 30s.

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    5. Wow, lots of people posting stuff! Awesome! Firstly, just to let everyone know, my Count puppet isn't for sale. I've been asked to sell it many times and have been offered $1000 for it and turned it down. I'm not parting with it...I can't! He's too unique. As for how to find one or where, all I can say is to keep your eye out at nostalgia shows, online auction sites, etc and hope one turns up. Also keep checking online discussion boards about this puppet as someone may eventually post a message that they have one for sale. Best wishes to everyone with your search for this rare puppet!!!

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    6. ...also, just to follow up about the D MacDonald post above from April 2016 (in case anyone is curious), I never did hear from that guy so it seems his message was a hoax as I had expected! I always approach anyone claiming to have one of these Count puppets with caution, even if they say they have a photo or include one as part of an e-bay auction. Because this Count puppet is a highly sought after collectors item it is prime material for hoaxers and fraudsters to use as bait for ripping people off. So I would caution anyone who is searching for one to be very careful and not let your enthusiasm and excitement get the better of you when someone says they have one for sale. Take your time and check things out carefully. Any seller who is legit would be happy to help you and answer questions. In my humble opinion I would never buy one of these puppets online from e-bay or some other site. My recommendation is to only purchase one of these if you are able to hold it in your hands and examine it for yourself. This way you know exactly what you are getting. That's my two cents anyway. Take care everyone, happy Count puppet hunting!

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    7. LOL! It's Me again! In retrospect, I just want to clarify what I said above, that although I was once offered $1000 for my plastic head Count puppet it doesn't mean that the puppet is actually worth that much. It was to the one person who offered me that amount, but that was an extremely generous offer. Generally, these Count puppets in reasonable condition with no box sell in the area of $200US to $350US on e-bay. By "reasonable condition" I mean that the puppet is in the same or better condition than mine shown above ... with the original head that has not been re-painted, original fabric body, and original hands. Minty examples of the puppet (which are much, much nicer than mine) that still have the cape and fabric tongue, are in the $350 to $425 range. This, to my knowledge, is what the value of a complete plastic head Count puppet is based on past e-bay sales. I haven't noticed the value changing much at all in the past ten to 15 years. Also, if all you find is the Count's head (regardless if it has a puppet body or hands from another Sesame puppet in place of the original missing body... a seller may try to use Ernie hands that have been painted purple or the tiny purple Roosevelt hands!) then the value would be much less than $200. I would think the value for just the head would be in the area of $50US for a rough/scratched up head to $100US for a minty one that has not been repainted. The reason I'm clarifying this is that it really bothers me to hear about people getting ripped off or tricked into paying too much when they finally find a Count puppet. So once again, please don't let your excitement get the better of you when the day comes that parts or a whole Count puppet turns up for sale. Do your research and check things out, and do indeed haggle with the seller to get the lowest price you can. All the best!!! :)

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    8. hi there. I still have Count von Count. There is a "made in Hong Kong" inside of his shirt and he is in very good condition. He does have a small pin hole on the side of his nose which leads me to believe that there likely was originally a monocle. He is most definitely intact except for his full cape, and was lightly played with at some point. I understand that people need to be cautious to avoid being ripped off, I feel the same way about selling him online so I have never put him on ebay or any buy/sell site. I live in Atlantic Canada so the collector market here is limited. Hope that clears things up. See my post below.

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    9. B MacDonald - I need your Count Von Count!!!!! Name your price!!! You can email me pattwist@gmail.com
      (Sorry for all the exclamation points, I'm excited.)

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  2. Leslie I am a collector as well and would love to but one of these counts from you. I would love to obtain this one of a kind find. Please teach me at delsingross@gmail.com

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    1. Hi Delsin Thanks for your interest in the Count puppet. Please see my message above. I hope you find one, best of luck.

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  3. Hi Mike. My post wasn't a hoax and I still have my Count Von Count. I was not aware of this conversation until this evening. when I had a follower tracked me down on google hangouts regarding my rare muppet. He is in great shape and as far as I know he is original. The bottom of his cape is missing but the cape collar is still intact, with a small tear. His head, hands and body are in perfect shape. I am a girl by the way :)

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    1. Hi D MacDonald. What would you consider selling your non-hoax :) Count Von Count puppet for? I'd be happy to pay it. Please let me know. I am a boy by the way ;)
      Pat
      pattwist@gmail.com

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    2. Hi D MacDonald who is a girl (my bad!) this is Mikey (I'm a boy). It is good to hear from you again since you posted your message over a year ago on April 2016, it is now July 2017. I did respond promptly to your initial message back then and provided my e-mail, yet you never e-mailed me to follow up. Why is that? And now I only hear from you again after I called you out for being a hoax? So you must see that from my end of this conversation it does look rather odd. If you really want to sell your count puppet (if you really have one) then why not e-mail me directly as so many others have in the past? Instead you seem happy to drop hints and play games here on my blog, getting folks like pattwist (who is a boy) excited about something no one has seen yet. As such, I do not mean to be rude but yes I am sceptical. Send me photos of your count puppet if you have one. Not just one photo, send me a few so that I can have a good look at it! Prove to me that I do not have any need to be sceptical, because you have yet to e-mail me directly with any relevant information! So once again, my e-mail is info "at" artellepuppets.ca Hope to hear from you.

      Now a message for Pattwist, please do be careful and do not let your excitement get the better of you. It is just a toy after all. Telling an anonymous online seller to "name their price" for something that they have yet to prove that they even have is not something I would recommend! Please be careful!

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  4. Hi Mike

    As per your request I emailed you directly at info@artellepuppets.ca with photos. Love to hear what you think of my Count von Count. For privacy I use my maiden name (MacDonald) on my gmail account in case you were wondering if I am the same person who emailed you.

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    1. Hello D MacDonald
      I have indeed received your e-mail and have just sent you a reply. Hope to hear back from you soon.

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