In addition to making toy hand puppets, Child Guidance also made soft rubber finger puppets during the1970's. These are among my most favourite Muppet collectables. The Count finger puppet (not shown) and Herry Monster - the light blue one - are the most difficult characters to find in this collection. That being said, Herry tends to show up more often than the Count. The Count finger puppet is super rare and very hard to find in any condition. The Count for this set is holding the numbers 1, 2, 3 (not to be mistaken for the 1980s Applause finger puppet of the Count which has one arm raised up and no numbers!). Sherlock Hemlock (the detective) and Lefty the Salesman (with black hat) were added to the series in 1974. These two are often missing their hats and can be difficult to find, but not as difficult as Herry and the Count which were added later in 1978.
There are a number of variations for most of these puppets, such as colour of plastic used, paint colour, and even a moulding variation that makes differences in size. Ernie and Bert are available with rooted hair (as shown above), with fake fur hair or with sculpted hair. The last two variations are less common. There is also a wide variety of packaging for this series, especially if the international packaging is taken into consideration. As with the larger hand puppets, Vicma produced variations of these finger puppets in Spain and other markets, however Herry and the Count seem to only have been available in North America. In Mexico, the toy company Lily Ledy produced Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster and Oscar, as well as Abelardo (an orange crocodile) and Paco (a green parrot) from "Plaza Sesemo" as finger puppets for this collection.
Here is the Fisher-Price Little People Playset that was made in 1974. Eight figures were included with the playset. Above are Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and Oscar. I'm missing the three human characters: Mr. Hooper, Susan and Gordon. Other than the street sign I'm missing all the assessories too. That being said, I'm glad to have this set as I put it together very slowly over the years, piece by piece! I also have Herry Monster so I'll have to add a photo of him here eventually. Fisher-price also made a boxed set of the original eight figures that were to be used with this playhouse, as well as a clubhouse playset that included figures of Roosevelt Franklin, the Count, and Grover. The final boxed set of figures included Snuffleupagus, Prairie Dawn and Herry Monster, and is very rare to find.
Here is the Fisher-Price Movie Viewer which was very popular in its day. Kids would insert a cassette and then look through the end of the toy while turning the red crank shown above. You could make the movie go very fast or very slow, backward or forwards. It sounds simple by todays standards, but this toy was honestly hours of fun!
Fisher-Price produced a wide rage of licenced cassette tapes for this toy including several Sesame Street films. The toy was introduced in 1973 and the first Sesame Street cassettes were sold in 1974. I have the Sesame Street cassette "Cookie Monster in the Kitchen" which has a copyright date 1977, but was apparently not included in this series until 1986. Below is a view of the other side of the toy.
Here are the three film cassettes that I have: Sesame Street, Disney's "Lonesome Ghosts" and Charlie Brown. Here is a remarkable web site that documents all of these Fisher-Price cassettes: http://www.thisoldtoy.com/fisher-price/dept-1-audio-vis-mus/f-movie-viewer/a-index.html#4
Here are four different sizes of the large-sized Knickerbocker Cookie Monster plush toys from the 1970s, along with the smaller 8 inch plush toy for size comparison. This series also included Grover, Oscar and Snuffleupagus (all shown below). A plush toy of Herry Monster was also offered in this series for a very short time and therefore is harder to find. This was a very popular series of plush toys in its time and was made through to the early 1980s. The toys are quite crude looking and shaggy, however taking a moment to gently comb the fur will improve the look of them. (I have a plastic brush set aside that I use only for puppets and plush toys.) Shown here, left to right, are 20 inch, 17 inch, 15.5 inch, 12.5 inch plush toys of Cookie Monster, with the 8 inch toy in front. The 20 inch Cookie plush toy is a bit creepy to have around, so I keep it packed away in a bag! :)
Here is the hang tag from the 20 inch Cookie Monster. It has a price tag sticker that says "RED'S $14.99". I bought this one with the 17 inch Cookie plush toy on e-bay around 2005. The back view of the hang tag is shown below. The copyright date is 1975. Click on the photo to see a larger view.
Here is the tag from the 17" Cookie Monster. The back view is shown below and is slightly different from the 20 inch tag. Once again, the copyright date is 1975.
I've noticed a variation for the 12.5 inch Cookie Monster's eyes. The toy shown here on the left has smaller sized irises painted more to the front of the eye, while the toy shown on the right has larger irises painted more towards the top of the eyes. This second version has a manufacturers tag that says "GANZ BROS TOYS LTD. Toronto, Canada". This was the Canadian distributer for Knickerbocker.
Talking versions (with pull string) of these toys were also made. I have a talking 16 inch Oscar in my collection (shown below). After posting this Muppet Memorabilia Museum page, I've received comments and e-mails from folks who had the talking Cookie Monster and Grover. No word yet if there was a talking Snuffleupagus.
Here are four different Knickerbocker large sized Grover plush toys. Shown here , left to right, are 28 inch (top of head to toes, 17 inch sitting), 19 inch (with legs), 17 inch (with legs), 20 inch (with legs.
Grover was made in two styles, with an open mouth or a closed mouth. It is my understanding that the open mouth version was the original style available in the early or mid 1970s, and the toy was later modified to be the closed mouth version offered in the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s. My reasoning has to do with Grover's eyes....
The earlier version of these Grover plush toys had eyes that were made out of two oval pieces of thin plastic (or vinyl), one black and one white, that were attached with a black button fastener as the iris. This is shown above on the light blue Grover, which has an open mouth. The eyes are rather cheep looking and break easily. This style of eye was very common on toys that were given out as prizes at carnivals or fairs in the 1970s.
Later versions of Grover plush toys have eyes that are each one plastic piece and painted with the white and black parts of the eye, as shown above on the dark blue Grover toys, which have a closed mouth. This is likely an improvement that was added to the toys at some point to phase out the cheaper two piece eyes. Note however that the black iris for each of these was painted differently, with the one on the left more rounded that the one on the right. The Grover on the right is the shortest one that I have. For some reason, it's filled with Styrofoam pellets (again, like the plush toy prizes from carnivals) rather than soft polyester stuffing.
In the mid 1970s Grover's eyes were modified again to have a full circle iris painted, which is what Grover's eyes should have had all along.
Fuzzy and Blue: I've also noticed that light blue Knickerbocker Grover plush toys are not as common as the dark blue version. The light blue Grover shown above is the only one I've ever seen. Usually the open mouth Grover toys have dark blue fur. As this is an earlier version it is possible that the company was still trying out the colours for each character to see if dark blue or light blue fur looked better, or if one sold more than the other. Note that the large Cookie Monster toys shown above are all light blue, but the character is actually supposed to be dark blue. Yet, Knickerbocker only made the smaller 8 inch sized plush toy of Cookie Monster dark blue (shown above). The Child Guidance Cookie Monster puppet is also dark blue. As these were the first ever plush toys of these characters, Knickerbocker had to figure out how to sell them and the colour choice seems to have been an important piece of the puzzle. Cookie Monster plush toys have been light blue, or bright blue, ever since with only a few exceptions while Grover has always been dark blue.
Here is the hang tag from the 28 inch Grover. It has a price sticker that says "RED'S $15.78". I bought this from the same e-bay seller that sold me the two Cookie Monster toys with hang tags. The back of the tag is shown below. The copyright date is 1976 (instead of 1975, as noted on the Cookie Monster tags).
Here are the large Knickerbocker plush toys of Oscar, in two different sizes along with the two 8 inch toys for size comparison. Shown here, left to right, are 19 inch (with legs), 16 inch (with legs), and the 16 inch talking version. For some odd reason, Knickerbocker made Oscar with a red felt tongue even though Oscar doesn't have a tongue. The 19 inch version shown here has a tag on the back that has the GANZ BROS TOYS info. Notice the different colours and thicknesses of brown fur used for the eyebrows for each of these. The third Oscar (the non-talking 16 inch toy) is missing the plastic eyes as they would break easily, so I have Styrofoam ball halves in place to hold the shape. This plush toy is also a lighter green that the others. I got this one for my ninth birthday in the early 1980s from my Aunt, who took me to Toy City at Westgate mall to pick out a toy. I was allowed to spend nine dollars, and even though Oscar was $9.99 my aunt bought him for me anyways! :)
Here is a closer look at the 16 inch talking Oscar. The front and back view are shown. He has a metal ring attached to his pull string. I'm quite lucky that this talking Oscar toy still works, as these talking toys are often broken. Oscar has six different sayings:
"Have a yucky day!"
"I live in a trash can"
"Be a Grouch like me!"
"Don't pull my string!"
"I love trash"
"Want a Sardine Sundae?"
Here is a side view to show the shape of the toys (though it looks like this could be "The Great Migration of the Snuffleupagus"). Snuffy is made in a sitting position. The USA 15 inch version of the toy (with hang tag) is much slimmer than the Canadian/Ganz 15 inch version. Below is a top view to show the different sizes of the tails.
The Canadian/Ganz Bro Snuffy (right) has much smaller irises that the USA version (left).
This photo seems kind-a rude! :) Snuffy has a mouth/lip attached under his trunk. The mouth for the 15 inch Canadian/Ganz version (center) is larger than the USA version (left).
The USA version of Snuffy also has a different tail, which is made and stuffed as part of the body of the toy, while the tail on both sizes of the Canadian/Ganz version is much smaller and is sewn in at the seam (which allows it to wag side to side).
Here is the hang tag for Snuffy. The back view is shown below. It has a copyright date of 1976. Click the photo to see a larger version.
Here are the many different sizes of Ernie and Bert rag dolls made by Knickerbocker in the 1970s. I'm missing the 15 inch Ernie doll. The clothes (shirt and pants) are removable from all of these dolls except for the smallest size. I once saw a giant sized version of the Bert rag doll that was about five feet tall sitting down! Likely there would have also been a matching Ernie. Needless to say, those giant sized dolls are quite rare. Toy vechicles such as a truck or bicycle were made for the smallest size rag dolls. The smallest size also had other characters in the set, including Oscar, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and the Count. A plush car was made for either the 6 inch or 9 inch dolls (I'm not sure which). Talking versions were also made, likely for the 15 inch dolls. The Count (shown below) and Betty Lou were also made as rag dolls in this series. Here are the sizes: Bert came in 27", 15", 10", 7" and 4.5". Ernie came in 25", likely 14" (to match with 15" Bert), 9", 6", and 4".
Here is a 7" Bert with removable shirt and pants next to a 6" Ernie with removable shirt only. The pants are sewn on as part of the doll. The last 6" Ernie (on the far right) has the clothes printed.
This is the 14" Talking Count rag doll by Knickerbocker. I've shown it below next to the 15" Bert for size comparison. This doll is broken and no longer "talks", but originally it had a pull string on the back.
That's one! One missing pair of pants! Ah! Ah! Ah!
The many eyes of Bert.
Here are some variations that I've found for Bert's eyes. On the left is the original version with felt eyes (with a ripped off unibrow, ouch!), then the thinner fabric eyes, then the last two have progressively larger irises.
Knickerbocker/Ganz Bros. made variations of these Bert and Ernie dolls that are wearing pyjamas. I only have the Bert doll though. These pyjama version dolls are far less common than the original dolls. Unfortunately this doll has a seam on his left arm that has come undone.
This is the portable Big Bird Radio made in the mid to late 1970s. I found this one at a thrift store with the radio section missing, so now it's just a hollow figure. The nest section is where the radio was installed. The Big Bird figure is made from soft rubber similar to the Child Guidance finger puppets that were popular at the time. The same company that made this radio also made one with Ernie and Bert attached to the top. Below is the back view.
The other card shown above (Slide D) has pictures of Grover, Roosevelt Franklin, Magic Mumford, Oscar the Grouch and an Anything Muppet boy on a TV set.
Here is a picture of a picture! This is a large (18.5" X 24") framed poster of Ernie and Bert from 1978, produced by American Publishing Corp.
This is a Birthday cake candle made by Wilson in 1979. It's 3 3/8 inches tall. The Wilson company also made Star Wars candles in this same style that were sold at the same time. I used to have Chewbacca and R2-D2 from that set.
Photos and Text © Mike Artelle