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 are two different sizes of the large-sized Kickerbocker Cookie Monster plush toys from the early 1970s. This series also included Grover, Oscar and Snuffleupagus (all shown below). This was a very popular series of plush toys in their time and were made through to the early 1980s. Various sizes were made, with some being as large as 2.5 feet tall (I have a Cookie Monster this size!). A talking version of Oscar was also made (shown below) and Grover. I'm not 100% certain if talking versions of the other characters were made as well, though I suspect that they would have. Herry Monster was also offered in this series, though they are very hard to find in any condition as the character was only offered for a short time.
The Knickerbocker larger plush Grover was made in two different sizes with an open mouth or a closed mouth. It is my understanding that the open mouth version was the original style that was available in the early 1970s, and this was later modified to be the closed mouth version offered in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My reasoning has to do with Grover's eyes. The earlier version of these 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. Later versions 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, which has a closed mouth. This is likely an improvement that was added to the toys at some point to phase out the cheeper two piece eyes.
Fuzzy and Blue: I've also noticed that light blue Grovers are not as common as the dark blue version. The light blue Grover shown above is the only one I've ever seen. 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 larger Cookie Monster shown above is light blue, but the character is actually suposed to be dark blue. Yet, Knickerbocker made the smaller bean bag version 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 large Knickerbocker plush toys of Oscar, in two different sizes. The smaller size shown here is a talking toy, but non-talking plush toys this size were also made. For some odd reason, Knickerbocker originally made Oscar with a red felt tongue. Later versions of this toy from the 1980s don't have the tongue.
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.
Speaking of Fisher-Price, 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 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.
Photos and Text © Mike Artelle