Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Sesame Street Toy Puppets: Variations

Important Note: This page is written as a continuation to the previous page of this blog "Sesame Street Toy Puppets 1971-1984" so it is best to start there first to understand what on earth this page is about. Also, I recommend that anyone buying or selling vintage Sesame puppets do their own reseach and make their own desisions about the value of these puppets. This blog is presented as a guideline only and is constantly being updated and revised.

Manufacturing Variations for Vintage Sesame Street Puppets

Some of the very first Sesame Street toy puppets made during the 1970s. Show here are (L to R) Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Roosevelt Franklin, Oscar the Grouch, and the Count.

For die hard collectors of these vintage Sesame Street puppets, or for sellers who are trying to identify specific items, I've put together this list of manufacturing variations that I've noticed.... I'm also just an obsessed fan of these puppets and couldn't help myself! Although I tried to include everything that I've found out about these puppets, I doubt very much that this list is complete.
From 1971 to 1980 this series of Sesame Street puppets switch production companies numerous times resulting in several manufacturing variations of almost every character. Child Guidance also made changes to the line in the late 1970s likely in order to reduce the costs of producing the toys. By 1980 most of the puppets that originally had plastic heads (Ernie, Bert, Grover, and even Big Bird) had been replaced with lower quality puppets that had fabric heads.
 
Ernie

Below are three of the plastic head versions. The two larger puppets on the left are the same size, made by Educational Toys Inc., with eyes that are separate plastic pieces glued on, while the smaller, brighter orange puppet is the Child Guidance version. Notice the smaller Ernie puppet has different fabric for his shirt compaired with the other two puppets, and the stripes on his arms are horizontal.  The smaller Child Guidance Ernie puppet also has painted eyes and is made with very thick plastic.

Another plastic head version of Ernie (not shown) is slightly smaller than the Educational Toys versions shown below, but still very much larger than the Child Guidance version shown. This "medium sized" Ernie has shorter arms with horizontal stripes and painted eyes, just like the Child Guidance version. So  I've now confirmed three different sizes of the plastic head version of Ernie! This means there were four different plastic head Ernie puppets sold in North America, and the Vicma plastic Head Ernie as the fith version sold internationally. Two different fabric head Ernie puppets were also sold in North America, for a total of seven different Ernie puppets from this series (Eventually someday I'll post a photo showing the all of these North America variations. However, I don't have the Vicma version.)



The two Educational Toys puppets shown on the left are made with different moulds, each with a different thickness of plastic. The one shown above on the far left is softer plastic, which is why the mouth is closed, and it has a moulded lip around the edge of the mouth. The back of the head at the hair line doesn't have a moulded lip. The puppet shown in the middle doesn't have a lip around the mouth, but there is a lip at the back around the hair line. See the pictures below....



Ernie puppet with a moulded lip...

Ernie puppet without a moulded lip...


Ernie puppet without a moulded hair line at back...

Ernie puppet with a moulded hair line at back...

The reason for these variations in the Educational Toys series is that they were made in both the USA and Canada simultaneously. I forget which version is from where, but I have this info somewhere...I'll update this post once I find it. The original open window style boxes for each version of this puppet are very different as well, so this helps to identify them.

So far I've noticed that there are eight versions of Ernie from this collection, five with plastic heads and two with fabric heads:
1. Educational Toys, plastic head "large" version, United States, 1971 - 1972
2. Educational Toys, plastic head "large" version, Canada, 1971 - 1972
3. Child Guidance, plastic head "small" version, North America, made between 1973 - 1977
4. Child Guidance, plastic head "medium" version, North America, made between 1973 - 1977
5. Vicma, plastic head (size unknown), Spain and international markets, late 1970s
6. Child Guidance, fabric head, North America, made between 1977 - 1980, sold in a box
7. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, fabric head, North America, 1980 -1984, sold on a cardboard puppet stand
8. Harbert, Italy, early 1980s


Here is a comparison of the larger Ernie hands with the smaller Child Guidance version. It's difficult to see in the photo, but they are both very different in size. I also added the Count's hand too as all three are different moulds. The Count puppet is below, but first we'll take a look at the different Bert puppets!

Bert

Here are two of the three plastic head versions of the Bert puppet. The larger one on the left is the Educational Toys version, the smaller one is the Child Guidance version. Notice the difference with the stripes of Bert's shirt. The colours are brighter for the Child Guidance puppet on the right. There was also a plastic head Bert puppet made by Vicma, so there are four versions of this "plastic head" puppet in all that I know of. Add the two fabric head version, and there are a total of seven different Bert puppets in this collection.


1. Educational Toys, plastic head "large" version, North America, 1971 -1972
2. Child Guidance, plastic head "small" version, North America, made between 1973 - 1977
3. Child Guidance, plastic head "medium" version, North America, made between 1973 - 1977
4. Vicma, plastic head (size unknown), international markets, Spain and others, late 1970s
5. Child Guidance, fabric head, North America, late 1970s, sold in a box
6. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, fabric head, North America, early 1980s, sold on a cardboard puppet stand
7. Harbert, Italy, early 1980s


Here is a closer look at the Educational Toys version. The eyes are separate white plastic pieces that were glued on, and the unibrow is fake fur rather than moulded.


 Here is the Child Guidance "small" Bert puppet. The eyes and unibrow are part of the moulded head and simply painted.This puppet head is also made with very thick plastic, so much so that the mouth doesn't close. The "medium" version of this puppet looks identical to this one but it is slightly larger, and it is made with softer plastic that allows the mouth to close.


Here is a comparison of the hands for the two Bert puppets. The Child Guidance version on the right has wider fingers and the plastic is solid (does not bend). The Educational Toys version on the left has soft plastic hands.

Oscar the Grouch


Here is the a comparison of the Educational Toys Oscar the Grouch hand puppet (on the left), the Child Guidance puppet (both puppets in centre), and the CBS Toys puppet (on right). The Educational Toys puppet, made in the early 1970s, is darker green and there is less fur around the bottom lip. The Educational Toys puppet also has a pull string feature that was unique to Oscar and Cookie Monster. When the puppet is on one hand, the other hand is used to pull the string which is attached to the hands on the inside of the puppet. A piece of flat, flexible boning across the inside of the puppet keeps the body stiff, but when the string is pulled it bends to make the arms move. Child Guidance dropped this feature from production and made their puppets without it. Child Guidance used very bright (almost florecent) light green fabric for one version, and a more natural light green for another version. Both were made in the mid to late 1970s. There are also two other versions of this puppet for a total of five variations.

1. Educational Toys, pull string version, North America, early 1970s
2. Child Guidance, no pull string, very bright green, North America, mid  to late 1970s
3. Child Guidance, no pull string, light green, North America, mid  to late 1970s
4. Vicma, (not known if it had a pull string), Spain and international markets, late 1970s
5. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, smaller version, no pull string, North America, early 1980s, sold on a cardboard puppet stand

Here a view inside the Educational Toys Oscar puppet showing the boning rod that is simply ironed onto the fabric with a strip of adhesive fabric. The Educational Toys Cookie Monster puppet is made the same way.

Here is the same puppet flipped over to show the string. There is a large ring to pull on, and a smaller ring inside to gather the strings. The tag says "Sewn in Jamaica."

Cookie Monster

Here is the Educational Toys Cookie Monster puppet (on the left), the Child Guidance puppet (centre), and the CBS Toys puppet (on the right). The same thing goes for these as with the Oscar puppet, only the Educational Toys version has the pull String. The Child Guidance Cookie Monster was more commonly made with dark blue hands that match his fur, but a variation was made with light blue felt hands. The CBS Toys puppet is significantly smaller than all the others, and has smaller sized eyes.

Here is the tag from Cookie Monster that says:
 "Educational Toys Inc. A subsidary of Topper Corp Sewn in Jamaica B.W.L"

Here is the opposite side of the above tag. The Educational Toys Oscar the Grouch puppet has an identical tag.

Here is the front of the tag from the "Canadian" Cookie Monster puppet. The back of the tag is shown below. It has English and French text that says: "Produced by Irwin Toy Limited in connection with the Children's Television Workshop under license from Educational Toys Inc. [French text] Sewn in Canada [French text]" I have yet to find an Oscar puppet with this Canadian tag, but as the Cookie Monster and Ocsar puppets are so similar, I suspect that both would have been made in Canada and Jamaica in 1971 and 1972.


Below is a comparision of the puppet sleeve opening of the Educational Toys Cookie Monster puppet (seen at lower half of image) and the larger Child Guidance puppet sleeve (top half of image).



Here are the variations of Cookie Monster:
1. Educational Toys, pull string version, dark blue hands, North America, made in Jamaica, early 1970s
2. Educational Toys, pull string version, dark blue hands, North America, made in Canada, early 1970s
3. Child Guidance, no pull string, dark blue hands, made in USA, North America, mid  to late 1970s
4. Child Guidance, no pull string, light blue hands, made in USA, North America, mid  to late 1970s
5. Vicma, (not known if it had a pull string), Spain and international markets, late 1970s, this puppet is completly different in design
6. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, smaller version, no pull string, North America, early 1980s, sold on a cardboard puppet stand
7. Harbert, no pull string, Italy, early 1980s
 
Big Bird Stuffed Puppet

Image from 1973 Ghild Guidance box 

Images from 1974 Child Guidance box, and 1977 Child Guidance box


Throughout the 1970s the Big Bird Stuffed Puppet went through several noticable manufacturing changes creating many variations of this toy. Only the Educational Toys version of the Big Bird Stuffed Puppet sold from 1972 to 1973 had plastic legs. All others variations were made after 1973 and have fabric legs.

1. Educational Toys, plastic legs, North America, 1971-1972.
2. Child Guidance, light orange fabric legs, long fake fur head and tail feathers, North America, 1973 -1974
3. Child Guidance, dark orange fake fur legs, yarn head and tail feathers, North America, 1974 -1977
4. Child Guidance, light orange fake fur legs, yarn head and tail feathers, North America, 1977 -1979
5. Child Guidance, pull-string talking doll version, North America, late 1970s to early 1980s
6. Hasbro, pull-string talking doll version, North America, early to mid 1980s
7. Hasbro, non talking doll version, North America, early to mid 1980s

Big Bird Hand Puppet

The larger Big Bird puppet on the left is the 1977 Child Guidance puppet. It has plastic inside to shape the mouth and beak, as well as to secure the eyes in position. The smaller Big Bird puppet was made by CBS Toys/Child Guidance in 1980 and only has plastic to shape the mouth. The smaller puppet can have orange felt hands or yellow felt hands.


The eyes on the 1977 Child Guidance puppet are much larger with painted iris, while the smaller CBS Toys puppet eyes have moulded (slightly raised) irises that are also painted. See below.

1977 Child Guidance Big Bird puppet

1980 CBS Toys Big Bird puppet

Here are the variations for the Big Bird hand puppet:
1. Child Guidance, plastic beak with yellow hands, North America, mid to late 1970s, sold in a box
2. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, fabric beak with yellow hands, North America, early 1980s, sold on a cardboard puppet stand
3. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, fabric beak with orange hands, North America, early 1980s, sold on a cardboard puppet stand.
 
Grover
The 1973 Child Guidance puppet with the plastic head (and nose) is on the left, and the CBS Toys puppet (with a pom pom nose) is on the right. I stuffed the head of this one for the photo to give it some shape.

I've seen a version of the "plastic head" Grover puppet with a red fabric mouth, while this one has a black fabric mouth with a red fabric lower lip. I'm not certain if the red mouth version was made by Child Guidance or not. It may have been made by Vicma in the late 1970s, or is an earlier Child Guidance or Educational Toys version.

Here are the variations for the Grover puppet:
1. Child Guidance, plastic head, North America, mid to late 1970s
2. Vicma, plastic head, international markets, Spain and others, late 1970s
3. CBS Toys/Child Guidance, fabric head with pom pom nose, North America, early 1980s, sold on a cardboard puppet stand
4. Harbert, plastic head, Italy, early 1980s
5. Possibly a fifth version? This one would be the "plastic head" type, but with a red mouth.

Roosevelt Franklin

I'm aware of three distinct versions of the Roosevelt puppet:
1. Manufacturer unconfirmed (either Educational Toys or Child Guidance), black irises are flat, arms have sponge tubes, North America, 1970s
2. Manufacturer unconfirmed (either Educational Toys or Child Guidance), black irises are moulded to stick up, arms do not have sponge tubes but instead are flat with a thin sponge lining, North America, 1970s
3. Vicma, this one has a pink head instead of purple and it is sculpted differently, Spain, 1978
 
The Count

The fabric head version of the Count puppet is arguably the worst puppet in the collection. There was also a fabric head Count puppet made in Italy by Harbert that was similar to the United States version. Therefore there were three different Count puppets:

1. Educational Toys or Child Guidance (maker unknown), plastic head version, North America, (date unknown, likely mid 1970s)
2. Child Guidance, fabric head, North America, 1974 until late 1970s
3. Harbert, fabric head, Italy, early 1980s

All photos and text on this blog page are copyright Mike Artelle

6 comments:

  1. Hey there,

    I grew up (born in 1974) with a Count hand puppet, fabric head, plastic-y hair, and a hand wand. This was in BC. I am DESPERATELY trying to find one for my brother who is having a baby this summer, and I think it would be a crime if this new generation of my family grew up without my dad's Count schtick!!! So, do you know where one can find this puppet? Is it even possible to find it in this day and age? OMG, I could strangle my father for losing it!!! Thanks for any insight!

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  2. Hi Wandering Coyote

    The only place I know of to find the "fabric head" Count puppet would be to keep an eye on sites such as e-bay, kijiji, and etsy. I've seen that Count puppet show up for sale online quite often, so it should be easy to find. Best of luck! (Hope you don't strangle your dad, he sounds like a fun guy!)

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  3. I have a big bird older than these... I can't find any other pictures of him onlinešŸ˜©

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    1. Hi Elisa7joy
      The Big Bird Stuffed puppet with plastic legs made by Educational Toys (Topper) was the first plush toy of Big Bird ever to be made. I don't have a picture of it posted yet but it was similar to the one shown above. A picture of the plastic leg version can be found online if you search for "Topper Big Bird Stuffed Puppet". I have also seen a commercially made bootleg/knock-off from the early 70's that had Styrofoam pellet stuffing and a plastic, cone shaped beak (the mouth was closed) however this is not "officially" Big Bird. It was quite ugly too in my opinion. I've never seen a picture of the knock-off version online, as its extremely rare. I'd be curious to know which one you have.

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  4. I have all the originals like in the top photo except the Count. In very good condition. Any thoughts on a value

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  5. It's hard to say what the value of an item is as it depends a lot on the condition and who is buying it. Aside from the Count these puppets are very easy to find on e-bay in played with condition, so I wouldn't expect to pay too much for them. Maybe $15 to $20 each or so? However, if they are like-new in the original box that's a different story! Though when it comes to mint stuff I'm always worried about giving values on items, as I don't want to mislead anyone. If you bookmark a few e-bay auctions of similar items in similar condition and see what the final selling price is, you can get a good idea of the value.

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