What do cloisonné pins, playing cards, toothbrush holders, coonskin caps, underwear, and a Guinness world record have in common? They’re all part of the world of Disney collectibles known as Disneyana. Ever since the first Mickey Mouse stuffed doll debuted in 1930, people have been clamoring for Disney products. Some collect items for their beauty, history, sentiment, wit, or whimsy. A mild curiosity for some, a personal passion for others, Disneyana is a hobby that appeals to all ages.
How popular is Disney collecting? Just type Disneyana into Google’s search engine and you’ll receive about 3,750,000 results. A recent visit to eBay’s website showed that there were almost 258,000 Disney items listed. And Disney collectibles frequently make the news as well. In 2010, an original painting drawn by Disney comic book artist Carl Barks entitled “Hands Off My Playthings” featuring Donald Duck, his nephews and uncle Scrooge, sold for a record-breaking $204,000.
Must you own a newsworthy collection to enjoy Disneyana? How does an average person begin collecting? When did this become such a phenomenon? The Insider knows that the only way to find answers is by visiting the largest Disneyana collection in the world – the Walt Disney Archives, located on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California. Once we pass the “No food or drink in the Archives” sign and open the door, we feel as if we’re transported to a revered sanctuary. The lighting’s low, sounds are hushed, and all around the room are one-of-a-kind, museum-quality Disney products. Ahhh … it’s the ultimate in Disneyana!
Becky Cline, Archives Director, admits that she has “the best job in the world!” As well as preserving and protecting the Walt Disney Company’s incredible assets, Becky tells us, “the Archives maintains seven facilities that house vehicles, animation cels, artwork, matte paintings, books, invitations, menus, publicity, comics, sketches, props, costumes, videos, DVDs, CDs, sheet music, and more.” Yep, if anyone knows anything about collecting, it’s Becky.
Did you know that it was Walt himself who started the whole collecting craze? “Walt Disney began licensing the use of Mickey’s image fairly early,” Becky tells us. “The very first item produced was a Disney school tablet in 1930.” Even during the Depression (when pennies were tight), people still bought Mickey Mouse books, doorstops, dolls, and more.
In addition to being an innovative marketer, Walt invented the merchandise tie-in. Becky explains, “The first film to have a full licensing campaign set up and ready to go when the film premiered was ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.'” Dolls, tea sets, toys, drinking glasses, and soap were available just in time for Christmas, 1937.
Soon Disney realized that adults were looking for higher-end items for themselves. “Products were mostly aimed at children in the ’30s … then they started manufacturing pottery, figurines, and things like that,” Becky says. The massive world of Disneyana has led collectors to specialize in certain items. “People collect everything,” she says. “Pens, license plate frames, dolls, T-shirts, and anything you can imagine.”
With so many fabulous Disney items to choose from, where does a novice collector begin? Becky suggests starting with “pins, buttons, coins, or stamps – the smaller items are easiest to handle.” But buyer beware. With so many Disney products on the market and thousands of Internet sites offering to buy and sell, how can a collector be certain that he or she has purchased an actual Disney-licensed product? Becky offers some good advice, “Look for the copyright notice.” It’s also a good idea to study the Character’s features. “If Mickey doesn’t look like Mickey,” Becky advises, “there’s a good chance it’s not real.”
Two new collectibles currently hitting shelves – Vinylmation and Pook-a-looz – feature everyone’s favorite Disney Characters. In vinyl and plush, these adorable dolls are becoming quite popular.
Start with just one item and before you know it, you may amass a collection that lands you in the record books. According to the 2011 issue of the Guinness Book of World Records, Janet Esteves has a collection of 2,760 different Mickey Mouse items, making it the largest Mickey collection on the planet.
Whether you’re just beginning to collect your favorite princess snow globes or animation cels, Becky reveals why Disney collecting is fun, engaging, and so appealing – “there’s a little something for everyone.”