The Value of Ventriloquist Dolls

Written by maureen katemopoulos
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The Value of Ventriloquist Dolls
(Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images)

The true value of ventriloquist dolls means much more than just money. Original dolls made by famous craftsmen can command high prices, of course. However, factors like their history, condition, partnerships with specific ventriloquists, educational benefits, ability to awaken nostalgia and their enduring popularity also carry weight in determining their value.

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The Real Charlie McCarthy

Edgar Bergen (1903 to 1978) was a very popular ventriloquist who partnered with doll Charlie McCarthy. Effanbee sold officially licensed Charlie McCarthy dolls in the 1930s. They came in different outfits including a full tuxedo and a white dinner jacket. You will know you have the original doll if the back of the neck bears the marking “Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, an Effanbee product.” Other composition ventriloquist dolls manufactured during the same period by companies like K&S are not Charlie McCarthy dolls. Charlie McCarthy dolls retail for between about £39 and £162 in 2010 prices.

Frank Marshall Collectibles

Based in Chicago, Frank Marshall (1900 to 1969) was a foremost maker of ventriloquist dolls. Charlie McCarthy was among the dolls he crafted. He started out when The Great Lester, a famous ventriloquist during the early 20th century and Marshall’s neighbour, arranged a job for him at a woodworking shop. Marshall was soon in charge of all doll making, and eventually bought the shop. In the 1940s, Marshall made a 20-inch figure named Tommy Knots that cost £6. In recent years, a mint condition Tommy Knots might fetch around £1,625. Jerry Mahoney and Danny O’Day are other collectable figures created by Marshall.

Educating New Generations

In the 1960s, Shari Lewis (1933 to 1998) had a nationally televised show. This gifted ventriloquist featured a group of hand puppet regulars including Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse and Hush Puppy. The show belongs to the baby boomers’ generation. However, its puppet characters remain well loved by new generations of children, judging from the comments left by buyers at online websites selling Shari Lewis puppet figures and DVDs. Shari Lewis puppet figures cost between about £9 and £260 as of 2010. Their value is both educational and nostalgic.

Current Figures

There is a wide assortment of ventriloquist dolls for sale online at a range of prices between about £6 and £910 in 2010 prices. They include famous fictitious figures like Howdy Doody and Bozo the Clown, as well as real-life personalities like W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Pee-Wee Herman. Websites like Ventriloquistcentral.com provide a wealth of useful information. There is also a Buy, Sell and Trade forum for dolls that reflects current prices.

Entertainment Value

From winning “America’s Got Talent” with his extraordinary ventriloquism repertoire, Terry Fator now presents a live show called “Terry Fator & His Cast of Thousands” in Las Vegas. His ventriloquist dolls include regulars Winston, the Impersonating Turtle, Emma Taylor and Vikki “The Cougar,” and his show features impersonations of musical stars like Cher, Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks and The Pussycat Dolls. The entertainment that Fator and his ventriloquist dolls bring to millions of people seems to be priceless.

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