This lot of Johnny Pumpkin figures was made by Beistle between 1923 and 1925. The "family" was made in sizes ranging from 5" to 20.25". This lot contains the smallest of the family, and perhaps the hardest-to-find variation. The smallest Johnny Pumpkins had three variants. This is the third variant - being smaller, brighter and possessing a folding prop that is part of the original art, rather than the glued-on easel always found with the other sizes. The packaging is plainer than the example in the collection, perhaps indicating this was manufactured earlier in the date range. The ending price was higher than guide, but that could be a function of the lot surfacing when almost nothing of quality was available on eBay.
We'll be seeing a fair number of these ~8" Beistle Johnny Pumpkins as there was an auction last week in Twin Falls, Idaho wherein several lots containing multiples - all unused - were sold. The auction house used my site for research but didn't think to alert me to the auction until the day after it ended. What is notable about this Johnny Pumpkin is that it demonstrates how careless Beistle was in their manufacture. As I write on page 122, "Beistle was seemingly not prepared for the success of this line and cranked them out with limited quality control relative to exactly how the designs by size were replicated." So, look at the hand holding the cat's paw. Part of the paw, part of the hand and part of the lace is missing. This isn't a flaw in the condition, but a flaw in the manufacturing.
The prevailing bidder made a smart purchase of this rare enveloped set, although the price ended higher than I would have forecast. Beistle made three iterations of the smallest of their Johnny Pumpkin family of diecuts. The ones sold in this lot represent the third and rarest of the iterations. As I write on page 123, "This is the final variant of this size. These are smaller, brighter and have no easels. Instead, there is a prop that unfolds from the side enabling the item to stand." These were made during the span 1923-1925. The set shown in the reference was made later during that range, while this one was made earlier during that range. How is this determined? Beistle's first inclination was to issue things in somewhat plain envelopes, with envelopes getting more ornate during the production run. Check out the differences.
The Johnny Pumpkin family of decorations was made by Beistle during a short window of 1919-1922, except for this size, the smallest of the litter, which was made in three variations through 1925. This is an example of the third variant, which I describe on page 123 this way: "This is the final variant of this size. These are smaller, brighter and have no easels. Instead, there is a prop that unfolds from the side enabling the item to stand. This was sold with stock number 514."
Early Beistle paper has been white hot for some many years now. (Nothing points to this lessening!) The latest evidence is this auction result. Beistle began manufacturing these Johnny Pumpkins in 1919 and continued their creation only through the 1921 season. Here is what I wrote about this product line (appears on page 122): "Beistle issued the family in these formally designated sizes, all non-embossed on flat stock, medium weight cardboard: five inch, eight inch, eleven inch, sixteen inch and twenty inch, although there are variations to size of as much as one and one-quarter inch with nearly all of them....Beistle didn't take great care in differentiating designs within sizes. Sometimes the differences are obvious but sometimes the differences are just a matter of how much neck line, or lace or collar shows. Beistle was seemingly not prepared for the success of this line and cranked them out with limited quality control relative to exactly how the designs by size were replicated. This becomes more obvious the more examples one gathers together to compare." The one selling here for $136.49 was in very rough shape, yet still brought what it did.
I believe this is a married piece. It seems that the head has been added to the body. Take a look at the single photo provided of the reverse and look at the difference in the toning of the cardboard. If you are inclined to bid on this item, ask a lot of questions.
This seller is very optimistic if she thinks this will fetch $275. In perfect condition, these at one time brought $100, but now they routinely bring significantly less.
Beistle made an entire "family" of these in varying sizes and design. This small one, measuring ~5.25" is the most common design by a wide margin. Please see pages 122-124 for a nearly complete array of these Johnny Pumpkin designs.
I am glad to see these very odd Beistle creations finally getting their day in the sun. Beistle issued several different sizes from 1919-1921. A very nice and representative selection is shown on pages 122-124. Here is some of the text describing the Johnny Pumpkin decorations from my new third edition:
Beistle issued the family in these formally designated sizes, all non-embossed on flat stock, medium weight cardboard: five inch, eight inch, eleven inch, sixteen inch and twenty inch, although there are variations to size of as much as one and one-quarter inch with nearly all of them. The smallest size was made for several seasons more than all of the others. This smallest size had three iterations and was generally sold in envelopes with quantities ranging from five to ten per envelope. This size is commonly seen today. The other sizes are much less common with this proviso: the bigger they get the harder they are to find.
Beistle didn’t take great care in differentiating designs within sizes. Sometimes the differences are obvious but sometimes the differences are just a matter of how much neck line, or lace or collar shows. Beistle was seemingly not prepared for the success of this line and cranked them out with limited quality control relative to exactly how the designs by size were replicated. This becomes more obvious the more examples one gathers together to compare.
I hope to see many more Johnny Pumpkin iterations listed this season, as I've always liked them. The seller has pointed out several condition issues with this item. Here are two more: The protrusion at the top of the head is missing. Although not always part of the design, it was with this particular one. Also, this item has had its fair share of sun, or exposure to light, as it is quite faded. If you want to see a nice assortment of Johnny Pumpkin designs, check out pages 122-124 of my newly published third edition.
08/06 Update: Even with numerous condition issues, this item fetched $45.77, a very strong result!
Many collectors may not know that Beistle slightly altered the design of this, the smallest of their Johnny Pumpkin family, for one season only. The version being sold in this lot has a folding side easel and the bottom of the piece does not have the typically appearing copyright symbol and the name Beistle. (Hence, this version is slightly shorter.) The overall color on these is always more orange than maroon. This version was only sold in an enveloped set of five with a stock number of 514. Interestingly, the illustration on the envelope shows the item as it normally appears, evidence of a shortcut Beistle took when recycling this design. Originally, this Johnny Pumpkin family first appeared in 1920. Only the smallest version was sold in subsequent years. I feel this version was sold as late as 1925.
Here is yet another stratospheric ending price for a superb Beistle item. My hat is off to the two determined bidders, both of which no doubt possess excellent taste, who between them pushed this item well past its sustainable value. As I wrote in an earlier post, if you take just two or three avid bidders out of the equation, prices invariably fall to more of an expected final price. Look at the recorded bidding history for this item and you'll see what I mean. Taking the prevailing bidder and the under-bidder out, the price would have ended around $167. This observation is buttressed by the fact that this same seller offered a near identical item that ended a mere three minutes later. That second Johnny Pumpkin ended at $180, pretty much what I feel this item should be fetching by and large. If you are a new collector with the typical money constraints faced by most, don't get discouraged by these ending prices. Once these discerning bidders obtain a piece, they won't be bidding and prices will return to more of a sustainable level. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but admiration and respect for this handful of determined bidders for whom price is seemingly not a primary concern. Just don't assume that the prices you see being recorded for these items represent the sustained value, for I don't feel they do.