Q & A with Harry Rinker: Froggy the Gremlin, Sambo Record, Flexible Flyer Sled
QUESTION: I have a rubber frog squeeze toy. The frog is wearing a red jacket, white shirt with four black buttons, white bowtie, white gloves, and black shoes. When I place my finger over the back-hole and squeeze, the tongue pops out. What can you tell me about this toy?
– D, Newton, N.J.
ANSWER: You own a Froggy the Gremlin squeeze toy. Rempel introduced the toy in 1948 and marketed several variations through the mid-1950s.
On Sept. 2, 1944, the “Smilin’ Ed’s Buster Brown Gang,” a children’s radio show sponsored by the Buster Brown Shoe Company, first appeared on radio. R. F. Outcault created the Buster Brown comic strip in 1902. A 1929 attempt by CBS to create a syndicated Buster Brown radio show failed. By the late 1930s, the Buster Brown strip was in decline. Buster Brown survived primarily as the spokes-character for the Buster Brown Shoe Company.
The “Smilin’ Ed’s Buster Brown Gang” radio show was an immediate hit. Ed McConnell (1892-1954), a vaudeville banjo player and singer who had transitioned to radio in 1922, was the host. The show aired on NBC radio on Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. until April 11, 1953. Frank Ferrin produced and Arthur Jacobson directed the show. Hobart Donavan wrote the script and the comic book giveaways.
The cast of characters included Buster Brown, Froggy the Gremlin, Midnight the Cat, Squeaky the Mouse, and Tige, Buster Brown’s dog. Ed McConnell voiced Froggy. When McConnell had to sing a duet with Froggy, G. Archibald “Archie” Presby, an NBC staff announcer, became Froggy. June Forary voiced Midnight. Bud Tollefson, a sound effect engineer, provided Tige’s growling. Other cast members included Conrad Dinyoh, John Dehner, Wendall Noble and Jimmy Ogg.
Froggy the Gremlin was a mischievous, rambunctious character. He had no respect for authority. He was a bad-apple clown. Froggy appeared when Smilin’ Ed said, “plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!!” arriving with a hearty “hiya kids, hiya, hiya!”
Ed McConnell’s “Smilin’ Ed’s Buster Brown Gang” premiered on NBC television on Aug. 26, 1950, and continued to May 19, 1951. It was broadcast at 6:30 p.m. The television show moved to ABC for two seasons (Aug. 11, 1951 to April 11, 1953), airing at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. It returned to NBC on Aug. 22, 1953 at its 10:30 a.m. time slot. McConnell served as host until his death in 1954. The show appeared on NBC as “Andy’s Gang,” hosted by Andy Divine (1905-1977), on Aug. 20, 1955.
[Visit, the Froggy the Gremlin Web site created by Ronald Stone to learn more about Froggy, Ed McConnell, and Andy Devine.]
Rempel’s Froggy the Gremlin came in two sizes. The 9-inch version has a black bowtie and the Rempel logo stamped on his backside. The 5-inch version has a white bowtie and the Rempel logo stamped on the back of his head. Rempel licensed Froggy to a Canadian company. Their Froggy toys are marked “Rempel/Canada. There is an unmarked version made by The Leisure Group, Medina, Ohio. It is 9 ½ inches tall and has the squeaker in the foot. Do not confuse Froggy with Rempel’s two other frog squeeze toys—Croaker and Peeper.
Rempel’s Froggy the Gremlin often does not survive in good, squeaking condition. The rubber can flatten and/or become hard. Collectors want examples that work. Period package also is critical to value.
In 2007, a 9-inch Froggy in his period box in near mint condition on eBay sold for $661. What a difference a few years makes. Today Froggy would bring half that amount. In talking with Ronald Stone, he told me the secondary market for Froggy material was falling. Most collectors had obtained the examples they wanted and new collectors were not entering the market.
The white bowtie indicates you own the 5-inch example. Assuming your Froggy is in very good condition (all surface paint intact and still squeaking), its value is between $75 and $100. See the “Buster Brown” and “Smilin’ Ed McConnell” category listings in Ted Hake’s “The Official Price Guide to Pop Culture Memorabilia: 150 Years of Character Toys & Collectibles,” published by Random House-House of Collectibles in 2008, for a list of Buster Brown, Ed McConnell, and Froggy memorabilia.
QUESTION: I have an RCA 78 rpm record entitled “Little Black Sambo’s Jungle Band.” Does it have any value?
– V, Janesville, Wis.
ANSWER: Your record is from the RCA Victor “Little Black Sambo’s Jungle Band” children’s album. The storybook album was part of the Little Nipper Series. When Nipper barked on the record, the listener turned the storybook page.
Paul Wing wrote and narrated the text. Norman Leyden composed the music. Henri René conducted. Paul Wing provided the voice for dozens of RCA Victor children’s records. There were two releases of “Little Black Sambo’s Jungle Band”—the first in 1939-1940 and the second in 1950. The cover art also changed. The Little Black Sambo image on the 1950 cover is far less stereotyped than that found on the 1939-1940 cover.
TRIVIA QUIZ: Paul Wing provided the narration for the first recording of what popular 1939 children’s tale?
Paul Wing hosted “Paul Wing’s Spelling Bee” on radio in the late 1930s. Milton Bradley issued a game based on the show in 1938. In 1940, almost a decade before the first television network, the show premiered on W2XBS Television in New York, thus making Wing one of the first, if not the first, television game show hosts.
A complete 1950 “Little Black Sambo’s Jungle Band” unit consists of the 20-page storybook and two records. All you have is one of the records. Alone, it has little to no value.
Peter Muldavin’s “The Complete Guide to Vintage Children’s Records, Identification & Value Guide,” published by Collector Books in 2007, values the 1939-1940 RCA Victor Bluebird B-17, three-record, “Little Black Sambo’s Jungle Band” album at $45 in good to very good condition and $90 in excellent to mint condition. The 1950 RCA Victor Y-344, two-record, storybook album is valued at $40 in good to very good condition and $80 in excellent to mint condition.
Muldavin has made the storybook and records available for listening/viewing on his Web site. It is a fun visit
QUESTION: I have a Flexible Flyer sled made in Philadelphia, Pa. by S. L. A. & Co. It is marked Model 2F. What is its value?
– SW, Scotland, UK, via e-mail
ANSWER: The S. L. Allen Company of Philadelphia manufactured Flexible Flyer sleds as well as sleds under other brand names such as FireFly and Yankee Clipper. The F series, the first with an articulated bumper, was introduced in 1928. The bumper came in two variations: (1) two pieces joined in the middle and (2) two pieces covered by a single piece. The latter configuration became the standard for later sled models. The first variation is harder to find and more desired by collectors.
Although the G series was introduced in 1930, S. L. Allen Company continued to make the F series into 1931. The number indicates the length of the sled—the lower the number, the smaller the sled.
The value of your sled very much depends on its condition. Maximum value requires that the decal is intact without any damage, the varnish remains smooth, and the runners retain their period paint. In fine condition, your sled has a value between $50 and $65. Played-with value is around $25.
QUESTION: I have a 1979 John Wayne ceramic decanter. The alcohol is gone. Can you tell me what it is worth?
– LW, via e-mail
ANSWER: Mike Wayne Distilling Co. issued three John Wayne decanters. The first, measuring 10½ inches high and 7in wide, features a colored, three-quarter length photograph of John Wayne. The decanter’s border is 23k gold gilt. The second, measuring 19 inches high, is a statue of a standing Wayne. The third, measuring10½ inches tall, is a bronze-colored ceramic bust resting on a black base.
The missing whisky is a plus. All states prohibit the sale of liquor without a license. If you attempt to sell a collectible decanter with the liquor intact, you are in violation of the law.
The portrait decanter is the most common. One example sold on eBay for $20. Another example mint-in-the-box sold for $55. A realistic price for a bottle sans box is around $15.
The statue decanter is the hardest bottle to find. It commands in excess of $45. The bust decanter is relatively common. Its value is around $25.
In searching the Internet, I found several listings for a Jim Beam John Wayne bottle. However, the bottle does not resemble Wayne. This is most likely a case of misattribution. The bottle is probably the cowboy from one of the Beam western series.
TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWER: Paul Wing narrated the first recording of Robert May’s story about Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. May wrote the story for Montgomery Ward’s 1939 Christmas promotion.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out his Web site.
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“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site: http://www.harryrinker.com.
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 22 Stillwater Circle, Brookfield, CT 06804. You can e-mail your questions to email@example.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.
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