Is Peter Rabbit The Money-Bunny of Easter Collectibles?
Beatrix Potter’s beloved The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published on a commercial scale in 1902, was an immediate worldwide sensation. This first edition copy sold for over $150 in 2014.
Hoppy Easter, everyone! Now is unquestionably the “most wonderful time of the year” for those who love warmer weather, practically infinite candy choices, and of course, rabbits. Unlike Christmas – which is personified by Santa Claus – Easter doesn’t really have a definitive, universally recognized spokes-bunny. A perfect candidate for that role just might be Peter Rabbit, that mischievous boy rabbit from author Beatrix Potter’s (1866-1943) beloved The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This book, published on a commercial scale in 1902, was an immediate worldwide sensation. Margarete Steiff GmbH from Germany was one of the first manufacturers to obtain a license to produce Peter Rabbit merchandise, with the first Steiff Peter Rabbit plush toy appearing in 1904. Since then, this cheerful-earful has been associated with seemingly countless brands, appearing on everything including clothing, baby items, household goods, toys, food, and other consumer goods. In honor of Easter’s arrival, let’s check out the Worthopedia to unearth some of the more prominent and interesting Peter Rabbit merchandise and sales results over the past twelve months.
John Wright, an artist from Bennington, Vermont, has been interpreting fictional animals, people, and cultural icons as collectible and display dolls for over 40 years. He primarily works with felt and mohair as his mediums. His limited editions catch the eye of collectors worldwide. Characters from the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Palmer Cox’s Brownies, and other beloved tales have come to life under his skilled touch. As such, it should be no surprise that Potter’s Peter Rabbit – and many of his garden colleagues – have been produced as R. John Wright editions. Within the last 9 months, an R. John Wright 8″ tall, fully jointed mohair Peter Rabbit from his 2004 Beatrix Potter Collection sold for $1,495.
In January 2019, a 50 pence Peter Rabbit coin in mint condition sold for $12.
Beatrix Potter, who was born and died in the United Kingdom, authored 23 children’s books over the course of her lifetime. Her Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of the most important, and prolific, and best-selling publications of all time; it has been translated into 36 languages and has sold more than 45 million copies to date. To honor the 150th anniversary of Ms. Potter’s birth in 2016, a series of 50 pence coins featuring Potter’s Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Bunny, Mrs. Tittlemouse, Tom Kitten, Benjamin Bunny, and Jeremy Fisher was minted in the United Kingdom. These appear in circulation and are real currency. In January 2019, a 50 pence Peter Rabbit coin in mint condition sold for $12. For reference, 50 pence is about equal to $0.65.
In February 2019, a brand new in box Mattel Barbie Doll from 2001 called “Peter Rabbit 100 Year Celebration” sold for $25.
Barbie dolls, introduced in 1959, have always kept up with the times, reflecting what’s trending in popular culture. Manufacturer Mattel shares that over a billion Barbie dolls have sold worldwide in over 150 countries, and that three Barbie dolls are sold every second. Since her debut, Barbie has found ways to partner with world-class brands and designers and has participated in collaborations with top tier entities including Calvin Klein, Cartier, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Lily Pulitzer, Disney, and Coach. Popular Barbie collectibles also include anniversary editions; examples include co-branded merchandise for F.A.O. Schwarz, Sears, Corvette, NASCAR, and Star Trek, among many others. In February 2019, a brand new in box Mattel Barbie Doll from 2001 called “Peter Rabbit 100 Year Celebration” sold for $25. This anniversary edition marked the 100 year anniversary of the first publication of Potter’s Tale of Peter Rabbit.
In February 2018, a 9″ diameter Fenton Peter Rabbit carnival glass ruffled bowl in “marigold” sold for over $900.
Glass manufacturer Fenton began its operations in the early 1900s. The company is best known for its “carnival glass” production. Carnival glass items are made from molded or pressed glass, elaborately patterned, and finished with a metallic, or “iridescent” surface treatment. And yes, carnival glass was actually given away at fairs as prizes for winning games of skill or chance here in the United States through the first quarter of the 20th century. Fenton’s most familiar patterns include Peacock and Grape, Dragon and Lotus, and Diamond and Rib. Their Peter Rabbit pattern, based on the popularity of Ms. Potter’s book, is considered one of the rarest and most desirable of all, especially in green. Examples of all sorts are more likely to be found in the United Kingdom than the United States. In February 2018, a 9″ diameter Fenton Peter Rabbit carnival glass ruffled bowl in “marigold” sold for $981.50.
In August 2018, an all original, prewar Lionel Peter Rabbit hand car sold for $799.99.
Lionel trains were first manufactured as displays for stores, not as toys. But the public could not get enough of them and was intrigued by their presentation, scale, and use of electricity for movement. After a period of explosive growth, the company proclaimed their electric trains to be the “Standard of the World” in 1909. By the 1930s, world economic pressures and competition began to erode Lionel’s profits and popularity. Several new styles of hand cars were introduced during this decade to stop this slide, starting with a Disney Mickey and Minnie mouse version in 1934. This model was so popular that the company would go on to launch a series of other hand carts featuring beloved fictional characters – including Peter Rabbit, Santa Claus, Donald Duck, and Pluto – through 1937. In August 2018, an all original, prewar Lionel Peter Rabbit hand car sold for $799.99.
Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles. You can follow her blog, which focuses on vintage Steiff finds, Steiff antiquing and travel adventures, international Steiff happenings, and the legacy and history of the Steiff company at http://mysteifflife.blogspot.com. Sign up for her Steiff newsletter by contacting her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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