Fred and Ethel Restore Or Not?

Again Steve and I bantered back and forth about restoration of figures and the duo of Fred & Ethel came up (from yesterday’s blog…click here if you missed it).

As I’ve stated I am a purist and really hate to touch a vintage piece that still shows very well and Fred and Ethel fit that bill. They could stand in the Ventriloquist Central Collection and look great just the way they are showing all the flaws of both time and being handled.

Steve stated that he understood my thinking but reminded me that these figures were not created by the famous Frank Marshall, Spencer, Pinxy or any other well known figure builder. He said even though Edmud Wostkowski did a great job in making these figures…..who is he? He is not known in the ventriloquial world. These do not have the value of figures made by the great makers.

I can’t dispute Steve’s claims except that for me it is hard to do it. Just plain hard.

So this is what we are going to do. I am going to ask all of you your opinions on the restoration. Please think with both your head and heart. Most of all my readers are ventriloquists so you will say restore.

If I was doing a blog on an antique folk art site the votes would be leave it alone. So try to be unbiased in your comments and have fun.

Please leave your comments below



Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to:

Copyright 2012 by Dan Willinger

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7 Responses to Fred and Ethel Restore Or Not?

  1. Bob Isaacson says:

    Dan…..I myself, would do as little as possible, just the minimum, in any type of “restoration”. Only some possible little paint “touchups”, for appearance sake. That way, the figures will most likely look as they did in their original state. Just my humble opinion.

  2. Ony Carcamo says:

    For me it’s just this: If I were a collector I would probably leave a figure in its original state. But I am a working ventriloquist, and I won’t mind changing/revising some of its parts to help better my shows.

    A few years ago I got a mint Ken Spencer figure, the original paint was wonderful. But I thought its skin tone was “too white” for the character I wanted him. We Filipinos generally have brown skin, and I thought my audience would relate better to my Spencer if he also has darker skin tone. I sought advice from some vent friends, including Dan W, and in the end I decided to repaint him myself. It was a fantastic decision and my Spencer played his role very well.

    I may use him for another role and purpose in the future, and who knows I might repaint him again!

  3. James Manalli says:

    I don’t think I would do anything other than stabalizing the cracks to prevent further splitting.

  4. P. Grecian says:

    I think Ony nails it: If you purchase a figure to put it to work for you, then you do to it whatever needs to be done in order to bring it up to performance quality. If you purchase a figure as part of a collection, you do minimal work on it.

    I am also reminded of a video production I did many years ago for a theatre that was being restored. The walls of the house featured huge paintings from the 1893 World’s Fair, literally covering the walls up to the ceilings. Unfortunately, over the years, they had fallen into disrepair; one even had a hole in it that you could have thrust your arm through.
    The paintings were carefully removed and shipped to an art restoration company in Texas. I took a camera crew to watch the process.
    Everything they did was reversible. The paintings were bonded to huge acid free canvas with special wax, the paint used to fill in missing portions could be cleaned away with ease, should it become necessary.
    The point is that they had the best of both worlds: The paintings were mounted back on the walls and looked pristine, but from an historic point of view, they could easily be stripped of their restorations, should the need arise.
    Maybe this could be a middle ground (?).

  5. Bob Conrad says:

    Dan, I think Ony said it all, as a collector either leave them as they are or make as little change as possible, clean them, slight touch up if necessary. As a performer of course you would want them to look fresh and new, unless you where presenting them as antique figures. They belong to you and you like them the way they are, so keep them that way.

  6. Ben and MJ says:

    I agree with the others. Your figures are far more meaningful to you as a collector (and probably more valuable) in their original condition. If you restore them inevitably you will change them, if maybe in the slightest way, from what the original owner created them to be.

  7. Ray Guyll says:

    Depends on your purpose. My opinion is that a collector should preserve the historical value. If you’re going to use them in performance then you need to give them a look that will properly present their part of the show.

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