Restoration Of Ventriloquist Figures

I was prompted to write this blog today comparing restoring and remaking a ventriloquist figure. You see there are those out there that do work on ventriloquist figures and use the word restore when in fact the restoration is the farthest thing from the true meaning of restore. This is the definition of the word restore from Merriam Webster’s dictionary:

: to bring back to or put back into a former or original state

Now that means you can’t change anything when doing the job. It must be done the way the original maker did the work. If you change anything be it add or subtract, such as a function or change the color paint, or the type of wig, or use a new body or new arms or legs, even though the ventriloquist figure may look the same or even function the same it is NOT restored it is remade or redone.

Does this affect the value of a ventriloquist figure? For the most part no one would ever know except a true collector like myself. But as a collector in any avenue of collecting Originality is the most important aspect of the item. I don’t care what that item happens to be, if it has been altered in any way from original it no longer holds the value.

I have spoke about this quite a number of times but I keep getting asked this so I keep stating the facts. ORIGINAL ORIGINAL ORIGINAL.

When you buy a ventriloquist figure that is new you will not have this problem because it does not yet have a collector value but once a figure gets to the 30 or 40 year mark, now the original factor creeps into effect. Always remember if you have an older ventriloquist figure, and the condition is above a 3 on a 1-5 scale with 1 being absolutely mint, do not do anything to change it. Leave it alone or use it as is and be careful not to harm it any further. You can only have original once and if you change ANYTHING, the originality and value is gone.

It slays me inside my gut to get a ventriloquist figure that is 70 years old and a card is attached inside the head saying restored and actually it has been changed not restored but remade. Yes this has happened to me. PLEASE make sure if you are going to have your expensive antique ventriloquist worked on, the person knows the definition of restore. Otherwise a real crime may be being made!!


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Ventriloquist Central is the brainchild of Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst. Dan 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. Steve is a ventriloquist as well as builder of ventriloquist figures. He also has a background in sales, marketing, building websites and computers. Because they both love the art of ventriloquism, the website Ventriloquist Central was born. For more information about the website, go to:

Copyright 2013 by Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst

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3 Responses to Restoration Of Ventriloquist Figures

  1. Brian Hagelgans says:

    Hi Dan, I agree that as a collector you want original all the way! Without a doubt I applaud you for your original collections and for what you and Steve do here on Ventriloquistcentral! Amazing :) (This may go a bit off your topic but just thought Id throw some thoughts out there!) As a ventriloquist it makes no sense to me though to aquire a great figure only to find out its nearly impossible to operate due to control layout at the stick. Im not speaking because it simply has more features or levers as I know this before I aquire but that by design or layout its just not correct! Now Im not speaking of merely forefinger mouth/thumb issue Im talking about just plain control layout and hand placement! Ive owned a few now and for some the control layout is just not feasable to be used comfortably or to make use of those fabulous features that were painstakenly built inside the head by one of the great builders of today! Understanding of course that not all features are necessary for a good manipulation effort as for years I only had two figures with only a jaw and moving eyes! Like a New car with all the bells and whistles the “extra” features are fun! Take for example that new car you just bought loaded…what if you couldnt reach the button for the radio or the switch to turn on the AC or bluetooth sync! I own an older HHR and the darn auto window buttons are on the bottom of the console not on the door! Talk about annoying!! Oh…I didnt buy they car it was inherited so I cant do too much complaining. Now a days many switches for car accessories are mounted to the steering wheels of cars or within easy reach for access by the driver. There are some amazing figures coming out these days with advanced features. As a ventriloquist I consider myself a “driver” of the figure Im with! When I have to take a thumb off the mouth trigger just to move the eyes left or right…thats criminal lol! In essence to me thats like taking your hand off the steering wheel to turn on blinkers! Granted I have only had one figure arrive to me in this condition as stated above but it makes for a very good example and needless to say I changed it/modified it… its no longer original! I will never use the term “restoration” but instead “modification” :) cause thats what I do on some of mine. I will say that some of my figures have never required the removal of the hatch! They are perfect as they have arrived old ones and new ones!! Others though I have made changes due to inadequate control setups, brass rub/grind, squeaks and just wrong placement of the triggers. Sometimes I think all brass/and rod construction is “overrated” but does sound extremely good and when done correctly is awesome! An investment into a figure at todays costs should be considered by the ventriloquist on ease of use prior to purchase as not to be disapointed and even pics of the headstick! I also understand that builders have many many hours and much time into these creations. I have realized this myself on my projects! Unless you build one, modify or tweak a figure its hard to understand how long it takes to put one of these guys together properly! Kudos to the many great builders out there! We do not however for the most part have the priviledge to order custom as we find deals on Ventriloquistcentral markeplace or other sites that we cannot refuse, so we most of the times get what we get! I for one want whatever dummy I purchase to be operational by my hands. Do not mistake or misunderstand with any new aquirement there is a learning curve or a time of familiarity to work with the controls. Im fully aware and take on the challenge! So please understand I dont expect a completely custom layout without ordering it! This is not about custom jobs as it is just basic user friendly control layouts that multiple features can be accessed. I just find that without modifications to some they are completely useless to me to operate fully. Another quick example, I received in a really nice figure recently that the sneer trigger was above the thumb mouth trigger but slightly back. Now how can I use the sneer trigger effectively if I have to take my thumb off the mouth? Ok…yes when he is not speaking I can pull down the sneer ok.. but check this out….what if I could pull the sneer anytime I want whether the figure is speaking or not? Would that not be better? In retrospect Yes I modified and now I can control it how I want it…lol now he is no longer original Dan lol! This is why I modify. So to wrap up, if your going to change things please make it better as like Dan says it will not be orginal but I will say it may just make it usable :) please just my humble thoughts and opinions not trying to drudge up anything here…Just my 2 cents! Dan your collection is awesome and one day I sincerly hope to visit the Ventriloquistcentral collection…and you of course lol.

  2. Dan says:

    Brian your point is well taken but I was really talking about figures that have now reached the collectible status. Find out before you purchase if the figure has been modified in any way. If you find a Frank Marshall figure, or any other golden era maker i.e. Ken Spencer, Revelo Pettee ect. ect. and all the controls have been changed and it has a replacement body, it is no longer an original figure and hence not worth X number of dollars.

  3. Brian Hagelgans says:

    Thats ok Dan mentioned I might be bit off topic I was just bored and decided to write a bunch of “run on” sentences :) I certainly agree on the older ones as if I aquired any of those such as you have would only be for collection
    ..darn another “run on” sentence

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