In the past I have talked at great length about originality when it comes to collectible value and I stand by that but sometimes work just has to be done and the following is just that.
I was contacted by an old antique buddy of mine this past week and he gave me a lead on a ventriloquist figure. He had seen it but was given a price higher than he was will to speculate on so he gave the lead to me. I made the call and went to see the figure and it turned out to be a Frank Marshall. Of course I was delighted and was able to make the purchase.
This Marshall is a very early one dating from the 1920’s and has a right eye winker, upper lip smile and of course slot jaw. When I purchased him it was evident that it had been placed in a very dirty basement where he was subject to soot which caked on him and eventually the side which was on the bottom was dirty but not nearly as dirty as the exposed side. He looked like a half black half white figure.
I could not help myself and decided to try and clean him. The first thing I tried was dish washing liquid which will cut grease but that didn’t even touch the dirt. Then I tried Windex and again no luck. Then I said to myself it had to be a bit more abrasive so I went to the garage and got some white compound used for pre polishing your car. I tried a small spot on the back of the neck and it worked like a charm. I wish I had taken a before picture but I got excited and a cool 1 1/2 hours later he was 95% dirt free. The remainder of the dirt was in the carved dimples and around the nose and eyes. I used a soft toothbrush and small amount of compound and the end results are a perfectly clean all original Marshall paint on this cute little face.
The eye winker’s leather is gone and the upper lip leather is brittle and missing on one side so it too will have to be replaced. This is a flat bottom neck style figure and the controls on this figure were done with ring pulls. Ring pulls were very popular at this time. The head stick goes all the way to the bottom of the body and attached with a screw from the underside of the body. Gives the head a great 360 degree effortless spin.
So I could leave him as you see him now and he is all original, paint, crepe hair and missing eye leather and bad lip leather. The antique part of me says leave him but the vent lover in me says he has to be repaired. The repairs will not devalue this fellow in the least in my estimation only increase his value and looks.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. His collection of ventriloquist figures now numbers over 100 figures of which there are over 50 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: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2009 by Dan Willinger
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Something you might want to try for hard cleaning but not obrasive, is the Mr. Clean Eraser sponge. They work amazingly and don’t scratch the paint, I have used them for removing marks on puppet heads with great results.
Now THAT, looks to be a very interesting project.
Looking forward to see it as things progress.
I will be at Kentucky State Fair to show off Kriket who will look like the Marshall if it rains, and will get himstraight to you to fix.