I have to tell you that one of the figure builders that to me made some of the best faces in the ventriloquist trade was Len Insull. His Cheeky Boy figure has stood the test of time and is just as nice today as it was back in the early 1950’s when he started selling his figures. He did produce other styles but the Cheeky Boy figure outsold all his others by a mile.
He produced them in 2 varieties, one with just mouth, upper lip and moving eyes and the other which was fully loaded. As matter of fact here are the facts on Len Insull production.
Between 1952 and 1974 he produced no less than 2017 items of which: 317 were no. 1 heads and 528 were no. 2 heads plus 338 usual bodies, 100 half sized heads, 39 half sized bodies, 80 specials, 32 special bodies, 316 skulls, 50 Toby jugs, 16 vest pocket figures, 4 canes and 197 other items.
But as of late the Insull figures are becoming rather hard to find in original condition. I, as you know, love to find figures that have not been touched by anyone else’s hands except for the original builder. That can be a daunting task with Insull because of a few factors. First the mouths on the figures were made using kid leather and after many years of use, change in climate and general abuse the leather can become brittle and crack and paint can chip off. Of course repairing this is totally permissible as a tool of the ventriloquist. You must remember I think as a collector. I want original.
Paper mache is a fragile medium and also can damage rather easily if not cared for so many of Len’s figures have gone by the wayside. Today they just do not come around as often as they used to so finding one is not an easy thing. If you have a chance to get an Insull I would say do it. They are not going to come down in price and if it is a good example you will have fun using him. Most of the Cheeky Boys you find will be fully loaded examples.
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: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2012 by Dan Willinger
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Love the article. Davenport is still selling a similar figure.
IS there anyway to tell if it is an Insull in great shape or just a new figure from Dabenport? And do the glass eyes add alot?
I’ve been actively looking and I hate I missed a glass eye version.
But now I’ve been contemplating an old man Insull but it actually looks “too new” to be that old. It’s marked Davenport but I know they still sell figures…
I really want one that is collectible but I don’t want to be scared to use it for fear of damaging it.
Thank You Again for Always providing great content and information