Collecting Ventriloquist Figures and Using Them

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A topic of discussion which arises every so often is about collecting ventriloquist figures and the bad impact it has on those that want the figures to perform. I find that very odd but there really are folks that have emailed me in private asking me why I don’t give others the chance to purchase old figures.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. First of all if an old figure is offered publicly say on eBay or even on the Ventriloquist Marketplace everyone has the chance to jump in and make the purchase. The one thing a person must understand is that you have to be ready to say yes and pay the price.

Now I am not saying there isn’t a bit of networking involved with collectors. That has always been the case in any item that has collect ability. Antique dealers network all the time and let each other know what they have found. I have done this my entire life.

But getting back to the subject at hand. I certainly have amassed a large collection of antique figures and I can tell you this for the most part performers would not use them in today’s venues. You want today the likes of Gilmer, Selberg, Hartz, Cowles, Payes figures because they are the look of the figures today. Also the performers today use the soft figures by The Dummy Shoppe | Puppets by JET, MAT and Axtell.

For me when I see a performer take a very nice original 50 plus year or older figure, and re do it to use today, I understand it is a tool, but it really breaks my heart to remove the originality of that figure. I know what you are going to say….Jimmy Nelson has redone Danny O’Day and Farfell over the years. Those characters will always be what they are FAMOUS and as I said are Mr. Nelson’s tools. He had to keep them looking minty fresh.

Please don’t look down on me as if I have taken something from you. It really is quite the opposite. I share the Ventriloquist Central Collection as much as I possibly can both by pictures and videos for you all to see and enjoy and will keep doing so , I hope, for many years to come.


Have you signed up for the Ventriloquist Central Birthday Bash?


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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8 Responses to Collecting Ventriloquist Figures and Using Them

  1. You neglected to mention Alan Semok, who is still making some of the finest figures available using the same mechanics as Frank Marshall.

  2. Bill Matthews says:

    If every “antique” figure was refurbished and used, we wouldn’t have the history and connection with the great figure makers and performers of yesteryear. It’s one thing to see a modern replica, but to be able to actually see and handle an original, as you have, is something altogether different. A case in point. I’ve handled replica Charlie McCarthy’s. I’ve also seen and handled the original you have, as well as your pre-Charlie Charlie. WOW, the connection with your figures! To think I actually handled an original Charlie McCarthy that the great Edgar Bergen used just can’t be compared! So, keep up the great work, Dan, and thank you SOOO much for sharing!

  3. Keith Suranna says:

    Personally, I think folks’ beef about collecting is much ado about nothing. No one is taking anything “away” from anyone. You do not need to hear it from me, Dan, but keep doing what you do if it makes you happy. I’m pleased that you share your collection with the community. And whenever I make it back up to Boston, I’d love to visit.

  4. Dan says:

    Bill in your excitement you made a small mistake. I do not have an original Charlie McCarthy. I have the Mack built Pre Charlie Charlei, the figure which was used to do the Charlie Face. I also have the wood carved Charlie made by Bob Isaacson.
    Pete in my thoughts I neglected to put Al Semok. Just an oversite but you know there are still others I didn’t list as well that are making contemporary figure, Scott Bryte, James Manelli are a couple more notables.

  5. Ben Veenkamp says:

    I wonder what type of people go to the trouble of emailing you to complain about you being a collector? I don’t expect an answer of course, but maybe there are those who have a dream of owning and performing with say a McElroy (much like David Pendleton once did until fate dropped by and he was offered one) and they feel as though they’re being denied that by collectors (no doubt you’re not the only collector in the world Dan). Then maybe there’s just the crack pots lol

    I agree not many performing vents want to work with something like an old Marshall figure because their appearance is a little out dated by today’s standards, maybe they just want one so they can say they have it… hang on isn’t that collecting?

  6. Bob Conrad says:

    I am thrilled that all these great vintage figures have a good home and someone like you to take care of them. And I appreciate the fact that you share them with all of us on your web site and with your up coming Birthday Bash.
    There is a lot of truth to the old saying, “No good deed will go unpunished.”. You can’t please everyone, don’t even try. Enjoy your collection, and thanks for sharing.

    Bob Conrad

  7. Bill Matthews says:

    Oops! Sorry about that. Guess I’ll have to go eat caw-row!

  8. Hey Dan. Money talks & bullshit walks. Anyone that wants a dummy should pay without hesitation for if they do, you, me and many others will jump in and snatch the item. It saddens me that you have to justify your passion. I respect & love you. If there is a dummy that we both want…. I’ll mow you down……. If I’m fast enough:)

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