Today there is a great influx of replica items hitting the American buying market and they certainly have their place. Most of the replicas hitting the market are coming in from China and the southeast Asian countries and I must say that they are fantastic.
You can purchase a solid mahogany dining table with gadrooned edge (roping) with a set of 12 carved chairs and a side board for around $3000.00. If you were to purchase the same set made 100 years ago (centennial) actually 125 years old, it would cost you $12,000.00 and if it were period (225 years old) you would be looking at $250,000.00
So you can see that the pricing for an antique is four times the price of the replica. When it comes to Ventriloquist Figures I believe the pricing is relative to what I have just stated above.
A Frank Marshall Nosey figure today will run you anywhere from five to ten thousand depending on condition. When Ventriloquist Central offered our Nosey Replica figures we built them as close to the original figures as possible and we priced them at that 25% range.
So just be wary of pricing on replica figures that are offered on the market today. I also include McElroy replicas in this equation. There are folks out there asking prices for replicas that are possibly more than what an original would cost.
Of course, this is a “collector’s” point of view.
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 2011 by Dan Willinger
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Good blog today that I think will spark some conversation! I’ll start it off.
I would have to disagree and here is why. Due to the amount of work that goes into some of these replicas you can’t make a blanket statement on pricing. Price is not set on time period. Price is established by supply and demand.
Per your blog, let’s use McElroy replicas for example. Particularly Greg Claassen’s McElroy replica. Let’s say the going rate of an original McElroy is $30K. Considering the amount of work hours he puts into creating those, if he only asked $7500, he would probably make 1/4 of minimum wage for his efforts after the cost of casting materials, brass, solder, paint and most importantly, time. Also, he and others like Ray Guyll establish the market value of their work when they ask what they think their work is worth – and get it!
I’m sure if you were to ask Ray Guyll for a Frank Marshall Nosey in wood – if he wanted to take on the project, he would not do it for 1/4 of $5000. He probably wouldn’t do it for $5000. But, you would have a Nosey, that would be superior and possibly more rare than a Marshall considering Ray’s penchant for perfection, but low volume output.
Other builders have built McElroy or Marshall replicas cheaper, but they are not a Claassen, or for that matter, a Guyll replica – so their work simply does not warrant those kinds of prices. But, I don’t think you can make all encompassing statements on pricing. There are just too many factors that come into play. As they say in the end, you get what you pay for.
There is my .02. I’m curious to see what others say. Great blog!
I think that if making a replica, say that it started out based on original, then made changes so it too becomes original and sell the figure as such.
I have to agree with Matt to a point. No figure maker today makes much above minimum wage for the hours they put in. The materials aren’t the largest price of what they charge, the labor is. Unless they have access to CNC routers, etc. to greatly diminish the hours it takes, I can’t see how they could afford to do it for 25% of the price of an original. Also in the case of Ray Guyll and Greg Claassen, there mechanics may be based on the McElroy principals, the mechanics are superior; probably due to experience and the availability of materials, they don’t have to use bicycle spokes, etc. and improvise parts. They can actually fabricate to better tolerances. Not saying the originals don’t work well… they do… but the sophistication of the mechanics of the replicas is superior. Just my opinion.
I have to agree with Matt everything cost more today. Inflation, cost of living. The workmanship on today’s figures in many way surpasses the originals. Even Bergen had Charlie’s made from fiberglass, that were lighter and easier to perform with. Also let me say, Matt I miss your blog, and following your adventures in figure making.
On second thought, I have to agree with Dan. From a collectors point of view, the original is what you want and is worth the most. From a performers stand point the newer, more high tech, smoother working, lighter weight figure is more desirable. It becomes apples and oranges.
To compare a Claassen to any other figure replica (or any other figure, for that matter) is like comparing a diamond to ruby. Sure, rubies are nice…but they aren’t a diamond.
Yes – the mechanics are far superior due to the materials available. The castings are far superior – due to materials available. Thus, the figures are far superior in quality due to the materials available. This is common knowledge. BUT…the McElroys were so far ahead of their time it is simply amazing. And yes, to purchase a high quality replica you are going to pay as much as you would for an original McElroy! So you have to ask yourself – am I a performer, or a collector? David Pendleton performs with his original McElroy for YEARS now, so you can have the best of both worlds. Again the needs of a performer and a collector are two different things.
But then we can also discuss thoughts on originality. From Dan’s antique clock background and expertise he preaches that originality is what is most desirable. I agree to a point….but with ventriloquist figures there are other factors that play a part. Look at what just happened with Clinton Detweiller’s figure. He just sold a vintage INSULL figure that has been in Maher studios since the days of Madelline. He made a new body and used some old hands. This figure broke $5K! Meanwhile, there is an equally beautfiul INSULL that has original body and hands that has been on ebay forever and couldn’t get $2K. I think that PROVENANCE plays a more important role than originality in establishing value for ventriloquist figures due to the fact that they are essentially tools for a performer. The history of who used the figure, and the success of that performer play a critical role in establishing value. Bergen’s first Charlie was a Mack. Bergen had him altered to have all direction eyes. He also had different hands and bodies made. Did that de-value him? Ok, that is an extreme example, but you get my point.
Now let’s take a “fictional” example and I’d like to get some thoughts. What if Dan buys two Marshall figures (which will probably happen in another week or two if the earth keeps spinning! ;). These figures have no known provenance. They are both NOSEY figures w/ s/s eyes and moving mouth and winkers. Let’s say they are both $3,000 each and are in good condition – meaning they have some scrapes and dings, but original paint, in-tact wig, and nothing broken. Now, let’s say Dan sends one of these figures and pays $2,000 to Ray Guyll for a total re-furbish of the mechanics, and paint. Now, from a collector’s point of view did he de-value that figure? Absolutely NOT. Why? Because Ray is qualified as a master figuremaker whose figures equal or surpass the value of a vintage Marshall. Also, Ray’s paint job while maintaining a Marshall influence, is far superior. The oil paints he uses are superior in quality. The quality of his paint job, and blends, and subtleties are simply better than anything Marshall could do. No, a Ray Guyll restoration, in my eyes, only increases the value and appearance of a Marshall to exceed that of the original, due to the quality of his artistry. Again, this is MY opinion only — purely shared for discussion.
So you’re the one who read my blog!?
Seriously, thanks for your compliment – but if I do anything significant I will type it up and record photos and shoot them to Dan to share through Ventriloquist Central. Why work on a competing blog when Dan and Steve have always been kind enough to allow me to share my tinkerings through their blog? Just my thought on it.
I think the “original” loses its “originality” when it receives such things as a modern paint job that bears little or no resemblance to the “original” look, new body or hands.
A copy is just that, a copy. They can be mass produced.
So, to keep them original, please send me ALL your old Marshalls and I will leave them as is. Promise.
Great insight, Matt.
I agree that the value of any figure, may it be original or replica, depends on who made it or who owned/used it.
As an example, a few months ago I built a Marshall Rickie Tik replica (based on the Marshall replica head I got from Matt… Thanks again, Matt!). The let say Ray Guyll built another Rickie Tik replica. So we have 2 replicas now.
Guyll’s replica will surely be sold much more than mine because he is the more established, more experienced, and much better figure maker than me!
I wish I HAD an old Marshall. I think Dan bought them all.
Two factors that could affect pricing on a replica:
From a collector’s point of view, it simply isn’t the original figure made by the original maker. That would drive the price down, although it is unknown if it would be the 25% that Dan mentions.
From a performers point of view, it is too not an original. The figure is not unique to their act and is known through the performances of another ventriloquist. If they are buying to just have around because they admire the original performer, the original maker, or simply like how it looks, they are a collector of sorts – maybe not the hard core type that Dan represents but a collector nonetheless.
We all seem to ‘know’ that newer is always better, and that fiberglass figures are superior to wooden ones. Fiberglass is certainly better if you want a cheaper figure that has lots of identicle twin brothers out there. With a lousy old wooden dummy, you’re stuck with a one of a kind piece of art that nobody else has. What a sad and lonely situation that would be.
And as to the weight obsession, I have two comments:
1. If your dummy sits on a stand of some sort while you perform, weight is not really an issue.
2. The Rocky figure recently featured on this website not only has carved head and hands, but shaped wooden feet and a carved wooden shell body. He weighs 5.2 pounds.
If I were the winning bid on this old figure and case on which it sits http://www.antiquehelper.com/catalog.php?id=142&page=7 there is no way I would change anything, not even think about making a mold of head or hands for replica purposes, or do anything that might change it. Once I had had an old antique fishing reel (first one made in KY at Frankfort by jewelers). The one I bought for $100 was company when it moved (to Louisville). It was the very first open face fishing reel. It had a brass finish and the fishing reel was little dirty. I decided to take finest steel wool to clean it. Off came the brass finish with the little bit of dirt. Anybody that watches Antiques Roadshow knows that this hurt the value.
About wooden figures all being one of a kind: Didn’t some figure makers use dupli-carvers? I don’t know about fiberglass figures necessarily being superior in all ways to wooden ones. They are certainly lighter, that’s for sure, and fiberglass is certainly an easier material to use for making duplicates. As for materials to make figures from, a new material that might trump fiberglass might be polyurethane resin. It doesn’t give off intense toxic fumes like fiberglass and is strong and lightweight. But I’m going off on a tangent. What should really matter with a figure is if it is appealing, easy to operate, and if it will hold up to use and abuse.
There’s nothing good as wood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasa_(ship)
I agree with Matt :)
I think a figure’s value, original or replica depends on first the maker then the seller but most importantly… the buyer. :)
So question: If you buy a high end replica like a Mcelroy
Will it retain it’s value? Will the value grow like with the original?
Or… will it have the same effect as purchasing a new car. When you take delivery the price goes down?
Really curios because other than the limited supply I can’t think of any reason why I would buy a used replica unless it was greatly discounted i the character isn’t one that I couldn’t buy new….
Thank you and as always another great blog!
Tonya I will agree with you if you purchase a replica it is not going to increase in value except in a very few cases such as was stated above. In reality a replica is just that a copy and they go down in value.