Mid-20th Century Edgar Bergen Ventriloquist Dummy Models

Value (2004) | $30,000 Insurance$40,000 Insurance

GUEST:
My grandfather was commissioned by Edgar Bergen to carve these to make the molds for these dummies that you see here.

APPRAISER:
And who was your grandfather?

GUEST:
Robert Wallace.

APPRAISER:
And he was a master sculptor?

GUEST:
He was. His main job was at McDonnell Douglas, but he did a lot of sculpting for ads and, well, as you see, for stuff like this. He did not do the actual original Charlie McCarthy. That was done, I think, in 1921, I believe. But about 20 years later he was asked to redo the Charlie McCarthy because he wanted somebody that looked more lifelike, and I can't remember whether...

APPRAISER:
It was television.

GUEST:
All of a sudden, there was television and this was a ventriloquist on television.

APPRAISER:
Everybody knows Charlie. Who are these characters?

GUEST:
This is Mortimer Snerd, and this is Effie Klinker; this was the newest one.

APPRAISER:
And who was Effie?

GUEST:
Effie... it looks like a man here, but it's actually a bachelorette-- I think they called it-- a spinster lady.

APPRAISER:
A spinster?

GUEST:
Yeah. That's what they used on the show.

APPRAISER:
These are really interesting because these are one-of-a-kinds. And the dummies would actually move, the jaws and the eyes would move and the heads would move and they had to have something to model them from. In later days, something like this as a plaster mold and not the wooden one, this would be called a maquette. And a maquette is something they made out of plaster so that an artist could copy it. The picture shows your grandfather with them on his desk. He was still working on them at the time, it looks like.

GUEST:
Right. I have a feeling this was taken before Effie Klinker because Effie's not in this picture.

APPRAISER:
Right. Now, here it shows Effie when she's completed, with all of her decoration.

GUEST:
Where she looks more like a woman, yeah.

APPRAISER:
And they painted them up and made them look really awesome on television, but it was just black and white. The originals of the dolls are in the Smithsonian. There is one in the Smithsonian and some in the Chicago museum.

GUEST:
Right, the ventriloquist museum in... In Chicago.

APPRAISER:
Now, you brought them in for a reason. What did you want to know?

GUEST:
For one, how to take care of them. We just recently got them, because my grandfather passed away just a couple of years ago; and also just to see what kind of value we're looking at. I'm not planning on selling them, because they're going to keep in the family.

APPRAISER:
These would be great in a glass display case. There's really nothing you need to do to protect them. I wouldn't polish them, I would keep them dusted, but keep them out of sunlight. There's no way to say what these could sell for, but if I was insuring them, I would probably put $30,000 to $40,000 insurance value on these three heads.

GUEST:
Wow... (laughs) That's amazing.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
allcollectors.com
Hudson, Massachusetts
Appraised value (2004)
$30,000 Insurance$40,000 Insurance
Event
Portland, OR (August 21, 2004)
Period
20th Century
Form
Maquette
Material
Wood

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