Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse? Memorabilia featuring Disney’s most popular mouse has been produced since c1930 and is a very popular field of collecting. Mickey memorabilia from the 1930s, which includes soft toys, games and tinplate figures and storage tins, is the most sought-after.
Mickey was a slightly different-looking mouse in the 1930s to the one we are familiar with today, and taking a close look at his appearance can help date memorabilia. In his earliest form, Mickey was actually more rat-like, his head was less rounded, his body was thinner, his hands much larger and he also featured teeth and a tail. Marks are also important when dating pieces. Before 1939, most were marked “Walt Disney Enterprises” or, more rarely, “Walter E. Disney”. Early marks may also include George Borgfeldt’s name. Borgfeldt was the first to receive a license from Disney to produce memorabilia.
Disney also licensed the British company Dean and the German manufacturer Steiff to produce Mickey stuffed-toys in the 1930s. Dean pieces featured printed registration numbers and some were marked “Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Ltd.”. Steiff toys were produced with a rubber stamp on their foot and had Steiff tags attached to their ear and chest. Condition and rarity are paramount in determining the value of 1930s pieces. Steiff stuffed toys in rare colours or sizes and in good condition can command several thousand pounds or dollars.
From the 1930s many unlicensed products were made outside America, mainly in Germany and, from the late 1940s, in Japan. Examples of unlicensed memorabilia from the 1930s can still be of some value although licensed products are worth more.
From the mid-1930s, Mickey began to change. In 1934 he lost his toothy grin, which some children found frightening, and by the 1950s he had become plumper and less rodent-like. Memorabilia from the 1950s to 70s is becoming more sought-after by collectors. Pieces from this period are available from around £15 ($30) and could offer an exciting investment. Always aim for pieces in Mint condition marked with “Walt Disney Productions”, this being marked on all products after 1939, or “© Disney”, which was used after 1984.