Dear Helaine and Joe:
I am anxious for you to provide information and value of my new toy. It is metal, the arms swing and the tail looks like a pendulum.
Thanks for your help,
We are a bit anxious, too. The description in the letter as this being “my new toy” suggests the piece has no history either in D.W. family or D.W.’s childhood.
Couple this with the circumstance that we could find no sales records for this balance toy among old items featuring Felix the Cat and we are more than a tad troubled. We do note wear to the paint on the piece that suggests someone played vigorously with the toy, but we know all too well that this sort of wear can be artificially induced.
Felix the Cat first appeared in 1919 in an animated cartoon titled “Feline Follies.” This anthropomorphic cat had all-black fur with huge white eyes and a gigantic grin. He became a very recognizable cartoon character along with Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and Mickey Mouse. He was so popular that some of our World War II armed forces even used the image of Felix as a sort of mascot.
Unfortunately, the origin of the iconic cartoon character is a bit murky — even a bit messy. Australian cartoonist and filmmaker Pat Sullivan claimed to be the creator, but American animator Otto Messmer also claimed credit for creating the beloved character.
It is known without question that Felix was born in Sullivan’s studio, but beyond that, there is some debate and we will leave it at that. What is unquestionable is Felix struck a responsive cord with the American public and became popular very quickly. Now this lovable vagrant cat is an indelible part of our popular culture.
Felix the Cat merchandising has never stopped appearing and everything from clocks and watches to puppets, cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, bubble bath containers, pencil boxes, crayons, music boxes, sand pails and a myriad of toys, all of which can be found on the current market. Some of these are quite old, many are quite new.
Beginning in 1923, Felix had his own comic strip syndicated in more than 250 newspapers, but the character was eventually somewhat eclipsed by Mickey Mouse. But in 1953, Felix came to American television, after he had been redesigned with longer legs by Joe Oriolo. In fact, Oriolo owned the rights to Felix until they were passed on to his son Don Oriolo.
Within the past few years, the rights to the Felix character have passed to DreamWorks Animation, now part of Comcast’s NBC Universal division.
There is some thought that the balance toy is 1930s, ’40s vintage, but we have been unable to confirm that with any certainty. If it is indeed of that age, the insurance replacement value is probably in the $25 to $50 range, but if it is more modern that value falls by half or more.