Items from the world of TV advertising from some of the earliest TV campaigns are among the nearly 1,000 objects spanning the history of television that will come up for auction next month.
The advertising items -- such as the Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone Fruity Pebbles cel above from a 1970s commercial -- are part of a sprawling collection of wide-ranging TV artifacts assembled by a man who is probably the world's preeminent collector of historical TV objects.
His name is James Comisar, 58, and he has been assembling this huge collection for about 30 years, according to Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, which is mounting this auction of 976 items from June 2 to June 4.
The auction can be accessed in a number of ways, from in-person to virtually. In addition, some of the artifacts up for auction will be available for in-person previewing this month in New York and Dallas.
The by-appointment New York lot viewing will be held at Heritage Auctions' Manhattan showroom at 56th Street and Park Avenue (445 Park Avenue) on May 18-20 and May 22-25.
While the dates of the auction are June 2-4, many items up for sale already have a “bid now” button to click on the Heritage Auctions website.
The TV Blog is no expert on auctions, so a visit to the auction's landing page on the Heritage Auctions website is highly recommended. Everything you need to know is there.
All the items up for auction are available for browsing on the Heritage Auctions site. But beware: Browsing through this trove can be addictive. It is a deep dive.
The advertising objects form a relatively small part of the 976-item lot. They include: A complete Maytag repairman outfit worn by the original Maytag repairman, Jesse White; a red-checked blouse worn by Comet cleanser spokes-character Josephine the Plumber (Jane Withers); and a full outfit worn by Palmolive's Madge the manicurist (Jan Miner).
Other ad-biz objects come from the black-and-white era, such as gray-scale, wooden mockup boxes for products such as Rice Chex, Kal Kan cat food and Ken L Ration Stew for dogs.
Other ad items from TV's first decade or so include a black-and-white cel of Yogi Bear from a Kellogg's Corn Flakes commercial, and a group of four “Campbell's Soup Kids Stop Motion Puppet Heads from Early Campbell’s Soup Commercials,” according to the site.
And from the fictional ad biz, items from “Mad Men” up for auction include a framed “Roger Sterling” 1961 advertising award, plus Roger's bar cart and mid-century modern cocktail set.
Other ad-related auction items are too numerous to mention here. That goes even more for the rest of this mind-boggling collection of TV items, which are just part of a collection that is said to number more than 10,000.The lot up for auction includes many, many items that can potentially be had relatively cheaply.
Indeed, many of them list starting bids of $1. These include some of the items mentioned above such as the Maytag Repairman uniform and Josephine the Plumber blouse.
Bidding has already started for other items. For example, a current bid of $105 was listed on Tuesday for a 1954 stop-motion “boy puppet” of Speedy Alka Seltzer complete with its original crate marked by hand as destined for “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.”
By contrast, a number of items are much more expensive. A full Lt. Uhura Star Fleet uniform, with boots, from the original “Star Trek” lists a “reserve” of $50,000 (which is the minimum acceptable bid, as the TV Blog understands it). An original Capt. Kirk Star Fleet shirt has a reserve of $90,000.
Some of the lot items are huge in size, such as a full David Letterman set from NBC's “Late Night,” Archie and Edith Bunker's chairs from the final season of “All in the Family,” and the set from which Johnny Carson hosted his last 10 years of “The Tonight Show” and used for his final farewell -- reserve amount: $100,000.
Comisar is in the process of breaking up his huge collection because after trying for many years to interest the TV industry in establishing a TV museum, he has conceded defeat.
“After 30 years of saving and sacrificing to acquire and protect this collection, then meeting with studio heads, network presidents, theme parks and different cities across the country, I have come to accept that I won't be able to establish the museum I always dreamed of,” Comisar said in a statement from the auction house.
“I am extremely proud to have done my part in assembling and safeguarding this collection. Now, it's up to others to take over this cultural mission.”