Monday, 27 February 2017

Nodding All The Way To The Bank!

When it comes to the world of vintage ceramic toy figurines, a major variety (Bobbleheads) and a minor variety (Nodders) of which have motion capability engineered into the product, the CFL landscape is an as yet unraveled labyrinth of uncertainty characterized by a dauntingly large amount of issued set and item variation complexities.

But today I am going to focus on two sub-types of this category of collectible that are distinctly straightforward to list, surprisingly unique to the CFL and command impressively high prices on the very infrequent occasions where one is available for purchase.

An Ottawa Rough Rider themed "Touchdown" Bank with built-in football Bobblehead figurine, front and back views.

Ah yes; a toy targeted at young boys, for a roughhouse sport, made to be interacted with to trigger its movement action, constructed of fragile material, with limited production and distribution for a small market and available for a relatively short time period ... a fail-safe recipe for scarcity and high value for the few surviving examples today. Add to these facts the fairly unusual situation where collectors of American versions of sports Bobbleheads and Nodders recognize the even more pronounced scarcity of Canadian issues and actively pursue their acquisition, despite their normal disinterest in most things related to Canadian football, and you have the perfect storm for this type of novelty and souvenir.

The functioning coin banks came with a rubber stopper in the ceramic base to allow access to the funds inside.

Football Bobbleheads debuted in the USA in 1961 and as usual the CFL tailed along afterwards with the first Bobblehead football figures being released north of the border in 1962. There were several different suppliers and many different sub-types of these Made in Japan figures but curiously the touchdown banks were only produced for the CFL, There are no known American football banks such as these although there are some generic (and much less desirable) football figure plus large football bank items that were also manufactured, likely for the US market. 

B.C. Lions Bank on the left and Hamilton Tiger-Cats Bank on the right.   

All nine of the classic CFL franchises were available, possibly from just one manufacturer for one set period of time. I am not aware of any particular variations that would suggest these were issued in more than one series or by different suppliers, although you can see some artistic license in the laces on top of the ball, and I have seen a Toronto Argonaut bank both with and without the 00 jersey numbers on the back (which could have just been a painting oversight).

Part of an advertisement page offering the newest rage in CFL Bobbleheads

This advertisement probably dates from 1963 which is the best guess for when these banks were made available, possibly for just the one season. The figures came with distinctive molded shoulder pads and a metal wire face mask, neither of which appear on any of the other known standalone CFL Bobbleheads. These figures were made up of a single base incorporating the figure and the ball, and a separate bobbin head attached via a spring. They understandably just about always exhibit some kind of damage if they avoided the garbage can over the last half century plus.

This advertisement is from a Winnipeg Blue Bomber specific publication indicating you could pick up the little fellows at the stadium on game days

Auction results are sporadic but a NRMT example of one of these banks would likely cost you anywhere from $500 to $750 (CAD) today, not bad for a $1.00 investment in the early sixties! The items must have come in boxes (probably generic white cardboard ones) because they were shipped from Japan, but I have never seen one complete with original box. 

Calgary Stampeder version of the ultra-rare CFL Mascot Nodder

Moving on we have the even rarer and more mysterious CFL Mascot Nodder series with a hollow football with team logo decal and a mascot head protruding from one end, balanced on a hook that allows the head to nod. Very little seems to be known about the distribution of these strange and once again exclusive to the CFL products but they date from the same period as the banks, perhaps a year or two afterwards.  

Closeup of the head piece of the Saskatchewan Roughrider Nodder showing the hook the head hangs from. Note the misspelled team nickname.

The Calgary, Saskatchewan and Ottawa Nodders all feature the horse head as it relates to their franchise identity (the Saskatchewan Roughriders had numerous horse themed novelties during certain older periods of their history, not so much these days). The Ottawa item has the white R logo on black helmet so there is no name misspelling possibility there. 

The Hamilton Mascot Nodder is as you probably expected, a snarling cat,
and so is the B.C. Lions Nodder

These Nodders are probably a half grade rarer than the banks, but both are extremely tough to acquire. I have seen auction results where a NRMT Mascot Nodder went for up to $1,000 (CAD) but there also seem to be a number of auction "steals" out there with regard to these figures, sometimes as low as $300 (CAD).  Of course you still might stumble upon either at a garage sale for peanuts, maybe.

The Montreal Alouette Lark mascot Nodder wins the award for cutest item in the set. 

The remaining teams (Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto), lacking a natural animal mascot, all feature a generic football player with a somewhat unsettling looking helmet strap that looks like a horse bridle in the players mouth. I guess it is just as well that the Edmonton figure didn't saddle up an indigenous Eskimo for a mascot...

Somehow inherently less attractive than the non-human mascots, the football player themed figures just might be the rarest ones of all 

I am not aware of any one collector that has a complete set of either the banks or the mascots, and it may be that nobody actually does, they are just that rare. All of these items and hopefully a full exploration of the minutia associated with all of the regular CFL Bobbleheads will eventually be listed in Collecting Canadian Football Volume 3, Novelties & Souvenirs.