Monday, 29 January 2018

Flat-out Fugly Football Figures

Sometime beginning in the mid seventies a very large number of ceramic designs of what looks like the same character engaged in numerous pursuits including sporting activities were created. These characters are typically called Smileys because of their facial expression which was obviously intended to be cute but in hindsight they sort of resemble trolls (another seventies toy fad) and the effect is not particularly attractive.

A figure custom decorated to resemble the Stampeder's Gerry Shaw,
this one likely dates to the mid seventies. The numbers are decals stuck to the figure. 

These were never officially licensed products nor is it likely that they were ever issued in any pre-finished team color designs, rather ceramic hobbyists would buy the figures already fired and then they would decorate them however they wanted to. Because of this when you come across one of these the possible variations in style, utility and finishing touches are endless.

Yikes, above left is a quarterback figure somewhat crudely painted as seventies B.C. Lions QB Jerry Tagge, along with the related cheerleader figure above right  

There are however at least two different football poses available and an unknown number of actual small figure styling changes on the base molded ceramic designs that further adds to the variability of the items. The figures were uncommonly large (at least 12" tall) making them difficult to store and the available vintage teams and or players are limited to what particular hobbyists or craftsmen decided to make.

B.C. Lions lamp figure variant with integrated base above left.
Examples of two molded number styles and no-number style crudely painted above right.  

Should anybody want to put together a collection of these somewhat unnerving dolls, they are not particularly rare and random examples tend to be available from time to time online or in thrift and second hand stores, but finding an exact figure for a specific team or player is likely going to be fairly challenging. The other issue is that the molds still exist (or were recreated) and blanks of the figures are commonly available, so there are people decorating these dolls today complicating determining a reasonable age estimate for a given figure.

George Reed figure on a wooden base above left and
an unpainted blank figure (called bisque) that you can buy today  

Moving on to some other examples of dubious artistic merit we see below two ghastly cloth figures of Rider legends Ron Lancaster and George Reed. Both are sporting nifty Dairy Queen plastic helmets as detailed in this earlier blog post here so the figures probably date to the late seventies or early eighties. Cloth is not a particularly good material to model human figures in. 

Lancaster's face looks like he just got a peek into the Ark of the Covenant and is about to melt away, while the Reed figure ... well if you tried to market something like this today you would probably get a visit from the progressive politically correct thought police. 

Items that are made by individuals such as the Smiley figures and the cloth dolls will not be catalogued in the eventual Collecting Canadian Football Volume 3 - Novelties and Souvenirs because they are unlicensed and because there is no way to come up with a list of what was available. That would include the alien headed abomination below.

Either some Rider fan was snorting wheat chaff when he thought this Ron Lancaster doll was a good idea, or it was supposed to function as a voodoo doll where an opposing fan could stick pins into it during the games

Just so you don`t think the Riders have cornered the market on ugly figures, there are a few more examples below from other teams.

This Ti-Cat figure probably dates from the early sixties 
(although late fifties might also be possible) 

The toy above was described (on Ebay) as one of those rubbery squeezable figures, meaning it probably was factory produced since most individuals would not have had rubber molding equipment available to them. The ashen faced doll strikes me as fairly creepy.

The figure at left may be an Argo but it also could be anything and looks like it was a sewing kit project. The figure on the right is definitely an Argo, and doesn't it just scream "Take me home!"

Lastly we have the Ralph the Dog Stampeder mascot travesty below, mid seventies probably. Not sure if that is a modified Dairy Queen helmet or not, maybe not as it looks to have a molded center stripe but hard to tell in this scan.

I have left out a number of well know (and not so well known) other CFL dolls that could also be described as not very attractive. But those are licensed (or pre-license era manufactured) issues, are considerable older than most of the items shown in this post and I think have arguably a lot more collectible cachet to them and consequently they would deserve their own specific future post.