This month we take a look back at the original Wizard of Oz merchandise.
Those of us who love The Wizard of Oz are oftentimes Wizard of Oz collectors as well. Warner Bros. has engaged many licensed merchants to produce a wide range of quality Wizard of Oz items to appeal to all tastes. These items include dolls, figurines, mugs, cookie jars, purses, snow globes, ornaments, greeting cards, and calendars. There’s even a life-sized, cackling Wicked Witch of the West for a Halloween display. The amount of merchandise seems endless! As we enter a new year, let’s review what some lucky fans might have received as gifts for the 1939 holiday season, shortly after The Wizard of Oz made its national debut.
At the time, whether The Wizard of Oz would be a smash hit was a tenuous though optimistic hope. The Wizard of Oz was the first time the film’s movie studio explored licensing on a grand scale and things got off to a late start with some merchant contracts only signed a month or two before the film premiered. All told, there were just about two dozen companies authorized to produce Wizard of Oz items from 1939 to 1942, when the movie’s first-run circulation ended. The scarcity of items from this era has made them highly sought after by collectors.
Beginning in August 1939, there were dolls of Judy Garland as Dorothy and Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow, each available in three different sizes. Stuffed animals of the Cowardly Lion, Toto the dog, and the Winged Monkey could be had with or without internal music boxes that played the movie tunes. Paper masks of the main cast were distributed by Santa Claus in some department stores that December. Stiff linen masks could be purchased separately or with complete masquerade costumes for dress-up. Another company specializing in glass products issued tumblers picturing the characters as well as a glass bank and a glass cereal bowl. For ladies, there were costume jewelry pins of the Scarecrow and Tin Man and scarves illustrated with scenes from The Wizard of Oz, as was true of handkerchiefs designed for children. For practical purposes, there was a carpet sweeper depicting the familiar characters, with the same manufacturer distributing a child’s toy version, as well. Pastel-colored children’s clothes hangers were decorated with character decals. Figurines made of rubber were sold and others modeled of soap were packaged as a boxed set. There were games, puzzles, and children’s stationery. For the upcoming Valentine’s Day, there were a dozen different greeting cards. Records and sheet music of the movie’s popular songs were top sellers.
Oz-mania stretched across the pond to Great Britain. For the 1939 holiday season, a variety of book versions of The Wizard of Oz were sold, including a cutout book of paper dolls featuring the movie characters. Four boxed jigsaw puzzles depicted scenes from the film, and a card game told the story of the movie when all 44 cards were arranged in order. Other cards picturing The Wizard of Oz cast were inserted as premiums in boxes of candy sticks.
In Australia, there were cloth dolls of Dorothy with Toto, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion marketed for the holidays. In other countries, book editions were illustrated with drawings and photos depicting The Wizard of Oz movie’s cast and scenes.
Given the abundance of The Wizard of Oz merchandise available today, it’s fascinating to see how this classic film continues to inspire and delight collectors of all ages. Tell us, Wizard of Oz collectors, about some of your own favorite Ozzy items. We’d be interested in hearing from you!