Monday, May 30, 2011
What a Piece: The Esco Statue
I typically prefer to talk about functional vintage items, but being that I stumbled across these beautiful statues last week, I figured I’d talk about them – collectible or home décor, The Esco Statue.
When I was a kid – 10 or 11 years old – I asked for a Babe Ruth Esco statue for Christmas. I had no idea what they were, but I knew that I liked Babe Ruth, and the statue was pretty neat when I saw it at Marshall Fields or Montgomery Ward or wherever I spotted it. A few years later, it got knocked off a shelf and a few major pieces broke off (half of the nose and the bill of the hat). A few years after that, another incident, and a few more chunks of Babe came off. Eventually, during a mass purging due to a move, I had to lay Babe to rest – I threw him away.
I’ve since seen statues that were obviously broken in pieces and put back together again. Made in New Jersey starting in the 1970s by the Esco Company, these 17” chalkware statues are true pieces of art. The craftsmanship is evident, and the likenesses are quite accurate. Seemingly to avoid paying royalties to the pop culture figures whose images they were using, they only did runs of 100 statues at a time for each design. Comedians, actors, sports figures, presidents, and so forth. There are over 100 different figures out there, and that doesn’t include the knock-offs and statues influenced by Esco.
Like anything, some statues are more common than others, and of course, some icons are more collectable than others. The trick is quality. Without care, they can chip or cracks easily. You typically see, at the very least, nicks in the paint, revealing the white chalkware underneath. If you can find a statue in excellent condition or better, pick it up.
There’s not a lot of information around on Esco statues – even less on the company – but there is a forum where Esco collectors share information and pictures of collections. Some of the collections are simply amazing by any standard. You can typically find statues on Ebay, but they’re going for big bucks nowadays – especially for monster statues, like the Wolfman Esco, which recently sold for $800. Crazy.
I found a couple late last year for my uncle – Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
Last week, I bought 7 Esco statues at one sale. Two for my uncle (John Wayne and Jimmy Durante) and two for me (Groucho Marx and Humphrey Bogart) – three to sell (Bud Abbott, W.C. Fields, and Elvis). I may even keep W.C. Fields as well.
Elvis will be in the Junk and Howe store this week. Bud Abbott coming soon.
Elvis Esco Chalkware Statue for sale (SOLD)