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 d├ęcor, 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.

(Babe statue in an Esco collection)

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)






25 comments:

  1. Some of your ESCO statues may be recent copies.
    It looks as if an original was used to make a new mold, probably in China, and restrikes were cast.
    I thought I got a real buy on a WC Fields (I already have one)and could clearly see the 'softer' detail and bad painting. All the restrikes seem to have the same 'doll-flesh' color and none of the patina of the real ones from the 1960-1970's. I suspect your Fields and Bud Abbott are not vintage.

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  2. I could send you photos if you wish.
    Charles

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  3. I understand what you're saying (I had reservations about the Abbott myself when I purchased it because of the color on the flesh), but I am almost certain they're not reproductions, actually.

    Some statues were painted by individuals - regular, everyday folks - which, at times, accounts for the "off" colors or alternate paint schemes you see on occasion. Every so often, you will see unpainted ones today. I've even seen Abbott without the mustache. Some have the Esco markings on the bases, some don't. Some statues were stored well, others weren't or were displayed for the last 30-35 years. Many were made after the 1970s.

    In comparing these statues to the rest of the collections displayed around the Internet, and those I've seen in person, I'm fairly certain these statues are all real.

    Thanks for the comments! Feel free to send those pictures to our email - I'll definitely take a gander.

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  4. I have an ESCO products chalkware statue of a priest of some kind that can be seen here: http://thumbs1.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mY61btbk_YGkLBXBWS35_aw.jpg
    I was wondering if anyone has ever seen one like it, it is in very good condition, lots of detail. Just a hooded man holding what appears to be prayer beads, no other symbols or markings other than "ESCO PRODUCTS INC."
    If anyone would like to drop me a line about it, I could take my own photos of it. I just wanted to know some kind of history behind this guy, I've been carrying him around with me since I bought him in a Spokane,Washington thrift store for 7 bucks.
    [AlexanderK.Webb@gmail.com]

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  5. I have been looking to buy some of these. So far I have only been able to buy Louis Armstrong in the price range and condition I wanted. Let me know if anyone is selling them.

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    1. Hello David, here's my email lisamlegs1230@aol.com ..... if you are still interested! Thank You!!!

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  6. I have a bunch of these if you are imterested

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    1. I am interested.

      Who do you have and what are your asking prices?

      Bill

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    2. Do you have a Charlie Chaplin? I do, and mine's a lamp (either created that way, or post purchase). Love to hear what info you might have.

      Tom

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  7. I have just a head of oliver hardy from a abandoned auction room

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  8. Interested in Esco Statues, what do you have?

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    1. I have Charlie Chaplin statue that's also a lamp.

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    2. In fact, I've listed my statue/lamp on Ebay, if you're interested. (http://www.ebay.com/itm/332024930198)

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  9. Interested in Esco Statues, what do you have?

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    Replies
    1. I have Charlie Chaplin statue that is also a lamp.

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    2. In fact, I've listed my statue/lamp on Ebay, if you're interested. (http://www.ebay.com/itm/332024930198)

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  10. I am looking for a jimmy Durante.. Do you have one? Price?

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  11. I am looking for a jimmy Durante.. Do you have one? Price?

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  12. I am looking for a jimmy Durante.. Do you have one? Price?

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  13. Still looking for esco statues....especially chico marx

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  14. Still looking for esco statues....especially chico marx

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  15. Hi looking for in on Esco statues I have the set of the Honeymooners but am looking to buy a collection from someone I know and I'm concerned if their original Esco statues any help appreciated thank you

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  16. Sorry I made a typo I meant info on Esco

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  17. hello, how do I see an accurate listing of the ESCO statues you have? and how does a person purchase one, if interested.

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  18. I have a ralph kramden statue from the honeymooners made by esco. I am looking For Norton. It doesnt matter to me if its an updated copy . can you help?

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