The sweet phrase, "Lucy, I'm Home!" instantly conjures up fond images associated with the popular 1950s television sitcom that stole the hearts of middle America. If you're interested in getting a full dose of your 'vitameatavegamins,' you should join the thousands of I Love Lucy memorabilia collectors and bring a piece of the infamous show home to you.
The Story Behind the Merchandise
The thin line between the actors and their television characters has always been part of the charm of I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the two main characters of the black-and-white sitcom, were husband and wife, both in real life and on screen. First airing in 1951 and lasting six seasons, the show brought Americans to their newly-minted television sets in droves and changed the fabric of tv forever.
Nearly an instant hit, the merchandise machine of the 1950s worked hard and fast to create as many items connected to the show as it could to sell to clamoring fans. Thus, the burgeoning consumerist culture in America took a turn for the bright red and polka dotted and hasn't stopped yet.
I Love Lucy Collectibles
Lucille Ball's whacky antics were so popular, in fact, that the show received the 'mania' treatment that many subsequent acts of pop culture would experience. If her image could be printed onto something, it was, and the studio was sure to keep the licensed merchandise coming for decades after the show's last episode aired.
Of these pieces of vintage merchandise, the most collectible ones to look out for are:
- Lucille Ball's autograph
- Cast autographs
- Show taping tickets
- I Love Lucy Barbie Dolls
- Set props
- Production scripts
- Trade magazines
I Love Lucy Memorabilia Values
The show's immense popularity makes it one of the most lucrative sitcoms from the 1950s, and perhaps the whole of sitcoms in general. In terms of a value hierarchy, items that come directly from the show and were touched by Lucille Ball in some way (an autograph, a costume, a prop, and so on) are worth the most, though finding these is incredibly difficult to do. One such small miscellaneous lot of collectibles from the show (including Desi's baby shoe box) sold for $660 at one Leland's auction.
Items connected to Lucille that might not be directly related to the show are also popular with 'ILL' collectors, and can bring in a few hundred to a few thousand dollars at auction. Take, for instance, this lot of collectibles connected to Ball and Arnaz's wedding that sold for a shocking amount at a little over $9,000.
Similarly, items that come from the show which are connected to other principal actors can also be worth a few hundred dollars, with signed collectibles being worth more than those that're unsigned. So, don't toss out those signed Vivian Vance headshots just yet; they might not get you as much as Lucy's would, but they're nothing to sniff your nose at.
I Love Lucy Barbie Values
Interestingly, one of the most consistently manufactured pieces of I Love Lucy memorabilia over the many decades since its ending are the commemorative Barbie Dolls. Mattel, the toy manufacturing company that brought Barbie to life, has a long-standing partnership with these I Love Lucy figures and has released many different dolls reenacting beloved scenes from the show. On average, dolls from the past few decades sell for around $25-$50, with vintage versions selling for closer to $100, settling on par with most regular collectible Barbie dolls. For example, a 50th anniversary commemorative ballet Lucy doll sold for $50, and even the 2021 tribute doll sold for $90.
Where to Buy and Sell I Love Lucy Memorabilia
Unfortunately, things that become really popular are often overpriced when they enter the collectibles market, due in large part to the fact that individual sellers aren't well-versed in the items' actual prices and unintentionally price gouge based on the collectible's reputation of value rather than evidence. Thus, you want to be careful about where you're purchasing your memorabilia from, sticking to reputable sellers like:
- eBay - While you do run the risk of people mis-pricing items on eBay, the seasoned site has listings that are usually fair and accurate. Their large seller database means that you have a high chance of finding what you're looking for.
- Etsy - Similar to eBay, you can turn to Etsy for vintage collectibles related to the show. The website is well-known for having a lot of paper ephemera, so you can look to it for things like posters and trade magazines.
- Lucy Store - This specialty online retailer sells all things Lucy, from both contemporary collectibles to true vintage pieces. If you think it exists, you can probably find it here.
You can also turn to eBay and Etsy if you've got items you'd like to sell. If they haven't already been appraised, it's a great idea to find a professional appraiser and have them assessed. The more information about their provenance, their origins, and authenticity can increase the items value significantly.
Time to 'Splain Your Vintage Collection
"Honey, I'm home!," you might shout to your spouse, pets, or house plants when you come back to your humble abode with an armful of boxes stuffed full of I Love Lucy memorabilia. From magazines you can flip through to framed autographs you can put on the walls, there's a type of I Love Lucy collectible for everybody.