With their adorable faces and soft cuddly bodies, vintage Mickey and Minnie Mouse stuffed toys hold a special place in the hearts of many Disneyana collectors. Yet, for a few rare collectors, these pieces of Disneyana can have the added bonus of being worth quite a lot of money. Depending on the decade and design, you just might be one of the lucky Mickey-lovers ready to hit the jackpot on their grandparent's favorite childhood plush toy.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse's Film Debut
In 1928, the loveable mouse couple made their cinematic debut. Although many people believe that they first appeared in the November 18th release of the cartoon Steamboat Willie, they had in fact been featured in two cartoons earlier that year: Plane Crazy and The Gallopin' Gaucho. Although neither of the two earlier cartoons met with much success, Steamboat Willie was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to find a distributor and, thanks to its popularity, is considered Mickey and Minnie Mouse's debut. To commemorate this, the Walt Disney Company actually names Mickey's birthday as November 18, 1928 since it coincides with Steamboat Willie's release.
The First Mickey Mouse Stuffed Toy
Two years after Mickey Mouse's film debut, the first Mickey Mouse doll was designed by Charlotte Clark in her Los Angeles home. Mrs. Clark obtained permission from Disney to license her stuffed toys and sell them in stores in Los Angeles. With the introduction of her dolls in the marketplace, the concept of Disney merchandise began. During the next few years, Charlotte Clark:
- Designed patterns of Mickey Mouse, and other Disney characters, to sell so homemakers could make their own stuffed dolls.
- Began mass producing her Mickey Mouse dolls
- Continued making dolls exclusively for Mr. Disney to use as special gifts
- Added stuffed dolls of Minnie Mouse, Pluto, and Donald Duck to her manufacturing company
Disney's Mouse Plushes Continue to Evolve
Following Charlotte Clarks' early 1930s Mickey Mouse plush design, Walt Disney took his audience's demand for merchandise and formalized the mouse's stuffed likeness. Disney partnered with several different manufacturing companies to make official licensed Mickey Mouse and friends plush toys, though perhaps the most famous was the 1947 contract with the Gund Manufacturing Company. Although Charlotte Clark still oversaw the specific designs that Gund produced until her retirement in 1958, the Mickey Mouse machine couldn't be stopped and Disney kept issuing updated designs for his stuffed toys for the rest of the 20th century, and his company shows no signs of stopping their continuous lineup anytime soon.
Vintage Mickey and Minnie Plush Examples
Over the decades, plush Mickey and Minnie Mouse toys have been manufactured in many sizes and styles, wearing a multitude of different costumes. The following links take you to images of a few of these vintage collectibles:
- Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse wearing red pants circa 1934 from Live Auctioneers
- Charlotte Clark Minnie Mouse stuffed toy from the 1930s. Minnie is wearing her red polka dot skirt and is found on Worthpoint.
- Vintage cowboy and cowgirl, Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Worthpoint
- Minnie Mouse, circa 1930s, wearing a pink checkered skirt and matching hat from Worthpoint
- A pre 1960's stuffed Mickey Mouse from Worthpoint
Ways to Date Your Mickey Mouse Stuffed Plush
While there may be some hardcore Disney fans out there with a carefully curated timeline of every character's individual merchandise over the years, chances are high that you aren't one of those. For the average person, the easiest way to roughly date your Mickey Mouse plushes is based on design. These are some of the more iconic characteristics that you're likely to find on the stuffed animals from different decades throughout the 20th century:
- 1930s-1940s - The earliest Mickey Mouse plushes are much more mouse-like in their proportions than modern Mickey Mouse plushes are, and weren't actually made out of fuzzy plush textiles. With sharply pointed noses, fully-black eyes, and noticeably wider pumpkin-style pants, these Mickeys immediately evoke an older vibe.
- 1950s-1970s - The Mickey Mouse design that kids enjoy today starts to take shape during this period. You begin to see plushes made out of a variety of sizes and colors as well as plastic being incorporated more and more.
- 1980s-1990s - During this period, you really get to see Disney's mass marketing at work. These Mickeys and Minnies are nearly synonymous in design with the Millenium's animated cast, as they come in all sorts of fun specialty designs commemorating events, television tie-ins, theme park ride openings, and so much more.
What Are the Current Market Values of Mickey and Minnie Plush Toys?
Thanks to their Disney connections, these early stuffed toys can sell for a pretty substantial amount, particularly in comparison to what regular stuffed collectibles normally sell for. That being said, condition is a major component in determining what these toys are worth in the current market. Stuffed toys with little staining, clothing still in-tact, all of their sewn on pieces present, and tags still attached are undoubtedly worth the most. Additionally, stuffed Mickey and Minnie toys from the 1930s and 1940s are among the most desirable in collectors circles and they often sell around $350-$550 on average, with later vintages from the 1960s-1990s selling in the $50-$200 range, on average.
Unfortunately for the major Minnie Mouse fans, Mickey Mouse stuffed toys are far more collectible than Minnie Mouse ones are and most of the Minnie Mouses from these early periods that you can find are selling in a set alongside her partner, Mickey. Thus, if you want to get the most bang for your buck, make sure you gravitate towards the original white-gloved mouse in town.
If you're thinking about buying one or two of these pieces of Disneyana, here are a few that've recently sold at auction to give you an idea of what the market is currently like:
- 1930s Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse plush in fair condition - Sold for $445
- 1930s Charlotte Clark Mickey Mouse plush in green shorts - Sold for $205
- 1960s-1970s Mickey Mouse plush made in California - Sold for around $31.48
- 1981 Applause Minnie Mouse stuffed toy - Sold for around $15.99
Where to Find Vintage Mickey and Minnie Mouse Stuffed Toys
It's still possible to find vintage Mickey or Minnie Mouse plush pieces while visiting estate sales, thrift shops, or garage sales. However, they are more commonly found both on and off line in antique and collectible shops or at auctions. The following websites usually carry vintage plush Mickey and Minnie Mouse items:
- eBay - eBay is truly the best online auction business to go to when you're looking for pop culture items, since traditional auction houses are just less likely to carry these types of collectibles in bulk. That being said, there's a huge market for vintage Disney goods, so it's very important that you check with the sellers before you buy any items from them for more information if you feel like their listings aren't comprehensive.
- Etsy - If you can't find it on eBay, then your next best bet is Etsy. A leading e-commerce website, Etsy is well-known for its large group of vintage sellers, and you've got a great chance of finding some of these Mickey Mouse plushes there.
- Ruby Lane - Styled like a traditional auction house but carrying a less-specialized array of goods, Ruby Lane is a reputable place to look for these Disney collectibles. While you're not as likely to find a plush there as you are on eBay or Etsy, there's no harm in taking a peek.
- Live Auctioneers - Live Auctioneers is very similar to Ruby Lane, although it differs in that it often carries unusual collectibles and vintage items, meaning that you'll probably see a Mickey Mouse plush make it ways through the website's inventory a time or two.
The Joys of Collecting Vintage Mickey and Minnie Mouse Plush Toys
Whether you are new to Disney collectibles or are an experienced collector, finding vintage Mickey and Minnie Mouse stuffed toys to add to your collection is certain to bring a smile to your lips as big as the ones sewn onto the faces of these adorable stuffed animals.