They are saying that “magnificence is within the eye of the beholder.” This might not be extra apropos than for collectors of the extremely kitschy and considerably terrifying Rushton plushies. Not like your regular stuffed animal with delicate, lovable faces, these plushies function animated and over-exaggerated rubber faces connected to conventional stuffed our bodies. The whole lot from udder-laden cows to foxes to monkeys to geese—Rushton and plush firms prefer it turned nearly your complete animal kingdom into these mid-century must-haves with creepy visages. Occasional human plushies—like infants, elves, hobos, and clowns—simply added to the nightmare gas.
A Plush-tastic Historical past
To be honest, plushies had been thought of pleasant after they initially hit the market as nursery kitsch within the Fifties. Though Rushton was essentially the most distinguished producer, others like Knickerbocker Toys, My-Toy, Columbia Toy Products, Gund, Ganz Brothers, Jee-Bee Toys, and the UK’s Chiltern added their own rubber-faced models to the mix. Rushton, nonetheless, put the plush toy on the map and stays essentially the most fascinating model for collectors immediately.
Based mostly in Atlanta, The Rushton Firm (formal title) was the brainchild of Mary Rushton, née Waterman Phillips, who started her dollmaking profession in 1917. Her stockinette dolls creations (constituted of ladies’s stockings) grew to become very fashionable within the Nineteen Twenties. She coined them “Mawaphil” dolls—a twist on her full title. After marrying William Wight Rushton in 1921, Mary and her new husband formally launched The Rushton Firm—the largest American producer of sentimental dolls at the moment.
Within the Fifties, Mary’s daughter, Wight Rushton, launched the Star Creation Line, which launched these new painted rubber-faced animals and dolls. Recognized later as “plushies,” they grew to become Rushton’s hottest line for practically twenty years. Different firms manufactured their very own variations, leading to market saturation. Though Rushton went out of enterprise in 1983 and rubber-faced animals had been out of fashion by the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties, collectors have found these era-specific gems in recent times.
Sure, These Are Rubber Udders
Right now, plushie fanatics shell out severe money for all manufacturers—and the odder trying the plushie, the higher. They will vary from $100 to shut to $1,000 and over. The typical Rushton plushie goes for $200 to $400, relying on its situation and rarity. Among the many most fascinating Rushton plush toys are Stinky the Skunk; the Marineland assortment that includes Omar the Octopus, Bubbles the Whale, and Goldy Fish; Diaper Duck; Daisy Belle, the cow with udders; and Santa with a Coke bottle. Though all ages acquire plushies, millennials, particularly, appear drawn to the over-the-top toys. Singer-songwriter Melanie Martinez, 28, even featured big Rushton plushies in her 2017 music video for her tune “Mad Hatter.”
One other younger fan, Kayla Marcell (@kaylasunshine32 on Instagram), explains the enchantment of the odd-looking plushie.
Q. What’s it about this toy that originally appealed to you?
A. There are such a lot of completely different types, manufacturers, animals, sizes, and colours—it made me need to acquire all of them. Some folks assume they’re creepy, however I discover all of them so cute.
Q. What number of rubber-faced plushies do you personal?
A. Round 100 or so.
Q. What’s the “holy grail” plushie you wished you owned?
A. The rubber face I’m most searching for is the Rushton octopus. That is likely one of the most costly, in-demand plushies on the market, in addition to the opposite nautical rubber faces just like the whale and the fish.
Q. How do you deal with individuals who query why you’d acquire such odd-looking toys? Do folks remark negatively, or are most optimistic?
A. Sure, I do on a regular basis… whether or not it’s a DM or simply commenting on my Instagram posts. I’ve had a number of hurtful feedback from folks sharing their opinions of what I acquire. I strive to not let it get to me. However I’d say 95 p.c of the time, feedback are very good.
Q. The kitsch issue is excessive with plushies. What’s it about that kitschy look that strikes you?
A. I’ve at all times been a really joyful individual that loved shiny and colourful issues… Ever since I used to be a child, I’d acquire one thing and must have all of them—the completely different shapes, sizes, and colours. I wouldn’t sleep till I had all of them.
Q. What’s your favourite plushie?
A. My favourite must be the Rushton yellow bunny with the blue vest (Peter Rabbit). After I began classic accumulating, my household and I went to an property sale tremendous early. I went to an enormous field of stuffed animals to see if a rubber face would occur to be inside, and there it was, sitting on the underside for $8. In order that was tremendous enjoyable to search out!
Q. What’s it that plushies have that common stuffed animals lack?
A. The rubber faces! I identical to the look of them, truthfully. I don’t get as excited after I come throughout any outdated stuffed animal. I additionally assume it’s extra thrilling to discover a plushie within the wild as a result of they’re so fascinating and costly proper now.
For these fascinated with following in Kayla Marcell’s footsteps, be sure to have the cash to take action. It is not going to be an inexpensive endeavor. Strive property, storage, and yard gross sales along with eBay, Etsy, and in vintage shops/malls. If social media websites like Instagram and TikTok are something to go by, folks of all ages are catching on to the desirability of those wacky characters that also convey pleasure some seventy years after their retail heyday.
Jenna Girard has been a contract author and duplicate editor for over 25 years, with a concentrate on function writing. A lifelong collector of antiques and collectibles, Jenna has amassed a outstanding assortment of leisure ephemera, classic materials, head vases, and mid-century artwork and residential décor. After 16 years of residing in Los Angeles and dealing within the leisure trade, Jenna now resides in her dwelling state of Michigan, the place she continues to write down/copy edit for LA-based media shops.
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