Is 25 Cents Too Much?
The story of the Deans' "White-faced Gollie"
In august of 1997 my wife, Debra, and I participated in a small bear show in San Diego. We had a number of Golliwogs at our booth and a very interesting lady came by to "talk Gollies". As is so often the case, the conversation led to correspondence and an interesting detective story. My new friend's name was Jayne Elliott and she had a fascinating story to tell. Jayne asked me if I'd ever seen a 'white Gollie', and i had to say "no". We talked a bit and agreed to get back together so that I could take a look at her treasure. Time passed and I lost track of Jayne's address, but then, late in October of last year, I received a lovely note and a photo in the mail. Sure enough, as you can see in the picture, Jayne has a white 'Gollie'.
My curiosity led me to Barbara Miller and the Deans' Rag Book Company, Ltd., website. As coincidence would have it, they had just released an article in their collectors' magazine - "The Club Report" - on the origins of the 'white Gollie'. Many thanks to Barbara for a copy of the article and kudos to Mike Crane, the author, for his fascinating and informative article.
So, where'd the 'white Gollie' originate? In the summer of 1965 a buyer for A.M.C., a large Deans' client in the US, visited the Deans' production facility in Rye, Sussex, England. He was there to view the Deans' line for 1966 and was most interested in the bears, dolls and other plush toys, showing no interest in the Gollies. The buyer, Mr. Smith, said there was little interest in the Golliwogs in the US. Mike Crane tells us that Deans' produced some 30,000 Gollies a year in those days, but most were for the "home trade". Mr. Smith felt the Golly's black face worked against its popularity in the United States of the 60's. Deans' were then inspired to make a white faced Gollie for the American market, and they call him Mr. Smith' in honor of the American buyer (Mr. David Smith of A.M.C.) He ws made in two sizes: 13" and 16" in white sailcloth. The new white Gollie was produced before Mr. Smith returned to the States.
As fate would have it, a television crew happened to visit the Rye factory for film a segment on Christmas toys for the upcoming season, and they asked Ian Scott, the Deans' managing director, if there was anything of 'special interest' in the line. Sure enough, Mr. Scott mentioned the white-faced Gollie, and fate stepped in again. At about the time 'Mr. Smith, the white-faced Gollie' was created, a politician, Ian Smith, of Southern Rhodesia, decided to withdraw his racially separated country from the commonwealth. The TV folks made a connection between the " whited-faced Gollie, Mr. Smith" and the "white separatist", Ian Smith in Africa. Timing is everything, and this publicity was very damaging. consequently, our friend, "Mr. Smith", was not at all popular in the US or Britain. He was produced in a run of perhaps 2,500 from 100 yards of white sailcloth and is, therefore extremely rare.
Flash forward to 1986 and we find our new friend, Jayne Elliot, at a yard sale in San Diego. Jayne saw a little Golli head peaking out of a basket of dolls and reached for it. The price was 75 cents. Jayne asked the seller if she realized that someone must have replaced the head on the doll. She told the seller that Gollies were black and someone must have made a substitution! The seller said "Is 25 cents too much?" and the deal was made. As you can see from the photo Jayne and Mr. Smith are fast friends. I had a great time getting to know Jayne and learning Mr. Smith's place in Dean's history. Just remember, there are still treasures out there. Don't drive past those yard sales - or you'll never know what you missed!!
The author, Jim Koontz, is a Golliwog collector in California. He can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Artist Gollies, Etc., PO Box 626, Walnut, CA 91788-0626 Phone: 909-861-2620.