Joe Penner was featured in a variety of toys, promotional items, product premiums and advertisements throughout the 1930s.
From pin-back buttons to a walking tin toy, some of these items bring top dollar in the collectibles market.
Joe Penner Walking Tin Toy by Louis Marx
One of the most popular (and pricey) Penner collectibles is the wind-up tin toy walker produced by Louis
Marx & Company in 1934. Marx was one of the era's largest and most successful manufacturers of tin toys, and produced
several figures depicting popular stars of the day.
Marx had worked after high school in the factory
of early mechanical toy manufacturer Ferdinand Strauss, and founded his own company in 1919. Marx bought out his mentor in
1922, gaining the dies to several of Strauss toys in the process. Marx is also known for producing the first Yo-Yo, and for
signing an early distribution agreement wth Sears, Roebuck and Company.
The Penner figure came complete with Goo-Goo the duck and Joe's ever-present cigar. When the mechanism
is wound, Joe walks, his cigar moves, and his hat bounces up and down. (The Joe Penner figure photo is courtesy of OpAmerica Toy and Bank Museum)
Originally priced around $2.50, this item shows up frequently on eBay and other auctions,
often bringing prices in the mid to high three figures and higher, depending on the condition of the item. As with many collectibles,
the value goes up if it comes with the original box.
Later, an identical figure with different
lithography (but minus the hat and cigar) was produced by Marx as the "Butter and Egg Man" (pictured at right).
Cocomalt's Big Book of Comics
Another collectible item featuring Penner is this first issue of Cocomalt Comics (or Book No. 1, as the
cover stated), a premium giveaway from early 1938.
Produced and packaged by "modern" comic book pioneer Harry
A. Chesler, Jr., the book also featured original (not reprinted) panels and stories of Little Nemo, Impy (by Winsor McKay),
Dan Hastings (art by Fred Guardineer), and others.
This comic book -- in very good condition -- is priced in the
Read an informative essay on Harry Chesler and his work HERE.
Autographs and Ephemera (There's that word again!)
Joe Penner appreciated his many fans, and was always happy to sign autographs, which accounts for the many signed
photos and autograph book pages on the market today. It is rare, however, to find an unpersonalized photo.
range anywhere from $25-$75, depending on the dealer, cut signatures about half that. There don't appear to be "fake"
Penner signatures out there, due mostly to the availability of the "real thing." I have some personal notes written
by Penner to other performers in my collection, and the autographs clearly match those on my photos and letters. His wife,
Eleanor, helped manage his correspondence, but there's no evidence she signed items for him.
In addition to the
photos and book pages, signed "thank you" letters to fans, written on his personalized stationery, turn up occasionally
as well (see below).
Premium and Promotional Penner Items
The brass Joe Penner "dexterity" ring (left) is very rare, especially with the cover and colored
balls intact. The "Quacker" button (below) was a radio fan club premium.
Personal Penner Items
Joe Penner died in 1941, and his wife Eleanor followed in
1946. With no children of their own, all personal items were distributed among their extended families and friends.
Every once in a while, items of this nature appear on eBay or other auction sites.
One example is this 12”
crystal charger plate with a JEP monogram etched and frosted in the silver, designed by Dorothy Thorpe.
This and other crystal items were presented to radio executive (and pallbearer at Penner's funeral) Amory Eckley, and I purchased one recently from his granddaughter.