You Can Buy These Screen-Used Puppets From Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—But Bring Your Checkbook
By Jake Rossen
If you ever have trouble getting into the holiday spirit, settling in to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer usually takes care of the problem. The 1964 Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation special has become a perennial holiday classic, with its tale of bench-warming reindeer Rudolph finally gaining the respect of both his peers and Santa Claus himself.
The original screen-used Rudolph and Santa puppets were believed to have been lost for decades before they materialized on a 2006 episode of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow. Now, they’re being offered for public sale for the very first time at an upcoming Profiles in History memorabilia auction on November 13 in Los Angeles.
But that newfound holiday spirit might put a dent in your wallet. The auction of the puppets—offered as a pair—is expected to fetch between $150,000 to $250,000.
The puppets were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro [PDF] and then posed in a process dubbed “Animagic” at Tadahito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions facility in Tokyo. When work was completed, the puppets were sent on to NBC and then to Rankin/Bass Productions, the company owned by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass. In the early 1970s, Rankin gave them to his secretary, Barbara Adams, who in turn gave them to her nephew. They remained in his possession until he appeared on Antiques Roadshow in 2006 and subsequently sold them to collector Peter Lutrario.
Both puppets are made of wood, wire, cloth, leather, and yak hair. Santa stands 11 inches tall, while Rudolph comes in at 6 inches. The duo underwent some light restoration work in 2006, with Rudolph getting a new nose and Santa getting some mustache repair and a new ball on his hat.
And yes—Rudolph’s nose still lights up.