A local antique mall had their first home and garden sale of the year today, and I came home with a couple additions.
This scholarly-looking fellow is approximately 12 inches tall, hard rubber or plastic reproduction of a Heissner dwarf (#990). As I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Heissner was one of the original manufacturers of garden gnomes (or zwerge) in the 1870s, originating in Grafenroda at about the same time as Greibel’s terracotta figures. Heissner started producing in plastics from their headquarters in Lauterbach in 1959.
I’ve found examples of the same model online dated between 1960s and 1980s, though I would hazard this guy falls toward the more recent end of that timeline. The reader is a common figure, showing up in several different varieties of Heissner’s designs. A page from their 1960 catalog provides two examples of this, while “Wilhelm” can be purchased currently from the Heissner website (see video below).
My second find was a ceramic figurine from Goebel’s “Co-Boys” collection. Goebel is particularly famous for their highly collectible Hummel porcelain figures, but they make their entry in gnome history with this series of 60 hand-painted characters, depicted variously in active poses, manufactured from 1970 to 1987. “Bert the Soccer-Player” was first produced in 1975. Based on the trademark stamp, however, mine is a later reproduction, 1979-87 (according to Bakertowne’s Price Guide).
The fascinating thing about “Co-Boys” is the narrative. Goebel marketed the co-boys with an elaborate fictional backstory. I’ve tried searching online for an copy of the sales brochures that Goebel produced for the line, but without success, so I’ll have to synthesize based on the summaries of other collectors on the interwebz. According to Harry Zinker, the townsfolk of Cobourg (fictionalized or perhaps a reference to the actual town of Cobourg, Bavaria?) suffered from a debilitating deficiency: they had forgotten how to laugh. A resident– somehow– “resurrected a long-forgotten world of gnomes”. It seems the Coburgers awakened one morning to discover many of their dull, everyday tasks had been mysteriously completed for them. According to page 3 of the brochure “Stories and Legends”, the Co-Boys snuck into the town by cover of night:
By now, with two night’s practice, every Co-Boy knew where to go and what to do. “I’ll stuff ten chickens tonight,” thought George. “They’ll never be able to explain that!” Niels tuned every guitar in the town and replaced the strings too. Doc emptied bottles of useless medicine in the Cobourg Hospital, and replaced them with herbal Co-Boy remedies.
And Candy? Candy had a marvelous plan for a cake. During the day, he picked the smallest wild strawberries he could find. Smaller berries are the sweetest, yet no Coburger had the energy to gather enough to make a cake. “My cake will tempt them out of boredom. They’ve never tasted a recipe like mine! Who could resist happiness in a world where such a miraculous cake could be baked?”
The Co-Boys antics, it seems, achieved its desired goal and the Coburgers and Co-Boys– it must be assumed– lived happily ever after.
In addition to the brochures, many Co-Boys came with their own “story tag” with a brief biography of the figurine. Sadly, my “Bert the Soccer-Player” did not come with one, and I can find no evidence of one online.
If you happen to have a copy of the Co-Boys brochures, please let me know in the comments!