Combine a thin, likeable British-born comedian with a rotund, happy-go-lucky American-born entertainer, add the element of silent films in the 1920s and the result is the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
Today, 88 years after Laurel and Hardy appeared for the first time together in The Lucky Dog, collectibles depicting them in many forms still are widely popular.
Bob Duncan of Diamond Bar, Calif., thinks the continuing popularity of Laurel and Hardy’s films is the major reason for interest in the pair.
“Even though their best films were made 70 to 80 years ago, their type of humor is truly timeless, and today, individuals of all ages can watch these films and laugh out loud, even if they’ve seen them dozens of times,” Duncan said.
Unlike a lot of film teams that would follow them, Duncan said Laurel and Hardy had “a genuine affection and respect for one another’s talents,” which could be sensed as one watched the films.
“No matter how difficult or messed up the situation was that the boys found themselves in, they left you with the feeling that things would somehow be better tomorrow,” Duncan observed.
Gino Dercola of Columbia, Md., agreed with Duncan and thinks collectors “seem to do it because of their love for Laurel and Hardy and all the joy they get from being associated with them – mainly through the movies they left for fans, the books written about them, and being around other fans.”
Dercola, who said he has met many such collectors, pointed out “it’s rare to find collectors who just do it for profit, but hundreds of fans I know have items that make them feel a little closer to the jobs of associating with Laurel and Hardy.”
A collectible vendor of the genre, Chris Costello of abbottandcostellocollectibles.com, said he thought “all the great comedy teams deserved the same spotlight and recognition and began a slow introduction of other legends, including Laurel and Hardy.”
His collectibles run the gamut of material, from magnets to DVDs and posters.
Duncan possesses a collection that encompasses many types of Laurel and Hardy items. He said he has hundreds of figurines, ranging in size from a couple of inches tall to four feet high.
“I have several letters written by Stan Laurel, along with copies of scripts from the Hal Roach studio, and a complete script for a series pilot that was to have been called The Hardy Family,” Duncan said.
Other collectibles include decorative plates, primarily from England, along with many photographic stills, books dating from the 1920s and ’30s related to Laurel and Hardy films, audio CDs, and films on VHS and DVD.
“Stan Laurel was a very prolific letter writer in his later years and these letters continue to be highly collectible,” Duncan pointed out.
Duncan, a member of the Way Out West “tent” (chapter) of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy appreciation society, said high-end collectors gravitate toward clothing and accessories actually worn by Laurel and Hardy in their films. Some of those items run into the tens of thousands of dollars, he noted.
Because Laurel was born in England, the team always has been popular in Europe, so quite a bit of material is available from overseas sources, Duncan added.
Dercola also has an expansive collection of Laurel and Hardy items, including films, books, magazines, statues, dolls, games, toys, Halloween costumes, masks, figurines, plates, lobby cards, posters, photographs, collector cards, pins and buttons, clocks, lamps, clothing, banks, stamps, comic books and more.
He noted he has more than 500 different Laurel and Hardy comic books from various countries around the world, and 19 Laurel and Hardy autographs, which he called “generally on the expensive side and highly collectible. I also have a prized handkerchief once owned by Stan Laurel, some expensive original posters, and highly collectible statues.”
“For the average fan, the first item you would find in their collection would be films of Laurel and Hardy; next would be books and then probably a few photos,” Dercola said. Other items collected by the “average” fan include DVDs, statues, dolls and autographs.
Prices for such collectibles, Dercola noted, would be $10 to $40 for plates, $15 to $50 for dolls, $5 to $25 for books and $10 to $25 for banks.
But the high-end collectors seek the “most highly-treasured, vintage items (and most expensive) associated with Laurel and Hardy,” Dercola said, “which include clothes or items originally owned or used by them, original lobby cards, posters, movie scripts and continuity sheets, and props from their movies.”
Costello, the Internet vendor, said the items most sought after by his customers are DVDs of Laurel and Hardy films.
“Even with the economy, people are continuing to buy many collectibles and not just from the generation who grew up watching the shorts on television, but a younger generation as well,” Costello noted.
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