You’ve heard of family reunions, company reunions, class reunions, even tractor reunions. But how about a doll reunion?
The Minneapolis-Moline Collectors Winter Convention, held in late February in Arkansas, was the site of the first-ever Buddy Lee reunion. The Buddy Lee doll was a promotional piece used by the Minneapolis-Moline company. The first dolls were dressed in Lee overalls, and displayed in store windows. MM dealers were encouraged to sell the dolls when the display was discontinued. The dolls became so popular that they were sold for about $2.40 each. The first models were about 12 inches tall, made of plaster with eyes glancing coyly to the side. The doll’s hair was molded, and the words ‘Buddy Lee’ were imprinted on the doll’s upper back.
In 1949, Buddy Lee grew a few inches taller, and was made of plastic instead of plaster, making him easier to dress. But the Buddy Lee era ended in 1963 when the line was discontinued.
Buddy Lee was a versatile pitchman: he also appeared in promotional efforts by Coca-Cola, Phillips 66 and Mobil Oil. Reproduction models of those dolls sell for more than $200. An original Buddy Lee will sell for as much as $1,000.
Eight dolls were displayed at the February reunion. Some wore hats, belts and uniforms handcrafted by Carol Sarchet, a collector from Colorado. The reunion, coordinated by Loren and Ruth Book, also featured historical background and photographs. FC