Our antiques expert appraises a Charlie McCarthy doll to help determine what it's worth today.
I found this Charlie McCarthy doll in my in-law’ attic. He looks to be made of wood, with a plastic covering. Could you give me some background on him?
—M.C., Albuquerque, New Mexico
What’s It Worth?
A: Charlie McCarthy was a ventriloquist’s dummy, the wooden alter ego of actor and radio personality Edgar Bergen. Bergen learned to throw his voice at age 11, after studying a ventriloquism pamphlet. A few years later, he commissioned a woodworker to sculpt Charlie.
Sassy Charlie was always ready with a snappy answer or wisecrack. In 1937, the amusing twosome, who had performed for years in vaudeville, got their own radio show, which became one of the highest-rated programs until it left the air in 1956. Popular with both adults and children, Charlie set off an avalanche of highly collectible merchandise, including soap, storybooks, puppets, dolls and wind-up toys. Today, the famous puppet rests proudly in Washington’s Smithsonian Institution.
Your wooden Charlie figure has painted features and a tuxedo, and also sports his trademark monocle and top hat. That’s not plastic coating but shellac that has turned brittle. The debonair dummy is worth about $135.
—Barbara J. Eash (Country Woman Magazine’s Antiques Expert)