Its a rare experience to meet a television celebrity and get a chance to personally extend your appreciation for their work. I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to do just that when I visited the set during the taping of the pilot episode for Donny and Marie Osmonds new talk show.
Scheduled for a daytime slot this fall, the show has a similar format to Live With Regis and Kathie Lee. I was invited to sit in the audience and witness Donny and Maries sparkling chemistry, and found it to be just as infectious as it was during the 1970s on their original TV venture, Donny and Marie. Marie dealt her usual blows to Donnys ego, while he tried to return equally witty remarks. But, as usual, Marie somehow always came out on top.
I brought a few original Donny and Marie collectibles to the taping, anxious to ask the pop duo if they saved any of the hundreds of items made with their likeness. One of the items I brought was a pair of Donny and Marie string puppets packaged in purple window display boxes. After the show I was invited onto the stage floor, where Donny and Marie signed the boxes and talked to me about the different types of Donny and Marie collectibles that were made more than 20 years ago. Surprisingly, neither Donny nor Marie remembered the puppets, and spent a few minutes comparing their likenesses to the plastic figures.
String puppets were only a few of the many items produced from 1976 to 1979, when the two superstars captivated us with their vocal harmonies and comedy skits on their self-titled variety show. Nearly 200 items were manufactured, all of which were licensed under the familys copyright, Osbro Productions Inc. A full range of standard TV memorabilia was produced, from paper dolls to lunch boxes, along with a few rare oddities like a battery-powered toothbrush and a toy kazoo.
The most desirable items for collectors today are the musical pieces because of their direct relation to the show. Guitars, tambourines, microphones and disco amplifiers all were part of the musical ensemble, but the most valuable item from this array is the mini drum set. The seven-piece set features photos of Donny and Marie on the front of the two tom-toms and the display box. This toy set plays to the tune of $150 and up.
Toy giant Mattel was behind most of the Donny and Marie collectibles. Relatively easy to locate are the 12-inch Donny and Marie dolls. Dressed in matching purple outfits and holding gray plastic microphones, each of the dolls is worth about $40 in the box. If found loose without the packaging, their values drop by about half. The dolls also were packaged together in a boxed gift set, which is valued at close to $100. Jimmy Osmond, the duos little brother, frequently appeared on the show, prompting Mattel to introduce an 8-inch Jimmy doll in 1978. The Jimmy doll is much harder to find and runs in the $75-$100 range in the box.
An extensive line of doll accessories was sold in conjunction with the plastic replicas. The line included a doll case, four carded and four boxed outfits for Donny, eight carded and four boxed outfits for Marie, and a television stage play set. Several other doll outfits were made, but were sold exclusively through Montgomery Ward in plain shipping boxes. Mattel also produced Maries Makeup Center (a hair styling head), a 30-inch Marie modeling doll with dress patterns, and a board game.
In 1978 Mattel introduced an elusive item that may not have gotten past the advertising stage Donny and Maries Hollywood Home. This play set was designed as a duplex apartment house for the dolls, with one room for Donny and another for Marie. The set was more than three feet wide and included 28 accessories. It is unclear if the play set ever made it into mass production. Any collector who is fortunate enough to find this rare gem may have stumbled onto a limited toy worth hundreds of dollars.
Among the easier-to-locate items are several carded toys produced by Gordy in 1976. Most of the sets can be found for about $25, and include Maries guitar, jewelry, keys and watch, microphone and song sheets, Maries hair dryer set, and a wallet and money set. Some other Gordy items are more difficult to find and command closer to $50. These include a camera and photo album, Maries shoulder bag and a boxed Marie vanity set.
Even if Donny and Marie collectors have tackled the Mattel and Gordy toy lines, there are still a multitude of other items to look for. These include several exclusive magazines, a variety of fan club merchandise, jigsaw puzzles, story books, magic slates, paint by number sets, jewelry, record players, sticker books and posters. Locating these items is more than a days work, and if luck isnt on your side, you may find yourself humming a few bars of the shows original theme song, May Tomorrow Be a Perfect Day.
From the publication Collecting Magazine