TV memorabilia collectors spend a considerable amount of time and money uncovering treasures of the past that remind them of their favorite television programs. It’s a rare experience when a classic TV show inspires new collectibles that are easily accessible to loyal fans. I Dream of Jeannie has done just that, even though it’s been over 30 years since it first aired. Since then, America’s fascination with television’s original genie-in-a-bottle hasn’t subdued. In fact, the show’s devoted fan base has increased substantially in recent years, thanks to perpetual reruns on cable TV. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I Dream of Jeannie is as marketable today as it was in the past.
He discovered a bottle and uncorked it, releasing a beautiful genie in a cloud of pink smoke. Eternally grateful for her freedom, Jeannie vowed to serve her new ‘Master,’ but Captain Nelson wasn’t as enthusiastic. Jeannie’s persistence soon won him over, and Captain Nelson agreed to her proposal under three conditions: that she (1) keep her identity a secret, (2) not grant him any special wishes, and (3) not use her magic under any circumstances. All three promises became increasingly difficult for Jeannie to keep, which became the pivotal force behind each half-hour episode. And so began the love affair between the television viewing audience and the characters of this popular sitcom.
However, the audience’s affection for I Dream of Jeannie wasn’t immediately recognized. It never made it into the A.C. Nielsen Top 25 during it’s original five-year run. It wasn’t until NBC canceled the series in 1970 and banished it into syndication that the show’s popularity really took off.
It’s reruns were so popular that an animated spin-off was called Jeannie was developed in 1973 by Hanna-Barbera Productions. Sixteen episodes aired until 1975, entertaining a younger audience with an altered story line. In 1985, Barbara Eden returned to resurrect her role as Jeannie in the TV-movie I Dream of Jeannie: Fifteen Years Later. The reunion also brought back Bill Daily as Captain Roger Healey. Wayne Rogers played Tony, replacing Larry Hagman who was immersed in his role as J.R. Ewing on Dallas. In 1991, Jeannie again returned to television, stepping into her original costume for the second TV-movie, I Still Dream of Jeannie.
The latent popularity of I Dream of Jeannie is reflected by the delayed production of its memorabilia. During the show’s original run, only a handful of merchandise was distributed. In 1965, Milton Bradley created a board game, featuring an illustrated cover and playing board. That was followed in 1966 by a paperback book by Pocket Books, a set of two different comic books by Dell and a Halloween costume by Ben Cooper. Most of the original memorabilia from the 1960s is valued in the $30 to $100 range.
Perhaps the most sought-after I Dream of Jeannie artifact is the 1966 Jeannie doll manufactured by Libby. The doll is 20” tall and is dressed in a pink harem outfit. Finding one in the original box is a rare experience and will cost in upwards of $400.
Surprisingly, most of the memorabilia was produced three years after the original series went into syndication and was modeled after the cartoon series. In 1977, Remco distributed a 6” doll with blonde-rooted hair and blue outfit. Remco also made a bottle play set that included a different bendable doll dressed in Jeannie’s traditional pink outfit. The bottle opened up into Jeannie’s living quarters and included several accessories and pieces of furniture.
Other cartoon-related items included: a magic slate by Rand McNally; Halloween costume by Ben Cooper featuring a red-headed Jeannie, doll outfits by Remco, a Jade Jewelry set and Knitting and Embroidery kit by Harmony; party supplies by Contempo and a boxed fabric playsuit by Ben Cooper.
Although this stream of merchandise fizzled out by 1977, I Dream of Jeannie’s popularity has continued to grow. A new wave of memorabilia has emerged recently. 1995 marked the show’s 30th anniversary, which was celebrated by the release of a full-size cardboard stand-up of Barbara Eden dressed in her original costume. Also available are several I Dream of Jeannie T-shirts, a hat, model kits, collector home videos and magnets.
The most aggressive venture to recapture the show’s appeal has been undertaken by Trendmasters. Included in their 1996 toy line are Jeannie lockets, bottle play sets, Magic Wish Bottle, soft fashion doll, talking fashion doll and Magic Palace. An exclusive item to the FAO Schwarz toy catalog is the I Dream of Jeannie Doll & Magic Wish Bottle Set which includes an 11 1/2" Jeannie doll and a plastic bottle that answers questions when turned upside down.
With a growing viewership and the emergence of new memorabilia, I Dream of Jeannie continues to escalate in popularity. It has not only survived the test of time, but has thrived in spite of it. We can’t seem to stop dreaming of Jeannie.