Emmett Kelly Figurines

A cherished part of American history is depicted in Emmett Kelly figurines —it’s the tale of two clowns, Emmett Kelly Sr. and Emmett Kelly Jr., a father and son who, working individually, entertained circus audiences for decades.

Both men are gone now, but their tremendous popularity livers on, and fans relive a little of the drama and laughter through memorabilia and collectibles that depict these two famous clowns.

Emmett Kelly Sr. inspired the first collectibles. Born in Kansas in 1898, he painted circus wagons and became a trapeze artist before beginning occasional stunts as a circus clown. His early clown appearances were typical of clowns of the day —he didn't gain fame until the time of the Great Depression, when his own character creation, a tragic clown named Weary Willie dressed as a hobo, changed the genre forever. Today, his early performances are all but forgotten, but the Weary Willie character lives on in Emmett Kelly figurines.

The “Emmett Kelly Wall Street” design is typical of these figurines. It features a hobo with a sad face seated on a trash can with his legs crossed. He is wearing baggy torn pants and a ragged jacket, and is reading the Wall Street Journal —and you know from his face that the news can't be good. He is the epitome of the down-and-out drifter, flattened by the Great Depression, a theme that formed the basis of the Weary Willie character and appears repeatedly in Emmett Kelly collectables.

Emmett Kelly Jr., the older Kelly's son, carried on his father's tradition and gave rise to a whole new line of collectable items. His character was very similar to Weary Willie – so similar in fact that the older Kelly objected to his son's act. Doubtless, the younger man rested largely on his father's laurels, but regardless, Emmett Kelly figurines featuring Emmett Kelly Jr. are just as popular, if not more so, as the one's of the original tragic clown. He has been called the “world's most collectible clown.”

You can learn a lot about the two Kellys and about Emmett Kelly figurines by browsing the internet. There's an Emmett Kelly Museum in Sedan Kansas, where Emmett Kelly Sr. was born —they have their own website devoted to the famous clown, and premises in Sedan where visitors can see memorabilia from Kelly's career, doubtless gathered up by the earliest fans of Emmett Kelly collectibles. A trip to Sedan would be a treat for every serious collector.

Meanwhile, the internet is also a great place to pick up Emmett Kelly items for yourself. Websites feature items celebrating Emmett Kelly Sr. or Jr. and sometimes both. Emmett Kelly figurines are the most popular, though there are also posters, Christmas tree ornaments and other collectible items. Being so famous, both clowns were often the subject of photographs, paintings and other artwork, and these pieces are greatly cherished by collectors.

Older original pieces can sell for high prices, of course, on the secondary market, but anyone can start a modest collection with recent reproductions that are often quite good, or find good prices for Emmett Kelly collectibles on sites like eBay. There are also online discussion groups where fans of the clowns can discuss their latest acquisitions or help each other determine the history and worth of memorabilia. The internet has made it so much easier for collectors —it's almost enough to put a smile on Weary Willie's face.


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