The first boxes were brown card boxes. Labels were stuck on the tops of the lids. These labels had Wonkey Toys Ltd printed on them or said the instructions were written by Jan Bussell. After 1948 these labels were changed.
The bottom box with the pale blue label is an example where an extra sticker was put over where it said instructions by Jan Bussell. This was to indicate that the puppet had a simpler control.
The brown card boxes continued to be used along with some pale yellow card boxes which were introduced as well.They all had labels stuck on the lids..
These were the boxes with red script or purple script. As a rule of thumb the former would usually contain an SS SM orSL puppet. The latter would usually contain an LS or animal puppet.
These were the yellow card boxes that also appeared between 1948 and 1955
This picture shows some of the different labels. Even though the basic format was the same they mentioned the type of puppet contained in the box.
This box contained a Disney character.
These pictures shows the illustrations on the solid yellow box used from 1962-1984.They were the same as the box used from 1955-1961 except the Snake Charmer replaced the Mad Hatter
This was the first window box to be manufactured.It made it easy to see the puppet without actually having to remove it from the box.
This was the improved window box with the strengthening bar added in 1969. Also in the picture are the two sides of this box showing the illustrations that were featured on it.
These were the illustrations on one end of the window boxes. The later box with the bar had an extra piece of text about Condition of Sale that was missing from the early boxes.
Around 1980 A deluxe box was produced. Some of the puppets such as the farmer and the beefeater among others sometimes came in this box.They were referred to as the Deluxe Range. Buyers probably thought that they were better in some way than the ordinary window boxed puppets, when in fact there were no obvious differences.
The large yellow box was produced from 1963-1979 for the 63 Range of puppets and was used for other larger puppets like Emu.
These are the illustrations on both sides of the 63 Box
The earlier jumpette box with illustrations.1958-62.
The later jumpette box with illustrations.1962-86.
The puppets are certainly worth more if they come with their original boxes. The boxes changed over time as improvements were gradually made. They are very good guides to dating puppets and it is worth making a note of the different times the boxes were produced. Pelham usually marked his boxes with the name of the individual puppet at one end.
The brown boxed puppets (1948-1956) had six label types—blue/white is the earliest, then came some variations of colour in that one and then a red white and blue label came out, which is the most common—the later ones had no trademark present on the label, and all these boxes were stamped by hand. Note that the Skeleton box and others for longer puppets had the same type of labels but were oversized.
The hatter boxes (1956-1962) had the Mad Hatter pictured in the middle on the side of the box and were also stamped by hand.
The Snake Charmer boxes (1962-1969) had the Snake Charmer pictured where the Mad Hatter previously was—on the side of the box and were stamped by hand or labelled with a sticker.
The yellow window boxes (the cello window boxes without a band across the middle were produced from 1968-1970, then the banded ones from 1970-1986) were mostly labelled, though occasionally one comes along with an ink stamp.
Labelling was haphazard and quite often the name was smudged or omitted or the person doing the stamping may have made a mistake, so some of the early boxes are actually unmarked or contain the wrong puppet.
Eventually, Bob Pelham started using stickers with printed names, and these can be found on the snake charmer boxes and the window boxes that followed. These for the most part seemed to have stood the test of time, but you do find boxes where they have been removed.
TV and film characters like the Disney puppets, Pinky and Perky, Twizzle, Rupert Bear, Yogi the Bear, Bleep and Booster, Noddy and Big Ears and the Pink Panther also had special stickers on their boxes as well as their names and serious collectors like to have these complete and not damaged. On the cello boxes Pelham numbered the puppets as well, so a sticker could say SL2 Gretel or SL27 Old Man.
The window boxes eventually led to a Deluxe box, which was just a larger yellow cello box with a band that said Deluxe Puppet across the front. Then there was a blue window box(mainly exported) and red and yellow striped window boxes, which were produced after 1986
Some of the junior control puppets, after the early period when they came in full sized boxes, came in small solid yellow rectangular boxes or small yellow flat window boxes. Animals like the Horse stayed in the larger box for quite a while, but the Cat, Bengo, and others were eventually sold in small yellow rectangular boxes. Early animals tended to come in a brown box with an old red, white and blue label. It should be noted that Muffin the Mule had his own specially made box.
The Jumpette boxes were white and yellow striped at the start and then became all yellow like the larger ones and eventually developed into a flat yellow window box and a flat blue window box.
The boxes used for Peanuts characters were made specially. Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock were put into blue cello window boxes which had really nice illustrations to the exterior. There was also a unique set of boxes produced for the Wombles again with illustrations.
Other boxes that Pelham produced were the 63 Range box used from 1963-1986 for the larger SL puppets. These were mainly marked with labels but there are a few stamped ones out there.
In addition, there was a white box with a red, white and blue label similar to the one on the brown boxes that was the same size as the yellow 63 box. Pelham used it for repairs or as a temporary box.
When buying puppets it is always worth asking if the puppet is in its correct box and if it is labelled as such. The correctly named box adds to the puppet’s value. It is also wise, if you are unsure about whether the puppet is correctly boxed, to check its features to see if they match the time period of the box. An easy, but not the most accurate, way to do this is to make sure the puppet’s hands and legs match the box period. For example, those in brown boxes should have lead or early composition hands and wooden legs while the Hatter boxed puppets had large composition hands and wooden legs. Those in the snake charmer boxes could have wooden or plastic legs (some were made with a marbled plastic) and later composition hands or the smaller composition hands—some had the plastic or composition fingered hands too. The window boxed ones had five fingered hands that were composition or plastic.
There were three peanuts puppets manufactured, Snoopy Charlie Brown, and Woodstock. They came in a blue illustrated box.
This box was used with exported puppets after 1980. Some of them have turned up in the UK as collectors have brought them back in with puppets they have bought from oversea
Some of these were sold in larger stores. There were a variety of twin pacs and available. As well as these cow boy puppets you could get the dutch boy and girl together and a clown and golliwog together.
The naming of the puppets on the boxes was haphazard. Some boxes were hand stamped,some were never stamped at all and some were labelled with small stickers with the name and number of the puppet.It was the TV and story book characters that had special labels with the name and licence and these are very sought after by the discerning collector.