Pelham Puppet devil with box, £1500 at Excalibur.

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Estimated at £40-60 but sold at £1500 on May 27 was one of the distinct toys offered at Hertfordshire saleroom Excalibur (27% buyer’s premium inc VAT).

Collectors categorise Pelham Puppets by head type. Those carrying the initials ‘SS’ have a spherical wooden head, ‘SM’ denotes models with a larger wooden head and an opening mouth, while the most common ‘SL’ puppets have hollow heads produced using a mould.

This was an SM version, described as ‘good/very good’ and came in its ‘good’ early blue label box.

Wonky to Pelham

The early wooden puppets made by Bob Pelham in the first days of production in the late 1940s command a premium. The company began life as Wonky Toys in May 1947.

The Pelham devil was produced from 1948-54. While others offered at auction feature bushy facial hair, this example had none, and judging by the moustache painted on, maybe it never had any to start with. The hands are more basic, without fingers, so it could be an early model.

Looking at previous landmark Pelham Puppet auctions, such as Bamfords’ 2016 benchmark three-part sale of over 1500 puppets formed by well-known Lincolnshire collector Kaye Casey, the result at Excalibur was a good result for regular types.

The Bamfords sales included a record for any Pelham Puppet at £4100. However, that was bid for a 6ft 9in (2.05m) model Bimbo the Giant Clown that was used by Bob Pelham to promote the brand from the early 1950s.