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My search for the Russ Berrie clown cat doll

Dec/2/2020

for a few months i've been searching for this very specific clown cat doll. no idea where i first found this babie, but as soon as i saw him i fell in love. i knew i had to get this little guy. and it seems a lot of other people are searching for him too, so the hunt would most likely be a difficult task.

i began my hunt a few months ago, when me and a couple of my close friends were trying to find the origins of some of our childhood toys. which were all beat up beyond recognition, and had no tags. we searched for a few hours and were able to find at least three of em. my friend applauded my ability to search for specific items and find em quickly. and then i brought up the clown cat, something i was never able to find. so we looked for a while, and werent able to find him or any pictures of him other than the one above. i originally thought he was a calico critter because the only way you're able to find this image is if you search "calico critters clown cat." he's on tumblr and twitter described as a calico critter, but there are some vast differences between him and calico critters. the shape of the feet, the hands, the color of the nose, the defined mouth lines, the color inside the ears, and the overall size of him. i looked through hundreds of calico critters designs and i wasnt able to find a single "clown" one. let alone a similar looking cat that wasn't just from the silk cat family.

one thing to know about calico critters is that they're rarely sold by themselves. they're always sold in families. the only calico critters that come by themselves (as of dec 2020) are the baby blind bags, or the town series. calico critters (also known as sylvanian families outside of the US) isn't an old brand either. well what i mean by that is that they still stock, almost everywhere. they're hot right now, and i see them in every single toy store i walk into. even non-toy stores like Barnes & Noble, or Walmart. (even my sister and I both own our own calico critters...) so if this clown cat was a calico critter, i'm sure i'd see it somewhere. or at least on a blog of a calico critters collector. as calico critters aren't really that old of a toy, and are all over the internet. so we can rule out the possibility of the clown cat being a calico critter.

considering "calico critters" is the only search terms that you can find this cat toy under, i had to use those keywords while looking for literally ANY sign of this dude on the web. which worked, after a few weeks i stumbled across this reddit thread.

bingo! proof by someone who owns this, that it isnt a calico critter. though, they also said they found this little lad by mistake and even they couldnt find any information about him online.

true pain.

so, a dead end. i did what this dude did and searched up "item 2088" but i wasnt able to find ANYTHING, surprising. this cat didn't have a date or product name or barcode on him, so we know he's most likely pretty old. but now i know for a fact this cat is made by Russ Berrie, NOT Calico Critters. most toys have archives of everything online, especially Russ which has their own website. you might say "oh well he's old so he probably doesnt have any online trace of him" which makes sense but companies like TY have archives of their old beanie babies from all the way back in the 80's/90's. even if Russ didn't have an archive on their own website, you'd think other people that collect em would. so you'd think Russ isn't a well known company... which is far from the truth. Russ Berrie is one of the biggest toy companies. EVER. they manucatured those little crazy haired plastic trolls, which im sure everyone in america has seen. im not sure if the fact that they're a huge company makes it easier or harder to find this old forgotten clown kitty. but people do collect Russ Berrie toys. check ebay, etsy, depop. there's thousands of listing for Russ toys, especially vintage ones. but looking through all of these toys made me wonder... if Russ Berrie wasn't the manufacturer, but the distributor. which might've been a possibility considering the tags on this dude are similar to the tags Russ put on their other toys in the 80s. so yes, he's very old. the similarities between this cat and other russ toys are very different. i wont attach any images, but a quick image search for Russ Berrie toys yields thousands of different toys, all from Russ, that look vastly different from one another. so to test this theory, i searched the company Russ Berrie.
i was able to find an article on the "company histories" website, which is too long of an article to screenshot here, so if you're curious you can read it here. but the section i want to point out is the one that says "For its first ten years in business, Russ Berrie & Company concentrated on creating and designing its own products, and then contracted with manufacturers in the United States and abroad to produce them." so now we know, Russ Berrie, while they design the toys, they don't actually manufacture them. at first i thought this meant that they just opened factories in the united states and that i was proven wrong, but then i read "...Berrie realized that what his company did best was come up with ideas for novelty items, and market and sell them, not actually manufacture them..."
i'm not sure if im just stupid and reading this wrong, but i dont think it matters. russ berrie, the company, didn't actually manufacture the cat doll. they just sold it under their name. but its hard to find the exact manufacturer of the doll, since the tag only says "Russ Berrie." another dead end.

so i went back to what i was doing originally; scrolling through vintage clown dolls on ebay and etsy. i hoped that i'd be able to "find it by mistake" like this person claimed to, but i wasn't able to find it. no matter how many hours i dedicated to searching, i wasn't able to find anything similar to it at all.

after hours and weeks of searching, i... found him. i actually found him! i found a listing for him on Etsy. here is that listing.

so i quickly scrolled down to check the price on this dude, aaaand... SOLD
actually, sold YEARS ago. this was an old listing that was never taken down. i actually cried, i got so excited for absolutely nothing. this guy was long gone. but there was still hope. i could still contact the shop owner and maybe ask them where they got him! so i hopped onto their page. aaaand... "this shop is taking a break" god f*king damnit.

why is it that every lead i get is immedietely shot down. but this just makes me even more determined to find him, as i know that if i find him i'd feel like i had accomplished something for once. just this little cat doll sparked such determination within me, i had to get him.

so once again, i searched. amazon, etsy, ebay, depop, twitter, tumblr, instagram, everything. i reversed image searched every picture i had of him, and i wasnt able to find anything. only other people posting that one image of him, calling him cute. drawing pictures of him. putting him on stickers and buttons and pins for their etsy shop because he fit their aesthetic. all listed under simply "calico critters clown cat." and i'm not complaining that other people appreciate him, because maybe they'd find him and lead me to him. but also a bit disapointed that theyre calling him a calico critter, and claiming that they want him but refusing to put any effort into looking for him.

i took a break for about a month.
but last night, i had a dream where i bought him. it was very weird, as if my spirit was calling me to obtain this piece of plastic resembling the shape of a cat. i once again started my search. i started from the begining, with the simple google search of "calico critters clown cat" hoping that maybe this time i'd stumble across something new. and, i did. so let me explain my thoughts. i went back to the idea of this being calico critters because, while there's a huge difference between this clown cat and a calico critter, they have enough similarities to where it's hard not to believe these could be similar in some way. Russ Berrie was only a distributor of toys, and the company which produced calico critters isnt "calico critters" it's Epoch. which happens to not only be a company BUT also the manufacturer. epoch was found in the 50's, and russ berrie was founded in the 60's. i wasnt able to find anything about which manufacturers worked for russ berrie, but what if the similarities is because the manufacturer... was Epoch? it makes sense, that this cat was a very early design. it was number 2088 according to the tag, which i assume means that it was the 2088th toy that they designed and sold. so it makes sense that that wouldve been a couple decades after the companies started producing toys, but still pretty early on considering Russ has produced literally thousands of toys since they started.
so here's my theory: Russ Berrie designed this clown cat. Epoch made a base for cat figurines, and made 3 (maybe more) different cats - all from the same set - using the cat base. (no picture proof, just going off what this person says) after years, Epoch had the idea to start producing "Calico Critters" but they couldn't come up with a unique design for them. so they looked back at their old designs, and decied to use the base they had used to make the clown cat. but they made it smaller, and touched up some of their features to make it newer. and began selling them under "Calico Critters." there is absolutely no other explanation to how the clown cat is SO similar to the Calico Critters, but were produced under Russ Berrie. Unless Epoch stole the design? which doesnt make sense, because for them to have to steal the design, they'd need a reference. considering Calico Critters is a new thing, and the Russ Berrie clown cat has no results on the internet, i'd imagine there was no way for them to find the same design they used for the clown cat unless they had contact with Russ Berrie. ...or they used to work for Russ berrie?
but that's just a theory... a toy theory!

today, i spent a good 4 hours searching around for this guy. i woke up at 6am, and after my phone died, i hopped on here. i thought i'd make a blog post on Neocities for other people to follow me on my journey to find the mysterious Russ Berrie clown cat figurine. that, probably no one is as dedicated as me to finding. if you have any leads on this, please let me know! and on the small chance that you have this little guy, please let me know too because i'd pay... a LOT for this dude. seriously.
but that doesnt really mean he's worth much so i hope this blog doesn't turn into a source of "this is a rare toy, sell it for thousands of dollars" like with what happened to beanie babies. despite thousands of people having beanie babies, no one thought to resell them until people started paying high for their collections. so people started selling em for ridiculous prices, making people believe theyre worth more than they really are. anyway, i'll be updating this if i find any more leads. thank you for reading if you made it this far!

Mar/10/2021

Hello guys, update time!

I did a little digging on EBay a couple months ago and I started following all the vintage doll tags. I eventually found a listing for ONE of the dolls I was looking for, but I had never seen this one before. I actually got this dude for a good price around Christmas time. I kinda forgot to update this blog until 3 months later, because I'm lazy. BUT if you're wondering what it looks like, here she is!

She has the same little Russ Berrie stamp on the bottom of her feet that the clown kitty had, once again proving that this isnt just a similarity and that they're from a series!
That's all though, I dont have many more updates besides that. If you have any info about these cute little kitty dolls (or if you have one) please email me, it would be very appreciated!