Muppet Collection Chronicle: Joe Pawich

Muppet Collection Chronice

Joe Pawich – Like many, the Muppets had a big impact on my formative years, and they still hold a place in my heart to this day. When Jason Segel’s movie “The Muppets” brought them back to prominence in 2011, I was thrilled. A part of me wondered if I could ever own a screen-used piece of that or any other Muppet production, but it seemed a dream beyond my grasp. Would that kind of stuff even make it to market and come available to the general public?

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I am a hockey trading card collector, and eBay is my go-to place for those or seemingly any other random item I desire. On a whim, in 2013 I decided to run a search there for Muppet props. As luck would have it, I came across a number of listings from a California-based seller who was selling what they claimed were prop photos from the 2011 movie. No COAs, no provenance, just their word that they came from a friend who had purchased and flipped him some boxes from a California auction. I tried to photo-match them to framed photos seen in the movie, and at least some seemed to check out.
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By the time I found the listings, many of them had ended, but I managed to grab a framed photo of Miss Piggy and Harry Belafonte that appeared to match one seen in Piggy’s dressing room in the movie. I had settled on that one due to Belafonte’s strong connection to the Muppets, and asked the seller if they had any others that they hadn’t listed. They assured me they did and would be listing them soon, but that never happened.
Not one to be deterred, I checked in with the seller periodically over the next 2 years to see if they’d taken inventory of what they had left, but each time I asked, they hadn’t. Finally, my persistence paid off when late last November, my inquiry was met with confirmation that they had a full box left that they would love to sell. I didn’t think I could afford everything they had, but was curious to see it and figured I could cherry-pick a few items at the very least. They spread everything they had out on their floor, took some pictures and sent them to me. And when they quoted me a price on the lot, even with expensive shipping to Canada and the weak Canadian dollar, I couldn’t resist and had to grab the whole lot as an early Christmas present to myself. And when I received the box, their pictures hadn’t done everything justice and I felt like a kid again going through it all.23190382360_bc2825d1e0_z
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I scanned everything I could, took pictures of what I couldn’t. and tried to organize them in a Flickr album. To coincide with the movie’s release, Disney had set recreations of both Kermit’s office and Piggy’s dressing room on display at the El Capitan Theater featuring screen-used props from the movie. Where possible, I tried to include photos from those displays and the movie itself in an effort to photo-match my items. One item in particular, a letter to Kermit, can 100% be matched to the El Capitan display (and possibly the movie by proxy). Another, a framed TV Guide interview with Piggy, looks to be a match in both the display and movie due to distinctive wear on the bottom right corner of the frame. Others seem to match up, others not so much, but one thing’s for sure – it all came from the Disney art department, and I can’t imagine this stuff makes it to market very often. The seller’s supplier had told him he’d had another box of this stuff at the time, but never produced it. If that’s true, I can only wonder what kinds of treasures might have been in there and where it ultimately ended up.
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Feel free to do your own detective work and let me know how you think I did. Some of my frames are a little worse for wear – you can tell they weren’t exactly “handled with care” when first put into storage, as they should’ve been. But for the most part, they held up ok, and I was beyond thrilled to get them out of storage where they weren’t being appreciated and bring them into MY fold where I may not have room to display them currently either but can at least catalogue them and share them with the world.
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