April 9, 2014 posted by Jerry Beck

For Sale: “Poor Papa” (1928)


Bonhams is having another Entertainment Memorabilia auction on May 4th and 5th, once again featuring “artifacts from animation history”. Among the items for sale is a 16mm print of Poor Papa (1928) (valued at “$15,000-20,000”), the very first “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” cartoon – “and one of only three prints of the film known to exist”.

ABOVE: A frame grab from an alternate 16mm print of Poor Papa, which  was offered to several of my research colleagues in 2011.

ABOVE: A frame grab from an alternate 16mm print of Poor Papa, which was offered to several of my research colleagues in 2011.

There is no doubt Poor Papa is a scarce film, and a historic one. My question is how does Bonhams come up with the $15,000-$20,000 estimate? Who do they think is going to buy it? It’s way out of my league – or anyone else I know who’d understand what this is.

Disney could of course be interested, but how strongly, given that the print is not unique?

There was another Poor Papa auction last year (see lot 693) where a print went for £170 – that’s less than $300, and a perfectly normal price for non-unique Oswald elements.

It can’t suddenly be worth $15,000 just because Bonhams “thinks” it is. Is last year’s auction print one of the three Bonhams says exists, or are there maybe four prints? Or more?

What about this other auction at Capes Dunn in 2001? I’m no longer a member of this auction site, but I once was, and learned that it sold for under $100… !

It’s rare – but not nonexistent. Hey, I want to see Poor Papa as badly as the next guy (especially if the next guy is just-as-likewise a rabid Disney-history freak) – but $15k seems a little too high for the privilege.


Beyond Poor Papa, there are some amazing items here – mostly Disney – up for grabs (if you have the money). The complete catalog is online. There is much original artwork by artists such as Eyvind Earle and Mary Blair – including a study of Alice chatting with the Caterpillar-turned-butterfly, in Alice in Wonderland (est. $8,000-12,000).

Cels, pencil animation and merchandising artwork – way out of my league – are also available. Personally, my speed is this animation drawing from Fleischer’s Dizzy Divers (lot 4136, est. $300).


Bonhams is also offering an assortment of vintage comic strip originals. Highlights include an October 1952 Pogo daily by Walt Kelly, (est. $1,000-1,500); a Flintstones daily and a Donald Duck Sunday page (est. $300-400).

Bonhams is located at 7601 W. Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Preview days for the Entertainment Memorabilia including Animation Art auction are Friday and Saturday, May 2nd and 3rd from 10am to 5pm. Be prepared to open your wallet.



  • They’re clearly angling for another killing from Disney after they sold their “Hungry Hoboes” print for $31k (beginning at 30k) to the same buyer. This is going for $15-20k because of those other two existent prints, otherwise they would’ve have tried to appraise this one for 30k as well. Otherwise no sane individual would pay that price for a 16mm cartoon short.

    Assuming Disney does not have any print in its vaults, It’s easy to predict they’ll be willing to bid to add it to its vintage Walt library.

    Bonhams is also appraising a collection of documents Walt Disney signed at $17k-22k (each) including a single guestbook appraised at $15k while most every other paper collectible is lucky to start at $1,000 with most well below even that. More evidence that they’re specifically eager to dig deep into the pockets of the Walt Disney Corporation in this auction.

  • Yes, obviously they’re hoping Disney just HAS to have it. But last I checked, you have to have at least two big money bidders to drive up the price of an item. It’s not like Disney’s opening bid is going to be $15,000.

  • My only solace is that Bonham’s won’t sell it. Disney wouldn’t give into a very greedy man’s demand for a price significantly lower than this for a 35mm of POOR PAPA not too long ago. I hope the auction floor is all crickets when this comes up to the block.

  • “It’s not like Disney’s opening bid is going to be $15,000.”

    Thankfully, I know it won’t be. Sorry Bonhams and collectibles speculators…go back to other kinds of memorabilia.

  • Nothing like this surprises me! It’s the same old song and dance! Get a hold of something that a lot of people want,inflate the price astronomically,and assume naively that some one will want it desparately enogh to shell out the money.I’m with the rest of you,especially Thad. Let them crickets chirp!!

    • Worst than “Crazy Grandma Pricing” at flea markets.

  • I always wondered why “Poor Papa” wasn’t on the initial Oswald DVD.

  • So my authenticated hand-painted cel from “Toy Story” isn’t going to appreciate in value?

  • What a pity, I’d love to see this cartoon. Still, it’s good to know that there are still several prints out there. One upside to this auction is that eight frames from the short can be viewed at the Bonhams website (plus another one here in Jerry’s post). I’d long been curious to see the older, fatter Oswald in a cartoon initially rejected by Charles Mintz.

  • Here’s my question. Are we sure that these frame grabs represent the print quality. Rarity aside, it looks awfully “dupey”.

  • I’m not sure how Bohamas values these Oswald cartoons on these astronomical figures, if I were gong to buy it they did have to remove 00 zeros of the price at least. 150$ to 200$ sounds more fair to me.

  • It sold for $7,500. So who bought it. Disney?

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