A Rare Antique Shop Find: A 1934 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch!

Are you an antique shop browser? Do you gladly subject yourself to hours of scanning shelves and peering into a motley assortment of old, glass display cabinets in the hope of finding that certain “thing” that can be reasonably purchased and which has the potential to “make your day?” 

I cannot resist perusing antique shops, those repositories of our cultural past, for any “thing” that piques my interest. That “thing” could be any item that I consider attractive, well-made, unique, historically interesting ….and not very expensive. Mostly, I come up empty-handed for my efforts, tired of seeing the same genre of knick-knacks from the 1950’s time after time (seems like all the shops have those in abundance!).

MMW_2

A few years ago, my luck changed in the little town of Fillmore. We were traveling along California route 126 on our way back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Southern Calif. and stopped briefly for a rest-stop. I told Linda I wanted to take a quick look around the little antique shop on the town’s main drag, one we had not visited for some time. After making my usual luckless rounds through the store, I was almost out the front door when I noticed a display of several wristwatches on mannequin hands. This display included a typical array of watches from the 1950’s and later, some with Disney themes such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. One watch caught my eye because I recognized it as an early version of Disney’s ubiquitous Mickey Mouse Watch. I asked to see it and promptly noticed the $250 price tag when the sales-lady handed it to me – considerably more than the other watch prices!

I gingerly wound the watch-stem once or twice around, but the little rotating minute dial at the bottom of the watch-face did not seem to be rotating – not good! In the process of handing it back, I fortunately noticed it was now moving, apparently needing just a slight jar to get going on such little spring tension. The watch clearly was in working order! I got pretty excited at that point.

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I could see that the watch seemed completely original and without the tell-tale signs of being disassembled for repair or parts replacement. I left without buying it because of the non-trivial price. On the way home, with my wife driving, I did some research on my iPhone. I determined that $250 was half the value of a similarly nice, all-original 1933/34 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch. I called the shop and asked the sales-lady more about it. She told me it was consigned by a local woman whose grandfather had bought it at the 1933 Chicago Exposition. My quickie internet research had verified that the first-ever Mickey Mouse Watch made its debut at that fair in 1933, marketed by Disney and Ingersoll. This particular early 1934 version is akin to the second printing of a first edition book – and quite scarce in nice, original condition. Furthermore, the owner confirmed my suspicions via telephone call that the watch had never needed repair and was completely original in all respects – including the cute and unique leather band.

I called back to the shop and bought it over the phone while still driving home and have enjoyed it ever since. I am a big fan of Disney, and the Mickey Mouse Watch is truly a cultural icon.

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I still recall the thrill of receiving a brand-new Mickey Mouse Watch at Christmas, 1948. An old photograph shows me proudly showing off my new watch. I still have it, it works, and it seems altogether fitting that I should stumble across that related treasure on my lucky afternoon of antique sleuthing.

Orig MM Watch001

 

23 thoughts on “A Rare Antique Shop Find: A 1934 Ingersoll Mickey Mouse Watch!

  1. Hello

    I have a vintage Mickey Mouse Ingersoll identical to the one pictured in this article in excellent condition see link below to pic this is exactly what I have… I inherited from my grandma and mother was always thought of as very important and rare by them. Anyway to give me some insight on it’s value? Thank you!

    • The Ingersoll Mickey Mouse watch from 1934 which appeared in my blog post is worth in the neighborhood of $400 – $500. The watch is working and original throughout, with no evidence of “tampering” or “repairs” done. I am in no position to advise as to the condition/value of your particular watch since there are too many variables at play in appraising these watches. The Mickey Mouse watch post is one of my most-viewed posts, and I resist advising readers on the value of their prized watches. You can find many price comparables for these watches on the auction site, E-Bay. Best of luck!

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog, but my reason for writing is rather selfish.

    I am writing a biography of Thomas G. Cassady, who in the first half of 1948 served as the CIA’s first chief of covert operations. His first assignment was to “encourage freedom-loving elements in those countries that have been over-run by Communism.” The goal of his first operation was to beam propaganda into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union by means of a radio transmitter secretly and strategically placed in West Germany. (This later became the Radio Free Europe program.) His second project a month later was to drop leaflets behind the Iron Curtain using weather balloons. Unfortunately newspaper columnist Drew Pearson got wind of the plan and appropriated it in his column, noting that “various patriotic Americans have volunteered to print the messages free, donate candy, wrist watches, etc., to be sent with the messages.” It seems that one of these “patriotic Americans” was Walt Disney. Some officials in the State Department at the time, and author Tim Weiner more recently in his book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (New York: Doubleday, 2007, page 530), ridiculed the idea of using “messages of brotherly love and Mickey Mouse watches” as a propaganda measure. However, if, as some claim, Eastern Europeans’ love for blue jeans helped erode the Iron Curtain in the 1970s and ’80s, then I think that Mickey Mouse would have been as good a goodwill ambassador as a pair of pants! He was so popular internationally that during World War II German Luftwaffe flying ace Adolf Galland had Mickey’s image painted on his ME-109 as his own personal insignia.

    The bottom line is this: could I use the photo of your 1948 Christmas watch in my book? Your thumb being just visible in the photo to lend perspective as to its size makes it ideal for my purposes. The fact that both Disney and Cassady served as ambulance drivers in World War I offers additional interest to the episode. I will certainly credit you in the caption I print below the photo. I hope you have no objections. Thanks for sharing the pictures of your watch and its story.

    • Thanks for reading my blog! You may use that particular picture with credit/reference to my blog – as proposed.
      I WAS aware of the Mickey Mouse insignia on Galland’s Me 109. I always thought it curious! You have shed some light on the rationale.

    • Although I researched my particular Mickey Mouse watch quite thoroughly to be sure my post was accurate, I am no expert in this realm. Without a band and being “over-wound” (not working?), your watch would not bring a high price. Putting it up for sale/auction on E-Bay is one way to determine “what it is worth to buyers.” Thanks for your comment!

  3. i have a mickey mouse watch, with red leather strap and patches on strap with photos and sayings underneath photo,s.one says with mickeys thumb up and caption says the style, the other shows his mouth saying the smile, another says the house with a photo off a house and the last 1 says the mouse. it is stamped Disney inside the back off the watchstrap.it has no maker on watch face just a photo on watch face and underneath it just says mickey.it works perfectly and is in good working order. my friend told me it was junk and to throw it out? no way, I love it and have never seen 1 like this in all my years on this earth,have you? do you think it is worthless yourself?i don’t know if you do this but could you email me with your opinion? thank you for your time and patience,look forward to your email.thanks again.margaret

    • Hi Margaret,
      Your description doesn’t sound like any Mickey Mouse watch I have seen. Although I have some knowledge of these collectables, I am by no means an expert. Many Mickey watches were made through the years, so I would say if you like yours, hold on to it and do some internet research on it.
      Best of luck!

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