Sunday, August 5, 2007

Robby Rabbit Pin-Back Button

This pin-back button from Sanrio features the character Robby Rabbit and dates from 1981.

Robby is playing tennis with his bee friend, and the button features the inspirational slogan "Never Give Up." Recently, I read that Robby was designed to appeal to boys; but that never occured to me as a child, and Robby Rabbit was one of my favorite Sanrio characters.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Little Gang Scoop Notepad

Another character line from the Japanese company Expression was a group of four white kittens known as Scoop (or possibly Little Gang). This is a die-cut notepad in the shape of a bottle from the early 80s.

The front: News flash! New Star Discovered... We're Seeking Thrills and Adventure Everytime.

An inside page: Let's Challenge Something New! (the back features the same image as the front cover without lines)

The back cover: Create New Life with Expression (all for the price of $2.50)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Three Bigrees Envelope

The Three Bigrees, a hippo, rhino, and elephant, are characters from the Victoria Fancy line of the Japanese company Gakken. Gakken still exists, but their stationery line has spun off into a new company Gakken Sta:Ful and seems to feature licensed characters like Olivia the Pig and Harry Potter.

This small (2.75" x 4.5") envelope features the Three Bigrees in their Hamburger Stand motif. It isn't dated, but probably dates from the early 80s and was part of a larger stationery set.


Victoria Fancy items were harder to find than Sanrio, but I remember rummaging through the sale loft of the Paper Barn in Peddler's Village to find these characters.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Megalomania Stickers

Megalomania, a wide-eyed black kitten, was a character from a Japanese company called Expression. More rare than Sanrio, Megalomania and other Expression characters could be obtained at several toy/gift shops in the Bucks County, PA area including The Paper Unicorn, Foster's Toy Store, and The Paper Barn at Peddler's Village in Lahaska.

The character goods from Expression were actually more expensive than Sanrio items, but were worth it since Megalomania was and is my all-time favorite character. No trace of the company Expression seems to exist today.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hello Kitty Airplane Eraser

This Hello Kitty eraser dates from 1976 and originally cost $0.85. The case features my favorite Hello Kitty motif, Kitty flying her airplane. The eraser itself has an intoxicating bubblegum scent still potent after 30 years.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bunny & Matty Stickers

Bunny & Matty were one of Sanrio's earliest character designs. Interestingly, early items are marked "Bunny & Ratty." Sanrio must have realized Ratty would not go over well in the US market.

Bunny & Matty Stickers, 1976

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Welcome to The Character Company. This blog will be devoted to interesting Japanese character items, particularly vintage 70s and 80s items or unusual characters. Everyone is familiar with Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, but there are other more obscure characters from competing companies that also deserve recognition.

I was born a few years before Hello Kitty and was just the right age when she arrived on the scene in 1976. My first contact with Sanrio and other mascot items was at a store in the newly-built Montgomery Mall in North Wales, PA. The tiny store was called The Character Company, and it featured items emblazoned with the familiar Peanuts and Disney faces, but also other characters that were new to me. I immediately gravitated to these Japanese characters. Not only were they so cute, but they also had no stories attached to them in the way cartoon characters did, which left room for imagination.

The Character Company closed suddenly and prematurely, in my opinion. Fortunately, I discovered other sources of stationery products and even new characters at local card and toy stores. There was an abundance and diversity of these types of stores in the late 70s and early 80s that, sadly, no longer exists. Now to find anything beyond the Hello Kitty style-of-the-month one has to visit specialty stores in Asian neighborhoods or shop on-line.

This blog will feature images from my collection along with any known details and personal reflections. Each post will focus on one item, and I welcome any information or reminiscences readers have to share.