Number 57, Number 57. That was my number for Gary's signing at the Calico Goose in Chico, California on October 24, 1998. I had waited for months for the special day to arrive and was very excited when it finally came. We drove about 150 miles north from the Bay Area the day before. There was to be a get together that evening at a local restaurant hosted by Melody (firstname.lastname@example.org), a collector I hadn't yet met in person but had spoken and corresponded with and from whom I had bought some of my old woolies!
My husband drove while I and Joy Gerow (see Joy's pages), the talented photographer who creates those adorable cards with the Boyds bears situated in wonderful different scenes, talked all the way about Boyds! Joy had flown in from Vancouver, Canada the day before and was our house guest. It was the first time in nearly four years of collecting that I had someone in person to talk with who could relate to all of the details, history, and general Boyds mania that has consumed so much of my life!
We arrived in Chico just at the time the get together was commencing. We quickly changed clothes at the hotel and walked to the restaurant. Everyone was already there and engaged in lively conversation. We were seated at two long tables and I got to chat with the collectors who sat closest to me. I was seated beside Cookie who held the Number 1 for the signing and lived in Chico. There were a total of 31 people at the dinner.
We played get-to-know-you bingo and pin the moustache on Gary. Melody had prizes for winners and we each brought our Boyds item for a gift exchange. I think we were all hoping Gary might show up at the get together but had heard that he was flying in from China, so he was probably tired from the long flight.
On Saturday, the day of the signing, I woke up to pouring rain! We quickly got ready and drove to the mall where the Calico Goose store is located. The Goose is truly one of the most beautiful and well stocked gift stores I've ever seen. When we arrived, I stood in the first of what would be three lines that I would have to wait in. The first line was to register the personal pieces brought from home for the signing. After I finally reached the registration table, it was time for Gary's chat to begin. I still had to stand in the second line to enter the store to make my required Boyds purchase before I could stand in line with my Number 57 to get the pieces signed. (click on photo to enlarge)
I didn't want to miss the chat and was told to go to the chat area and buy my pieces later. We gathered in a special cordoned area and was told Gary was in the store. You could feel the electrical excitement! Within minutes Gary appeared on the stage and he looked just great in his beard! The following are to the best of my memory things he mentioned:
New plush animals we can expect for 1999 will be a badger, raccoon and possum Billy Possum (Clinton). The cross stitch is in the works and also wallpaper and bed sheets. A watch is being made in China and he doesn't like the idea of Christmas stocking holders calling them "cheesy". We will see a mohair moose as well as bears and cats. They will be soft stuffed mohair. He doesn't want to overdo the moose and release a lot at the same time and flood the market. However, he mentioned a Wee Moose in the Wee Folkstones.
We can expect a Nascar racing bear and more pigs. He mentioned Purrstones, the cat resins and in Fall of 1999 there will be a groom for Bailey, a LE Dollstone. There will also be a Dollstone wedding party that will include a bear best man and a maid of honor.
He is also working on a plush guinea pig named in memoriam for Bailey's late guinea pig, George. He also considering creating a Boyds Museum in Gettysburg.
If you can still get yourself a set of Disney/Boyds Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet ornaments, I would. Gary says he will not enter into a joint venture with Disney again because Disney refused to sign an agreement that asked Disney not to use Boyds factories in China. The same thing occured with Marie Osmond's dolls with Knickerbocker. Knickerbocker would not agree to not use Boyds factories so it doesn't look like there will be a Boyds/Marie Osmond doll venture.
There won't be a UPS Bearstone because of the UPS name copyright thing, (you know, like the Red Cross, Eddie Bauer, Betty Crocker incidents) but he will have a Fed Up Man Bearstone!!! Lastly, a pad was circulated to take suggestions for names for new plush. For the past three years, all names for Boyds plush have come from previous signings. Well, if you see a plush cat named Fern, it's the name I gave because that is my mother's name and she loves cats!
Gary also mentioned that his family will not be accompanying him any longer on signings or tours. His offices received two weird letters after his children were on QVC. (Those of you who have Matthew's signature on your Boyds, you've got something that no one will get again!) With 17,000 dealer accounts, only 3,000 retailers will ever get a Head bean signing. He did say he will try to be at the Long Beach collectible show next year.
After the chat was over, I rushed to get into the second line: to buy my pieces. The store was packed and I couldn't really shop so I grabbed a couple of things on shelves as I was waiting. An employee of the store went into the back to get me a Mrs. Trumbull, and I grabbed a Thayer and a couple of big brother Wuzzies. It was my turn to pay and then I ran to take my place in line for the signing.
When I took my place in line I was with all of my friends from the store's April Queen Event. There beside me was Dianne, Number 55 and two other women, Numbers 58 and 54. It was like a happy reunion and we were thrilled to see each other. Before I knew it, it was my turn and I ascended the steps to the stage. There towering over me (I'm only 5'2") was The Head Bean Hisself! (click on photo to enlarge)
I looked straight up at him and said, "Hi, Gary!" He had already signed my Fifth Anniversary piece and jokingly asked me, "Is this yours?" I looked at it real hard and hesitated. Did it belong to Number 56? He continued, "Your name's not on it, only mine." Ha, ha! Of course it was mine. The he signed the second piece I brought and I told him, "This one's Sally's. You know, The Contest Lady. Here's her picture." He took her picture and said "Wow!" and signed it, handing it back to me. "I didn't know she looked like that!!! I thought she was an old lady." (Well, you know Gary and what he means...).
It all happened so fast and before I knew it, it was over. My husband barely had time to snap my picture with THB. Gary kept saying "Take the picture. Take the picture. A nice close one." I'm left with fond memories and a hankering to go to another signing.
Story owned and
© by Elizabeth Skelton 1998. May NOT be reproduced in any form with out written consent