Bunnykins figurnines and tableware are no less collectable 85 years on...
With the days growing shorter (sorry), now that I’m driving home at dusk, I’m noticing more rabbits hopping about the verges and hedgerows. Seeing these cheeky chappies reminded me of perennial collectors’ favourites, Bunnykins.
Royal Doulton’s most famous range of animal themed merchandise, with enduring appeal to old and young alike, has to be Bunnykins figurines and tableware. These began in 1934 as enchanting drawings by a young nun, Sister Barbara Vernon, based on childhood stories her father told her about a family of rabbits living near them in Shropshire.
Happily, Barbara’s father Cuthbert Bailey was Doulton’s managing director at the time. He took the drawings into work and the rest is Bunnykins history.
The first six figurines were issued in 1939: Billy, Mary, Farmer, Mother, Freddy and Reggie Bunnykins. Production then halted due to the war. This means the original six figures, without the ‘DB’ reference numbers (that each piece has been given since), are worth up to £2,000 each, depending on rarity and condition. My sources advise to look out for ‘Reggie’.
The range was eventually relaunched in 1972 with 12 new figures. A few Bunnykins were released in 1973 and 1974, and then every year since 1981, with the total now over 400.
The popularity of Bunnykins amongst nostalgic adult collectors means that even quite recent Bunnykins pieces hold their value well, and lower issue lines accrue reasonably swiftly. This special edition 1993 Halloween Bunnykins peeking out from a pumpkin is on sale in the centre for £15.
Bunnykins characters soon appeared on fountains and garden ornaments, followed by desk sets, ring trays and condiment sets. Royal Doulton also produce Bunnykins nurseryware which is beautifully designed for small hands, and perennially popular as christening gifts.
Look for ‘dinky’ editions, especially those with low issue numbers. The ‘Bunnykins Oompah Band’ has been issued three times. Initial red members, issued between 1984 - 1990, fetch £40 - 45 per figure. Only 250 of the 2nd and 3rd edition pieces were produced, in blue and green respectively; these sell for £200 - 300.
Occasionally, adult pieces are produced, like the full size mug celebrating Bunnykins’ 80th anniversary in 2014. And in 2005 the ‘Sister Barbara’ Bunnykins figurine was created, depicting a nun at her drawing table; a fitting tribute to Barbara Vernon and the many charming characters she inspired.