Collecting Articles and Features

Enjoy The Flight – A History of Pocket Dragons

They are popping up everywhere – Saturday morning cartoons, children’s books, commercials, jewellery shops, collectibles stores, the Internet, auction sites. They are the second biggest thing – next to lint – to ever be associated with pockets! After a long flight, Pocket Dragons have finally arrived. We take a brief look at the History of Pocket Dragons.

Pocket Dragons Gargoyle Hoping For Rasberry Teacakes
Pocket Dragons Gargoyle Hoping For Raspberry Teacakes. One of the rarest Pocket Dragons.

Pre-Flight

Of course, at one time, Dragons were the stuff of nightmares. The gigantic, winged, fire-breathing monsters seemed a very real threat to the people of the Dark Ages, and appeared in folklore from England to China. The end of the Dragon mythos marked the start of the rise of Science. It’s interesting to note the rising popularity of Pocket Dragons as we witness the current disenchantment with Science. With an angel or an alien potentially behind any tree, why not a Pocket Dragon?

Enter Real Musgrave, from Texas. Since childhood, Real has been fascinated with dragons. He began drawing them when he was five years old. When he opened a gallery in 1974 to sell and display his fantasy artwork, he began to fully develop his most successful creation. He did that with the help of his partner and wife, Muff, and an unlikely source of inspiration – their dog, Flower.

Real’s conceit is that dragons survived the Dark Ages, mainly by hiding in the pockets of old English tweed jackets!

He understood that his little dragons were cute, but needed personality to survive. In one of those amazing intuitive leaps that mark the creative process, it dawned on him that Flower was the perfect role model.

She was loving, mischievous, good-natured, and always willing to help – badly. Her face was remarkably expressive, with huge brown eyes that revealed every thought and emotion. And, most importantly, she LOVED cookies! Even though Flower passed away in 1984, Real says that a little piece of her lives on in every Pocket Dragon he creates. In fact, the “flower” on the Pocket Dragon logo honours her memory and inspiration

Take-Off

In the late 80’s, Lilliput Lane was looking to expand its line of miniature sculptures. Under the “Lilliput Lane Land of Legend Limited” (5L) banner, the company was already producing several fantasy lines, including “Dream Dragons”, which were sculpted by Tom Raine.

In 1987, company chairman Bill Dodd received a letter from an American fantasy sculptor named Hap Henriksen expressing his potential interest in working for Lilliput Lane. He also mentioned his friend, Real Musgrave, was also interested. Dodd followed up on the letter, and he met both men in Dallas, Texas. Dodd was impressed, and in 1988, Real began producing his Pocket Dragons for Lilliput.

The initial release in June 1989 included 27 Pocket Dragons. These were produced at Lilliput’s secondary facility in Stoke-on-Trent, in England.

In 1990, under the aegis of Bill Dodd, “Land of Legend” separated from Lilliput Lane to become an extant company. It carried on for several years under that name, and, as late as September 1992, was still releasing some pieces in boxes marked “Lilliput Lane Land of Legend”. Dodd eventually changed the company name to Collectible World Studios

Turbulence

Although the Pocket Dragon Collectors Club continues to grow by leaps and bounds, there is some controversy regarding pieces that are made in China, as opposed to the U.K. There are two reasons for this:

Many collectors feel that the sculptures made in China are inferior in quality to those produced in Stoke-on-Trent. The painting is considered more slipshod, and some claim the sculptures are actually different. In actual fact, the moulds and masters all originate in England, so it is impossible for the sculptures to vary.

Secondly, “conscientious” collectors object to production in China because of that country’s well-documented human rights violations. China is notorious for its “sweat-shops”, and the possibility of virtual slave-labour producing Pocket Dragons disturbs some collectors. (It should be noted that many companies, including Ty, Inc., produce their products in China.)

Bill Dodd addressed this issue in an email on November 22, 1998. He said:

“The factories that we use have been carefully selected and they are in the Chinese Development Zone where the best working conditions are. Three members of our Board of Directors visit the factories 3 to 4 times a year each as do other managers and staff from the Company and we take every precaution we can. At the end of the day, the isolation of China will not overcome the problems and this is the stance being taken by the major Western governments.”

All Pocket Dragons are now labelled “Worldwide Pocket Dragons are manufactured in more than one country”, and those sold in the US have an additional label, as required by law, indicating manufacture in China.

“From our standpoint, we constantly revisit the issues and we would strongly contest any assertion that we are not acting honestly. We have gone out of our way to be both open and well within the confines of the relevant international laws and standards.”

Presently, Pocket Dragons for the European market are manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent, and those for North America are made in China.

Friendly Skies

Over the last 10 years, Real Musgrave has been very busy. Operating from his “castle” in Texas, he has produced 169 Pocket Dragons, plus two that were never
released – “Pocket Dragon with Penny” and “Pocket Dragon with Key”. Real has no assistant sculptor – since the beginning, he has done all of the sculpting himself.

In addition to the actual pieces, the Pocket Dragon line was expanded to include 0many ancillary items, including limited edition posters, pins, mugs, and trinket boxes.

In the meantime, at CWS headquarters in England, a Collectors’ Centre has been created just outside of Penrith. Known as Wetheriggs, it offers a museum of all the Pocket Dragon pieces, a gift shop, birds-of-prey demonstrations, and a wonderful “Paint Your Own” studio for aspiring Dragon-painters. The British Collectors’ Club is triple the size of its US counterpart, and a little over 50% of all Pocket Dragons are sold in England.

Pocket Dragons Opera Gargoyle
Pocket Dragons Opera Gargoyle

Judging by the large attendance at a recent Pocket Dragon Chat Room held on the World Collectors Net, there is every reason to believe that Pocket Dragons
will continue to soar in popularity.

The Original 27

Here they are, with their original suggested retail prices in USD, and current Secondary Market Values*:

A Good Egg $36.50 $ 200 – 225 Attack $45.00 $ 150 – 175 Baby Brother $19.50 $ 85 – 150 Do I Have To? $52.50 $ 45 – 70 Drowsy Dragon $35.00 $ 30 – 60 Flowers for You $42.50 $ 100 – 145 Gallant Defender $36.50 $ 150 – 175 Gargoyle Hoping for Raspberry Teacakes $139.50 $1800 – 2200 Look at Me $42.50 $ 250 – 500 New Bunny Shoes $28.50 $ 90 – 150 No Ugly Monsters Allowed $47.50 $ 85 – 125 Opera Gargoyle $85.00 $ 300 – 450 Pink’n’Pretty $23.90 $ 75 – 80 Countersign $50.00 $ 300 – 450 Pocket Minstrel $36.50 $ 175 – 200 Putting Me on the Tree $52.50 $ 125 – 160 Scribbles $37.50 $ 50 – 75 Sea Dragon $45.00 $ 250 – 375 Sir Nigel Smythebe-Smoke $147.50 $ 260 – 300 Stalking the Cookie Jar $31.00 $ 25 – 35 Storytime at the Wizard’s House (LE 3000) $375.00 $ 550 – 750 Teddy Magic $85.00 $ 150 – 180 Toady Goldtraylor $52.50 $ 130 – 150 Walkies $65.00 $ 120 – 250 What Cookie? $42.50 $ 40 – 60 Wizardry for Fun and Profit (LE 3000) $375.00 $ 575 – 700 Your Paint is Stirred $42.50 $ 125 – 200

Up & Comers

Bath Time $90.00 $110 – 150 Blue Ribbon Dragon CC Gift $ 60 – 80 Chasing Snowflakes $35.00 $ 80 – 100 Different Drummer $32.50 $ 60 – 85 Friends $55.00 $ 80 – 125 I Ate the Whole Thing $32.50 $ 40 – 65 Let’s Make Cookies! $90.00 $100 – 150 Looking for the Right Words $80.00 $ 90 – 125 Making Time for You CC Gift $ 45 – 60 One Size Fits All $16.50 $ 55 – 75 Scales of Injustice $45.00 $ 50 – 85 Tag-a-long $15.00 $ 45 – 60 Thimble Foot $38.50 $ 80 – 110

* Secondary Market Prices compiled from eBay auctions in Fall ’98, World Collectors Net Pocket Dragon Message Board, OHI Exchange, and Geocities
secondary market site.

Research sources: Lilliput Lane, Collectible World Studios, “Gulliver’s World”, “Pocket Dragon Gazette”

Many thanks to Bill Dodd for his input and his patience.

Copyright Randy Gulliver 1998

Related
Pocket Dragon at auction