The 1950s saw an explosion of Phantom related comics and non comic items. In a past article we explored the very first Phantom comic which was released in 1936 and now we are going to try and explore 80+ years of history to identify the contenders for the first non comic Phantom collectible.
Back in the late 1930's and early 1940's, copyrights and records were flimsy at best with products starting to be mass produced, the world at war and copyrights more of a suggestion than law. This was not an easy task to identify the first Phantom collectible but with some help from phans and expert collectors around the world, we think we have the answer.
In the third Phantom price guide created by Nigel Johnson, he mentioned a "1937 Voodoo Pendant" however it comes with a warning that it is unlikely a Phantom related item. In talking to several highly respected Phantom phans, collectors and historians everyone all agreed it is not Phantom related with no evidence or even a photo of its existence. We are led to believe that a Hakes Price guides to character toys specifically indicates the voodoo pendant is not a phantom related item.
I think its fair to come to the conclusion that we can ignore this item so let us focus on three other items instead. One has a date of 1939 and another two both have copyright dates of 1940. As they have no other forms of date identifications, we can only speculate the specific dates they were released.
Now the reason we are including the 1940 items along with the 1939 item is because it is a promotion giveaway item to very few selected parties. Because of this, some may claim it is a true non comic Phantom item. We will include the 1940 items for completeness sake and let you discuss the merit yourselves on our social media platforms.
The 1939 item is a set of Christmas cards given from King Features Syndicate to the editors at various newspapers as a promotional item and so its distribution was low and they are quite rare. The set includes 32 cards.
The most likely contender to the first non comic Phantom collectible that was widely available to the consumer is the Pass Easter Egg Transfer. It was previously thought it was a 1944 release but some transfers have been found in a Pass envelope with a 1940 copyright on the envelope.
There are two Phantom Pass transfer designs with the green head and torso and red head so it is highly likely that one was released in 1940 and the other in 1944. With Easter at the beginning of the year, it is highly likely this is the first of the two 1940 items.
The other 1940 Phantom collectible is a Phantom Halloween costume. The costume has a 12.5" tall hood and 32.5" long one-piece body suit which is both purple cotton with white trim and drawstrings. The 6x7" oilcloth wrist cuffs and 7.5x25.5" oilcloth belt are both black leatherette-covered fabric. At center of the belt are the words "Phantom" on it with the Phantom's skull and crossbones.
This is very rare with only one full costume known to exist and interestingly has been sold and resold on Hakes auction house three times over a 12 year period. There is at least two surviving copies of the belt left - maybe more with Chris Smith selling another one 10-15 years ago. While the complete costume is amazing, the 'money shot' is the belt.
The person who owns two copies of this belt has taken photos for us to share here which includes two dates - a 1942 and 1940 date. With this item likely released for the Halloween market at the end of 1940, it is likely the Easter item did come first between these two.
If you like this article and would like to hear about other 1940 items, let us know and we will continue our research. Also it is worth noting that we did not include the Big Little Books in this list, which saw the first one released towards the end of 1936.
A huge shout out to Jon Cookson, Paul Moloney, Chris Smith and others for their help with information and photos from their collections and own research.