As a Canadian, not to mention a general fan of square-jawed, stoic men in uniform, I’ve always been fond of the classic RCMP officer. Red coats, Stetson hats, a hair cut you can set your watch to, and a noble steed to ride. The classic RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) or “Mountie” has it all. The Mountie is an icon of Canadian culture. When you say “Canadian” in other parts of the world, the Mountie is probably an image that comes to mind (maybe along with a hockey player, snow and the general idea of trees). He might be a cliché and not at all representative of the diverse people who comprise the modern RCMP force, but the image endures thanks in large part to the plethora of items made in his image. Some of these items are souvenirs and some are advertising to capitalize on a Canadian association with certain products. As a kid, for instance, I remember being in France and seeing Canada Dry commercials featuring a friendly, fully uniformed Mountie sitting in a bar pushing ginger ale. It was silly, but darned if it didn’t make me feel patriotic.
Since the RCMP formed in 1920, the image of the “Red Serge” or “Review Order” uniformed Mountie became so popular it actually became a problem. By 1995 there were so many shoddy, illegal copies of the RCMP image running rampant on everything from pro wrestlers to cartoons that they famously struck a deal with the Walt Disney corporation to help control their copyright. In 2000 the RCMP decided not to renew their Disney contract, saying they now had enough knowledge and experience with commercial licensing to protect the image on their own. Today the RCMP sell their own lines of souvenirs with reproduction images.
While new RCMP merchandise is actually really nice, there’s nothing stopping you from collecting the real vintage stuff. By and large, because there was so much made with Mounties, you can pick and choose different types of objects to collect depending on your space and budget. Let’s take a look at some of my items to give you an idea:
This is one of my plastic Mountie figures. These were made in Toronto, Canada by the Reliable Plastic Company. The Reliable Company made, well, pretty reliable toys and these figures have held up well over the years. They have varying degrees of ware and tear. Some of them still say “R.C.M.P Canada” on the base, but on mine the letters have worn off. The back of the base is stamped with the words “RELIABLE MADE IN CANADA”. They are 8″ tall, and sell for around $15 – $30 depending on condition. These figures were made between the 1950s and 1960s, and can be quite easily found today in antique shops and online.
The following two plaster figures are vintage advertisements for Drewrys beer featuring RCMP officers and real glass beer bottles. The Redwood brewery (not the Drewry brewery for reasons one can only assume had to do with alliteration), was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1877. The company also opened a brewery in South Bend, Indiana in the 1930s following the end of prohibition. By 1936 all actual beer production took place on US soil.
Even when the beer was made in the USA, the Mountie was still used to advertise Drewrys beer. The figures that feature the trio of a Mountie, horse and beer bottle are especially sought after by collectors. Most of these figures were made in the 1940s and sell for $100 – $200 dollars today. I bought both my Drewry Mounties at the same time from the same dealer, and made a deal for both. The first one is smaller and has a miniature glass bottle. The second figure (with horse) has a full size bottle and a flat back for easy mounting on a wall. It’s a great item for a kitchen or bar area. The Drewry Mounties are a collectible that straddles two fairly large areas of collecting: RCMP and beer. For that reason they are a good investment for the money.
Finally, I’d like to show off two little men who make salt and pepper a charming addition to any table. I don’t know what company made these salt and pepper shakers. I can guess that they are from the 1950s but I’m not sure. They have small chips and discolourations. These are not prize pieces but I like them and they probably cost less than $20.
My point is that even if you don’t pay much, or expect to recoup your investment, vintage RCMP pieces can add charm and interest to your home. Plus who can resist a man in uniform? I’ll show you more items from my vintage Mountie collection later. If you have any comments I’d love to hear them!
Oh, and remember that deal the RCMP made with Disney to stop fraudulent but perhaps hilarious use of their image? Thank goodness it didn’t take effect until after Monty Python gave us this: