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Paper Mache Nipper Restoration

Paper Mache Nipper Restoration by Joan Rolfs

Old paper mache models of the most famous dog in the world (RCA Victor's HMV Nipper) are lovingly brought back to life.

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  • Date addedAdded: November 20, 2002
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Collectors seek original, well-preserved Nippers. Many of the Nippers are in need of restoration. An amusing story is often told about the 1940’s large 36 inch Nippers. Some of these Nipper’s had speakers in their chest and were placed in the front of stores to advertise the latest songs of the day and entice customers to come in the store. Many a dog would come along and pick a fight with the singing Nipper. Nipper often lost the battle and would be a shredded mass of paper mache.

This brings us to the restoration of these poor “road kill” Nippers which need to be preserved for future generations. The first step is to clean the Nipper. I do this gently with a mild soap and soft cloth. Next is the reattachment stage. If an ear, leg, paw, needs to be put back in place it is attached with glue and metal pins or a wood dowel rod is added for reinforcement. After the Nipper has all his parts, I begin doing the paper mache restoration. Using paper, water and white glue to begin my paper mache work, ears, paws and other parts of Nipper are formed. The Nippers are than coated with a thin layer of plaster and painted. The painting is very important and I use original Nippers to copy the details. A final antique patina is added to give the Nipper a vintage look. As a final touch I place a variation of the “Old King Cole” label on the Nipper, which states Joan Rolfs restored it.

As an antique dealer I cherish original Nippers. I often help collectors decide if they should restore their Nipper. It is my policy to leave as much original as possible. My art classes are a basis for mixing paints to blend with the original finish of the vintage Nipper. The original finish always adds value to any antique.

I would like to share with you one of my most challenging restorations. It was the 17 inch glass eyed Nipper.

Damaged Nipper
Damaged Nipper

Beginning Restoration
Beginning Restoration

The Restored Nipper
The Restored Nipper

All that remained was part of Nippers head, the glass eyes and parts of the lower body. He was totally decapitated. It was a challenging project. I used an original Nipper as the model and mold to shape the head and body to the original form. The photographs show Nipper in parts and pieces perched on a Victor Crate.

The second photo shows the beginning of the restoration. The final photo is of the restored Nipper. This Nipper was brought back to life and is now cherished by a very happy phonograph collector.

Nippers range in value from $275.00 to $3500.00 depending on rarity and condition. Restoring a Nipper can increase the value if done properly.

Victor VI with Paper Mache Horn
Victor VI with Paper Mache Horn

I also restore the rare paper mache phonograph horns found on the Victor VI phonograph made from 1904-1915. The “Victor The Sixth” was designed to be the finest talking machine the company could make. A special order paper mache horn having the appearance of polished hard rubber was an option on this phonograph.

The horn has the Nipper trademark decal. The inside of the horn may vary in color. They were found in black or a dark maroon color. I have also restored other market paper mache horns made for the Edison Phonograph.

A rare paper mache horn with an oriental painting inside the horn was made in Japan. The paper used has Japanese writing. It is fun to gain insight into the past and the work of the paper mache artist of yesteryear.

Holiday and other advertising items made out of paper mache are found throughout the world. I restore many Halloween and Christmas items. Of course there are also toys, dolls and I even restored a monkey.

I enjoy working with paper mache and also the creative final touches of creating colors that blend with the vintage items.

Nipper, Chipper and Vintage Halloween Pumpkins
Nipper, Chipper and Vintage Halloween Pumpkins

The real joy is bringing these items back to life to be enjoyed by future generations. Hopefully they will gain an appreciation into the art of paper mache and the time and love an artist puts forth to create and restore paper mache items of the past and creative art pieces of the future.

To gain more information on Joan & Robin Rolfs and their business you may visit them at: http://www.audioantique.com

Further Reading

Story of Nipper and His Masters Voice Picture - Leonard Petts
A guide to collecting His Masters Voice Nipper souvenirs - Ruth Edge

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