KOOL Penguin Collectibles

Page 2 of 3


Perhaps the largest of all in-store Willie penguin items is this one seen in a photo from the Paradise Pharmacy.  Whether this was a custom, one-of-a-kind item, I don't know.  Notice the tobacco leaves and the cigarette cartons.

The largest mass produced item of which I am aware is this colorful stiff cardboard counter-top standee, which is roughly the size of a one-sheet movie poster (27" x 41").

This is a relatively rare item (I have seen only five besides my own), yet the item has sold in the agreeable range of $100 to $150.   The political theme (and relatively later version of Willie) suggests that this item dates to the election year of either 1952 or 1956.  The earliest version of this image was used in a 1936 advertisement.  The latest one of which I am aware was used in connection with the 1960 election.  For more election campaign images and items, see the separate election collectibles page.

The next largest counter-top standee (measuring 20 by 30 inches) is this colorful item featuring the KOOL penguin and his masterpiece.  A relatively obscure collector paid $158 for one of these in February 1999.  Each of these "standees" has an easel-type fold-out stand attached to the back.

There is at least one other counter-top standee (this one measuring 15 by 20 inches), once again featuring an extraordinary KOOL penguin graphic.  A copy of this, in a little bit dinged-up condition sold in January 1999 for less than $100.

Among the more unusual KOOL penguin collectibles are these wonderful die-cut standees.  So far, nine varieties are known to me.  The one shown at left stands 15" tall and depicts Willie as a bricklayer who is laying packages of KOOL cigarettes.  The similar one at right depicts him as a mail carrier with a bag full of cigarette packs.  I have no date on these, but the appearance of Willie suggests that they date from the '40s.  These guys sold in April 1998 for just over $100 each.

These two die-cut figures are also quite extraordinary.  The "formal attire" design suggests that they may be older than the other two.  If you can find them, expect to pay a pretty penny for these guys as well.  The pair of these (although somewhat damaged by water) sold for over $200 in early 1999.

A Christmas season die-cut standee is also known.  the design suggests that this one is of much more recent vintage than the other four.

Yet another point-of-purchase item is the relatively common "match tin."

There are at least 8 varieties of this item.  Four of them are shown here and links are provided to another three.

Most of these originally had a little "pocket" to put your pennies in, but more often than not this piece is missing.  The eagle-eyed among you may look at the one on the left in the group of three.  The one in the center just has some little holes, under the "1¢" arrow, where the attachment used to be.

Both a fifth and sixth version has the same image as the one above left, but with different text.  A seventh version is similar to the one in the center of the smaller picture.  At least one of these match bins (similar to #7) is also known to exist in plastic, rather than tin.


Perhaps the most commonly found of the tin signs is the one shown at left, which measures 26" by 11".  This one can probably be bought in decent condition for between $40 and $70.  A more unusual tin sign is the "flange" variety shown at right.  This one measures 10½" by 13½".  The same image appears on both sides of the sign and the flange provides for its being affixed to a door jamb or perhaps to a wall, so that it can be seen from both sides.  One of these in nice shape will probably run you from $75 to $100 or more.

There are at least three other variations of the larger "We Sell Cigarettes" sign.  The third one I have was bought in nice shape, but got crumpled a good bit in the mail (Thanks a lot, Mr. Careful Packer!)

There are also at least two smaller tin signs, each of which measures about 3½" by 12".  Like some of the others, the metal is embossed to highlight certain features.

I don't have a date on these, but the image of Willie suggests that all of these tin signs are from the '50s.

One last tin sign is worthy of mention.  Indeed, many would consider it the most striking of them all.  Measuring just over 8 by 16 inches, a near mint condition example of this one became the focus of a heated bidding battle in a 1999 Internet auction.  When the smoke cleared, it had sold for over $300.


Cigarettes come in a pack and cigarette packs come in a carton.  I bet we'll find our charming little guy lurking on each of them.  Indeed, both the front and the back of KOOL cigarette packs have featured images of the penguin.

Among the most fascinating of all KOOL penguin collectibles are the "Willie the Penguin Says:" illustrations and poems that were printed on the back of the cigarette packs.  You may have noticed the three shown on the main page.  For those who can't read this one, Willie's sage advice is:

When you smoke
To beat the band
KOOL's the smoke
To have in hand!

How many of these lyrical little gems there may have been and over what period they appeared has yet to be determined, but I am quite confident that there were over 100 distinct verses and illustrations.  Careful examination, using the guidelines set forth on the KOOL Penguin History page, suggests that these images date to the 1940's.  If you wish to view several more of them, I invite you to proceed to the separate poetry page.

If the penguin is on the cigarette packs, you figure he's gonna be on the cartons as well.

I can confirm three different ones, but there were probably many more.  This one is sort of a novelty.  If you were one of those 5-pack-a-day guys, the "Split Carton" supposedly made it easier to carry them around.

During the holiday gift-giving season, tobacco companies used to produce special "carton sleeves" that served to turn a carton of smokes into a presentable gift package.  Maybe they still do this, I wouldn't know.

Anyhow, one of the most exceptional of all KOOL penguin collectibles is found in this catagory.  The image shown includes the top (marching band) and one side of a "Season's Greetings" carton sleeve from what would seem to be a very early date, possibly 1933.

The side not shown depicts additional penguins and provides a place to write the giver's and recipient's names.  The bottom is blank.

I don't know if there was a different one of these every year.  If there was, a complete collection could run to as many as 20 or more.

Two others that I know of are shown here.  These appear to be from the late 40s or 50s.  I suspect that these and any other varieties are all relatively rare.

There is also such a thing as the Christmas season carton (as distinct from the carton "sleeve").  The one seen here is still unopened in its wax paper cover.


Some of the very best images of the KOOL penguin were published as part of full-page magazine ads in the 1930s.  Three such images, including the earliest one of which I am aware, may be found on the separate KOOL Penguin History page.

Here we see a fabulous picture from 1935 of our guy displacing a cigar store indian, as well as four other pictures from magazine ads published in 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1939, respectively.

Of course, these images have been cropped to delete the advertising copy.  Is it possible that the original art for these pictures still exists?  Now, there, we're talking serious collectibles.  The one-of-a-kind originals of these terrific works of art are obviously very carefully rendered watercolors, possibly even oils.

It may not be possible to catalog every KOOL penguin ad, but for those of you with a ridiculous amount of time to kill, I have created the beginnings of such an effort on a separate magazine advertisements page.

In addition to these wonderful magazine graphics, there were also colorful ads with Willie and Millie in the 1951 and 1952 Sunday comic sections.

Some of these featured little stories suggesting that Millie was not interested in Willie until he wised up and started smoking KOOL cigarettes.

I have yet to put my hands on very many of these, but I do have some clippings from them carefully pasted in a child's scrapbook.  Take a look, it's really neat.

Don't miss page 3 where you'll find penguin jewelry, penguin-shaped lighters, the wonderful KOOL penguin clock and a link to the amazing and controversial Willie the Penguin comic book!

If you have KOOL penguin collectibles for sale or trade, I invite you to see my wanted and for trade page.

Return to page 1 or go back to the main "Willie" Penguin page.

This page created and maintained by Jim Lowe
First appearance: May 18, 1997
Last updated: February 5, 2002

© 1997 to 2002 by James R. Lowe, who reserves all rights to the content of this page not successfully claimed by others.