Lassie has single-handedly done more for the popularity of the Collie breed than any other single dog. We have him to thank for putting the breed at the top of the popularity charts for many years. He has done a tremendous amount of public relations work by showing Collies to be courageous, loyal, intelligent, protective and great with kids! How many of us grew up watching Lassie on television or in the movies, fully convinced that we had to someday own a Collie? What kid doesn't come up to your dogs and say "There's Lassie". Thanks to Lassie the Collie breed is universally known and loved!
"Lassie Come-Home" written by Eric Knight, was first printed as a short story in 1938. Two years later the book was published in an expanded version of the story. The book which became a popular best seller, paved the way for an overnight sensation! Several perfectly timed events completed the scenario. In 1941 MGM, one of Hollywood's major studios, decided to make a movie out of the popular story. They purchased the movie rights for $10,000--a move considered risky at best, since dog movies weren't necessarily big moneymaker. At about the same time, an errant Collie named "Pal" was giving his owner fits! He couldn't be cured of chasing motorcycles as well as several other bad habits. Mix in a respected Hollywood dog trainer by the name of Rudd Weatherwax, who acquired Pal when his previous owners gave up and a legend was born! The movie titled Lassie Come Home premiered in 1943, starring the infamous "Pal". It was beautifully photographed, in gorgeous Technicolor, and was the story of a loyal Collie who crossed hundreds of miles of rough terrain to return home to the boy she loved. The critics and public loved it! It made the "Ten Best Movie" list at the end of the year. The movie featured two youthful stars, Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor. It was a huge box office success and the public demanded more. MGM turned this enormous success into a series of movies whose appeal has spanned five decades.
In 1947 the Lassie radio show hit the air waves, followed by the television premier in 1954. Lassie was as big a hit in the infant stages of TV as she was in the movie theaters. The original television show ran for seventeen years, winning Emmys in 1954 and 1955 for "Best Children's TV show." Indeed it wound up one of the longest running programs in television history. Lassie who came to represent traditional American values such as family and home, courage, loyalty and honesty, soon became an American institution, famous the world over! She has reigned supreme since then as the undisputed canine hero.
Because of Lassie's tremendous, enduring popularity, a lot of merchandise has been produced over the years, in an attempt to promote Lassie to the public. Many of these objects have become collector's items and "collecting" has become a nation-wide obsession. The name Lassie evokes warm childhood memories and is especially meaningful to children who grew up in the 1940's on the movies and the children who grew up watching the television show in the 1950's and 1960's. Add to this a whole new generation of Lassie fans thanks to cable television and the recent release of the first Lassie movie in twenty years. Today many of these same children, in an effort to recapture those childhood memories, are now collecting items that were important to them in their youth.
There are Lassie collectors around the globe. They are everywhere, in all walks of life, crossing all ages and all boundaries. Some are Collie owners and breeders, while others don't even have a dog. Some collectors own other breeds. Indeed they come in all shapes and sizes and ages! The vast number of collectors has made for a very competitive market. Many toy and antique dealers will tell you there isn't much in the way of Lassie collectibles. Not true! There are lots of Lassie collectibles and they come in every item imaginable--and then some. The problem is in finding them!