As a result of recent research, the origins have been determined for a small group of Pokemon plush that surface on the community sparingly each year!
We begin with a brief history: During the late 90's Poke-craze, everyone wanted in on the money to be made in Pokemon merchandise, and licenses to create toys were handed out to so many companies, Nintendo even lost track of who had them or not, as did we. Now, there are tens of thousands of Pokemon plush out in the world. This particular post will pinpoint a small handful of mostly-European (but some have been found in South America and Australia, etc, as well) companies that went on to create exotic novelty Pokemon plush prizes that were distributed in crane games, at amusement parks, and in one known case, at festivals promoting Pokemon game releases. These (more than likely) unofficial plush, made on a very small scale, now lay scattered around their origin countries of Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, and more. They also happen to be some of the rarest and hardest to find collector's items.
I originally began researching about them years ago, after I realized there was more to them than I first thought. Before I knew anything, or took the time to discover they are not counterfeits. Because of their appearances I'd simply brushed them aside into the same category as "Hong Kong bootlegs", which are the mass-produced, deformed, misshapen copies that look like official plush, only uglier and with multiple missing body parts. Naturally it took a Raichu plush for me to realize they not only aren't copies, they are so original that most of them barely resemble any Pokemon plush available on the market!
A German community member provided me with information regarding additional origins of the mystery plush, especially the ones created as festival prizes by small, independent companies in Germany. Assumed to be unofficial and incorporating unusual and often very silly-looking designs, the plush are all unique to themselves and designed by the companies as novelty items and prizes. Unlike both official plush and Hong Kong bootleg plush, these plush were never mass-produced in factories to sell in stores at all. Because of those circumstances, now, over a decade later, these plush are ridiculously hard to find.
Additional research into the history of these items found parallels in other collectible merchandise. One example is found in the My Little Pony collecting forums. This is not referring to 2011 Friendship is Magic's flash animated ponies, but goes back to nearly three decades ago when MLP began in 1982. MLP collectors are surprisingly hardcore for a group who collects colorful horses with cutie-marks on their hips and tiny plastic combs for hair-brushing. They are not only our senpai's, they are much bigger than Pokemon Collectors and could probably kick our butts, so, respect those guys. The My Little Ponies groups have entire forums dedicated solely to the often silly in appearance, and certainly extremely rare foreign ponies. They have massive galleries and have even pinpointed each country of origin for these wacky and often unofficial ponies. They call it "Nirvana".
As our dual PKMNcollector and MLP collector fizzycat has explained, a nirvana pony is a pony that was not a mass-marketed design. Back in the 80's, Hasbro gave out the license so loosely that it actually lost track of which ponies were actually licensed! So its unknown whether a lot of them are truly 'official' or not. Thus you can see the similarities to our mystery plush here, even if nirvana ponies countries of origin are incredibly different (as it is a hobby that began in and spread from America, not Japan).
So are these plushies OUR "Nirvanas"? Nirvana may not be the word that comes to mind when one sees, for example, the Chansey plush in my examples below. AND NOW, thanks to the VOTES of over 200 members, OUR plush have been nicknamed "Mirage Plush!" Why? The reasons are rather eloquently explained in the PokeDex entries of Mew (see quote at the top of this post) and Dratini, the Mirage Pokemon...
"Long considered a mythical Pokémon until recently, when a small colony was found living underwater."
In at least ONE case, the only plush a Pokemon ever had that was company-made was a Mirage Plush -- did you know Pidgeot has a plush? Now you do!
So is your MYSTERY plush with an unknown maker or origin, with a chopped off, missing or blank hang tag a MIRAGE PLUSH? Find out now!
Qualifications for these Plush:
1. They are old (so far nothing beyond Gen II has been found), made at least a decade ago.
2. The were not mass produced, and are very rare. Usually less than five people are known to own the same kind of mirage plush, and the majority have only been seen one or two times total! The reason these plush were never mass produced is probably because:
3. They have unknown origins (probably unlicensed), but ARE company-made, with limited-info tush tag or none at all, and created by small/independent companies that lacked the ability to mass market (see above). Notice this does not specify Europe -- but 90% of these plush do come from there.
4. They are created from a 100% unique pattern (not a reject or a copy of an existing product). The PPP is a great resource for comparing what might be a Mirage Plush to plush made by, for example, Play-by-play (which often resemble these Mirage Plush). If it's a mass-produced copy, bootleg, or factory reject of something official, it does not count as a Mirage Plush.
sneak peak of the gallery:
Flareon Mirage, from a festival.
The Squirtle, Poliwhirl and Meowth in this image are probably Mirage. Can't be sure since we don't have them.
Beautiful Pidgeot Mirage Plush. Was seen long ago by PKMNcollectors in crane games in Europe.
Growlithe Mirage Plush, from a Swiss crane game!
Large Vulpix Mirage Plush
Lapras Mirage Plush from the UK. Made by a small arcade prize company called "Grove International".
Jigglypuff Mirage Plush.
Heavy beanie Squirtle Mirage Plush!
Hilarious Chansey Mirage Plush.
These are 99% Pikachu Mirage Plush. It can be extremely hard to confirm, since he has over 10,000 official plush, and it's hard to figure out if it's been bootlegged or not. You can usually tell by the style of the face.
EDIT: NOW! WITH MEMBER-RECOMMENDED MIRAGE PLUSH!
blastoise?! be free!
charmeleon and bulbasaur!
that mouth! thanks dragonrider49
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST.... MY MIRAGE RAICHUS!! I don't think Raichu has many more novelties than the average Pokemon -- I have just been so obsessive about these plush over the years, combined with Raichu love, I have tended to get especially Raichus. There are probably hundreds of other Pokemon nivana plush we have NO documents of. If Raichu got this many unique and amazing quality plush, who else got similar novelties...?
Thus! I present my babies.
Has a faded tush tag.
Has a nearly blank tush tag with generic text. No company.
my GERMANCHUS. The start of it all!!! These guys were all made for a Festival in Germany celebrating Pokemon Yellow's release. There are three sizes -- small, med and large, and two colors, dark and light brown. I am out to collect ALL the types of festival Raichus!!! I ADORE these Raichus to death. You cannot imagine my love.
AND UNVEILING MY NEWEST......................
MEET WAYNE BRADY!!!
Thusly named after one of my favourite comedians who was notorious on Whose Line is it Anyway? for having a big ol' butt. We love his big ol' butt!!
Wayne is VERY glamorous.
These plush are so old, many of the companies who made them are gone, and they can only be found secondhand now, sold on Ebay by folks who found them in their basements, or garage/boot sales. Most are (assumed) unlicensed, but because of their unique designs and novelty status they are not "bootlegs" in the way this hobby considers the term, and have NO hidden links to China's black market of mass-produced counterfeits. However, to avoid any debates from starting about their status, please stick to the rules and do not advertise Ebay auctions for these plush if you come across any (they are so rare, it will not happen often anyway).
The point of this post is to document, catalogue, and inform about these Mirage Plush in the hopes we can one day dig up so many of them that we have a gallery that can rival that of our predecessors in the MLP collecting hobby!
Please comment with any photos or information you might have, including company names, more specific countries of origin, or photos of tus