The Wonderful World Of E.P.E. Memorabilia (1957-61)
By Bob Pakes
1956 was a magical year in the career of Elvis Presley. He seemed to be all over the place and on everybody’s lips. And not just on everybody’s lips …
We all love to hate the Colonel. But merchandising his client as a ‘brand’ was like striking gold. The commercial success of Elvis Presley Enterprises (E.P.E.) merchandise even outweighed that of Disney and the hugely popular cowboy stars of the day.
In this article I will try to bring together all pieces of vintage E.P.E. memorabilia, in the absolute best possible quality. And to make this article easy to navigate and search, I’ve chosen to list these items alphabetically.
Since the collection is so big, it will be presented in two parts. In PART ONE you will find the first 50 items (over 100 images). Enjoy the ride!
TO THE LEFT we see the window of a Shoe-Store in 1956, announcing the Elvis Presley products they have for sale, ranging from shoes to hats and gloves.
BELOW we have a very interesting article from Billboard magazine (September 29, 1956). This article gives us a perfect insight into how extremely big the merchandise campaign actually was.
The man in charge of it all was Hank Saperstein, whom had already succesfully merchandised The Lone Ranger and Lassie among other brands. Saperstein estimated that the $ 20.000.000 sales mark would be reached before the year was over. At the time the article was published, hundreds of thousands of E.P.E. items had already been sold, and the only problem seemed to be that the production companies could hardly keep up with the skyrocketing demand for Presley merchandise. One of the reasons for the incredible success of the campaign could have been that all the large department stores (including Sears, Woolworth’s, Roebuck and Macy’s) kept stock of the E.P.E. merchandise.
In the TWO PHOTOS UNDERNEATH the Billboard article, we can see Saperstein and Elvis (on the set of Love Me Tender) checking out part of the merchandise.
Quite clearly visible are the E.P.E. blue jeans, the felt skirt, bolo tie, bookends and hat.
In the first image we see Elvis holding an E.P.E. belt in his right hand, while he is going through the Elvis Answers Back magazine in the second image.
The complete collection of vintage ELVIS PRESLEY ENTERPRISES memorabilia
Autograph Book | 1956
Belt (leather) | 1956
Belt (plastic) | 1956
Binder | 1956
Bolo Tie | 1956
Bookends | 1956
Bust | 1961
This official Elvis Bust came in two colors, and I believe this is the only E.P.E. product manufactured in 1961 and the last of the vintage E.P.E. merchandise.
Notice how the hair is an exact copy of the ’56 Bookends, and especially the sideburns were very much a thing of the past by 1961.
Diary (one year) | 1956
Shown here is the one year version of the Elvis Diary.
It was also available in a three year version.
Besides holding the Diary, the girl in the photo is also dressed up in E.P.E. wear (T-Shirt + Skirt) and a Pillow and Scarf are visible as well.
Dog Tag Jewelry | 1958
The copyright date on all the different pieces of Dog Tag merchandise says 1956, but these were actually manufactured in 1958. The tags shown here have Elvis’ army number printed on it.
Left we have a Dog Tag Necklace, and right the Dog Tag Key Chain.
Below (from top to bottom):
Dog Tag Anklet
Dog Tag Men’s Bracelet
Dog Tag Lady’s Bracelet (with silver chain)
Dog Tag Lady’s Bracelet (with gold chain)
Doll | 1957
One of the rarest vintage E.P.E. items is this 18 inch tall Elvis Doll.
The materials used to manufacture the doll rather quickly deterioted over time (unless well taken care of), making it the most sought after piece in the original E.P.E. series. Especially in it’s original box, this one is almost impossible to find.
The girls in the photo check out a Scrapbook. We can also see the Record Case, plus 1-sheet posters for Love Me Tender and Loving You. While all this time the Elvis Doll is minding his own business in the foreground of this cool picture.
Eau De Parfum | 1957
Today, just about every famous entertainer has an own fragrance on the market. But back in 1956 it was kind of special to be able to buy an Elvis Presley Perfume.
In the 60′s the Teddy Bear Perfume was updated: the shape of the bottle had changed, and also a new and more recent image of Elvis could now be seen on this product.
Flasher Pins | 1956
“Elvis Presley in motion”
This Flasher Pin was a cool gadget!
The ad the the right is from Billboard (December 22, 1956).
Below we see a different Billboard-ad (from December 8, 1956) for the Flasher Pin. And also some clear examples of different images used for this pin, as well as the larger variant, including their back-side. Interesting is also the proof sheet of 9 unused flasher buttons still part of the original thick plastic board.
Glass | 1956
Glass Plate | 1956
Glow In The Dark Photo | 1957
This Glow In The Dark Photo would glow for a
couple of hours after the lights went out.
So Elvis Presley would probably be the last thing
on the mind of the teenage girl before she went
The image of the sweet looking Elvis was also used
for the E.P.E. Teddy Bear Perfume, while most of
the other merchandise had a rocking or singing
Elvis Presley image.
Guitar (with case) | 1956
One of the most famous E.P.E. products: the Elvis Presley Guitar.
It was available with four and six strings.
A Chord Player (that can be seen in the image to the left) and a small Songbook were included with the package.
In the picture to the right we can see that the Carrying Case measured around 3 feet.
Handkerchiefs | 1956
Hat | 1956
Certainly one of the most popular E.P.E. items, this Hat can be seen in a lot of pictures from those years.
To the right we see the hat with the original tag still attached.
The hat was later (in ’57) available with a different tag, this time promoting Loving You.
And below we have two nice store-ads, as well as some images from the Welcome Home Elvis shows in Tupelo. Elvis’ girlfriend Barbara Hearn can be seen in the background of the middle picture.
Headscarf | 1956
Hot Plate Holder | 1956
So, the true fan would eat her dinner in full Elvis-style:
* drink from an Elvis-Glass
* eat from an Elvis-Plate
* use her Elvis-Mittens (not kidding!) to put the hot food on the table using this Hot Plate Holder!
Since this 6 by 6 inch ceramic plate came with a hanging mechanism on the back, many a fan would have probably used it as wall-decoration.
Jacket | 1956
If I would have been around in mid 50′s America, THIS would have topped my wantlist (with the black leather belt in second place)! My absolue favourite of all the vintage E.P.E. merchandise.
This cool cool Jacket probably did not sell very well in 1956, since it might have been one of the most expensive items in the E.P.E. range. Maybe this is why we hardly ever see this item turn up in auction nowadays (in fact, I only saw it once).
Jeans | 1956
From the impossible to find Jacket to the just as impossible to find pair of Blue-Jeans (which were actually black) is just a small step.
To the left we see the original tag of the jeans, and to the right we have an ad. But that’s about it. Apart from a low-rez image in one of the collector books, I never saw this pair of jeans on the web anywhere.
John’s Pocket-Movie Elvis Presley | 1957
Here we have a Flip-Book. If you went through the pages fast, you could see Vince doing part of the Baby, I Don’t Care dance-routine from Jailhouse Rock.
(For the ultimate pleasure: go through the pages backwards!)
Lipstick | 1956
“Keep me always on your lips”
The Elvis Presley Lipstick was available in 6 different colors, and they actually came up with some nice names for these, the most interesting is Running Wild Pink since at that stage Running Wild was the title for Elvis’ upcoming new movie (which eventually became Loving You). Ed Sullivan also referred to this movie as Running Wild during Elvis’ final appearance on the show.
Below we see one of these lipsticks is full detail.
‘Love Me Tender’ Necklace | 1956
Overnight Case | 1956
Paint Set | 1957
Another near impossible to find piece of E.P.E. memorabilia: the 1957 Elvis Presley Paint Set.
Ger Rijff did a short but interesting article on this set for Echoes, check it out HERE!
Pencils | 1956
Photo Album | 1956
Pillow | 1956
Quite a few different designs for the E.P.E. Pillows were up for grabs in 1956.
In the photo to the right, next to the Pillow, we can also see one of these lovely ladies showing the Elvis Presley Statuette (scroll down this article for a clear image of this item).
And if I’m not mistaken, a plastic framed E.P.E. licensed picture of Elvis is laying face-down to the left in this photo from 1957.
Pin | 1956
This Pin was available in different sizes, as well as with and without the “Best Wishes” and autograph on it.
On the photo to the right we see Elvis with Tommy Blake (December 15, 1956).
A nice photo of the Colonel wearing the same button also exists.
Pins | 1956
Probably because of it’s low price, this large I Like Elvis button was a very popular item in the 50′s.
Many photos from concerts exist that show female fans wearing this button. Below are some nice examples.
The photos are from (left to right):
* March 28, 1957
* April 1, 1957
* March 30, 1957
Record Case | 1956
Ring | 1956
The gold-plated adjustable Ring is quite rare nowadays. And the 1956 Display Card still holding all 12 rings will easily set you back a grand.
To the right we have a wonderful and interesting fullpage ad from Modern Screen (April 1957). Please click the image for the full picture
Below we see the display, as well as the ring, in more detail.
Scarf | 1956
The larger sister of the Headscarf: the regular Scarf.
The photo to the right was taken during the unveiling of the giant Elvis cut-out on NY’s Times Square, on October 28, 1956. But I’m not sure if that lady is holding the Scarf or the Headscarf.
Scrapbook | 1956
The Scrapbook measured 12 by 14 inch.
Not too long ago, the official E.P.E. Diary showed up in auction, and the nicest thing about it was that the original owner had actually used it to write down all the Elvis-related news (TV appearances, new records, etc.) from back in the day (and there was a lot of it!), and it now functions as some sort of time machine.
Hopefully one day this E.P.E. Scrapbook will also show up, loaded with rare clippings and candids from those magical years 1956 and ’57 …
Skirt | 1956
Skirt | 1956
Sneakers | 1956
To the right we see Elvis with Hank Saperstein, the man in charge of the E.P.E. merchandise train
Statuette | 1956
This 7,5 inch high bronze Statuette was actually made out of plastic.
To the right we have a double ad from Hep Cat’s magazine (December 1957) for the Statuette and the Lipstick.
Notice how the name of Running Wild Pink (see the Lipstick color chart earlier in this article) has now been changed to Heartbreak Pink.
The Elvis Presley Game | 1957
Rare with a capitol R, The Elvis Presley Game is nearly impossible to find.
Please check out Ger Rijff‘s cool article on the Elvis boardgame HERE!
T-Shirt (short-sleeve) | 1956
Another big seller was this official E.P.E. T-Shirt. Probably the most popular fan-item for any artist anytime anywhere.
The photo to the right is from October 28, 1956 in New York, outside Studio 50 (home of the Ed Sullivan Show) where Elvis was performing that day.
The girl wearing this shirt is also wearing the Love Me Tender Necklace.
T-Shirt (long-sleeve) | 1956
Well, that’s it for the moment. Keep an eye on Echoes for PART TWO, COMING SOON.
More E.P.E. merchandise is on it’s way. From a truckload of different Wallets and Purses, through even more Jewelry, Dresses, Pins/Buttons and Mittens (yes, mittens!), to Framed Pictures and lovely fluffy E.P.E. Hound Dogs and Teddy Bears!
CREDITS + THANKS:
* The images of the E.P.E. memorabilia in this article were collected over the course of nearly a year. The bulk of these items have appeared on US auction sites.
* Credit for the b/w Elvis (+ Elvis-related) photos in this article goes to the original (unknown) photographers.
* Credit for the E.P.E. ads that appeared in Billboard, as well as the E.P.E. Merchandise article, goes to Billboard magazine.
* Many thanks to KARI PAJU for helping out with the scan of the EPE Ring-ad that appeared in Modern Screen magazine.
* Credit and thanks for the use of the EPE Dog Tag goes to JOE KREIN .
For the text in this article I have mainly used the second edition of Elvis Collectibles as reference.
This book by Rosalind Cranor, virtually loaded with black/white images of vintage Presley memorabilia
and long out of print (but it can sometimes be found on eBay), comes very highly recommended!
First Edition – 1983
Second Edition – 1987