The absolutely adorable Moomin figurines designed in the 1950s by Leo Tykkyläinen have become widely beloved collectibles. For this reason their current price estimates and availability deserve a closer look. All the while we are travelling back in time. What kind of journey have the figurines undergone throughout the decades? Hold on to you hats and purses!
Leo Tykkyläinen (1919–1984) was a ceramics artist whose workshop in Maunula, Helsinki, was the origin of many works of art. These tiny Moomin characters are the most famous of them. Tykkyläinen was self-taught as a ceramics artist. In the 1940s he was still a painter by trade but after the end of the war he quickly discovered his passion and began working with ceramics hoping to establish a professional career in them. He started for example with sensual female figurines and with various wild animals right at the beginning of the 1950s. The most famous among the latter are the roe calf and the jovial monkeys.
Tykkyläinen used white and red clay to shape his figurines. His tools and methods included gypsum molds and traditional compression and molding techniques.
Tykkyläinen’s wife Hilkka Tykkyläinen contributed to the Maunula workshop and assisted significantly in the production of the figurines. In addition Hilkka managed the day to day affairs of the home and workshop, all the while working as a bookbinder outside of the home.
The Tykkyläinen couple crafting Police Hemulens at their workhop in Maunula, Helsinki.
Newspaper clipping from the Tykkyläinen home album.
Stockmann Department Store, Tove Jansson and Leo Tykkyläinen
Leo Tykkyläinen’s magnificient artistic touch soon bore fruit. In 1956 Stockmann department store made a contract for a series of ten different Moomin figurines. The deal proved profitable, as the figurines played a great role in creating the first Moomin Boom. The first sales lot sold out quickly so the Tykkyläinens faced the arduous task of immediately producing more figurines.
Because the production of Moomin figurines took place at the Tykkyläinens’ small workshop in Maunula, their workdays were characterized by an emphasis on Moomin figurines. It is estimated that during 1956-1963 Tykkyläinen produced a total of 15 000 Moomin figurines for Stockmann.
The creator of Moomin characters Tove Jansson delighted at the beautiful forms of the tiny figurines – After all, as a designer Leo Tykkyläinen had been precise from the start, which was evident from the high quality of his Moomin figurines.
The singularity of the figurines owed a great deal to Tove Jansson giving Tykkyläinen carte blanche to create the Moomins according to his own vision. Tove herself had an input for example in defining colors by introducing the translucent, watercolor-esque tones she used on the figurines’ hair and clothing. Because throughout the years all figurines were produced in a variety of colors the series became increasingly diverse.
Tykkyläinen’s career at Arabia Ceramics Factory
Although the charming figurines retained a solid popularity, the fluctuating Moomin Boom and scarce resources caused uncertain times as well for the Tykkyläinen family as entrepreneurs. The couple considered the possibilities for Leo Tykkyläinen’s employment at the famous Finnish ceramics factory Arabia. Life on the payroll of a big company would be financially secure and the production of Moomin figurines could continue.
Upon approaching Arabia Tykkyläinen was recieved with open arms. At Arabia his career as a contractor for Stockmann had already been noted; after all he was a prominent ceramics artist whose careful touch could be seen in his every work. Consequently Leo Tykkyläinen was employed by Arabia in January 1964.
The transfer of Moomin figurine production to Arabia required the approval of both Tove Jansson and Stockmann department store. After all, the production of profitable, internationally notable articles was now being moved over to a new manufacturer. The manufacturing of Moomin figurines was put on hold until the production of a new series of figurines could be set up in a profitable way without sacrificing the level of quality of a small workshop. Production methods were tested but production itself was never restarted so the story of Leo Tykkyläinen’s Moomin figurines came to an end at the Maunula workshop. Tykkyläinen worked at Arabia until his retirement in 1979. As a hobby, he created expressive ceramic works until his death.
Urban legends regarding the creator of Moomin figurines
There is a lot of misinformation regarding the true creator and manufacturer of small 1950s Moomin figurines. It is often claimed that the figurines were produced at the Arabia factory or that they were designed by Tove Jansson’s mother, graphic artist Signe Hammarsten-Jansson. There are astonishingly numerous sources of said misinformation, for example Arabia’s own publication, the 2014 product catalogue, articles from various respected periodicals and enthusiasts. Many misconceptions are surely the result of the fact that similar Moomin themed figurines were being produced from 1950 to 1960 elsewhere, for example in Sweden. It’s therefore worth re-emphasizing that the credit for these small figurines of finnish origin belongs to Leo Tykkyläinen alone.
Auction House Helander’s estimated prices for Moomin figurines
As mentioned, Leo Tykkyläinen produced a total of 15 000 figurines for his series comprised of a set of ten figurines. The figures are glazed, partially painted ceramics with heights varying from 4 to 7 cm. The figures are somewhat dissimilar: the eyes of some are open, some closed and the color of their clothing, hair and skin may vary.
Auction House Helander’s estimated prices are based on the figurines’ overall condition, the rareness of the figure in question, previous actualised hammer prices and the characteristics of the current Moomin boom.
Police Hemulen – very rare
Police Hemulen in white coat, estimated price 900 euros.
Police Hemulen in black coat, estimated price 850 euros.
Too-Ticky – very rare
Too-Ticky in red shirt, estimated price 600 euros. Too-Ticky in greenish blue shirt, estimated price 750 euros.
Snufkin – fairly rare
Snufkin, estimated price 200 euros coloration notwithstanding.
Little My – rare
Moominpappa – commonly available
Little My, estimated price 200 euros coloration notwithstanding.
Moominpappa, estimated price 120 euros coloration notwithstanding.
Mymble – fairly rare
Mymble, estimated price 300 euros coloration notwithstanding.
Misabel – relative availability
Misabel, estimated price 100 euros coloration notwithstanding.
Snorkmaiden – commonly available
Snorkmaiden, golden bangle, estimated price 200 euros notwithstanding other coloration.
Snorkmaiden without golden bangle, estimated price 100 euros notwithstanding other coloration.
Moomintroll – commonly available
Moomintroll, estimated price 100 euros coloration notwithstanding.
Moominmamma – commonly available
Moominmamma, estimated price 120 euros coloration notwithstanding.
I hope you enjoyed the trip into the world of Moomin figurines! Leo Tykkyläinen truly was a diligent craftsman, whose passion and talent translate into widely renowned figures among collectors and Moomin enthusiasts to this day.
Text: Minna Sirén, marketing coordinator, Auction House Helander
English translation: Saku Räsänen
Images: Auction House Helander & the Tykkyläinen home photoalbum