YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- One could argue that the most famous Charlie in history is a silent-film actor, a chocolate factory apprentice or even a YouTube kid who can't stop biting his brother. But no one would argue that lovable loser Charlie Brown doesn't deserve to be in the running.
Last week, the licensing rights to Charlie Brown and the "Peanuts" gang were sold to Iconix Brand Group and the family of the strip's creator Charles Schulz family for $175 million in a cash deal. "Peanuts" joins a brand family at Iconix that includes Joe Boxer, Candie's and London Fog. Iconix will own 80%, while the Schulz family will take 20% in its first ownership role. (The strip was created by Mr. Schulz as an employee of Scripps and therefore it was owned by the media company though the family has, and will continue to have, a revenue-sharing agreement.)
And while it all began in newsprint, Charlie, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy quickly leapt from the printed page to TV specials and programs, feature films, commercials and the packages of innumerable products from T-shirts and lunch boxes to Macy's parade balloons and giant blimps.
Which got us wondering: What's the worth of the 60-year-old Charlie Brown brand and his worldly-wise pack of never-aging adolescents? We found hundreds of "Peanuts" products and replications around the world from the familiar TV shows, books and tchotchkes to theme parks, postage stamps, and concept cafes. As Charlie himself might say, "Good grief!" (And with the new licensing owner in the underwear business, will it be long before it's "Good brief"?)
'PEANUTS' BRAND HISTORY
The comic strip began syndication in just seven newspapers in 1950. The name "Peanuts" was not chosen by Mr. Schulz, who often said he hated the name, but by a United Features Syndicate executive who suggested it as a nod to the children in the "peanut gallery" of the then-popular "The Howdy Doody Show." He preferred his Li'l Folks name, which he had begun as a two-tier strip at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Mr. Schulz wrote and illustrated the strip with no help and almost no vacations. (He took just one month off in 50 years.)
He was paid $90 for the first month's work, although it is estimated he earned more than $1 billion from "Peanuts" in his lifetime and continues to even now. Mr. Schulz is a staple on the annual Forbes' "Top Earning Dead Celebrities," coming in at No. 6 last year ($35 million); No. 2 in 2008 ($33 million) and No. 3 in 2007 ($35 million).
'PEANUTS' IN ADVERTISING
Kodak was the first marketer to use "Peanuts," putting the characters into one of its camera's handbooks in 1955, but Ford Motor Co. was among the first to use Charlie Brown and friends in a TV ad. The early '60s ads had the animated gang extolling the virtues of the Ford Falcon. Another early advertiser was the Dolly Madison bakery, part of Interstate Bakeries Corp., in the late '70s and early '80s, when different "Peanuts" characters appeared on the labels of its snack cakes.