The History of the Souvenir

A marketing scheme or Memory Maker? (See what I did there?)

This product is a highly contested discussion that has taken place since the first stuffed animal was created. In the beginning, Walt capitalized on the revenue souvenirs could create. Eventually, Walt engaged Herman “Kay” Kaymen of Kansas City, and things changed at Disney.

Many attribute Kay to being the king of licensing. It only took 3 years for Kay to put Mickey Mouse on top of the souvenir hill. His vision of putting Mickey on things people usually didn’t consider was, well… pure genius. His idea to put Mickey on a watch and contracting with a company on the verge of bankruptcy catapulted that company, Ingersoll Waterbury, back into success. Souvenirs have turned into more then just memorable product. Now, you have “collectables”.

There is even an industry spawned from the product, Disneyana. This term was created in reference to collectables and souvenirs. Just go to any online secondary market site and type in Disney and see the, literally, hundreds of pages. There is a Disneyana price guide many use as a secondary market valuation of that product your mom bought you on your first trip years ago.

Some people wince at the cost of many of these items. I on the other hand have everything from pressed pennies (51 cents) to items that cost over $100. My wife and I are considering investing in a Kincaid painting for our retirement home that is over $1000.

What ever your love, you can find items that cost pennies, to items that are true financial investments. Souvenirs, collectables, books, animated cells, it all has a place rooted in Kay Kamen’s foundation of licensing and marketing created for Walt many years ago. Disney licensing brings in more then 100 million annually.

Kay tragically died in a plane crash over Spain in October of 1949. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1998.

Sources: D23 and Robert Tieman, Keith Gluck

dngnb8 is one of our contributors to D-COT and helps provide some very interesting historical info as well as the latest official Disney news.


  1. cool info!!! I may have contributed to the watch company’s bottom line, for the longest time I think I bought a watch in every trip!!!!

  2. I have contributed more than my share to Disney over the years…oh look a new mug!! :)

    • Right?! I may not be a shareholder, but I help keep the Walt Disney Company afloat LOL

  3. Wow… this was very interesting! I love collecting Disney ‘merch’ !!!

  4. I’ve heard before that the first souvenir they could produce to sell at Disney Land were the Disney Pins, does anyone know if that’s true?

  5. Balloons, pencils, post cards, maps, ears, hats etc were all available after the original opening day

  6. This was some really interesting background information into the history of Disney merchandising! Thank you! :willie: I am a sucker for all things Disney, especially clothing and collectibles ;)

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