Alan Smith of Enumclaw drove down to Centralia on Saturday to take delivery of the newest addition to his collection of treasures: an old peanut butter jar for which he paid $204.28 on eBay.
But this isn’t just any old peanut butter jar. This jar, which is empty but which originally held two pounds and eight ounces of Adams’ creamy peanut butter from Tacoma, also features a picture of legendary Pacific Northwest TV clown J.P. Patches. Smith guesses it dates to the early 1960s.
“I would’ve paid as much as $501 for it,” the 52-year-old Smith said exuberantly Sunday night, sounding like a triumphant Chihuly collector. Actually, iconic Northwest glass artist Dale Chihuly is from Tacoma, too, just like the peanut butter jar. Coincidence?
Paying hundreds of dollars for an old jar may sound crazy to someone who knows nothing about the phenomenon that is J.P. Patches in the Pacific Northwest, but to someone like Alan Smith or any one of the tens of thousands of “Patches Pals” around here, it’s not that farfetched.
Chris Wedes played J.P. Patches on KIRO TV from 1958 to 1981. Wedes then made a series of public appearances after the he left the air, entertaining at birthday parties, store grand openings, and various carnivals and fairs. Somehow, unlike other TV stars and other TV clowns in other parts of the country, the popularity of J.P. Patches and his sidekick/girlfriend (played brilliantly by Bob Newman) increased dramatically in the years after the show ended. Wedes passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.
Smith regularly trolls eBay searching for artifacts related to J.P. Patches, but he’s actually not a life-long Patches Pal. He moved to Seattle from Iowa in 1991, caught a live performance by J.P. at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, and was immediately hooked. He’s been collecting J.P. memorabilia for many years and has a large area in his home devoted to displaying the collection.
When a reporter asked Smith if this is the most that anyone has ever paid for an old peanut butter jar, Smith said he wasn’t sure. Smith also said his friends and family are supportive of his J.P. pursuit, and that no one had expressed anything negative about his most recent purchase. The most common wisecrack Smith has been subjected to on social media has been about the fact that the jar was empty: $200 for a peanut butter jar with no peanut butter inside.
Smith got to know Chris Wedes pretty well over the years, and spent a lot of time with him at community events, and helped organize the memorial held at McCaw Hall in September 2012. Smith is also one of the organizers of the recently launched J.P. Patches commemorative license plate project.
Smith says that he used to tell Chris Wedes about J.P. memorabilia that he’d found and purchased. No matter what the item was or what Smith had paid for it, Wedes usually scolded Smith, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Chris Wedes, Smith says, often told him, “‘Oh, you should’ve paid a lot more for that.'”
Knowing Chris Wedes, he’d probably even say the same thing about a $204.28 peanut butter jar.